JACQUELINE COMES HOME: THE CHIONG STORY (Ysabelle Peach, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Jacqueline Comes Home: The Chiong Story:

1. Back in October of 2012, I was able to watch this little-known documentary called Give Up Tomorrow about the controversial 1997 rape and murder case of Cebu City’s Chiong Sisters. It worked very much like a true crime drama (ala Netflix’s Making a Murderer or the Serial podcast) that presented convincing arguments on the wrongful conviction of Paco Larrañaga (and the rest of the Chiong Seven) and doubled as an exposé on the filthy Philippine justice system. Only a handful of us in that theater watched as a corrupt and broken system destroyed the life of an innocent young man.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the resurgence of this film (made free) online because of the promotions for Jacqueline Comes Home (if there was one good thing that came out of this exploitative massacre movie, it was that at least it generated renewed interest on the case and started a public outcry). GUT had a clear agenda though so I had always wondered if there were facts or details omitted to establish a more foolproof argument. The Chiongs (especially Mrs. Chiong) were also portrayed in such a bad light that it was hard for the public to sympathize with them even if they were victims themselves.

JCH really piqued my interest because this was supposed to be their version of the story and I wanted to see if they had any other pasabog up their sleeves. It was their chance to come up with a reply to GUT’s incredibly well-made presentation of evidence after solid evidence. Sadly, JCH’s version (or as the disclaimer at the start of the movie would like to call it, “loosely inspired by a retelling of a tragic story”) chose to focus on ghostly apparitions and the Lord directly communicating (ala Big Brother) to Mrs. Thelma Chiong (Alma Moreno). (No, He didn’t ask if she had reservations on the RH Law.) There wouldn’t be enough facepalm emojis to describe this tragedy.

2. I hadn’t fully recovered yet from Carlo J. Caparas’ Angela Markado and yet there I was on the very first day of screening watching an exact copycat of his notorious 90’s massacre movies this time directed by his daughter Ysabelle Peach. If you had seen all of his infamous subtitled classics from Vizconde Massacre (God, Help Us!) to The Marita Gonzaga Rape Slay (In God We Trust!), this one would be incredibly familiar. It had:

• the requisite beach scene to establish a happy family whose lives would be ruined by a senseless crime

• a group of despicable villains armed with cartoonish maniacal laughs (in this version, “Sonny” was played by Ryan Eigenmann, invoking the spirit of 90’s John Regala, and he was tasked to spout words like “pendejo!” and “hijo de puta!” out of the blue just in case people forget that he was actually playing “Paco”

• a confusing interweaving timeline

• the ghosts of the victims asking for justice (in one scene, Marijoy Chiong played by Ultimate Kakaibabe Donnalyn Bartolome stood at the foot of the ravine where she was pushed to her death as a badly-bruised ghost trying to catch a bouquet of flowers thrown by her living boyfriend, eek!)

• gratuitous rape and violence misdirected to elicit sympathy (where one of the rapists kept screaming, “Sharing is caring!”)

• and, it wouldn’t be complete without Joel Torre (as Mr. Dionisio Chiong) overacting in the worst possible way to show immense grief at the death of a loved one (see also: Lipa Massacre, Lord Deliver Us From Evil!).

3. I was surprised that Meg Imperial played the bespectacled Jacqueline Chiong since she looked more like Marijoy (and vice-versa). The latter role also required somebody who could effectively convey fear (in this version, Sonny/Paco was a stalker) and no amount of lip-quivering and nail-biting made me think for a second that Donnalyn was genuinely threatened. She even had to verbally state multiple times that she was scared (“Nakakatakot! Iba sya tumingin Ate!”). Hala paulit-ulit?

Side note: One of the most disgusting things I read online stated something like “Why would a Spanish mestizo like Paco actually court and rape an unattractive Chiong sister when he could pay to have any beautiful woman he wanted?” Seryoso?? Rape culture and victim-blaming in 2018? Yan ang kadiri!

4. Remember that indelible scene in GUT with Mrs. Chiong laughing like a mad woman while saying that she would personally kill Paco if she ever saw him? It was such a powerful image that made it even hard to reconcile with this movie’s version of a meek and God-fearing lady who spent most of her time praying in Church.

There were moments here that could have worked in the Chiongs’ favor and probably helped depict their current grieving state to the public (scammers offering to return Jacqueline, how the rest of the family members were neglected after the tragedy, etc.) but they weren’t fully explored.

Instead it focused on blatantly revising documented facts with its portrayal of Davidson Rusia (billed as Nervous Boy) being non-complicit to the crime, the gang as serial rapists, and even the sisters getting abducted in a random waiting shed as opposed to Ayala Center Cebu. It also included a lot of irrelevant scenes where Sonny/Paco’s gang had a fight with barbecue vendors, hysterical protesters showed their support to the Chiong family, Spirit Questors communicated with the dead, and the most laughable one of all, a group of random Law students discussed the case, questioned the loopholes and assumed that some of the convicts might be innocent and then concluded by saying that we needed to trust our justice system because it would ultimately do the right thing. Talaga ba?! Guys, watch Give Up Tomorrow.

5. Feeling ko mas maayos pa yung TV movie na pinalabas during the trial. Yes, the one with Jennifer Sevilla and Niño Muhlach. I wonder if it would ever be made available online.

6. So did Jacqueline Come Home? No. Neglected youngest sister and Jacqueline-lookalike Debbie did. (Kung ano man ibig sabihin nun.)

Honestly, I was very disappointed that this movie wasn’t called Jacqueline Comes Home (Jusko Lord!).

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: ★★☆☆☆