Jason Paul Laxamana was obviously overwhelmed when he welcomed the audience to the gala screening of his movie Astro Mayabang, as was the crowd most of whom were in t-shirts with the movie’s title, Philippine flags (which i couldn’t understand), and banners for Aaron Villaflor who plays the title role. this is the difference between an indie with Ronnie Lazaro and an indie with a young commercial star.
i would wear a t-shirt with Ronnie Lazaro’s name anytime.
maybe Aaron Villafor’s name too, but let me give him a couple more indie films, and a decade more? in the movies. because if there’s anything that saves this movie it’s Aaron’s existence as Astro Mayabang. he is effective as the Kapampangan boy who walks in no direction other than the literal, who lives the days one at a time, who only cares for nation in as superficial a way as wearing his shoes. Aaron here is actually a surprise given his youth, and it was difficult not to feel for him when things fell apart, and think him crazy by the time the story ended.
and yes, i get ahead of the story because other than what happens, there isn’t much to say about this story other than it is brave, yes, in its use of Pampanga as context, the Kapampangan language throughout the movie, a look at contemporary Kapampangan culture. that is what’s brave about this movie. but the storytelling, the narrative, the world that was of Astro Mayabang’s, living in the bowels of Kapampangan society, is farthest from being special.
it’s like a soap opera really. Astro has a drunkard father and catatonic mother, one friend, a tiny room, and too many Pinoy pride paraphernalia. but what he owns figuratively is the park and people’s attention: Astro is called mayabang for a reason. he talks about his sexual experiences with the other park tambays, he fights with a white guy who refuses to give a beggar some coins, dances in the middle of the park by himself, makes and flies a kite like he owns the place. he walks through the streets as if he owns it, scolds the boy at the pirated dvd stall for not having more OPM, is easily irritated and seems to always be in a rush. which is a surprise because Astro Mayabang actually has nothing urgent going on in his life, save for buying Pinoy pride merchandise to celebrate his, uh, Pinoy pride.
but easily the question has to be about money and where he gets it, and in this movie Astro earns it via a relationship with a homosexual man who does nothing but sit in front of his laptop playing games. periodically, a man dressed as a holy week ritual flagellation sacrifice arrives in a mask, no shirt and loose pants, dances for him and gets some viagra. and always, after these instances, Astro holds money in his hands. of course this masked man is Astro, but that was suppose to be a surprise later on in the story, when Astro actually comes not for the money but for the viagra because he’s got a girl Dawn who he met in the park (where else?), and the movie reveals that he’s actually impotent. of course as with the masked dancing boy, this too was suppose to be a surprise. but given the way the story was told here, none of it was.
there was no big reveal here, and that is what made the story impotent. it could not be anything other than a superficial story about a boy who’s mayabang, who has a false sense of nationalism, and a false sense of his value to the world, and whose motivations are unclear, his anger at the Lord unexplained. when Dawn talks to Astro and tells him being Pinoy ain’t about what clothes one wears, and what one says, because what matters is what’s in the heart, this is almost an explanation for the movie’s whole point, and yet.
and yet, it also seemed so pointless here because when Dawn finally articulates these smart words (no matter that they are cliche), it’s barely important in the face of their hormones, the possibilities in an empty house, and Astro’s, uh, extra challenge of impotence. then it just become absurd: Astro travels from one end of the city to another, gets some viagra from gay fag then leaves him waiting, goes back to the other side of the city, forces Dawn to get it on with him because he’s ready, and suddenly a fight scene: Dawn throws him out of the house, he asks for everything he ever gave her, including a tiny bag of butong pakwan. and then Astro’s already non-life falls apart: he wants one of the limited edition jackets at the Pinoy pride store, finds out that the old fag now doesn’t care for him, he gets into a fight with the other boys in the fag’s house, loses the money he had to buy the t-shirt with, all this come to a head and he breaks down, tearing off all the posters of world famous Pinoys from his room’s walls, screaming “Wala ka, Astro!” over and over again, at some point hitting his thighs hard over and over again.
then Pacquiao has a fight, but he isn’t there. he’s in church talking to God saying that he’s unfair because he didn’t create men equal. and cut to next scene: the park, people murmuring about Astro, and him as loud as always, talking about the Lord. yabang transformed into preaching.
the point of course is that Astro shifted gods from nation to, well, God. the point of course is that he has found himself, but at this point this cannot be literal at all. it just becomes as absurd as the rest of the movie. and i don’t mean that in a good way.
Tagged: 6th cinema one originals digital film festival, Aaron Villaflor, Astro Mayabang, Astro Mayabang review, Cinema One Originals 2010, independent cinema, independent films, indie cinema, indie film review, indie films, jason paul laxamana, movie review, philippine independent cinema, Philippine indie films, Ronnie Lazaro