I don't know if I can write an objective review about this film, being the Pisay fanatic that I am.
Spoilers abound, though this movie can't be destroyed much by spoilers, I believe. There are no twists to be wary of; it's really just a simple but heartwarming retelling of what Pisay life could be - if you're from Pisay, you probably already know what's in the movie, especially if you were a student there way back in the '80s.
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Before I launch into my LENGTHY (sorry) review, let me just say a few words about the soundtrack that I do not have yet. Yup, I don't have it yet, but I am excited by the names that adorn it. Check it out for yourself: http://www.pisaythemovie.com.ph/soundtrack.html
I've explored the Pisay-Eheads connection in my blog before. It was the same entry where Auraeus commented that he's thinking of making "Manhid" his next feature film. Sana matuloy yun! Kickass soundtrack yun, for sure!
Folks from the "Pisay" movie have commented on my blog and I hope that would lead to stocks of the CD and the "Pisay" shirt being sold in Pisay mismo.
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I love Pisay, the school. It's like what Hogwarts was to Harry Potter - a place where he found himself, a place where he belonged, a place where he realized what he was to do with his life. (From here, you'd have to pardon the Potter references; I just finished Book 7, hahaha.)
I love Pisay so much that I came back to be part of her again physically (because of course once you've been through the halls of Pisay, you're forever a part of her already).
So anyway, enough about me; let's talk about the movie :P
I like the way the story was presented - here we saw how the lives of a bunch of kids were changed as they made their way through that part of the life they will forever remember fondly not just as their "high school days", but as their "Pisay days".
The story is told as the Harry Potter series proceeded - year by year. In each level, we get to know more about a certain character, or a pair of characters. We see what dilemmas they are going through; for the pairs, it's what brings them together and, later, what drives them apart.
1st year tells us of the story of Rom and Wena. They are brought together by the universal need to belong - Rom was an alternate (accepted as a scholar once the original qualifiers gave up their slot) and his first friend in Pisay was Wena; Wena was (I would assume) a Catholic-private-schooled-rich-girl. Even though they would initially seem worlds apart, they somehow found each other in the dizzying place and time that is the Pisay Freshman Year. Lots of Pisay kids would feel lost in this initial foray into the world of Pisay. And when you find someone special to hang on to, it would probably be the greatest feeling in the world. Too bad though that their companionship led to Rom's less than satisfactory grades (at least, to his Physics teacher, Ms. Casas), and they were forced to spend less time with each other. The final scene for Freshman Year was quite touching - each was shedding a tear as they looked at the batch ranking that revealed that their separation had done the other well academically. No words passed between them, because I guess it was a painful truth that could not be spoken about. Can't say I was forced out of a high school relationship, but I would understand the pain of having to not be with someone because it would actually do you good. That's just so sad.
2nd year tells us of the story of Mat. He's this jolly kid from the province - a hero in his hometown for having passed the Pisay entrance exam. He tries his best to succeed in his studies, but he is distracted by mean upper-classmen (di ko estudyante yung nang-bully sa kanya, pero balita ko total opposite nung character niya yung totoong student, hehehe) and his longing to be home with his folks. His efforts to survive the struggle for existence come a little too late, and he fails to make the mark. This part made me cry, because I remembered my batchmates - my friends - who had to say goodbye after Sophomore Year. Kuya JC was a good friend, and since he lived in Iloilo, it would be 10+ years before I would see him again after our sad goodbyes in the back lobby on one of the last days of Sophomore life. Thank God for SMS, we get to keep in touch more often now :)
3rd year tells us the story of Liway and Andy. The symbiosis that they form was supposed to be just for academic purposes, but they learn more from each other than they initially intend to. Andy becomes more socially aware thanks to Liway's personal stories, and Liway associates Andy's chem lessons on catalysts with her own purpose in life. Sadly, real life takes charge, and Liway has to flee to political safety without even getting to say goodbye to Andy or even her friend Wena. Today, maybe, we don't have much of a politically-charged atmosphere that forces people into hiding. Or maybe, at least not like how it was in the '80s (or am I just being naive?). So I can't say that I've lost someone to circumstances so much bigger than I am. But still I felt for Liway as she had to leave Andy and everything else she has come to love in Pisay, because, of course, her place was with her family, and it wasn't in this country anymore.
4th year tells us of the story of Euri. His story, just like all the other stories, is one tale that keeps retelling itself through dozens of Pisay scholars. He actually verbalizes the dilemma at one part of the story, something like 'Would you actually know what you really want to be when you're just 12 or 13?'. Of course, this is in reference to the contract that Pisay scholars must sign as they enter a SCIENCE high school. Once you're through with Pisay (or Pisay is through with you :P), you have to take a science or technology course in college to make sure that what the Filipinos spent for your high school education would not go to waste. But what if, during the course of your high school life, you realize that you're made for something other than science or technology? What if your passion ('cause that's what really matters, right?) lies in creating plays or novels rather than in performing experiments or discussing scientific theories? Obviously, Mat's character was based on Solito himself. And I guess there goes the answer to the question - it doesn't matter where you end up, as long as you excel in whatever endeavor you eventually end up with. But of course, the operative word there is EXCEL. You can't be just another playwright or singer or priest or whatever if you're from Pisay. You've got to be superb in whatever field you chose.
The movie may be compartmentalized into year levels, but the stories that unfold before us are not merely tales of high school kids from different points of view. I think they're not even themes exclusive to Pisay kids. Puppy love, academic challenges, personal struggles, the search for your true self - everyone goes through these at some point of his life. It's just nice to see how it is dealt with the Pisay way - with physics exams, geom problems, chem experiments, and bio practicals to help you along the way ;P
No, seriously, in Pisay, we all start out on more or less common ground. In your first year, you're all newbies, clueless as to what this thing called Pisay has in store for you. And that fact alone bonds you for the next four years of blood, sweat, tears, and (of course) smiles and laughter. Some circles of friendship may be exclusive for the first couple of months (years?), but you'll learn to love that bunch of people known as your batchmates, and after Pisay, you'd feel more of the Pisay bond when you get to meet people from batches that came before and after you. Who knows, you may even find that special someone from the ranks of Pisay scholars that span the decades (hopefully not too far up or down, though, haha!). I did, right smack in my batch :)
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Fun/funny moments from the movie:
* Minggoy was an endearing character. I CRIED when his story ended. Again, I remembered our batchmates and Pisay friends who have gone ahead of us. Two from Batch '98: Oliver Ang and Marvin Abing.
* Seeing Ma'am Paulette! Hahaha, the reaction of the crowd was funny when Ma'am shushed the LQ-ing pair in the library. (Same reaction for the Ma'am in the girls' dorm)
* The Corkboard. When the Pisay shoot wrapped up, one of the last scenes was shot in the Bio 1 room. Supposedly, they also shot scenes in the Bio Unit, but I don't think that made it to the film. So anyway, after the shoot, we were looking for our corkboard (the unit's bulletin board), asking the crew where it could have ended up. It never came back to the Bio Unit. Then upon watching the film, Menggai and I saw the corkboard one last time. It was the corkboard with all the student pictures which the Director (Doktora) was looking at to reminisce about some students who had recently graduated. I didn't notice it at first, but the green and yellow art paper on the corkboard looked eerily familiar...
* The extras! Hahaha, of course it was fun seeing former students, especially my former advisees, in the film. It just so happened that Ria Caringal sat in front of me. I had no idea she was in the film until I saw her scenes. So I'd tap on her shoulder and say, "Haha, that's you!" Hehehe.
* Pisay. Photogenic pala siya. Ang ganda siya tignan sa movie! It was funny though seeing the renovated flagpole area (notice the missing flowerboxes?) and the ASTB in the background during the creek scenes. The ASTB was just grassy area until our Senior Year. And the dismantled aircon vents (from the lib) - they used them as backdrop!
I regretted Imago not using Pisay as a venue for their vid shoot a couple of years ago (their former manager asked permission but the plan never pushed through), because I thought it would be cool to immortalize Pisay in a music vid. But Solito's movie is far better than the immortalization I had hoped for :)
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Official website of the film