I really wanted to like this film. Not because I’m Catholic, I’m not, but because I want to see a non-mainstream story make a mark on a mainstream event like the Metro Manila Film Festival.
Unfortunately, while the sentiments behind this film is lovely (as is the cinematography), the story itself is not.
Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir is a fictionalized retelling of the life that the newly canonized saint led back in the day. I say fictionalized because, if I remember correctly, no one really knows the entire story of Calungsod’s life. Just snippets. Enough to get him beatified almost a couple of decades ago.
The film follows Calungsod, portrayed by Rocco Nacino, as he joins a mission that would take him to an island off the coasts of the Visayan region, where Spanish priests wish to spread the good word of Christianity.
We are then treated to a series of events that take place in that island; events that supposedly happened in real life. Events that are really boring to watch, to be perfectly honest.
Conflicts break out suddenly and are never followed up on. The every day life shown in between conflicts are pretty peaceful, and feel really off because these people are supposed to be living in constant fear of a seige.
You never really understand the motivation of any of the characters shown–save for Christian Vasquez’s Spanish priest and Nacino’s Calungsod. Then again, they’re the central characters. They’re men of faith and nothing else; and they will defend their faith to their last breath.
And they do.
And then you wonder: what was the reason for this movie to be made? I mean, really? What was the point? Because I don’t get it. We see Calungsod die early on in the film. And then we see the journey they make towards the island. Their every day life. And then, just because one man is angry, Calungsod dies. And the film ends.
Really, that’s it.
The scenes are beautifully shot. Christian Vasquez makes it known that he can be a serious actor. Victor Basa looks pretty while he baptizes the natives (and the dead). Rocco Nacino looks weird with his wig. Alvin Aragon has a weird accent while speaking Bisaya.
And that’s pretty much what I took from the film. I don’t think that’s what the producers intended when they decided to produce this. It’s definitely not what I expected when I went in the theater.
I wish I could say Pedro Calungsod is a must-watch, but it just might turn people off non-mainstream Filipino films.