By Stefano Ortiz
This week’s Binging During Quarantine review is Eduardo Roy Jr.’s 2016 film Pamilya Ordinaryo which was recently made available on Netflix for streaming. Upon its release, Pamilya Ordinaryo received critical praise and won numerous awards, from local and international film festivals alike. The film participated in FDCP’s Cine Lokal 2017 and also screened at the 2016 edition of the Cinemalaya Film Festival and Venice Film Festival among others.
FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Dino recently spoke about Pamilya Ordinaryo’s inclusion into Netflix and said “we are especially excited about the inclusion of…the multi-awarded 2016 film 'Pamilya Ordinaryo' ('Ordinary People') which is one of our Cine Lokal hits when it screened in theaters and a winner in Venice Days of the Venice International Film Festival.” She continued “This growing slate of Filipino content on Netflix is a true reflection of the diversity of what Philippine Cinema has to offer. And Netflix giving space to more Filipino films is an affirmation that the Philippines has the potential of globalizing its local market."
Pamilya Ordinaryo (2016)
Directed by Eduardo Roy Jr.
Available on Netflix
Pamilya Ordinaryo tells the story of a teenage couple, 16 year-old Jane (Hasmin Kilip) and 17 year-old Aries (Ronwaldo Martin), who live on the street and have a newborn baby. The opening scenes paint a matter-of-fact picture of their daily lives. In these early scenes, the youth of the two protagonists truly hits home, particularly when we see them in petty arguments ending with emotional outbursts against each other.
In their poverty, they find the necessary ways to survive. With the idea of “diskarte,” in mind, Aries and Jane do whatever they can to make whatever bit of money they can. In their situation this means Aries stealing a phone from a foreigner in a taxi while Jane sells it to smuggled phone vendors. It’s what happens in between the stealing and the selling, though, that is interesting and gives us a look into the tragedy of this story: with the stolen phone, Jane goes and takes pictures—selfies with her baby and her partner, and gets them printed out as a memory. In another more fortunate life, they would be another sweet teenage couple posting pictures on social media. Instead, they live on the street, making a living in a dangerous situation.
The narrative gets going when someone kidnaps their baby. This disaster brings the young couple to an obvious panic as they try to find their newborn child. In search of their child, Aries and Jane seek the help of different avenues and structures. But it is in this scenario that we see how the current systems have failed and continue to fail them. In the first instance for example, Jane is repeatedly disregarded by the guard of the supermarket where she lost her child, and it takes the passing support of a wealthier older woman to even file a complaint.
Meanwhile, they go to the police, the local barangay chairman, a radio station and a national television channel, each seeking their help. But every path continues to fail them. The police, for instance, take advantage of Jane, a powerless young woman, and sexually abuse her. Each of these paths, in their own way, reveal how blatant corruption, systemic incompetence, and flat-out misfortune derail or hinder support to the most powerless of Philippine society.
Along the way, individuals give support to the young couple through random acts of giving money. But their situation shows how little such forms of support actually provide. With a thousand pesos or five hundred pesos here or there, they can continue their struggle for survival. But such assistance provides no qualitative change. The young couple merely persist, trying to find ways in a harsh uncaring world.
From the film’s title, Pamilya Ordinaryo comes a harsh indictment: Jane and Aries are just one of the many who have been lost, disenfranchised and ignored by the available structures and resources. More than anything, the film’s true tragedy lies in this fact. That through all the difficulties displayed on-screen, Jane and Aries’ lives are thoroughly ordinary and unspectacular. It is a grim, undeniable reality.
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