By MARIA PAMELA S. REYES
FOR the youth, death seems to be out of arm’s reach. It is a mere figment of their imagination, a problem they will only need to face when they get older. They tend to look forward to the future and to the various goals that keep them grounded. Once a person gets older, however, everything changes. Their perspective in life shifts and they sometimes start to accept where their choices have led them. Age may also make them wonder if they could have had a different story or a different ending to their life.
In this year’s QCinema Circle Competition, director Dan Villegas featured Hintayan ng Langit, a film based on viral spoken word poet Juan Miguel Severo’s stage play of the same name.
The film features Aling Lisang (Gina Pareño), an elderly woman who has overstayed her welcome in “The Middle,” also known as purgatory. She is waiting for her ascension to the Promised Land, but her journey is halted due to her crude nature. In her over two years of stay in The Middle, she became controversial among the employees as she has established a certain notoriety.
Heaven appears to be only a few steps away for Lisang. However, she is rendered dumbfounded when she comes across Manolo (Eddie Garcia), a former lover with whom she must share a room due to the influx of souls that arrived in The Middle.
Veteran actors Pareño and Garcia stole the spotlight, yet the film fails to fully flesh out its protagonists. This is evident as there is a noticeable lack of harmony between the two characters. This is witnessed through how Lisang still yearns for Manolo over the years, so much so that she even brings these unresolved feelings to The Middle. These same feelings are also the cause of the delay of her departure toward Heaven. Despite having a loving husband waiting for her in paradise, Lisang chooses to stay because of Manolo. On the other hand, Manolo blames Lisang for their breakup but also tries to win her back with his charming words and subtle touches.
The lack of emotional connection between the protagonists becomes apparent as they both consistently try to expel the feelings of their forbidden love. The audience may be unable to feel the emotional depth as to why Lisang and Manolo are both willing to leave their lovers and forego the paths they chose to take. The film lacks passion, and the romantic ploys feel like a dire excuse to fill the plot.
The film gives off a mid-20’s vibe as the set features an old hotel and an airport. They used boxed television sets and VHS tapes to elicit nostalgia for the past. The set mirrors a kind of life that the current generation is not familiar with, but it may relate with an older audience as these are things that they grew up with.
Ultimately, Hintayan ng Langit fiddles with the idea of second chances and romanticizes the thought of love in the afterlife. It somehow counters the idea of true love and suggests the idea of man being the ruler of his or her own destiny. Although it has its faults, the film still leaves a lasting impression of wonder. Finally, one thing is very evident: life must not be taken for granted for it is a gift that a person could only experience once. F