It’s the first film we went to watch at the MMFF not because we thought highly of it. Logistics of watching movies at the festival has to be carefully planned if you want a hassle-free experience. We chose Greenbelt 3 over Trinoma (nearer my village) because of the comparatively less crowd volume. Besides, it’d be nice to break the tedium. Christmas dinner afterwards would take place at my grandfather’s dig in Makati.
Which film would bring in the most crowd? That’s what we’d book first, that way we can take our sweet time queuing for the rest of the line-up without the frenetic rush to get the last few seats later in the day. So on the first day of MMFF, I donned my Christmas-inspired stilettos and harassed my friend so we could make the first screening at Greenbelt 3. Tony Y. Reyes’ “Enteng ng Ina Mo” plays first, followed by “Panday 2”, “Segunda Mano”, then “House Husband”. It was going to be “Shake, Rattle and Roll 13” instead of the Judy Anne Santos-Ryan Agoncillo starrer, but it wasn’t in the Greenbelt line-up! Simply put, that’s our fearless forecast for the biggest money makers for this festival. Doing away with them first would allow us to enjoy the rest of the movie watching season, with relative ease and comfort.
So... what happens when Enteng Kabisote meets Ina Montecillo?
Ina Montecillo (Ai-Ai de las Alas) has been having vivid and disquieting dreams of strife and fighting a war alongside a valiant warrior, a “knight in shining, shimmering armor”. But in her waking hours, the doting former president is anxious of being left on her own while most of her 12 children have started living their lives. Juan (Marvin Agustin), her eldest, is due to move to a new home with his family. Tudis (Nikki Valdez) has bought a house for her and son Oogie. Dimitri (Carlo Aquino) will soon relocate to Cebu where he’s assigned for work. Gay son Pip (Alwyn Uytingco) might do the same once he finds his new papa, taking daughter Monay (Xyriel Manabat) with him. To make matters worse, Rowena (Eugene Domingo), Ina’s best friend, is too preoccupied with her boytoy Frank (Jon Avila). The widow of four is lonely. And Carlito (Piolo Pascual), her last boyfriend, has flown off to South Africa, and has suffered morbid consequences (“Nilapa ng leon,” informed Ina.) Where will this leave Ina? No wonder she has burdensome dreams of conflict - and of a brave knight.
Meanwhile, at the Kabisote household, Enteng (Vic Sotto) is flustered when Faye (Gwen Zamora), his wife – a fairy princess – decides to leave Earth for Engkantasia (the fairy world) without his permission to fight a fast-losing battle against her evil sister Satana (Bing Loyzaga) who has captured the queen, Ina Magenta (Amy Perez). While Faye is occupied training for the impending invasion, Satana casts a spell on Enteng: the first lady he sees at the door becomes the future Mrs. Kabisote. In comes Ina Montecillo who’s flattered by the attention that Enteng showers on her. While Enteng is bent on wooing Ina, the latter is gradually falling for the charming gentleman who failed to tell her that he’s married. What’s worse, Ina’s children aren’t pleased with their mother’s new paramour, and they’re too happy to let him know.
Over at Engkantasia, the situation has turned hopeless. With the help of other fairies, Ina Verde and Ina Asul (Precious Lara Quigaman and Megan Young), they have to summon the help of Enteng and bring to fairyland their “bagong tagapagligtas” (new savior) who happened to be – Ina Montecillo! And they have to get there fast before Faye, Ina Magenta and the whole fairyland fall under the sovereign of Satana! Will Enteng, Ina and the gang succeed against ghouls, monsters, witches and a giant Cyclops? Guess.
Hurdling the narrative stretch is a feat, but there’s novelty in the cinematic pairing of the two biggest box office draws of the MMFF. With a reed-thin plot that fuels this smorgasbord of genres (comedy, drama, horror, fantasy, action, adventure), the movie rests solely on the spirited performances of its cast, and its episodic endeavors at humor. Ina and Enteng’s rendezvous is indeed novelty, considering we’ve somehow grown accustomed to them. They’ve become guilty pleasures; they’ve become part of our Christmases, whether we deem them substantial or not! Ai-Ai de las Alas and Vic Sotto enjoy a comic chemistry that at times feels genuinely funny; other times banal, mundane. But it’s hard to ignore the light banter between these two veteran comedians. Their scenes mostly work even with the occasional awkward moments when the romantic strain becomes a burden. This uneven consequence is reflected in the movie going experience, taking us on a roller coaster ride of mediocre gaffes, heartwarming deliverances and the comfort and relative succor of familiarity with the characters.
Eugene Domingo returns as the rambunctious and hysterical Rowena who takes advantage of most of her limited screen time. Domingo lights up the screen with manic energy. She’s our adorable comic muse for a reason. Her timing is impeccable, her delivery crackles with whimsy. This comic intuition is borne out of her theatrical experience, I surmise. Either that, or she's unadulterated genius. It’s notable that, despite her cinematic successes, she hasn’t turned her back on the movie series that helped showcase her comical magic on screen. In a scene where Ina learns of Enteng’s “deception” (he tells her that he’s married, that their romantic dalliances was from a witch’s spell, and that he’s still in love with his fairy wife), Rowena suddenly pulls a panel behind the wailing Ina, chasing her around with the set piece. “Dito ka sa harap nito umiyak, mananalo ka ng award!” she deadpans. Though on text, that isn’t humorous. Her glib delivery had me cracking up. Kakaloka ka, Eugene!
Enteng gets spellbound by an anonymous lady (Pauleen Luna).
There are send-ups from popular movies (“No Other Woman”, “Won’t Last a Day Without You”), but they mostly fall flat. The humor cake is mostly served in the interaction between Enteng and Ina, and the sporadic scenes of the ebullient Eugene Domingo.
The message of strong familial ties resonates loudly in the intertwining stories of Ina and Enteng. Societal woes batter the dynamics of living a harmonious family life, yet it is instructive to note that when we we're required to hurdle insurmountable problems, we ultimately find ways to unite and fight our battles together - as a family. And isn't that the essence of a Filipino family?
The funniest scene in "Enteng ng Ina Mo" transpires at the concluding scene when they realized that Aiza Kabisote (Aiza Seguerra), Enteng’s lesbian daughter, got pregnant. The father: Ina’s gay son Pip (Uytingco) who then testily reminded Aiza: “Ikaw kasi, kalabit ng kalabit!”
It’s interesting to note that the scenes away from Engkantasia (which monopolized the last fourth of the movie) were more compelling than the invasion-and-rescue which was hackneyed. We’ve seen them before. We could close our eyes and chronologically predict what’s going to happen next. The novelty of such obtusely choreographed fight scenes (with decent CGI’s) has worn off two years ago. People are eventually going to tire off such drollery. See how people have gradually dismissed Bong Revilla’s “Panday 2” with briskly dwindling numbers.
Yes, the gang’s back but we need narrative substance too.
Rowena shares her thoughts. to bestfriend Ina.
Faye rehearses her fairy spells.
"Hi, kids. I'm Mr. Pogi," remarked Enteng.
"Could you lock the door?" Enteng tells Ina. She replies with, "No, Enteng, please don't!"