Michael Collins' "Give Up Tomorrow" was a compelling investigative documentary about Cebu's most talked about rape-murder case that sent 7 men to jail. Though considered closed, the case continues to keep tongues wagging. After all, there were believable witnesses who swore by Paco Larranaga's alibi at the time of the murder. Unless he had the ability to bilocate, Paco actually attended his culinary class in Manila for his midterm exams - and there were even photos from a get-together in a bar later that night. How could he lead the abduction and rape of sisters Marijoy and Jackie Chiong? Marijoy's body was found lifeless at the bottom of a ravine in Carcar, south of Cebu City. Jackie remains missing. This was 21 years ago.
It's hard to discredit the artistic savvy of "Give Up Tomorrow". It was one of that year's best films. But there were parts we found a bit off. First, it was produced by people close to Larranaga, a great grandchild of a former Philippine President. The element of bias was indisputably possible. Second, they demonized Mrs. Chiong who, need I remind everyone, lost 2 daughters! She was expected to fight tooth and nails to seek justice.
However, you only have to watch a 5 minute Youtube video of Paco's former classmates and teacher talking about Paco's whereabouts on that fateful day in July 1997 to make easy conclusions about the case. Well, Paco was convicted and eventually sent to Spain to serve his sentence; he's Filipino-Spanish. But if he were really innocent, shouldn't we be concerned about the perpetration of injustice? There's something disquieting about Paco's incarceration. Bottom line: no one won from this high profile case. Marijoy is dead. Jackie is still missing. Families continue to grieve. Paco is serving prison in Spain. So do 6 of Paco's friends.
With all these in mind, I was curious how director Ysabelle Peach, Carlo Caparas' daughter, would contribute to the retelling of a story, It would be told from the point of view of Mrs. Chiong (played by Alma Moreno). The screenplay was written by Carlo Caparas who isn't done with those grueling "massacre movies" of the 90's.
In true Caparas fashion, "Jacqueline Comes Home" is overwrought, messy, exploitative and devoid of sensitivity or insight. While Meg Imperial, playing Jackie, breezed through her scenes with a certain commitment and charm, Donnalyn Bartolome, as campus beauty Marijoy, was shrill and cringe-worthy. I wanted a duct tape covering her buccal cavity. And all her cavities for that matter.
The movie is weighed down by a muddled nonlinear storytelling. It didn't help that the suspects were depicted like one-dimensional characters, channeling Paquito Diaz and Max Alvarado of the 70's. The chronicle is populated by cardboard characters that fit into predictable stereotypes with absolutely no redeeming values at all. Even the staging of their scenes was awkwardly familiar - the sneers and jeers, the unkempt persona, the leering gazes, their congregation, etc. Paco and his gang were evil. The Chiongs were innocent and saintly. There were no gray areas in between.
Surprisingly, the story carried the names of the Chiongs: Jackie (Meg Imperial), Marijoy (Donnalyn Bartolome), Thelma Chiong (Alma Moreno), Dionisio Chiong (Joel Torre), and siblings Dennis, Bruce and Debby. The baddies however were renamed: Ryan Eigenmann was Sonny; hammy newbie CJ Caparas was Jeff, and so on. AJ Muhlach was bad so let's forget he's even here. There's no mistaking though who they represented.
That being said, after the first 30 minutes of this movie's tragically dated film making style, I started getting restless. Caparas was clear in his discretionary exposition who the perpetrators were. There's no narrative window of doubt. The story completely ignored the defense's alibi. They could have pointed that out and countered with an irrefutable proof otherwise. They wanted to point a finger indubitably.
Selfie with God
There were elements worthy of comedy, like questers summoning Jackie. I had to giggle when God suddenly appeared before Thelma and spoke! Seriously! I wanted to snap a photo and send to Malacanang. This was proof of God's selfie with Thelma Chiong. He-who-shall-not-be-named would repent and become a priest, debah? I'd even volunter to send him 23 truckloads of Bactidol full-strength solution to clean his filthy mouth. That's me being nationalistic.
I had flashbacks of Andi Eigenmann playing Hilda Koronel's role in the remake of "Angela Markado" (2015), I was mentally scarred by that movie. I had post-traumatic nightmares that Eigenmann would win a Famas because, in the real world, horrendous performances always win Famas trophies. Guess what? Andi won. You better believe it. I wore a turban and wrinkled face the whole week after her win. I was Madam Auring.
And if I have to re-state the exasperated guy who walked out from the movie: "Ampanget!"