IN THE Philippine cultural context, familialism is given utmost importance for it is the foundation of homes. At its core is the father, who thereby assumes the center seat of the dining table with his wife serving meals and the children sitting on either side. In Kabisera, the de Dios family serves as the quintessence of this notion—until a tragedy rattles the very core of it.
The film opens with a celebration during New Year’s Eve, in which Tunying (Ricky Davao), Mercy (Nora Aunor), and their family feast on sumptuous meals laid before the table, and watch in awe the dazzling fireworks display outside. The scene that follows shows the family dining in their home, with all the members laughing at their own jokes. This perfection, however, is disturbed as the household is presented with several mishaps. The death of Tunying signals the gradual collapse of the family structure due to his alleged involvement in handling illegal money. Mercy recuperates with the loss, determined to seek justice for her husband.
Director Arthur San Agustin’s entry for the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival celebrates familialism through a matriarch’s perspective. It is realistic for it reveals that a perfect family is nonexistent. That is, even the happiest family is flawed because of children immensely engaging in mundane interests, such as their lasciviousness with women and their excessive consumption of liquor. Loved ones are also keeping secrets from each other, whereas they must be open and truthful.
What makes the film more striking is the fact that it is inspired by true-to-life events. The cinematic imagination of the events piercingly reaches out to its audience.
The film also sheds light on the growing number of extrajudicial killings in the country. Tunying is defenselessly gunned down outside his house in the middle of the night by a police officer who wears a black hood; the desolation is further established as the heavy rains crash down the pavement while Mercy sobs and embraces his bloody corpse. The scene, although coincidental since the film has presumably been shot months before the change of presidency, resembles the current administration’s fight against drugs.
Kabisera is a timely magnification of the society’s corrupt schemes within the context of familialism. It exposes the irony of the system, which serves unjust justice to victims. The delivery of its message, which is to uphold what is right, relies on its masterful display of emotions, thereby making the film more gripping. F ZYMON ARVINDALE R. DYKEE