FILM REVIEW: MANO PO 3 MY LOVE

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The Plot: Anti-crime crusader Lilia Chiong Yang (Vilma Santos) seems to have everything a woman could want and need: a husband (Jay Manalo) who pampers her; children (Patrick Garcia, Karylle, Angel Locsin) whom any parent would be proud of; and the respect & admiration of the most powerful people in the land. But just as Lilia prepares for her 25th wedding anniversary celebration, a chance encounter in Thailand with her first love Michael (Christopher De Leon) throws Lilia’s life into chaos. So begins the resumption of a relationship that threatens to unravel the delicate threads connecting Lilia to the other people in her life. “Mano Po 3” is a heartfelt tearjerker which was declared Best Picture at the 2004 Metro Manila Film Festival Philippines. Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon also won well-deserved awards for Best Actress and Best Actor, respectively, in this moving film about the choices we must make for the sake of those we love. – Regal Films (READ MORE)

The Reviews: They say if you strike the third time, you’re out. Thank goodness, it’s not a strike the third time, instead, it’s a homerun hit for the third sequel of this franchise. “Mano Po 3: My Love” was as grand as the first two but with simple well-written story line. The film managed to iron out the past and present events through flashbacks and thanks to the editor (Tara Heinberger), the continuity of each scene were smooth. Mano Po 3: My Love is a life story of Chinese-Filipino anti-crime crusade, Lilia Chiong Yang. A Chinese couple who left Fujian, China in 1959, brought her here. Her mother beg this couple to bring her with them because she’s going to be put into the orphanage just because she is a girl and having so many baby girl, the Chinese government will not support them financially. Living now in the Philippines and now a young adult (Angelica Panganiban), Lilia met and fell in love with Michael (Cogie Domingo), her classmate and fellow activist. Together with Paul (Patrick Garcia), their classmate, they engaged into activism during the martial law. One night, during the curfew hours, they got into trouble and were hunted down by the military. Michael sacrificed himself and was caught. Lilia was pregnant with Michael’s child but he already left the country and so, Lilia fell to the hands of Paul.

Now, a mature Lilia (Vilma Santos), her quiet life was rattled when Michael (Christopher DeLeon) came back. They accidentally met in Thailand; Michael decided to win her back. Both were surprised to learn that Paul (Jay Manalo) deceived them by not giving all of Michael’s letters to Lilia when he left the country. With Lilia being a popular media personality, people have started talking, gossiping about Lilia’s secret affair with another man particularly in the Chinese community. It also added stress to her family and eventually they turned their back to their own mother. Finally, it all comes down to Lilia making decision on which man to choose. She finally decided to stay with her husband despite her undying love for Michael. Then the tragic end. Lilia’s anti-crime activism created her enemies. One of them tragically killed Paul. Again, her family blamed her. The end part of the film was a typical Regal tradition – that of reconciliations. Lilia’s family accepted her again and all wounds got heal. And what happened to Lilia and Michael? They remained friends as Lilia realized they are not really meant for each other.

People are saying that her scene in the car where Paul (Jay Manalo) was shot was reminiscent of her death scene in “Relasyon.” Yes, there was a touch of it but the scene in MP3 was more intense because it’s shorter and the pacing was faster. Christopher as Michael deserves his best actor award during the film festival. Finally, Lamangan managed to control Christopher’s dialogue mannerism. Christopher has the tendency to starts his line with “well….” Probably because the MP3′s script was tighter and requires him to follow strictly each lines because each lines most of the time have other meanings. For example, when the three of them finally met, Christopher said: “Isa sa mga natutunan ko nuon sa kilusan is Honesty.” Which he is actually saying to Paul that he is dishonest and deceitful; particularly for not giving to Lilia, all of his letters when he left the country during the martial law years. As Paul, Jay Manalo, despite his young look managed to convinced us with his restraint performance. I wonder if Philip Salvador would give as strong performance as Jay Manalo in this role. Jay showed us that he’s indeed one of our great actors today. Sheryl Cruz didn’t do much as Bernadette. Her performance was one dimensional, a trap for villain roles. And all can be blamed to the three writers – Roy Iglesias, Lily Monteverde and Joel Lamangan. Maybe because they concentrated their efforts to established the three main characters and so they neglected the others. Eddie Garcia and Boots Anson Roa played the usual supporting roles but Boots gave us the most memorable lines in all of the movies showed in 2004: “hindi ka puedeng magmahal sa dalawa lalake…” of course, with her Chinese accent.

Vilma also will not be far behind with her lines: “hindi ka ba sasama sa kanila Judith? Alam mo ba kung para saan ang kanilang ginawa?… sanay na akong tinatalikuran at iniiwanan yang ang storya ng buhay ko…” Vilma’s performance here was an example of how she matured and became an A1 actress. From the start to the end, she transformed herself to be the character. She became Lilia Chiong Yang. Here are the highlights: Her scene in Tagaytay Highland: Her breakfast scene with her family, where all except for one, left her; The scene where she and Paul finally met Michael in a restaurant was full of irony and sarcasm; The scene where Bernadette and three other relatives one of them was Boots Anson Roa confronted Lilia. Like a true fighter and speaking in Mandarin, she told them, she’ll be back in five minutes and if they’re all still in her office they will see the worst of her; The scene where Lilia and Paul were in a middle of an argument and suddenly they calmed themselves down because their dressmakers arrived (to measure their sizes for the clothes their going to wear on their wedding anniversary) was poignant and funny at the same time; Then Paul’s death scene that followed the hospital scene. All in all, a controlled, restraint, riveting performance. How can someone not noticed? If I will evaluate “Mano Po 3: My Love”, I will give the film an A for its excellent production and magnificent performances…” – RV (READ MORE)

“The performances of Christopher De Leon and Vilma Santos are great. It’s a great movie, the director made a good job. The flow of events and the pace of the story are nicely plotted. You won’t feel unease when Michael Lim (Christopher) come back to Lilia Chiong (Vilma) and interfered with her “happy” married life. Compare to the passed 2 Mano Po movies, Mano Po 3 doesn’t have enough Chinese tales, it can stand alone as a pure love story movie without involvement of Chinese culture. In my personal opinion, if Christopher De Leon character was a pure Filipino, and if the reason why he was separated from Vilma was due to rejection from Vilma’s Chinese parents, and Vilma was arranged-marriage “kai-siaw” to Paul (Jay Manalo), then this would be a better Chinese foundation as the background for Christopher and Vilma to met after 25 years. It might not be a happy ending, but it was a rational ending given the circumstances of the events. This movie will definitely make you cry in the end.” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos did a great job and really deserved her best actress honour at the MMFF. Certainly her efforts overshadowed those of here co-stars, Christopher De Leon and Jay Manalo. It’s a shame really that her duties in Lipa are keeping her from other movies. Eddie Garcia, I thought could have done a better job in delivering his lines. I realize that he is playing a character that was not that fluent in Filipino but some of his words were just garbled and found it hard to understand. My only gripe maybe in the casting of Jay Manalo as the husband of Lilia. In the story Manalo is portrayed as the same age as De Leon and Santos which frankly I find hard to believe since Manalo looks many years younger. In terms of production, I thought Regal Films did a good job in setting an overall atmosphere by bringing in good costumes and props. It was also nice to see them speaking in Chinese so as to make the situations more authentic and believable.” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…actors Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon portray roles that they have exceptionally portrayed before in their lustrous 40 years in Philippine show business. To even think of casting these superb actors in roles that are at least 15 years their junior, that defies their age, is indeed insulting to the intelligence of the Filipino viewers. But hey! Nobody’s complaining! Right? In fact, they both won the Best Actors awards in the said film fest! Sad, sad, sad…” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…This is about Lilia Chiong-Yang (Vilma Santos) a Chinese-Filipino woman. She was torn from her first and only love, and ended up marrying the person she didn’t want (Jay Manalo). One faithful day, she met up with her old love Michael (Christopher De Leon) and things began to get rocky then. He wanted her to choose between her family and the only man she truly loved. The good thing about this movie is she made a decision in the end. For me, this third and last installment was the best among the rest. The movie made me laugh, cry, angry, sad and everything else. That’s really rare the Philippines’ movie industry now. Vilma Santos did a wondrous job in portraying her role. After her 2-year absence in the movie industry, she still had the touch. The only thing i didn’t like about the movie was Jay Manalo. He really was too young to be Vilma’s husband in the movie. They were supposed to be the same age though, but remarkably he did a very good job playing his role as well. How can we not forget Boyet? He was marvelous! Without him, this movie wouldn’t be the best one yet. People say this is such an ordinary love story, but in my eyes, this is the best Filipino movie ever made in my time…” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…Mano Po III is definitely a showcase for Philippine cinema. It is basically a love story, but without any melodrama. Kudos for Joel Lamangan who brings out much emotion without ranting and violent tears that other filmmakers find so necessary to tell a story. Christopher de Leon and Vilma Santos are both subdued but effective in their portrayal of restrained lovers. One particular scene with Christopher, Vilma and Jay is a highlight of the film. It is a scene where the three are having a seemingly innocent conversation about business but with underlying dialogues about love and betrayal. The screenplay written by Roy Iglesias is exceptional, witty and effective. The credible acting would not be possible without such a script. In all, Mano Po is a must-see this filmfest. It was sold out the first time I tried to see it, but it was worth the wait.” – ABS-CBN (READ MORE)

“For the purported final entry in an envisioned trilogy. Regal matriarch Lily Monteverde has pulled out all the stops. The story is centered squarely on Mayor Vi and Boyet, whose cozy chemistry still crackles with a romantic thrill even after 24 movies together.” – Andrew Paredes, Manila Standard (READ MORE)

““As a love story, it is romantic as romantic can be – passionate even. And you really have to give it to the durable love team of Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon to be able to pull off a material like Mano Po 3 and give the kilig effect of expected by most viewers and fans of love stories. It is handsomely-mounted, glossy and very entertaining. Its production values are far more superior compared to other local movies.” – Butch Francisco, Philippine Star (READ MORE)

“Kahanga-hanga ang ipankitang pagpapahalaga ng pelikula sa pamilya at pagaasawa.” – CINEMA (Catholic Initiative For Enlightened Movie Appreciation) (READ MORE)

A week before Christmas, the Star for All Seasons, Vilma Santos, shared with us her thoughts on son Luis and her first film in three years, “Mano Po 3.” She is thankful for the support of her family. When “Mano Po 3” was offered to her, Vilma sought the advice of husband Ralph and son Luis. They need the script, and exchanged views on scenes that they found objectionable. In everything she does, communication lines with son are open.

Fullfiling task: For, Vilma, raising her sons Luis and Ryan is a most fulfilling tasks. “My parents taught me to be God-fearing, respectful, responsible and law-abiding. Luis has never given me headaches. I am very liberal, but once you betray my trust, mag-ingat ka! Scorpio trait ito. Luis knows that, at binusog ko siya sa pangaral. I always tell him that he is old enough to differentiate right from wrong, so he should never do something that he’d regret later on,” she says.

No secrets: Although Luis has his own condo, he stays with Vi most of the time. There are no secrets between mother and son – – according to Vi, Luis tells her everything! On a few occassions, he’d introduce a girl to Vilma, and she’d know instantly if she was special to him or not. Vilma observes that Luis is more focused now. He dreams of owning his own restaurant-bar. And she’s surprised at how thrifty Luis has become – a trait that the actress also possesses. The Lipa City Mayor ends the year with her filmfest entry, “Mano Po 3.” In this last compilation of Tsinoy tales, Vilma is cast as a crusader, a mother of three children and supportive wife to Paul Yang, her devoted husband of 23 years. Then, her first love, Michael Lim (now a widower) resurfaces, and she finds herself in love again.

Three reasons Vilma cited three reasons why she accepted “Mano Po 3:” It gave her the opportunity to work with Christopher de Leon again; she couldn’t say no to Mother Lily, who has produced some of Vilma’s unforgettable movies (“Sister Stella L.,” “Broken Marriage,” and “Relasyon”), and the film’s interesting story centers on a fmily collapses due to infidelity. – Remy Umerez, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec 25 2004 (READ MORE)

Short and sweet. – Make that short and sedate. The awards ceremony for the 30th Metro Manila film Festival, now called MMFF Philippines, on Wednesday night was over in three hours, where it used to take twice as long. It was also less colorful than last year’s edition and the one before that, which more spontaneous action – a flea market and an auction of movie memorabilia – happening right outside the venue, the Aliw Theatre at the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex. Even the “Stars of teh Night,” Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon, wore back and grey. A series of technical problems early on in the show was the closest that the evening got to be “eventful.” There were no walkouts, no brickbats, no exposed breasts. In short, the proceedings were orderly and the sexy starlets behaved. Juliana Palermo – she who flaunted her assets without breast-beating at a previous showbiz events – was in a cover all debutante-pink gown that was almost puritan acceptance speech – for her MAQ Films’ “Mano Po 3” as Best Picture – was met with no more than polite applause. “I’ve not been making money from producing,” Monteverde said, “but I continue to make movies because I love the industry.” Four of the eight festival entries were reportedly made by her companies.

FPJ in the house Perhaps the fact that the program had been dedicated to the memory of Fernando Poe Jr. contributed to the somber atmosphere. Elizabeth Poe received the posthumous “Idolo ng Masa” award for “Da King” of Philippine Movies, who died earlier this month. “I call on the people to not abadon his dream,” Elizabeth said, “to continue to fight.” Apparently touched, the audience took a few seconds before applauding. Director Joel Lamangan’s fiery acceptance of the Best Picture award alongside Monteverde – in which he ranted against taxes and government’s “neglect” of the industry – failed to rouse as much enthusiasm in his listeners. Producer and festival committee member Espiridion Laxa received a lifetime achievement award. He dedicated it to Vilma Santos and FPJ…”and to Erap (former President Joseph Estrada).” “Da King” starred in the first seven films that Laxa made under Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Productions. Santos, who was also named Best Actress for “Mano Po 3,” led the standing ovation for Laxa. The Vilmanians in the hall must have thought their idol was getting another award, as they led the screaming in return.

No teleprompter Cesar Montano, winner of the Best Director trophy for his CM Films’ “Panaghoy sa Suba,” won the women’s hearts, too. He was the perfect gentleman and escort to his wife Sunshine Cruz, who needed help with her petticoat as they went up and down the stage to receive awards for absent cast and crew members. The banter among the three emcees – Judy Ann Santos, Jomari Yllana and Marvin Agustin – was light and breezy, although they had to do without teleprompers. This means they read from cue cards, which kept them from maintaining precious eye contact with the audience. Young screen love teams Angel Locsin and Richard Guttierez, stars fo the TV hit series “Mulawin,” and Mark Bautista and Sarah Geronimo, stars of “Lastikman,” turned heads, as did reel-and real-life partners Mark Herras and Jennylyn Mercado, who were inseparable.

7 awards each “Mano Po 3” and “Panaghoy sa Suba” each won seven awards. Veteran stage and movie actor Cris Vertido bagged the Best Screenplay trophy for “Panaghoy.” He was happy, and it showed. “I’ve been acting for 40 years and never won anything,” he said. “I write my first screenplay and I get this.” Santos and de Leon won acting awards for their roles in “Mano Po 3.” MAQ Films got the Best Float trophy. De Leon would admit later that he considered Montano, as his stiffest rival for the award. “I thought it would be him (the winner),” De Leon said.

“A” rating Rebecca Lusterio, also of “Panaghoy,” was cited as Best Supporting Actress. The Cinema Evaluation Board, in giving the movie an “A” rating, earlier singled out the teenage performer as “silent and powerful, full of conviction and charm.” Other winners were Dennis Trillo, Best Supporting Actor for “Aishite Imasu 1941”; Ella Guevarra, Best Child Performer for “Sigaw”; Manny Dayrit, Best Editing, “Sigaw,” Best Sound Recording, “Sigaw”; Best Musical Score, “Panaghoy”; and Best Visual; Effects, Roadrunner Network Inc., for “Lastikman.” – Marinel R. Cruz Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec 31, 2004 (READ MORE)

Joel Lamangan’s Mano Po, My Love dominated the Metro Manila Film Festival awards Wedenesday evening when it won all the top awards – Best Picture, Best Actor (Christopher de Leon), Best Actress (Vilma Santos) and Best Director (Lamangan). In the Philippine movie industry, the term Best Picture actually means the least bad movie of the crop. By that measure, Mano Po 3 perhaps does deserve the award. At least Mano Po 3 is slickly and tastefully produced. It boasts of a prestigious cast and tries to address a few pressing issues that affect the Chinese community in the Philippines. All the looks good on paper and the movie does look good most of the time but the resulting movie, like its two predecessors, falls short on expectations. The Mano Po series was designed to present the travails of today’s Chinese. Most of the problems they face today are rooted from old traditions that originate from the great land they had come from. In the third movie, Vilma Santos plays Lilia Chiong Yang, a successful real-estate developer who does some important civic work on her free time. She helps the police capture kidnap gangs although it’s never explained how she assists them. She’s only shown accepting awards of grattitude for her courageous fight against crime.

Lilia’s perfect life is shattered when she bumps into the real love of her life, Michael Lim (Christopher de Leon). They went to school together but being an activist, he was compelled to flee the country to avoid being persecuted by the Marcos regime. Not long after Lilia marries Michael’s best friend, Paul yang (Jay Manalo). Of course, a flame is reignited when they meet again and plans for the 25th wedding anniversary of Lilia and Paul are shattered. Such soapy contretemps are old hat and it has nothing relevant to say about the Chinese. Consequently, the Chinese connection feels tacked on – the audience is sporadically reminded of Lilia’s heritage through elaborate scenes (the birth of Lilia in a small village in China) and some colorful costumes and Chinese dragon parades. Frankly, you’ll learn more about Chinese tradition from Mark Meily’s classic film Crying Ladies (2003). Likewise, the film’s social commentary is contrived and rings false, what with the stilted, elementary dialogue the actors have to deliver. Without the Chinese trappings, Mano Po 3: My Love is a typical Vilma Santos movie designed to highlight all the wonderful elements that make her a star for all seasons.

Again, she sobs, laughs and acts pensive in that distinctive fashion Santos is famous for in one sudsy scene after another. Yet even as an emblematic Vilma Santos movie, Mano Po 3 is below par. The Star was better in other films that had better material. In this movie, screenwriter Roy Iglesias and director Joel Lamangan shamelessly force the star to imitate Meryl Streep in a scene stolen from Clint Eastwood’s Bridges of Madison County (1995). And like the two first installments, Mano Po 3 features some strange casting. Jay Manalo is supposed to be a contemporary of de Leon and Santos but when you see them together, Manalo looks more like their son than a classmate. Lamangan’s storytelling is fluid and deliberate but being deliberate can be deadly when almost every scene is all talk. Talk is fine if the words are inspiring but when the lines are pallid and of the telenovela variety, we’s just rather stick to the Korean soap they show on TV. While actors deliver modulated performances, this writer feels that Christopher de Leon’s role is too small to warrant a best actor nomination and award. I think he should have listed in the supporting category but I’m opening a can of worms here. Let’s just be thankful that this is the last Mano Po movie to be ever made. (Star rating: one star 1/2 out of four) – Dennis Ladaw, The Manila Times, Feb 28, 2005 (READ MORE)

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