Monti Parungao isn’t quite over his “Survivor” experience so he conjures an insipid, reed-thin, lame-brained story and translates this into a movie - "Santuaryo" - about a group of able-bodied men who sets off on a treasure hunting adventure. This takes them to an island near their domicile (“Malapit sa amin,” remarked one of them) fabled to have buried a treasure. Meanwhile, another guy Archie (Basti Romero aka Ardie Bascara) aimlessly takes the road when his lover William (Will Sandejas) packs up and leaves for New York to work as a nurse! On the road, he meets Mang Erwin, an old man who lures him to the jungles of Quezon for – you bet! – the same treasure hunting adventure!
Unfortunately, Mang Erwin croaks and is found lifeless, leaving Archie by his lonesome. He takes the old man’s map and searches for the “treasure” himself. This is where he meets the 5 guys seemingly marooned on a big island – called “Luzon” – since Archie and Mang Erwin never actually left the mainland. At this point, you already find a very sketchy storytelling that smacks of a lethargic mind!
When Archie finally meets the guys, he learns that the group carries the other half of the map that would complete the hunt. He needs to get hold of it in a treacherous game of wits. Not that there’s much wit involved in this movie!
How come? Let me count the ways.
If there was indeed a popular urban legend about an oft-forgotten treasure buried by the Spanish conquistadors (and why for the life of Beelzebub would the Spaniards bury a treasure? they owned the islands for 500 years!), shouldn’t it reach the consciousness of archaeological authorities or, at the very least, professional bounty hunters who didn’t quite strike gold with the fabled Yamashita treasure? How did this come into being in the hands of wank-crazy young men or the infarct-ridden old man? And what are the odds that they would seek for this treasure within similar time frame. Wouldn’t it be too serendipitous?
One thing is sure, bad narratives always rely on chances to move their stories; Situations suddenly prop up like fungus on a desiccating tree. As the case here.
Next point, when the five guys declare to having been lost at sea, they weren’t exactly helpless . Their boat did not capsize, did it? In fact, that same night they reached the island, they hauled off a whole bag of goodies and canned goods - from the same boat, somehow giving the impression that they were really just on a camping trip. They weren’t lost! Neither were they trapped; not with a working boat! In fact, it didn’t take them long to start a bonfire! Moreover, instead of worrying for their whereabouts, one guy springs a bunch of porn magazines that all the boys could wank to. How convenient, right? You get seemingly marooned on an island (see the poster's blurb: "trapped on an island") and the first thing that comes into your mind is to masturbate beside your mates? Neurons alert!
Having a functional boat doesn’t necessarily make for a laudable shipwreck story, does it? In fact, if you closely check into the horizon, you see a big island in the far distance; probably Mindoro or Alabat Island (since Archie culminated his adventure in the jungles of Quezon)! Are they too lazy to steer their boat to another island if they indeed were lost? Or were they just plain stupid? My hunch would be the latter!
When Gener (Justin Dizon) forges a deal with Archie (Basti Romero), the latter lays his condition, “Gawin mo ang ginawa mo kay Migs para mapatunayan kong di ka nagsisinungaling.” A blowjob! I was like, duh! Honey, there are better ways of proving ones loyalty than a blowjob, except that this film’s writer and director consider a blowjob as the deal-breaker of all transactions! Talk about brains the size of peanuts, right?
Will Sandejas, the phallic king from the movie “Sikil”, is specially billed. He plays William, a New York-based nurse who takes a leave from his lucrative job when he learns of Archie’s disappearance. But upon his return, he finds a paraplegic Archie who can’t walk, “pero tinitigasan pa rin ako.” Miracles never cease! From here, William’s conversation with Archie steers the film’s narrative string.
As the movie comes to its conclusion, Archie finally completes his story – he was found thrown off a cliff, near death, by some fishermen; the same fishermen who “rescued” the 5 other guys? As I said, storytelling was sketchy at best.
Drumroll, please! We then see wheelchair-bound Archie facing a romantically silhouetted William standing before him. The sun was setting on their shadows, and with supercalifragilistical wonderment, Archie miraculous pulls himself up his chair; he stands and walks! He moves towards William and they embrace in wild abandon. Sniff! May Himala, after all, Ms. Aunor! If only Walt Disney cartoons were this cinematic, magical – and superfluous!
Here’s the clincher of all clinchers – when the guys finally get hold of the complete map, what do they find? That they were encroaching on the treasure itself - the whole island is a “Wildlife Santuary”! Everyone missed the official entrance to the park? Hahaha! I bet the sanctuary even has a website that would give them free downloadable color maps! And they didn’t even have to sail the testy oceans to get there! JAC Liner lang or Pantranco papuntang Quezon, you’re there! It all boils down to having a movie where all the characters are nincompoops! Treasure turns out to be a Wildlife Park? Hahaha! That’s really GRAND! What imbeciles!
When one of the guys asked his mate how a blowjob feels, he follows this up with another moronic question – “eh sino ang top, sino ang bottom?” Huh? A blowjob has a top and a bottom? Does he even know what he’s talking about? There is constant discordance in every nook and cranny of this movie. The film seemed hurried and editing was clumsy: a narration and an on-spot scene were placed beside each other, both saying “Halos isang linggo na akong palakad lakad.” Like the proverbial broken record!
Haven’t you noticed how these independent films have continually showcased the miniscule brain activity that inhabit independent cinema in general? I am generalizing; after all, 95% of these Indies are crap! And these Pink Films flourish like unmoderated cow dungs at every corner of Philippine Cinema! God bless Monti Parungao for his spare and rather limited filmmaking capabilities!
Oh, I have to mention that “Santuaryo’s” story is from the brilliant mind of Danio Caw who also conveniently reviewed Parungao’s earlier masterpiece “Sagwan” (http://www.pep.ph/guide/3366/PEP-REVIEW:-Sagwan-aims-to-please-viewers). I was just reading through his review of Parungao’s “Sagwan” which reads: “… a well-made movie everyone should see…kudos to the director who can be considered the master of scenic setting…he knows how to put up a good show for his audience…” Master filmmaker, huh? LOL. Reading this was like jumping on trampoline. It had the heady pleasures of regurgitation! Honey, a good director knows how to tell his story, for starters. If the story doesn’t even ring true, the director should know how to tweak it into something acceptable, not riddled with narrative holes the size of the moon’s craters. The guys were “marooned” on the island - with a functional boat - for about a month yet we don’t see them grow their hair? No one even lost weight! Parungao should have learned from his “Survivor Palau” experience: “jungle survivors” look disheveled, dirty, frumpy, bemustached – even gorgeous creatures like Shaun, Marvin, Vlad and Suzuki weren’t immune to this … or was the director not taking down notes? He should have.
Mr. Caw, in his very objective and highly esteemable PEP review, further lamented, “As a moviegoer, I fervently wish that the indie films forego the usual first-person narration. Sagwan uses the same tired device. The script and the story are not particularly original. Sagwan is a good watch… after a series of disappointing gay indie films that have recently opened in the metro.” Guess what, Mr. Caw, your story isn’t original either, and it’s being told on first-person narration, haven’t you noticed? You should have fervently heed your own observations for your very own story! I am sure dear Monti would have listened! Or would he? "Disappointing gay indie films?" Spot on!
That this movie actually competed for the Cinemalaya Netpac Awards is just a testament of the pervasive atmosphere of mediocrity swirling around the current Digital Wave. There are just too many “idiots with cameras”. It obviously doesn’t speak well of this present movie industry.
God bless the paying movie-going public!