Philippine Cinema 2019: Seven Best Documentaries

2019 was a lean year for documentaries in Philippine cinema. But the few that screened were outstanding testaments of the talent and skill of our documentarists in capturing the human condition. Here are the seven best.

1 – For My Alien Friend (Jet Leyco) 35 pts

Stories of Filipino men and women, and other living things passing through similar objects, familiar spaces, non-linear time and dreams alike–all connected from the lens and experience of a stranger, an Alien whose language is disconnected and demands an interaction from the viewer to reconnect these stories to find their own meaning.

2 – A Is for Agustin (Grace Simbulan) 24 pts

In a remote mountainous region of the northern Philippines, an illiterate indigenous man gets fed up with being exploited by his employers and decides to go to school. With the goal of making a better life for himself and his family, 41-year old Agustin Tiburcio starts learning his ABCs.

3 – No Data Plan (Miko Revereza) 15 pts

A voiceless narrator rehashes details about his mother’s affair as he crosses the United States by train. “Mama has two phone numbers. We do not talk about immigration on her Obama phone. For that we use the other number with no data plan.” The linear train ride moving from Los Angeles to New York diverges into unruly directions of consciousness. A multiplicity of voices share thoughts, dreams and histories evoking images far away from the enclosed spaces of this trains interior. While capturing these landscapes and interiors through his lens, the moving images evidently illustrate an undocumented subjectivity, a site of precarious movement, migration and fugitivism in the US.

4 – Spring by the Sea (Aleia Garcia) 8 pts

Alternating Philippines and Saudi Arabia as her home, the filmmaker uses personal home videos and present footage to tell the story of her family.

5 – Lakaran ni Kabunyan (Kidlat Tahimik) 7 pts

Lakaran ni Kabunyan centers on Tahimik’s son Kabunyan as he relocates from his breezy, hillside hometown of Baguio to the sweaty southern metropolis of Davao in a cute orange camper van.

6 – Sinipi Kay Boni (Choy Pangilinan) 6 pts

Ang Sinipi Kay Boni ay paglalatag ng poetika at politika ni Boni Ilagan bilang manunulat, aktibista, kultural na manggagawa, artista ng bayan, at rebolusyonaryo, noon at sa lahat ng panahon. Sa isang lipunang wala pa ding tunay na kapantayan, maraming tulad ni Boni — na mga anak ng sambayanan — ang patuloy na makikidigma upang wakasan ang nananaig na tunggaliang panlipunan.

7 – Budots: The Craze (Jay Rosas and Mark Limbaga) 5 pts

In Davao City, a dance craze became viral. It has people moving in uncoordinated, freestyle manner to a weird mix of electronic sound and noises. An internet bum and a small group of people in his community started it all.


Jonathan Ang

  1. “Halawod (Into the Sea)” by Anna Katrina Tejero (31st Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibo Pelikula at Video 2019)
  2. “Entablado” by Lie Rain Clemente and Nori Jane Isturis (Sinag Maynila 2019)
  3. “A Is For Agustin” by Grace Pimentel Simbulan (QCinema 2019)
  4. “Budots: The Craze” by Mark Limbaga and Jay Rosas (31st Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibo Pelikula at Video 2019)
  5. “At Home” by Arjanmar Rebeta (Sinag Maynila 2019)

Gerald Cajayon

  1. Sinipi Kay Boni
  2. For My Alien Friend
  3. Budots: The Craze
  4. A Is for Agustin
  5. Spring by the Sea

Archie del Mundo

  1. How The Beasts Git Hyped ( Elvin Macanlalay)
  2. The Mortician of Manila ( Leah Borromeo)
  3. Puti (Jerald Yucot)
  4. Scarce ( John Rafols)

Armando dela Cruz

  1. For My Alien Friend
  2. No Data Plan
  3. Spring By The Sea
  4. A is for Augustin

Engelbert Dulay

  1. For My Alien Friend
  2. No Data Plan
  3. The Kingmaker
  4. ICYMI: I See Me
  5. A is for Agustin

Lee Fonte

  • For My Alien Friend

Emil Hofileña

  1. A Is for Agustin
  2. For My Alien Friend

Goldmon Iporac

  • No Data Plan

Skilty Labastilla

  1. Lakaran ni Kabunyan (Kidlat Tahimik)
  2. A Is for Agustin (Grace Simbulan)
  3. Michel de Certeau’s Metaphor for Everyday Life (Noli Manaig)
  4. For My Alien Friend (Jet Leyco)
  5. Sinipi Kay Boni (Choy Pangilinan)

Jay Lacanilao

  • For My Alien Friend

Jim Paranal

  1. My Little Dancing Shoes
  2. Lakaran ni Kabunyan
  3. A is for Agustin

Jay Rosas

  1. No Data Plan / Miko Revereza
  2. For My Alien Friend / Jet Leyco
  3. A for Agustin / Grace Simbulan
  4. Spring by the Sea / Aleia Garcia
  5. Invisible Town / Allan Balberona

Bernard Santos

  • At Home

Naz Tabares

  1. For my Alien Friend
  2. A is For Agustin
  3. Spring by the Sea

John Tawasil

  1. For My Alien Friend
  2. A is for Agustin
  3. Spring by the Sea

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