Huggybear's Favorite Filipino Movie of All Time

This story originally appeared in The Philippine Star, December 3, 2006

Tommy had just quit his hotel job when his best friend David arrived from his medical studies abroad. David advised him to take stock of his life before it’s too late. He replied, “For what?” 

That was just one of the nuanced scenes from Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal (Why Do I Love You So). Acclaimed writer-director JosĂ© Javier Reyes has cleverly established both the chemistry and contrast between Tommy and David. 

The film is refreshing take on the overused love-triangle concept. The characters develop naturally, and the empathy they invoke made this simple and unpretentious movie transcend the romance genre.

In the end, it’s not the interaction between Aga Muhlach, Ariel Rivera and Lea Salonga we remember; it is about the three essentially decent human beings caught in a web of joy, pain, regret – and redemption.

When I first saw the film, I immediately identified with Tommy. You see, everybody was tellling me that I was too happy-go-lucky for my own good. Plus there is this uncanny resemblance (I think).

The spooky thing is that the plot eventually happened to me but that’s another story.

Sandy is David’s fiancĂ©. Outwardly she is perfect. But growing up sheltered all her life left emotionally vulnerable. Her heart is pure, her love for David is true, and so she is confused about her growing affection for his best friend. It started during the picnic. She was fascinated with Tommy’s irreverence, like when he began eating with his bare hands. Then after the meal, they began kidding around and Tommy gleefully douses her with a jugful of cold water.

But David’s upbringing was evidently too strict. He thinks games are only for children. He and Sandy had a minor argument about her behavior. Being an achiever and a perfectionist, his standards can sometimes bee too high. If he becomes demanding, it’s because he expects other people to be formal and professional like him. This is not a flaw; it’s just the way he is. Deep inside, he’s a very honorable person. In his last scene, his nobility shines like a beacon in a dark storm.

Tommy on the other hand, is one of those innately charismatic types, and people are drawn to him instinctively. But this backfires at times: the subplot where he mercilessly broke up with his ex will haunt him later. Having breezed through life armed only with this charm, he feels he can get away with anything. But if he seems indifferent about everything, it’s because his painful past has taught him to erect barriers around his inner self. He’s like a butterfly, flitting from one flower to another, but never touching the ground.

Like in the Survivor song, “How one life touches the other, it’s so hard to understand.” When Tommy and Sandy realized that they fallen in love, everything was torn apart: David felt betrayed by his best friend, Sandy was overwhelmed with guilt, and Tommy fell in the abyss of profound sorrow. He was too strong to commit suicide but his soul was in torment.

It was David’s act of sacrifice that saves them all. The hospital scene will leave a mark on even the most cynical viewer. This may be a story of love in the surface, but on a deeper level it’s also a story of heroism and friendship.

It is a rare movie where everyone is so real. Mary Walter’s delightful Lola Gelay infused the theater with warmth and happiness. Instead of watching Sandy Andolong, we see a woman who followed other people’s expectations instead of her heart, forever burdened with the thought of What-might-have-been. Instead of Noel Trinidad, we see a loving father distressed by his daughter’s pain, unable to reach out, helpless about matters of the heart.

If a film is good, the performances are great; if a film is excellent, the characters come alive and connect with the audience. And in this context, this 1992 OctoArts film Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal is excellent – and poignantly unforgettable.

  Photo courtesy of PinoyExchange.  Your comments and links are welcome


JonathanAquino said…
It's the coco fruit

of the coco tree

from the coco palm family!

JonathanAquino said…
Today I – I can be so corny sometimes – put the links to My Favorite Movie, My Favorite Soap Operas and My Favorite TV Commercial in the Philippines, as a way of promoting my rich cultural heritage, on the sidebar of my blog 2Rivers
"Many times, I wish you were here, through the velvet shadows of my dreams..." "Just tell me you love me, whisper words I so long to hear..." Whenever I'm blue, writing and music helps clear my mind. In this world of constant change, the soundtrack of my life is always there for me, like my beloved mush from England Dan & John Ford Coley
. "If you tell me you love me, it will lead a way to your heart, through the nearness of silence, you love me..."
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

~Robert Fulghum
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten