Talking about x-ray vision.
It is 1971, and the sisters of the Adoration monastery lead quiet, insulated lives in a remote town in Rizal. Mother Superior Ruth leads the group in its prayers and daily rituals and prides herself in keeping the nuns removed from the vices and vicissitudes of the outside world. Young and fairly new, Lourdes, joins the monastery and gets introduced to the cloistered life. Shortly after, Remy, an extern nun (who is able to leave the cloister from time to time to do errands for the nuns), gets an unexpected visit from her mother telling her that her activist brother has been snatched away. Deeply troubled, Remy asks Ruth for an indefinite leave of absence to help her family search for her brother. But Ruth turns down her request, reminding her of the increasing importance of prayer during that time of crisis and in order to keep Remy out of harm’s way. Behind Ruth’s back, Remy starts attending meetings of families whose progressive relatives have gone missing, something that Lourdes discovers when she accompanies Remy on an errand in town. Meanwhile, the meeting of families with missing relatives has left a profound impression on Lourdes, who decides to become an extern herself alongside Remy, a decision that Mother Superior reluctantly consents to. One afternoon, the meeting in town that Remy and Lourdes attend ends well into the evening. On their way back, deep in the woods leading back to the monastery, they fall victim to violence. Devastated, Ruth, Remy and Lourdes individually grapple with the emotional aftermath. Ruth is well aware that the crisis could either destroy the nuns beyond repair or draw them closer together. - Cinemalaya
In all honesty, I was appalled by the cinematography perfection of the film. I had this impression that the movie was so impeccable that it didn't seem raw and genuine. On the previous independent films I have watched, I got this sense of authenticity towards their cinematography to the point that they made me feel like I was right then and there where the film was happening: no cameras, no color grading, just me and the absurd reality of the world being presented. The good thing though was that my friend (who is really good in literary analysis, see his review here) made me realize that perhaps they made it that way because the movie contained such a heavy storyline it will be utterly perplexing if it was still brought out on a rather perplexing angles. The idea pretty much reminded me of the American independent film Tree of Life... which I haven't fully understood yet.
What I loved mostly about the movie is how it goes over and above of our view about the Marcos regime. I think I have heard much about the dreadful Martial Law and how it really did uplift our country's economy yet killed our freedom and everything that lies beneath it. I have heard it from innocent people who took Martial Law as nothing but a phase; from journalists who saw it as a nightmare; and even from a scholarly gay who opened my eyes to the cruel treatment for the members of the third sex that time.
But never from someone who was kept away from all the gunshots and massacres. From someone who was hidden from the inevitable (physical, moral, emotional, intellectual, spiritual) corruption...
I will not disclose the entire wonder of the film because I think my 170.00 php. is not enough to do so, but basically, something happens to Sister Lourdes (Jodi Sta. Maria) which triggers the entire Adoration into an intellectual and emotional turmoil that brings out a huge confusion in each and every one of them. Try to picture a set of women who are almost losing the idea of a world outside the Adoration and suddenly catches themselves damaged by something rather normal for us: paradoxical. At the truest sense of the word.
The movie also gives us a preview of the chaste life of nuns. This is of course quite given... but not when there is a prevailing idea of massacres and blood spills around you. Their urge to keep their vow and continue living a life in line with their chosen vocation is intellectually exacerbating. Especially in case of Sister Remy, as she soon learns that even though she personally holds safety, her family isn't.
Lastly is the strong use of literary techniques. Should I be sorry that my roots will always get a hold on my judgements? I don't think so. The movie observed an arrival-departure scheme: the arrival of Sister Lourdes who will soon be corrupted inside the Adoration and the departure of Sister Remy who have been on the Adoration all along, but have just recently experienced a total havoc. There was a smooth flow of the literary style "Stream of Consciousness" whereas the truths were revealed through the character's memory. The foreshadowing of events went fine too, as it gradually guided the audiences to a complete understanding of the storyline.
We constantly see those who have participated on the great EDSA People Power, those who nobly stood as the great walls against the guns and canons, but never have we thought about those who kept their vocation and spared themselves from all the possible damages (and actually thought they were still doing their part). On a less critical stance, one may think that they were so naive to consider their own safeguard first and foremost, but Vincent Sandoval showed the rude reality that they still had experienced the full outburst of the crisis,
and that no one was a complete exception that time.
*I do not claim any of the photos used. Credits goes to their rightful owners.