The Joy on Their Faces
by Jansen Musico
Purok 7 (2013)
D: Carlo Obispo
S: Krystle Valentino, Miggs Cuaderno, Arnold Reyes, Angeli Bayani, Julian Trono
Purok Siete is not a film about the idyllic life, although its narrative depends on it. This little rural village is very much a character of the film as its settlers are. And it’s very evident in the way director Carlo Obispo treats it, as if an old friend rekindling memories of their childhood. The film is about growing up, and the pains and joys that come with it.
The protagonists are kids: Diana (Krystle Valentino), a blossoming barrio lass, and Julian (Miggs Cuaderno), her inquisitive runt of a brother. They live alone in a hut on the outskirts of town. Their mother left to work in China, while their father (Arnold Reyes) tends to his new family.
Though orphaned, the siblings manage living day to day, with Diana taking odd jobs in the morning and Julian staying in the houses of their neighbors. At night, they share a plate of adobong kangkong, and, if they’re lucky, “lechong manok.” The kids are not portrayed as victims. In fact, they’re resilient despite the strains. Diana, for example, does not complain when she’s made to sell rice cakes while watching her friends play on the street. She even jests, calling someone out for cheating before going her way. She may take on the roles of both her mother and father, but that doesn’t rob her of her childhood.
The bond between Diana and her little brother is endearing, and Obispo takes advantage of this to shift the story from light to melodramatic. He goes from giving us a case of butterflies in the stomach to eyes brimming with empathy. And the fact that he manages to seamlessly inject something so jarringly political in the middle of it all, makes the story richer than your typical Maalaala Mo Kaya tale.
Obispo’s respect for rural life adds another indelible layer to the film. Purok 7 is alive. More than just a setting, it’s a tight-knit community, neighbors who look out for each other, unselfish and untainted. It’s almost unrealistic, but Obispo’s handling of it, backed by a solid cast of competent actors, gives it sincerity. Purok 7 makes you believe there are good people in this side of the world, like Diana and Julian, and they deserve to be happy.