By RYAN PIOLO U. VELUZ
DESIGNED with artistic ornaments and illuminated by colorful lighting, the school’s stage becomes festive for a funeral service. With music and various sets of performances, the supposed solemn and melancholic commemoration of the demise of Gng. Sol (Gilleth Sandico) morphs into a celebratory gathering devised to garner funds from the spectators and crooked politicians. As altercations transpire among the people behind Sol’s unusual wake, her corpse mysteriously vanishes and is never recovered.
Director Roman Perez Jr.’s entry for this year’s The Outstanding Farmers of the Philippines (TOFARM) Film Festival 2018, Sol Searching, is a story about a school teacher who passionately educates the farmers about scientific farming. Unfortunately, she suddenly dies due to an aneurysm. Giving her a decent wake is a problem due to financial problems. Her friend Lorelei (Pokwang) and favorite student Bugoy (JM Salvado) had to transfer her body from one place to another in order to seek help.
Starting with a clever prologue that presents the sudden death of Sol after dealing with her naughty students, the film catches its viewers’ attention with its unique style. The audience is now puzzled by the preface, giving them a reason to stay until the mystery is deciphered.
Albeit tackling a serious topic, Perez Jr. successfully utilizes the medium of comedy. Many scenes are painted with misfortunes such as when the characters encounter certain dilemmas every time the corpse changes location. However, it is through humorous solutions that the characters manage to resolve the problems gradually.
Through Lorelei and Bugoy’s hilarious rapport and line delivery, the film unveils different kinds of humor, from frivolous slapstick to insightful wit. The harmonious interaction between the two serves as a support whenever some sequences are overstressed. Despite throwing comical lines, the tandem of Lorelei and Bugoy can incite profound realizations once one discovers the context of the dialogue and its connection to the act.
As the film delves deeper, it gently exposes the issues challenging public school teachers. This is depicted through Sol’s inadequate benefits and salary, which was the reason for her having to endure improper death rites. The corruption of some politicians in the provinces is also depicted, as well as the rise of unethical judgments arise from trivialities.
The film also discloses some toxic traits of Filipinos. In the film, instead of giving respect and praying for the soul of the departed, some people took advantage of the situation to use it for their own self-centered interest. This is evident when, instead of helping Sol wholeheartedly, the school principal and the barangay captain exploit her funeral by hosting betting games and selling overpriced items from a small business store but giving only a part of the contribution to Sol’s family.
Despite having many good points, some flaws of the film are still noticeable such as the insertion of the insignificant backstory about the affair of Lorelei and Sol’s husband and rushed sequences during its concluding scenes.
Overall, Sol Searching was able to balance its serious discourses and humorous scenes. Enforced with dynamic direction, the film was also able to preserve its entertainment value from start to finish.
The brilliant glorification of the crucial roles of farmers in our daily lives and the teachers’ passion for educating the youth are the strongest points of the film. Ultimately, Sol Searching was able to promote the film festival’s prime advocacy: upholding the significance of agriculture and inciting appreciation for farming for better cultivation in the future. F