HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – To celebrate the centennial of Philippine Cinema, a screening of “Signal Rock,” the country’s Oscar Award offering for best foreign film, took place at Raleigh Studios with Filipino food, ‘Kodakan,’ and opening remarks by the Consul General.
ConGen Adelio Angelito S. Cruz gave this message: “In the spirit of anticipating God’s greatest gift of love, think of this screening as our Christmas gift to you.”
He described the 130-minute film as “a dark drama of rural communities and the struggle to climb out of poverty,” to a nearly packed Chaplin Theater that seats 160, on the studio property. ConGen added that of the 105 million Filipinos in the Philippines, 10.5 million serve as OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) in all the continents of the world.
“This film (shot in Tagalog on Biri Island in the Eastern Visayas) showcases the resiliency and perseverance of the Filipino people,” he said Thursday, Dec. 20.
My daughter, Louinn Lota, wrote in PNews about the debut of “Signal Rock” in October. “Signal Rock,” submitted to the Academy for consideration for best foreign language film, is about a brother who helps his sister, an OFW in Finland, try to win back her daughter, Sofia, from Sofia’s father, a man named Ysman. Intoy, resigned to life in a small town, now starts to involve his community, faking legal and financial papers and thinking more deeply about why his sister left their hometown in the first place, an island, surrounded by rugged outcroppings and the Samar and Philippine seas. He can only get a cellphone signal when he climbs onto the remote rock formations on the island. The drama was filmed in 2018, and directed by Chito S. Rono, and starring Christian Bables and Daria Ramirez. It debuted Oct. 27, at the ArcLight Cinema in Culver City during the Philippine Film Festival, and again was shown Oct. 29.
Louinn says I can’t give away the plot because it will ruin the experience for everyone else, but I can say that the film is about several love stories: a brother’s love for his sister, a brother’s love for a young woman, Rachel, who will soon become an OFW or a mail-order bride, and a love of country. The love of country is seen in the jaw-dropping overhead footage of the rock outcroppings with waves crashing upon them, and the harrowing crossing of Intoy’s entire family from the island to the mainland in the midst of raging seas during a storm. It was the most suspenseful portion of the film.
When Intoy begs Rachel not work as a cashier at a bar in Olongapo she replies: “I won’t be abused like your sister!” Intoy says, “Your father is pimping you. Here, they only raise girls to work. All the girls here will be gone soon. You leave, you’re already like her.”
The part I loved, showed how much Intoy’s mother wanted to see her first granddaughter, Sofia. “I want to hug her,” she tearfully told a Finnish government worker, who had refused to cross the San Bernardino Strait during the vicious storm to visit them and see if they were fit to raise and house Sofia.
The ConGen and his staff, in coordination with Lyle de Ocampo of SIPA (Search to Involve Pilipino Americans) treated Fil-Am community and business leaders to a fiesta catered by Chef Barb Batiste of the Big Boi Filipino Comfort Food. Barb said she has been making Filipino food since she was little with her mom, grandma and aunt.
There also was ‘Kodakan’ in front of a real, two-story-tall Christmas tree on the studio lot. The last time my daughter and I were at Raleigh Studios was for the screening of “Stateside,” starring Mon Confiado as a struggling U.S. immigrant. Confiado also had a role in “Signal Rock.”