WRITE ABOUT LOVE (Crisanto Aquino, 2019)

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Probably the biggest surprise of this year’s festival. As in wala akong gana panoorin siya after ko makita ang trailer lalo pa at parang typical hugot romcom. Tapos mukhang Kuya and Bunso levels sina Rocco Nacino at Miles Ocampo (which the film smartly acknowledged). I was so happy to be proven wrong.

Ang lakas ng chemistry nung dalawa. Yung ayoko talaga ng sisig pero mukhang mapapakain ako sa sobrang kilig. Tapos magaling talaga sila pareho umarte. May kanya-kanyang dramatic highlights. Ganda ng pagkagamit sa trope na nasa parehong eksena sila ng mga creations nila.

Nagustuhan ko yung discussions tungkol sa thought processes nila as writers. Ang apt nung reference sa Trip to Quiapo ni Ricky Lee. Alam ko na may taste rin si Ms. Rom-Com kasi ilan sa mga paborito niya ay Got 2 Believe, One More Chance, at That Thing Called Tadhana.

May hawig siya sa Last Fool Show na pinalabas early this year with its stab at formulaic local romance flicks. Natawa ako sa Villegas-Jadaone reference, sa pelikulang “I’m Drunk, I Hate You” at sa pagsingit ng memorable hugot na “Mahal mo ba talaga ako o minahal mo lang ako?”.

Mahusay din dito sina Joem Bascon at kahit si Romnick Sarmenta in a small role. Ang only weak link ay si Yeng Constantino. Di na nga sya mukhang leading lady in a Star Cinema-ish movie tapos di pa marunong umiyak. Parang pinili lang siya kasi singer sa banda yung character nya so kelangan magaling kumanta. Sayang.

My favorite quotes:

• “Ganun naman ang love eh, minsan bullshit.” (Tapos napasubo na lang si Miles ng lettuce wrap haha!)

• “People who love are capable of hurting.” (Tagos!)

• “Nasa pag-revise kasi lumalabas ang ganda ng isinusulat.” (HAHAHAHAHA! Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan ay pangit.)

Rating: ★★★★☆

LSS (Jade Castro, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Huy, bakit parang Survivor: Redemption Island ang theme ng PPP this year? Similar to Andoy Ranay, wala akong maalala na nagustuhang film ni Jade Castro (even yung critically-acclaimed niya na Zombadings, which I found corny tbh). Tapos biglang bawing-bawi siya sa feels dito. Yung napa-wish ako na sana all-out musical siya kasi ang galing ng pagka-incorporate ng Ben&Ben songs sa critical moments ng film. (FYI, wala din akong alam na kanta nila except for Maybe the Night dahil sa Exes Baggage. Yup, kung single ako at may nakatabing cutie sa bus, mahihiya akong mag-discuss ng favorite songs kasi ang range ng taste ko ay The Search is Over at Sweet Soul Revue.)

Lakas ng star quality ni Gabbi Garcia. Granted mas magaling siya na singer kesa actress pero unang line pa lang ng pagkanta ni Sarah eh na-in love na ako agad. Naaalala ko sa kanya si Nikki Gil na very classy ang dating (although weirdly enough, may mga angles din siya na mala-Mocha Uson). Siguro yung conyo aura niya din ang reason bakit medyo off kapag inuulit niya yung “makapasok sa eksena” referring to the music scene. (Mapapansin yung difference kasi ganun magsalita yung character ni Iana Bernardez na sobrang natural dito.) Mental note here to watch more GMA shows.

Nakakaaliw ang relationship ni Zack (Khalil Ramos) at ng mega-supportive niyang nanay (an impressive Tuesday Vargas). Sobrang benta yung ride-sharing scene na may bugawan na naganap (“Di problema kung size queen ka!”) at yung eksena with the tissues (nakakatawa yung “Mabubulag ka sa ginagawa mo!”, although I also expected her to hand him a fresh box bilang very progressive ng character niya). Ang natural ng chemistry nila (Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin as mom’s film of choice was T A S T E) kaya dalang-dala din ako dun sa confrontation scene nila sa dulo (yung pagka-deliver pa lang ni Tuesday ng “Anak, wag dito” line already secured her much-deserved win).

I had some quibbles like yung dubbing nung Leaves sequence (bakit parang hindi sabay tapos iba yung words na sinasabi ni Gabbi sa audio at iba pa rin yun sa subtitles?). Natawa ako dun sa Kathang-Isip sequence (in a good way kasi masaya to see two broken people find comfort in each other) pero parang ang bilis naman nila mag-kiss agad (lalo na kung advocate si Zack ng three month rule ng One More Chance).

Nakulangan din ako sa acting ni Gabbi dun sa crucial scene (yung totoong highlight ng movie for me) na nagbigay siya ng surprise graduation gift sa brother niyang si Cedie (Elijah Canlas). Parang mata lang ni Lady Gaga sa A Star is Born. Yung lumuluha pero walang bakas ng totoong pain or hurt. Ang layo kay Elijah na napaiyak ako sa isang simpleng wince (halong guilt and realization that he was giving up on his dreams) bago sabihin na “Titigil na ako. Magbenta na lang tayo ng herbal products. Ate, sorry na”. Ang sakit sakit.

Ang ganda din siguro if na-explore fully yung art as passion vs sad practical reality theme. Napaisip ako kung ano kaya ang effect ng alternate ending kung naging full time sales agent siya habang todo successful ng kapatid niya. Siguro walang sappy ending montage to fulfill the demands of the genre.

As a cute and charming young romance flick though, it definitely hit the right notes. I’ll probably be humming these Ben&Ben tunes in the next few days.

Rating: ★★★★☆

MISS YOU LIKE CRAZY (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2010)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Miss You Like Crazy:

1. In our province of Batangas back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, we had not been introduced yet to a loofah so we would use these pumice rocks (also known as panghilod) while bathing (usually in a batis) to scrape off all the dirt and grime from our skins.

They were all I could think of whenever Mia (Bea Alonzo) would leave signed copies of panghilod basically everywhere. More than sayang, I felt really bad imagining such a lovely girl all covered with so much libag.

(Tita Tip of the Day: Forget all the exfoliants in Lush. Grab a rock from your garden, use it in the shower, and wash all of your problems away.)

2. John Lloyd Cruz (as Alan) still wore these long and baggy pants in the movie so this was obviously during his pre-Liz Uy days.

Now his trousers all look so tight like he doesn’t want to have kids and they’re always cropped at least two inches above the ankle (read: bitin and/or baston) like he’s auditioning for the role of Bilbo Baggins in a local version of the Lord of the Rings.

(Yes, inggit lang ako kasi hindi ako fashyown.)

3. This love story relied too much on serendipity. It was the kind of movie where two random vehicles would end up next to each other in traffic because the fated lovers were meant to have a Tutuban Mall date (sorry, it was done much better in Minsan, Minahal Kita).

Years later, they would bump into each other in a hotel in Malaysia because, well, destiny.

Seriously, Lolo Uly (Noel Trinidad) and his magical prediction essentially told the entire plot during the movie’s 30-minute mark. The remaining one and a half hours was completely unnecessary (and very bagot because the movie actually felt like three hours).

4. Since this was a Cathy Garcia-Molina flick, somebody had to wear her trademark wigs. Poor Maricar Reyes (as Alan’s girlfriend Daphne) had to sport a hairstyle that was a cross between a mullet and a pixie cut and made her look like she just recovered from a heavy bout of typhoid fever.

Also, why was she portrayed as a villain just because she didn’t find the idea of a Pasig River cruise romantic? Anak ng Pasig naman ang pagiging anti-elitista dito.

Even worse, in a succeeding scene where Alan explained to Mia that Divisoria briefs were not good fixed assets (pati underwear investment na din?), he was just giving sound advice. Why the double standard? Pfft!!

5. “Alan ba talaga ang pangalan mo? Bakit ka lingon nang lingon sa August?”

Dear, whenever somebody shouts a name (any name for that matter) in a crowded place, expect people to look. I’m sure everyone would be curious to know who that crazy screaming woman was.

6. So Alan’s fridge was stocked with microwave-ready food like filet mignon, garlic mashed potatoes, cordon bleu, fettucine alfredo, and chicken rosemary, but he chose to eat…Greenwich pizza, of course!!

7. Sex on the stairs. Ang sakit siguro sa likod nun. I wasn’t surprised that Mia was crying after Alan climaxed twenty seconds later.

8. Paco Park should get secondary billing in future Star Cinema movies as the ultimate love destination (also seen in Starting Over Again, Barcelona, and even Dolce Amore). Still single? You know where to go.

9. Maswerte yung Malaysian version ni Paolo Bediones ha. Nakarami ng halik kay Bea infer.

10. In one scene, Mia had this huge stain on the vajayjay area of her dress so it looked like she peed herself. In another scene, Ryan Eigenmann’s entire forehead looked sunburnt.

Poor production values or were they also destined to be that way?

11. “Fate only gives us one chance to get it right.”

Hindi totoo yan dahil may sequel pa nga ang One More Chance.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS? (Prime Cruz, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Can We Still Be Friends?:

1. I had an overwhelming sense of dèjá vu during the opening scene with Sam (Arci Muñoz) looking bored and restless while her long-time boyfriend Digs (Gerald Anderson) was intently watching a show on TV. When she started complaining about the fact that they never really did anything else (“chill lang nang chill”) and that she wanted to do something different, I realized that I had been in this kind of relationship. I had been faulted (and eventually dumped) for the apparent lack of excitement and opting for a quiet and relaxed (ergo monotonous?) way of spending our quality time together. In the next scene, when Sam complained that they were having problems paying their bills, my inner meanie almost exploded with the thought, “Ang lakas lakas mong mag-aya wala ka naman palang pera!”

In another scene, she asked Digs to pick her up after work and she kept bugging him to hurry up. (Nagpapasundo na lang, siya pa nagmamadali?!) But wait, there’s more! When Digz finally arrived, she actually wanted him to do a u-turn so that she wouldn’t have to cross the street. She even had the gall to call him inconsiderate when he didn’t oblige. (Tatawid ka na lang gurl anubanaman!!)

Uhh, why was I so affected when this wasn’t even about me?

2. People expecting to see #TeamLablab in another Always Be My Maybe would be hugely disappointed since this was actually closer to One More Chance (they even recycled the “Pwede ba tayo na lang ulit?” line). In lieu of kilig moments, it was stuffed with mundane scenes of a couple realizing after nine years of being together that they actually hated each other. Its depiction of the breakdown of a relationship (down to petty quarrels over empty water bottles returned in the fridge) was so realistic that I wish it stayed true to the promise of a story about exes trying to maintain a post-breakup friendship.

3. Did Arci re-dub her lines? I noticed that her delivery in the actual movie was normal compared to her pabebe voice in the trailer. It was definitely a good decision because it just made her character more grounded. She was still an effective actress here and looked really gorgeous, but I wish her lips weren’t too distracting. Weirdly enough, they reminded me so much of Vibora, the talking serpent of Valentina. Star Cinema, has that role been cast already? You could thank me later.

In the end though, this was an acting showcase for Gerald who continued to display such depth and maturity in his role. I actually shed a tear in that confrontation scene when he said, “Tama ka naman eh. Hindi ako ang taong magpapasaya sa’yo.” Dear fellow Popsters, is it time to finally forgive him? (Putting my foot down on that Budoy bit though because it was more offensive than charming.)

4. That gif-worthy Magic Mike scene ooh-la-la! It was just funny though that the production couldn’t afford Ginuwine’s Pony so they had to create a Rite-Med version of the song. Still, all that grinding had me shooketh.

5. Juan Miguel Severo is officially the ultimate success story in local cinema. In every movie, his character would always end up with the cutest onscreen boyfriends (here it was Markki Stroem). I wasn’t a big fan of his spoken word poetry in On the Wings of Love and I still didn’t like how it was utilized here as part of the wedding vows. As soon as he started reciting lines like “Pipiliin kita sa araw na hindi tayo magkasundo…” in full “Oh captain, my captain!” mode, my eyes started rolling wildly in their sockets.

6. Mannequin challenge proposal? Very 2000 and late. Besides, who would take the video that they would eventually post on social media?

7. I still could not understand the couple’s decision to co-habitate after the breakup. I couldn’t even be Facebook friends with an ex agad agad. Not surprised that it led to the requisite Star Cinema happy ending. In TimeZone. Oh, TimeZone. So many memories.

8. “Kapag kaya mong maging friends sa ex mo, either mahal mo pa talaga or di mo talaga minahal.”

Nope, definitely not true. With acceptance comes maturity. Sabi nga ng Little Mix, “Shout out to my ex…you made my heart break and that made me who I am.”

Rating: ★★★☆☆

DEAR OTHER SELF (Veronica Velasco, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Dear Other Self:

1. As the great Basha Belinda Eugenio once said, “I want to stop wondering ‘what if’. I want to know ‘what is’.”

And so I assumed that after countless viewings of One More Chance (or probably Sliding Doors), Rebecca/Becky (Jodi Sta. Maria) imagined a world of infinite possibilities with the question, “What if hindi nangyari yung moment that changed your life? Nasaan ka na ngayon?”.

2. Would she be like Becky, a financially stable corporate slave trying to find love in the workplace? In this fantasy world, she experienced the following:

• Had a good night’s sleep because of a brownout that stopped the loud videoke session of a neighbor (this probably happened prior to global warming when people could easily sleep without an electric fan or airconditioning)

• Rode a bike to work because she would rather pay for expensive coffee than get an Uber (how she remained fresh with all the city’s smog was never explained, though)

• Presented a winning sales pitch to a client using three Powerpoint slides and was awarded a car for her great work (wait, how did she learn how to drive?)

• Developed a workplace romance with Chris, played by Joseph Marco who delivered his lines like a doctor trying to tell a patient that he had terminal cancer (to be fair, masarap sya kumain ng tortang talong).

3. Or would she be more like Rebecca, a free spirit slash pretentious travel blogger trying to find love in exotic Thailand? Now in this fantasy world, she experienced the following:

• Woke up cranky after a neighbor’s all-night videoke session (although seriously, who doesn’t wake up cranky before going to work?)

• Spilled coffee on herself and her laptop prior to a presentation, almost got run over by the client that she called “kalbo”, and delivered the craziest sales pitch that really wasn’t any better than the one given by Becky (she didn’t have a back-up file and only prepared the night before, why would I feel bad for her?).

Also, her manager asked her to speak in English and when she failed to do so, she was replaced by a colleague who delivered the pitch in…Filipino. (Huh!?)

• Chose to be a travel blogger instead (which consisted of two Twitter posts and one blog entry), flew to Thailand (I thought her family was cash-strapped?), had a pillow fight and fell in love (agad agad?) with Henry, played by Xian Lim who spoke like he wanted you to open a new BDO savings account.

4. In the end, the movie didn’t really want to choose just one fantasy world and simply summed up her experiences with the life lesson, “The best part of travelling is coming home.”

What?! This is the very reason why a lot of people really hate millennials.

5. As always, Jodi was the sole reason to watch this movie. She was endearing and funny and made the most out of her cardboard-thin characters, whether she was trying her best to hold back her pee or blurting out “Sex!” when asked to choose between cheesecake or chocolates.

In a fantasy world, she would be a much bigger star with better leading men.

6. I wonder if this premise would have worked better as a teleserye. I read somewhere that the story was actually similar to a Taiwanese series called Life Plan A or B. Definitely adding that one to my queue.

7. One character kept rolling his eyes that I wondered if he should have been named Becky instead. (He’s the one with the good hair, of course!).

8. And speaking of, in one scene, the cab driver in Thailand asked Chris if he wanted a ladyboy and he felt very offended that he said, “Uupakan ko na ‘to”. When Becky asked him, “Anong ladyboy?”, he replied with a wrist flick.

Dear Chris, do you know that one of the signs of homosexuality is extreme homophobia?

Why were there so many Beckys in this movie?

9. If this movie got one thing right, it was the distinctly Pinoy feeling of being homesick. Take it from the guy who immediately missed his bed a few hours after landing in Laoag.

10. Burning questions:

• Were the extras in the airport the same ones used during the elephant bathing scene?

• If Rebecca went to Thailand as a tourist, why did it show her working there as well? (No to illegal immigration!)

• When Becky and Chris stepped out of the theater after watching a horror movie, why was the poster The Third Party?

• Bakit ang daming natatapong kape sa pelikulang ito??

11. In Jodi’s next movie, I would be more than happy if she starred with an elephant instead. It looked like they had more chemistry anyway.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I’M DRUNK, I LOVE YOU. (JP Habac, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I’m Drunk, I Love You.:

1. I recently read this Cosmo online article about the glorification of the Nice Guy syndrome in the Jollibee Vow ad. It basically stated that the said Nice Guy was actually a toxic idiot who often presented himself as the sacrificing fool to garner his female object of desire’s (and the world’s) sympathies. To a certain extent, it could also apply to a Nice Girl or Nice Gay or anybody who constantly depicted themselves as the kawawa party for being friendzoned.

This was the reason why I didn’t really feel all that bad for Carson (Maja Salvador) who had been salivating over her BFF Dio (Paulo Avelino) for more than seven years. She chose to go (literally) gaga over him even if he never really showed any interest in her other than as a friend. She answered his every beck and call even if it would usually be something petty like choosing the perfect pair of socks to wear (“Gusto ko ng input mo as a friend”). She showed incredible devotion and made personal sacrifices in the hopes that one day he would be able to reciprocate her feelings.

In short, everything was her fault and she chose to be tanga sa pag-ibig. If I were her friend, the only advice she would be getting from me would be a huge Maricel Soriano bitch-slap on her face (I’m judgmental like that).

2. Besides, I couldn’t really see anything nice or good or redeeming about Dio except that he looked like Paulo Avelino. When Carson professed her love and he reacted with a pity kiss, he was even being less of a friend and more of a jerk.

I suddenly remembered my past life when a friend wanted to drown herself along the malumot beach of Puerto Galera because I told her I couldn’t force myself to love her back. Brutal, yes, but at least I wasn’t being paasa. (And I think everyone would agree that aside from greedy taxi drivers and corrupt politicians, the paasas were the ultimate vermins of this earth).

3. Even with two major characters that deserved pag-untugin and a flimsy plot that didn’t really merit a full-length feature, this movie still had loads of charm coming from its actors and enough funny moments that carried it through.

Most of the credit should definitely go to Maja for simply being a believable and flawed lovesick puppy. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was actually just playing a modified, less glamorous version of her real self. Whenever she would say something like umebak (or an equally jologs-sounding word), it just felt natural and made her character a bit more endearing. And surprise, she did have an ebak scene here.

My favorite bit was when Dio told Carson, “Relax lang, yang puso mo” and she answered with “Nasa ‘yo” and immediately took it back with “Lalalalalalala charot lang expectorant”. It felt so spontaneous and incredibly sad and reminded me that I was watching an Urian winner.

4. I really liked the scene where Carson used her iPod like a Magic 8 ball with her asking questions and letting random songs provide the answer. Inasmuch as I loved and supported OPM though, I still wished that the songs used were a bit more relatable (not even one commercial Tagalog or foreign song on her playlist? I know, I know, the rights would have cost a lot of money, but I’m 100% sure she would have had Salbakuta’s S2pid Luv there).

Speaking of songs, most of the lyrics that were played during key moments were too on the nose when the actors’ performances should have been enough to convey the emotions. It was just too soon to have another The Breakup Playlist (or Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa).

5. Nakakatawa yung Kung Ako si John Lloyd song. Especially since it reminded me of One More Chance where Maja played another jilted lover. “Ay lab yu en ay wil tel yu ebridey. Ebridey antil yu porget da tings dat herth. Eep onli it cud bee dan, bat eet kennat bee dan.”

Also, the car scene here where she ended up in the back seat felt like a reversal of fortune when Basha sobbed as a third wheel for Trisha and Popoy.

6. I wasn’t too happy with the extraneous Jason Ty character and subplot. Don’t get me wrong, Dominic Roco played that Dimples Romana slash Ricci Chan role to a tee and he delivered some of the most hilarious lines in the movie (“Wag mo sya sasaktan papa-jombag talaga kita kay Claudine”, “Happy Horse for the happy whore!”, “Taray, seven years a slave”), but another gay best friend acting as the voice of reason slash source of comic relief deserved a side eye from fairy godmother Rupert Everett.

Also, his biggest love problem was that he said “I love you” after a one night stand. And his happy ever after involved a Grindr hook-up and a possible threesome. Dai, ang babaw ha.

7. Why were they all being mean to Pathy (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) for being vegan? I, too, would never eat bagnet (I’m just not fond of pork’s texture) so I felt closest to her character. It wasn’t her fault if her parents (probably Pamela and Thyro) named her with that unfortunate H. Also, why was she considered a villain for being an elitista that got featured in Young Star? She was actually a very charming and nice person who…wait, didn’t Iza Calzado also play the sweetest third party in Starting Over Again? And wasn’t she also named Patty? #HustisyaParaSaMgaPatty

8. “Tangina ang sakit ng truth, no? Lalo na kapag isinasampal sayo.” If Jason Ty were her real friend, he would have given her that Maricel Soriano bitch-slap that she deserved much, much earlier.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

EVERYDAY I LOVE YOU (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Everyday I Love You:

1. Let me start by saying that this movie was far from being groundbreaking. It was a simple and derivative love story that didn’t really deviate much from the Star Cinema rom-com formula. It successfully delivered on the promised kiligs, though, and I went out of the theater feeling like I was experiencing puppy love for the very first time again.

2. All the credit should go to the wonderful tandem of Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil. They saved a tired old plot straight out of While You Were Sleeping (loyalty vs love) just by continuously teasing each other and making googly eyes that made the entire theater swoon.

They were more than bagay. In my heart, they were really meant to be.

3. Dear Star Cinema, please let this be the last time that Enrique takes a video of an unsuspecting young woman. We do not support perverts (or uncouth leading men). Being rude to women is definitely not romantic.

4. I wish Bacolod would have had more exposure in the movie. Aside from the antique houses, the only other thing I learned was that they had a lot of sugar canes.

5. I also wish the transitions from scene to scene were much better. In the juxtaposition sequence of Liza crying beside a comatose Gerald Anderson and Enrique crying beside his dying father, people giggled endlessly (I’m guessing it was also because of Enrique’s atrocious haircut).

In another scene, Liza started with the line “Dun nagsimula ang kwento namin…” and as expected, the flashback scenes started. Groan.

6. Gerald was comatose for majority of the movie and he still managed to give a terrible performance. Ugh.

7. Liza was so good in that Silay Scooter Girl airport sequence. Star Cinema has found its new rom-com princess.

8. I really liked how Liza’s Tagalog twang was assumed as an Ilonggo accent. It actually worked and didn’t serve as a distraction.

9. The One More Chance references were blatant but effective still. Gerald’s character Tristan was also very controlling down to the chicken and hot sauce that Liza’s Audrey wanted to make papak.

At one point, Tristan even said, “Mas gusto ko nakapalda ka” all while wearing a tree outfit. Wake up, girl! Who would want to be tied up with this clueless control freak?

10. There was a Goldilocks mamon product placement that had to be mentioned. Too bad they already phased out McDonald’s Shake Shake fries.

11. “Mahirap kalabanin ang first love.” Do you agree?

12. I usually hate watching with noisy fantards. Except when I’m screaming along with them. Sobrang kilig ng LizQuen loveteam eh.

13. Finally, a Star Cinema movie with a title that actually made sense. When it was referenced in one scene, my heart died a little.

14. Doctor to Tristan: “It’s possible na ma-comatose ka ulit.”

Audience: “Ok lang po.”

Poor coma guy.

15. That Goodbye Silay Scooter Girl phone sequence.

Ang galing na umarte nina Liza and Enrique. Now I’m even more of a fan.

16. “Higit pa sa nagpapasaya sa’yo, piliin mo kung ano ang tama. And you can only do that if you’re honest with yourself.”

17. I repeat, “If it’s the right person, there’s no such thing as way too soon.”

18. SOBRANG GANDA NI LIZA SOBERANO!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published October 30, 2015.)