5 Best Scenes in 2020 Philippine Cinema

The Society of Filipino Film Reviewers continues the Pinoy Rebyu tradition since 2011 of recognizing the best individual scenes in Philippine cinema. Here are the 5 best scenes in 2020, with reviewers’ notes and filmmakers’ takes.

Ending, Lingua Franca

The late Lynn Cohen in a scene from Lingua Franca

Sanriel Ajero, SFFR: “Despite its tone being quiet and intimate, or its focus rather specific, Lingua Franca felt pretty revolutionary and universal. Yes, it was directed, written, performed, produced, and edited by a trans Filipina immigrant, but Isabel Sandoval also made choices, created moments, and reflected experiences in Lingua Franca that made her voice and vision singular, important and powerful. One important moment was how the central love scene was sensual, tender, and for once did not portray trans sex as something shocking, traumatic, or violent. Or that fantasy scene shot in extreme close-ups while the camera glides across the beautiful body of an empowered trans woman enjoying pleasure on screen without any threat or fear. Or that subtle comment on how immigration laws had changed in the way Sandoval contrasted Lynn Cohen’s Olga’s post-war emigration to Olivia’s personal difficulty in Trump’s America as immigration has become a political statement and power play.

What stuck with me, however, was the final sequence that showed how much Olivia’s character has learned from her experiences. Olivia is shy, aloof, and soft-spoken, possibly due to the circumstances of her immigration status and the constant ICE raids in the empty and isolated side of New York where she lives. She goes about her day like the hard-working immigrant that she is – working as an in-home caregiver to Olga, while supporting her family in the Philippines and using her savings to pay off an American citizen for green card. With her growing insurmountable deportation paranoia, Trump’s hate-mongering and transphobia, an expired passport no longer matching her, and knowing that Alex, who just lied to her, might be her only chance for a legal status, the final moments of Lingua Franca showing how Olivia decides to leave it all behind and choose herself feels quietly defiant. She has no answers and she cannot assure how things are going to go from there, but she now knows she belongs to herself and she continues to find her place in this world. In the end, we find her in the same situation where she started – talking to her mother in the Philippines and looking for a new way to legally stay in the US – but this time, a lot stronger and has a much bigger respect for herself. No lives lost, no immigrants deported, no trans woman violently attacked, it ended with a much more complicated emotion – that of disappointment and regret, but with respect, dignity, and hope.”

James Espinoza, SFFR: “While the plight of a transwoman to just be accepted or tolerated is already hard enough, Olivia’s struggle is made more difficult by her being an undocumented immigrant who then falls in love with a man unware of both facts. In the final sequence, after she demands to get her passport back from Alex, we see a montage of New York going about its daily business, and we hear a voiceover from Olivia explaining her situation to her mother. She’s got a new job. She’s met a new guy who can be her ticket to a citizenship. ‘It might take another year, more or less. But don’t worry about me. We’ll make it eventually.‘ And then we see Olga, her previous employer, peeling an orange and about to make a phone call, a scene that mirrors the same one early on in the film – an impressive editing and storytelling choice that seems to say: everything’s the same, yet everything is different

What’s powerful about this sequence and with Lingua Franca as a whole is it demonstrates how her situation should not merely be viewed from the perspective of race, gender, class, etc. but from the intersectionality of all these issues. Olivia is a woman whose hope has been shattered over and over again. By her family, by strangers, by her loved one. But Olivia is not giving up. She’s taking control of the things she can and demanding the kind of respect she deserves, with the hope that one day, the world can catch up.”

Isabel Sandoval, writer/director: “We found the motel room location in Brooklyn a week before we started shooting. The team found it rather seedy and low-rent at the time, and we had been looking for something more plush and fancy. But I saw the dramatic potential of the wall-to-wall mirrors in the room then and eventually convinced the DP–who was particular about locations–that it’s perfect and I was right. When I wrote that morning-after scene between Olivia and Alex, I had considerably more lines of dialogue but, as we were rehearsing the day of, Olivia’s words just came across superfluous. Her silence in the face of Alex placating spoke volumes in comparison so I stripped down the scene that way. We also shot Alex having an emotional breakdown after he gives back Olivia’s passport but in the editing room I thought the scene didn’t need it. The film’s actual final scene was different as scripted. It was a static wide shot of Olivia leaving Alex’s apartment with her suitcase, uncertain where to go. It provided narrative clarity and closure but I thought it was dramatically flat. I found it to be a pat resolution to an otherwise complex film. So I thought of using a different take of an earlier scene between Olivia and Olga during an episode of dementia. Life goes on, and we remain in the dark about Olivia’s whereabouts or situation though we do hear her voicemail to her mother in the Philippines. There’s something haunting and elegiac about the scene cutting to black as Olga waits for her phone call to be answered.”

First kiss / Last kiss, The Boy Foretold by the Stars

Adrian Lindayag and Keann Johnson in The Boy Foretold by the Stars

Jason Tan Liwag, SFFR: “Dominic (Adrian Lindayag) stands in the middle of the field, overseeing the members of Journey, holding a lit candle in his hand. Luke (Keann Johnson) arrives and his voice pierces through the night. Dominic doesn’t turn around, almost as if he knows Luke will arrive, and looks on. As Luke continues his small attempts at making up for his previous actions, Dominic remains unfazed. Standing tall and self-assured, Dominic stands as a restoration of human dignity to the LGBTQIA+ community through cinema.

The image, the masculine ‘lalake’ courting the effiminate ‘bakla’, is a reversal of previous images in queer cinema. We’ve always had to beg: for acceptance, for love, for our rights. Queer romances haven’t always been kind to queer people. To be gay in cinema has always been a death sentence in some shape or form: either a real death (i.e. HIV, car crashes, etc.) or a death of desire; a non-reciprocation of love or of acceptance in society.

The Boy Foretold by the Stars doesn’t erase all of this cruel history that queer audiences have had to witness and endure. But it does give us some hope: that somehow there are futures wherein we are chosen and loved, as long as we somehow uphold our dignity. And it does it through the most emancipating of images: a simple kiss in public and two lovers staring at the same horizon.”

Daph Bajas, SFFR: “As a viewer, the ending kiss is unexpected. 2020 is the prime year of Boys’ Love genre. And all content— films, manga, tv-series— conditioned the viewers on the structure to expect. Dulu created a narrative turn unforeseen that could be read 2 ways: one, as a climactic ending, the are-they-or-aren’t-they-going-to-be-together, skewing a structure filled for the genre; two, as a character development— giddy slipstream of both sensation and decision, with adolescent, dawning awareness. It is both mainstream and novel, narrative and film-wise, as it suggests an encore post-scene; something we have never seen in an MMFF film.”

JT Trinidad, SFFR: “Kinontra ng ending ng The Boy Foretold by the Stars ang premise ng pelikula na patungkol sa tadhana. Pinakita nito na ang pag-ibig ay hindi lamang usapin ng barya o pagsasaalang-alang sa ibang puwersa. Ito ay pagpili at pag-take ng risk.”

Keann Johnson, actor: “For the first kiss scene, it was really something Adrian and I felt emotional about and wanted to give the audience something they can relate to and know na possible sya for them. We were not trying to overdo or make it seem like a cinematic scene pero we wanted to deliver the most authentic execution we could so we really embodied our characters. Nostalgic siya, yung hugot namin ni Adrian, also Direk, was real kase na experience na namin lahat that type of situation. I mean diba a lot of us have naman, in one way or another? So we just wanted to transcend that onto the audiences’ feeling and experiences as well. Put it with a great cinematography shot plus soundtrack it solidified the scene talaga eh.

The ending scene was partly an adlib from me saying “Fuck it!” Hindi kasama sa script yun. So that was huge talaga.”

Adrian Lindayag, actor: “Winorkshop namin both scenes along with other scenes prior to shooting. The 2 kissing scenes were shot on separate days. May rehearsals sa standby area at may rehearsal shots din. Pero yung mismong kiss, sa take lang namin ginawa kaya natural yung napanood niyo. Matinding paghihimay ang kinailangan namin gawin kasi mabigat yung batuhan ng linya prior to the kiss, kaya maraming beses namin nirehearse ang lines at yung blocking. Trivia, the ending scene was actually reshot (Direk already admitted this sa ibang interview). Hindi siya happy sa performance namin ni Keann nung unang beses namin ginawa kaya we had to re-do the entire scene sa ibang araw. Bukod sa paghimay ng script, pinaka preparation mo bilang actor before a kissing scene ay mag toothbrush at mouthwash!

Also, those two scenes were shot at least 4 hours each. Bukod sa mahaba yung mismong eksena, maraming shots na ginawa si direk. Honestly super nakakapagod gawin yung ending, physically and emotionally nakakadrain siya gawin nang paulit ulit. But I love challenges! Worth it naman ang pagod. Marami-raming refill din sa water jug dahil marami-raming luha yon!”

Dolly Dulu, writer/director: “Sa kahit anong romantic movie – sobrang halaga talaga yung moment na unang maghahalikan ang mga bida ng pelikula, isa siyang magical moment na lagi’t laging inaabangan ng bawat manonood. Ito’y dahil ang isang halik ay isang simbolismo ng pagsasama ng dalawang indibidual. Kaya alam ko sa sarili ko na kailangan maging magical yung eksena ng first kiss. Alam ito ni Adrian and ni Keann na ginusto ko talagang maging perfect yung scene na yon kasi yon yung money shot ng pelikula e, kapag hindi kinilig ang audience doon, hindi kami nagsucceed sa pagkukwento kasi hindi sila nadala doon sa climax na yon. Kaya paulit ulit namin yon ni rehearse bago pa sila sumalang doon sa eksena.

Binigyan ko din ng time yung DOP naming si Marvin at yung PD naming si Lars na achievin yung feel and yung look na very magical, and happy naman ako na nagawa siya! Kasi lahat kami sa set kinikilig noong ginawa nila yon e. And sobrang saya dahil ganon din yun ang naging response ng mga taong nakapanood.

Yung sa ending kiss naman, iba yung ginusto naming ma achieve doon, kung yung unang kiss mas magical yung ginusto namin, yung ending mas grounded sa reality. Mas malungkot, mas ma-drama in a way. Kasi doon sa kiss na yon ramdam mo na yung mga pinagdaanan noong dalawa e, hinubad na noong dalawang bida yung buong pagkatao at paniniwala nila doon sa eksenang iyon.

If the first kiss was a decision na ginawa ng destiny para sa kanila, yung pangalawang kiss ay yung pag-pili nila sa isa’t isa.”

Ending, Fan Girl

Naz Malvas Tabares, SFFR: “Being drained from all the emotions that Jane (Charlie Dizon) had gone through with her idol Paulo Avelino, director Antoinette Jadaone takes the final minutes of Fan Girl truthfully, in the hands of its protagonist. It’s all the pain, all the disappointments and all the dreams crushed, and then being welcomed by something that’s been enraging her deep inside for a long time. Jane explodes. No holds barred with her words, cursing, with her actions, confrontational. This is for all the women, all those who are silenced and all those who are abused.

The film ends with a strong note that there is power in standing up for yourself. There is no denying that Dizon’s performance made that scene, or rather made that moment more compelling. And Jadaone’s script and direction, knowing what words to say and how her actor says it and how Neil Daza frames every second of it: masterful filmmaking.”

Engelbert Rafferty Dulay: “It took fourscore and seven years for plain Jane to fathom the eternal cycle of misogyny and violence ensuing in our cruel society, her firsthand experiences with her idol–a fictionalized version of Paulo Avelino that feels all too real to be just purely acting–we see from start to near-end leaving indelible scarlet letters in her mind. In the words of Björk in the movie Dancer in the Dark, ‘I’ve seen it all’. Truly Jane has, as her reflection in the water moves to and fro, cigarette in hand, huffing a puff so as to breathe out all the bullshit she’s gone through. One may argue that she has enabled such horrors to be borne–and that may be true, for she was once blinded by the lights–but what she did right in the end is a huge leap forward to change, the sort of change that requires progress over perfection. She will never forget. And, probably in her mind, ‘never again.'”

Neil Daza, cinematographer: “Finding inspiration in documentary filmmaking, Fan Girl was shot handheld and almost with no rehearsal. From the original script, the tenement sequences served as bookends of the film. We shot long walking scenes of Charlie Dizon during the day in the tenement corridors following her going up and down three floors, all handheld shots. But these scenes didn’t make the final cut. The night and last sequences of the film with Charlie again walking up the tenement, arriving at her house and smoking outside in the final frame, required me to light the whole tenement building which took around two hours. Except for some shots that we needed to retake because of some technical problems, most of the shots that went in to the final edit were all take one.”

Antoinette Jadaone, writer/director: “Ang haba ng debate namin sa final shot ng Fan Girl. Sa previews namin with our friends and colleagues, ang pinakita namin ay ‘yung first ending shot namin na nagyoyosi pa rin si Jane sa tenement pero wide shot. Nasa gitna si Jane pero nasa mababang palapag ng six-storey tenement, tapos napapalibutan siya ng mas maraming streamers at banners ng mga lalaking pulitiko. Ganun pa rin, last yosi, last hithit, tapos quick cut to black. Naging maganda naman ang reception sa ending shot na ‘yun, pero may ibang feeling pa rin na nakakabahala. ‘Yung para bang hindi nanalo si Jane dahil sa framing. Kasi kahit nasa gitna siya, ang liit-liit niya. Ang liit niya sa tenement na napapalibutan ng mga lalaki na nag-iinuman sa baba pati ng mga banner ng mga lalaking pulitiko. ‘Yun ‘yung naging main point of discussion namin. Ano ‘yung final shot na magbibigay ng feeling na nanalo si Jane, na kahit in her eyes man lang, this is not a man’s world. She holds the power. She holds her future. That’s the final shot. Close-up na chin up na may ngisi, as if to say, ‘tang ina n’yong lahat.”

The secret cell, Aswang

A secret cell hidden behind a bookcase holding illegal detainees in a scene from Aswang

Vinson Gabato, SFFR: “The scene starts off with a woman telling her story with specificity and from memory, nonetheless. It sounds ridiculous – a ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ story, if you will. But after sketching and describing what she was talking about, we are transported to the real thing. The cut hits you with a blunt force. Chaotic and noisy, it’s like a reverse raid; the police are the suspects and the public is the authority. Terrifyingly enough, the sketches and descriptions are accurate. She even describes the smell which is most probably true. The police officer present even had the gall to defend it. A kidnap-for-ransom like scheme is also mentioned by most of the detainees. In the end, some of the ‘nightcrawlers’ were dismayed – betrayed as one of them said afterwards – as the detainees were, after being illegally detained, legally processed.

This scene is a microcosm of what this government is doing to the people – nahuli na, nagdadahilan pa, nakalusot pa. The truth is objective in this matter and there was no other way to deny it. Even if it felt like a win, the truth was strong-armed and diminished. It hits harder when they mention that aside from the people with the CHR, lawyers were also present. The scene evokes helplessness which is the aim of the police. We know there is something wrong but we can’t do anything about it.

The film itself is sad and depressing and scary (this scene – the icing in this cake). It’s a combination not really suited for the pandemic but this is an issue we are desensitized with – which is much sadder. This secret jail cell is an embodiment of this culture of impunity and denial and the monsters are not those inside it.

(A quick research would show that the station commander is still in position. This so-called war on drugs is the curse that keeps on giving.)”

Jay-r Trinidad, SFFR: “The scene encapsulates the entire premise of Aswang. It is discovered that the police have been hiding people in their secret cell. Everyone’s surprised and the police are unapologetic. It’s not fiction: there’s a total disregard of human decency, a failure in the basic tenet of empathy. Is the law only applicable to the privileged? The filmmakers pursue recording, armed only with a handful of lawyers and probably prayers.”

Alyx Ayn Arumpac, director: “Most of us had no idea where we were going. I was just told to show up at a certain time. Up until the cabinet swung open, I was still clueless about what was going on. At that moment, that innocent-looking little office unraveled into what it really was – a torture chamber and a glimpse into hell. The woman that I interviewed described it in detail. There was a little hole somewhere where the light would shine through. That was how they would know if it was night or day. They ate, peed, and defecated in that small space of 5×3 meters. She passed out several times from the smell. ‘It felt like we were buried under the ground.’ She also thought this was really how things were done. She thought that the police were allowed to keep people in these secret prison cells and beat them and extort money from them.

When the people inside the secret jail realized that they were not going to be rescued, I could see the fear growing and the hope draining from their faces. A man lay his head on his father’s shoulder, a heartbreaking look of resignation on his face. The Drug Enforcement Police were making fun of the crying woman. They told her husband to put her arms around her. He forced a weak smile and followed their instructions. A man whispered ‘Don’t leave us. They will kill us.’

It was my birthday and we had made dinner plans earlier. We were all sitting around this huge table in a restaurant in Chinatown, still stunned about everything. It sickened us to think about what those men and women would go through that night. Documenting the war on drugs had many, many difficult moments and this was easily one of the worst.”

Ezra Acayan (one of the “Nightcrawlers”; taken from his Twitter feed): “It was horror I thought could only be seen in movies. But the worst part of that night was pretty much kept secret from the public until it was recently revealed in the movie Aswang — the CHR people failed to rescue them, as was agreed if the intel turned out positive. The entire thing was reduced to a photo op. I could remember that night, me and my colleagues were disappointed to hear the other CHR people murmur to themselves, that they couldn’t spend any time longer there as they had a dinner event to catch. For most of them, the supposed rescue mission was unpayed overtime. As journalists we were powerless. All we could do was watch as they were loaded into a jeepney to be transferred to a regular jail.”

Terence Ang, SFFR: “Thirty-plus people secretly and illegally detained in a tiny, cold, dark, and fetid room behind a cabinet of a police precinct — the horror, the anger, there’s literally no other words that came out of my mouth but PUTANGINA. Putangina ng lahat ng mga pulis. Putangina ng lahat ng mga DDS. Putangina mo, Duterte!”

Scene of the year:
Blackout, Midnight in a Perfect World

Dino Pastrana in a scene from Midnight in a Perfect World

Robin Quiñones, SFFR: “The premise of Dodo Dayao’s sophomore film is about cases of disappearances of people in mysterious blackouts that happen in the utopian Manila after midnight. These blackouts are shown briefly earlier in the film and are mentioned through phone conversations with Tonichi (Dino Pastrano) who was unfortunately caught in one of these incidents after a night out. Mimi (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) and Jinka (Glaiza de Castro) went out of the safe house in a desperate attempt to rescue their friend leading us to the film’s climax to experience the eponymous “midnight”. Dayao, even from his feature debut Violator, knows how to elicit fear of the unknown, and in the darkness, with only the intermittent lights from smartphones, we are made aware of the horrors of what we cannot see in the vast of night, assaulting our senses with its imagery and sound design, leaving us with more questions than answers. Like the characters, we are left in the dark.

From the get-go, it is very clear that Midnight in a Perfect World is not your typical horror film, that the film is filled with metaphors and symbols reflective of the current state of our country or even of the world. But watching it, it is impossible not to get swept up by the sheer technical brilliance of it all best exemplified in this heart-stopping sequence.”

Emil Hofileña, SFFR: “When the lights go out in Midnight in a Perfect World, and nothing is left to guide these characters through the darkness except their cellphones, Dodo Dayao pulls off a magic trick. He transports us—we who are sitting in front of our computers and small screens—to a different dimension entirely, snatching us away from the safety of our homes. Dayao’s direction, coupled with Albert Banzon and Gym Lumbera’s cinematography, makes this one of the most technically impressive moments in cinema in 2020, not to mention one of the most nerve-wracking.

There’s much more going on here than just the lights going out, of course. The film may take place in some dystopian version of the Philippines, but Dayao captures the fear felt by so many living in this country in the last five years, or under any regime that has silenced people and kept them blind. With very few ways left to communicate and with their survival instinct overriding all other impulses, these characters—once jovial and articulate—are left to scramble for their lives. It’s a moment that feels so uncomfortably close to our own reality, and might just make you afraid of the dark all over again.”

Jay Rosas, SFFR: “Easily the best scene or sequence from any Filipino film I’ve seen last year is one that is made with a sense of economy and technical mastery – the blackout scene from Tonichi’s descent into despair up to Jinka and Mimi’s tense foray into the calm darkness. Dodo Dayao and cinematographers Albert Banzon and Gym Lumbera envision a dystopian Philippines that is straight out of our dark, sci-fi TV binges, when the lucid effects of long screen exposure dissolves into the reality of our personal chaos and realities. Beyond the hellish headtrip that Midnight in a Perfect World is, it strangely captures the paranoia of our times, in the inescapable digital present, while the spectre of our dark histories unfold before our eyes in faint flickers and lucid nightmares. More than allegorical, what this sequence accomplishes is to make us imagine ourselves as if we are seeing it in a cavernous theater, prompting us to relive a cinephile experience and mulling over the fear that we might be stuck with our laptops and digital devices for a long time in this metaphorical midnight.”  

Joker Manio, SFFR: “There’s no other scene more exciting and thrilling this year than when the clock struck midnight and the lights went out in Midnight in a Perfect World. We see beautiful exterior wide shots of buildings and street lamps dimming silently one after the other. Our protagonists race against the darkness and our heartbeats start thumping, yet we do not know what’s coming. The only reassurance we got is that we will soon be engulfed in God’s blindspot.”

Armando dela Cruz, SFFR: “The prospect of a ‘perfect world’ will entice no one aware of how real life goes. As humans, our understanding of the world is intimate and resigned to the fact that there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’. Whoever buys into this utopic idea is unaware—no, ignorant—of the costs.

In Dodo Dayao’s second feature, the Philippines is lulled into a false sense of order through a curfew that sets off at midnight. Filipinos have, incredibly, accepted this curfew as a fixture of their lives if it means to keep the rivers clean and the economy on the up-and-up. The characters, belonging mostly to the working middle-class, gather to investigate disappearances seemingly linked to the curfews.

Midnight’s parallels to Martial Law (and to some extent, the Duterte regime) are unmistakable. Yet, it’s the movie’s firm grasp on the middle class’s ignorance that sends me. I’m referring to the gorgeously shot sequence where the characters decide to step out into total darkness. Earlier, we hear them squabble, rather obnoxiously: ‘Hindi importante kung ano’ng nangyayari,’ one person says. ‘Basta walang nangyayari sa’kin, sa’tin.

So, imagine the catharsis of seeing these characters, whose motivations to investigate the curfews vary from mere curiosity to sheer boredom, slowly realize how foolish it was to break curfew, or rather, not to have challenged them in the very first place. 

Being a Dodo Dayao film, Midnight doesn’t set itself to fit this mold exclusively. I’m sure after repeat viewings I’ll take its story, and this very sequence, a different way. Until then, it lives rent-free in my head as that part of the movie where apathetic Filos learn that some things are bigger than their painfully unconcerned existence.”

Anthony Falcon, actor: “I remember the setup to be very long and I only understood why when we shot it. The first blackout was shot in two different locations. In the first loc, we needed to be precise with our blocking in relation to the camera movement. (Also true for most parts of the film.) For the second location, there was a lot of running. Literally. The cam was handheld, parang wala ding playback nun. So, hindi mo alam kung kuha ka sa shot at kung may opportunity kang magpahinga sa pagtakbo. Kung alam ko lang na hindi pala ako kita. Haha

What I liked about that in terms of playing Glenn – yung internal tension niya sa skepticism niya sa black out vis a vis yung denial niya sa posibilidad na nangyayari na ngayon yung blackout sa kanya. Para sa kanya hindi importante kung totoo man yung blackout o hindi, naniniwala siya sa magandang epekto nung fear sa disiplina at pag-unlad. Ang sarap laruin nung desire niya to be right – at nung fear that he could actually be wrong.”

Dodo Dayao, writer/director: “Masyado daw madilim yung Violator. Kaya ginawa na naming tungkol sa kadiliman yung next film. But the germ for this, actually more than just a germ but the actual premise, came to me in a dream, and the intent has always been for the film to achieve the quality of one. We knew coming in that the scenes in the blackout were going to be . . . challenging, for obvious reasons, but also because it made up the entire, ummm, ‘third act’, if you will. We also knew it wasn’t going to be as simple as getting a permit to block off a street then turning off the lights. How do you turn off the moon? How do you simulate a darkness so absolute it’s disorienting? Aminado naman kaming tatlo nila Bert at Gym na intimidating yung task, cinematographically. I think the whole team shared the same sentiment. Up until the actual day of the shoot, we were on our toes, para kaming tutugtog na walang ensayo, saulado yung piyesa pero di sigurado kung papano lalatag. But that nervous crackle of electricity is really why I do the things I do. Preprod pa lang matik na that we were going to shoot it inside a studio. We talked about mocking up parts of the “city” indoors but that would’ve given a structural comfort to an environment that needed to be uneasy and irrational We finished up with a huge empty warehouse, pitch black and supercold, with a constantly moving camera and no more than two people on cam at a time. Somehow we had simulated the conditions of the universe in the film, and that turned out to be transportive, for Jas and Glaiza and Dino certainly, and for us, too. It was an ambitious pitch. The sort of thing you would pitch to a big studio. But the fact that we weren’t a big studio production with big studio money meant we couldn’t afford to overthink and second-guess the process but it also meant we had more room to play. It really was more liberating. We needed to shoot in pitch darkness with only the light from a smartphone screen. So we shot in pitch darkness with only the light from a smartphone screen.”


Sanriel Ajero

  1. Closing scene (Lingua Franca)
  2. One final task (Watch List)
  3. Final sequence (Lahi, Hayop)

Runners-up: Tanya’s friend dies “Tumalon siya” (Tagpuan); The kiss (The Boy Foretold By the Stars)

Mayk Alegre

  1. Inuman session of fan girl and her idol, Fan Girl
  2. Wallpaper scene with Mimi (Jasmine Curtis), Midnight in a Perfect World
  3. Jane’s (Bela Padilla) suicide scene at the bathtub, On Vodka, Beers, and Regrets

Terence Ang

  1. Bookshelf, Aswang
  2. Initiation, The Boy Foretold by the Stars
  3. Rizal in #SONAgKaisa, Heneral Rizal

Daph Bajas

  1. Ending of The Boy Foretold by the Stars
  2. Ending of UnTrue
  3. Pubic hair scenes of He Who is Without Sin

Robert Cerda

  1. OVBR – The character of Bela Padilla, wearing a witch’s mask, angry at the film-set staff
  2. LAHI, HAYOP – Mariposa (Hazel Orencio), walking slowly, carrying a big jar.
  3. HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN – Elijah Canlas’ character’s monologue sequence in the bathroom/area

Armando dela Cruz

  1. In the pitch darkness, Midnight in a Perfect World
  2. Olivia waiting for the train, Lingua Franca
  3. At the precinct, Aswang

Macoy Delociento

  1. Charlie Dizon running away from Paolo Avelino when she got caught at the back of his pickup. (Fan Girl)
  2. Underwater scene of Bela Padilla and JC Santos (On Vodka, Beers, and Regrets)
  3. Keann Johnson avoiding Adrian Lindayag at the staircase (The Boy Foretold by the Stars)

Engelbert Rafferty Dulay

  1. The ending of Fan Girl
  2. The Safe house long shot in Midnight in a Perfect World – How is it possible for a director who has only one feature-length film before this monstrosity came along to have such a certain, singular vision of his work? Never mind the beyond eerie world-building of the first half of the film. Never mind the striking metaphors of the film that bluntly attacks the monsters lurking in the present, regardless if at night or in broad daylight. Dayao just knows how to direct. And to have the audacity to include a shot–barely a scene, mind you–that puts you into an acid trip? I have no words.
  3. The corridor scene in Overseas – As an offspring of an expatriate whose sole dream is to provide all their family’s needs and wants, I am more than disappointed to know that many of our brothers and sisters suffer physically, mentally and emotionally in various parts of the world. And the worst part? It’s as though our own nation barely gives a rat’s arse about it. Cut to: a desk filled with untouched documents concerning our fellow kin. Yes, we live in that kind of a society. Disgusting, ain’t it? But it’s the truth.

Miguel Edosma

  1. End scene in Fan Girl
  2. Turo’s death in Watch List
  3. Dominic and Luke ending kiss in The Boy Foretold by the Stars

James Espinoza

  1. Ending / final sequence (Lingua Franca)
  2. Jomari and other kids talking about drugs (Aswang)
  3. First kiss (The Boy Foretold by the Stars)

Vinson Gabato

  1. Secret Jail Cell in Aswang
  2. Lights Out in Midnight in a Perfect World
  3. Church Scene (Paghahandog ng Sarili) in Lingua Franca – a sad and heartfelt scene. Always loved Paghahandog ng Sarili but never realized its emotional heft with the right circumstances.

Cydel Gutierrez

  1. Elehiya sa Paglimot’s scene where Kristoffer Brugada’s father recognizes a baby (his
    nephew), clapped and looked happy despite his condition. It’s as if the old will always be familiar with the young and Alzheimer’s can’t stop that.
  2. The Boy Foretold by the Stars’ scene where Brother Mike was doing a progressive lecture about homosexuality; a breath of fresh air for the BL genre without actually sounding preachy and meh.
  3. Aswang’s revelation of a “secret cell behind a bookshelf” of at least a dozen illegally detained people during the bloody drug war inside the Manila District Police Station 1 in Tondo district. Horrifying and Infuriating.

Fred Hawson

  1. Pitch darkness scene lit with phones (Midnight in a Perfect World)
  2. First kiss in the candlelit field (Boy Foretold by the Stars)
  3. Final scene of the helpless Maria (Watch List)

Emil Hofileña

  1. Midnight in a Perfect World – Mimi and Jinka look for Tonichi in the darkness, with nothing but their cellphone lights
  2. Elehiya sa Paglimot – Pedring recognizes his wife
  3. Fan Girl – ending

Jayson Javier

  1. Silent scene in On Vodka, Beers, and Regrets where Jane (Bela Padilla) was standing next to an abstract painting
  2. Jane (Charllie Dizon) taking pictures of “Paulo Avelino’s” prosthetic penis, demonstrating everyone’s voyeuristic aspect as a Fan Girl
  3. First kiss of Dominic (Adrian Lindayag) and Luke (Keann Johnson) among the lighted candles

Princess Kinoc

  1. (Fan Girl) When Charlie Dizon’s Jane walks out to do an errand for Paulo, feeling uneasy, and then she sees his mistress coming to his secret home. She runs back to the home to try to control the situation, or does she?
  2. In Lingua Franca, when Trixie and Isabel talk about the first time they realize they were gay.
  3. All the scenes in Heneral Rizal, especially that slow, encapsulating first sequence with Rizal facing backwards. You see the dust and moot lingering in the air. You realize that it kind of represents Rizal in some ways, his legacy lingering in the air but we never try to embody it.

Skilty Labastilla

  1. Last scene, Dreaming in the Red Light. Hands down the year’s most heart-crushing scene, when Tisay, the daughter of a former prostitute who spends most of the film finding ways to live life with dignity, ends up walking the same street that her mother used to frequent.
  2. Secret jail cell, Aswang
  3. Maria’s first kill, Watch List

Jay Lacanilao

  1. Jane throws herself and child out of Paulo’s car out of seething hatred and disgust for her idol in Fan Girl
  2. Maria finds her husband murdered in Watch List
  3. Initiation retreat in The Boy Foretold by the Stars

Wowie Lagman

  1. Fan Girl – Charlie Dizon jumps out of speeding vehicle. More than being one of the highlights of Jane’s character’s quest to find her voice and stand up to her oppressor, this scene is memorable because of its similarity to a Lady Bird scene, where Saoirse Ronan threw herself out of a speeding car to spite her mother. I consider this one of the best for the simple reason that it made me laugh when it happened.
  2. Paano Maging Babae – Student submits test paper. After spending several excruciating minutes answering misogynistic questions, a young student makes the necessary corrections to the insulting test paper, darkening certain words until it only says “paano maging babae,” and then promptly walks out of the room. I enjoyed how in this scenario, the professor is a fat, unkempt man to really define what being a chauvinistic pig is, and how the young woman managed to maintain her poise and didn’t resort to lashing out at the professor or settle for the safest route, which is to answer the questions for the sake of not failing. Instead, she takes the intelligent approach and corrects what’s written in the test paper, and takes a stand.
  3. Quing Lalam Ning Aldo – Imagining her son’s back home, cooking. While the movie, in its entirety, is flat in some areas, the scene where the lead is visualizing her son as a young boy, busy cooking, is notable because of its execution. The clean, sweeping camera movements, touching score, and how each frame was stitched together made for a palpable sense of loss, longing, and excitement.

Nicol Latayan

  1. Vince appearing to advise James, James and Pat and Dave
  2. The bookshelf escape/discovery, Aswang
  3. Initiation Scene, The Boy Foretold by the Stars

Jason Tan Liwag

  1. Living Room Scene with Charlie Dizon and Paulo Avelino (Fan Girl). As Charlie Dizon and Paulo Avelino talk, drink, and dance for the first time, the power dynamics between the fan and the idol become blurred – creating a tense and captivating scene where rules are meant to be broken.
  2. Dominic and Luke’s first kiss (The Boy Foretold by the Stars)

Macky Macarayan

  1. Rizal crosses paths with the protesters, Heneral Rizal
  2. Jane’s monologue at the AA meeting, On Vodka, Beers and Regrets

Joker Manio

  1. The lights going out as midnight strikes in Midnight in a Perfect World
  2. Ending montage in 1-2-3 (Gasping for Air) as we see Reyna back in her usual routine
  3. The aswang monologue in Aswang

Manuel Pangaruy

  1. When the father in Elehiya sa Paglimot forgot the concept of God/how to pray
  2. That scene with Joshua Garcia towards the end in James & Pat & Dave
  3. That very last scene in Kintsugi

Jim Paranal

  1. Jane (Charlie Dizon) smoked inside Paulo Avelino’s car in FanGirl.
  2. Mimaw’s confession of her feelings towards Paolo (Noel Comia, Jr.) in Death of Nintendo.
  3. Andrei’s (Jal Galang) emotional confession to his father that he’s HIV positive and his father (late Menggie Cobarubbias) promised to help him in Gulis.

Nico Quejano

  1. Final scene of Lahi, Hayop before fadeout.
  2. Alan Peter Cayetano telling Mocha Uson on how to bribe local media in A Thousand Cuts
  3. Glaiza de Castro running in darkness with only her mobile phone to light her in A Midnight in a Perfect World

Robin Quiñones

  1. Midnight in a Perfect World: Mimi & Jinka left the safe house with smartphones as the only light source
  2. Aswang: rescue of people illegally detained in a hidden jail cell
  3. Elehiya sa Paglimot: Tatay Pedring forgot the concept of praying

Jay Rosas

  1. Blackout scene with cellphones in Midnight in a Perfect World
  2. Nancy visiting her damaged house in House in Pieces
  3. Confession scene of Kendrick in My Lockdown Romance

Bernard Santos

  1. The ending of Fan Girl when Charlie Dizon smokes a cigarette.
  2. The exploitation scene of Elijah and Enzo in the dining table, where Enzo is touching Elijah under the table.
  3. The ending of Untrue

Naz Malvas Tabares

  1. Last scene of Fan Girl where Jane, having experienced everything with her idol, finally learns to stand up to oppressors
  2. Last scene of Midnight in a Perfect World. Tension fills the screen as the film reaches its conclusion
  3. Fan Girl – Jane reveals herself as a diehard fan as she got caught by Paulo Avelino.

John Tawasil

  1. The dance scene in Lingua Franca

Jay-r Trinidad

  1. Inside the room 360 scene in Midnight in a Perfect World.
  2. Footage of the hidden prison in Aswang.
  3. Bulbol scene in He Who Is Without Sin.

JT Trinidad

  1. The Boy Foretold by the Stars, ending scene


One thought on “5 Best Scenes in 2020 Philippine Cinema”

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