Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mayohan - Tender Tales of Youthful Summers

Little did teenage boy Nino (Elijah Castillo) realize that forgetting his cell phone would be the least of his worries as he travels with his Aunt Marta to Infanta, Quezon. For a month, he will witness how a little town prepares to celebrate Mayohan, a yearly festivities celebrating the impending harvest, as well as the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Nino meets Lilibeth (Lovi Poe), a lucent town beauty who is the appointed "presidenta" assigned to oversee fund raising ("ambagan") to finance the "tapusan", a town ball that culminates Mayohan where the prettiest lasses are invited to dance with the town's gentlemen. Lilibeth's task is no mean feat. She needs P20,000 for the whole production, and she is roaming every nook of the sleepy town to succeed. Despite appearances, Lilibeth finds the deed as her final obligation for her birth place. She's in fact itching to head to the big city, to leave Barangay Libjo and continue her studies in Manila. Nino, on the other hand, sports a limp. He survived a vehicular accident that took the lives of his parents. In the trappings of his convalescence, Nino is enamored with the incandescent 19 year old Lilibeth who has offered him friendship: feeding him the delicious "binagkat"; taken him around town over rice paddies and streams, etc.

But could Lilibeth be running away from something? Will the "Tapusan" be as festive as it was before?

In the simplest, almost ruminative narrative strokes, Dan Villegas' "Mayohan" (Maytime) reminds you of the warmth and tenderness of your first crush; the facile bliss of lazy laidback summers when time was innocent and smiles were unadulterated joys. Paul Sta. Ana's ("Slow Fade") script mines the the mores and tradition of Infanta, from the "binagkat" to the sabaw ng tinipay; from the "padasals" (novena) to the "tapusans"; brushing into the story humorous "little town whispers" like why the very handsome mayor's first dance at the annual event is always with the town's ugliest girls; on the perceived virginity of barrio lasses. Each little bit brings a smidgen of smile.

Lovi Poe is luminous all throughout (thanks in part to the brilliant cinematography) taking her character Lilibeth with edifying intuition. It's quite palpable why young boys would fall for Lilbeth. Elijah Castillo ("Pepot Artista") does well as the limping Nino from whom the perspective of the story is being told. He innocently follows Lilibeth around until he realizes his growing infatuation (he gets drunk from his Tito Ruben's lambanog or coconut vodka). Ping Medina as Ruben (Nino's girl crazy uncle) suits up adequately as the town's lothario, dispensing adult advises on hooking up with women. Dan Villegas' coming-of-age tale may initially suggest the poetic lyricism of Katski Flores' "Still Lives" but as the film moves to its curtain call, it becomes clear that director Dan Villegas' light and lucid story telling is an unabashed original and a breath of fresh air with a distinct voice all its own.

Luminous Lovi Poe

No comments: