The Best, The Breakthroughs & The Irritants of 2012

by Cathy Pena Thursday, January 10, 2013 (re-blogged from Make Me Blush)

Making a shortlist to represent 2012’s best films was harder than I thought because at some point, I found myself overwhelmed by the startling number of local film output. We’ve given the number from our last post: 142 films were shown in commercial cinemas. This number was bolstered by the emergence of a flurry of film festivals: SM Cinema’s Big Shot, Cinemalaya, Cinema One Film Festival, MMFF New Wave, Metro Manila Film Festival. The point here is, I want to present a compendium that best represents the film year. But more than anything, the titles have to be beautifully told, exquisitely presented, and the most important element is its entertainment quotient. After all, I am disinclined to include a title that I did not enjoy; who cares if it’s one of the best reviewed films of the year? They have to compel me to attentively sit back while I am taken into a different world.

After several days of meticulous deliberation, I narrowed the list down to a crop of 20 and added a couple more titles (“Unofficially Yours“, “Rigodon“) that we feel should not be ignored, mainly because they’re geared for their pecuniary existence. What reveals is that more than 50% of these titles come from the aforementioned film festivals; only five titles were from mainstream machinery. It’s thus becoming clear how mainstream mentality is gradually losing ground where artistic patronage is concerned because, if you haven’t noticed, the Cinemalaya screenings alone drew huge crowds at cinemas of exhibition. Many of these works were directorial showcases more than an actor’s vehicle (Fredo’s “In Nomine Matris”, Sanchez’s “Jungle Love”, Martinez’s “I Doo Bidoo Bidoo”, Acierto’s “Grave Bandits”). These films and film makers made 2012 a pleasurable year for shelling out hard earned money to be able to enjoy the magic of the silver screen.

BEST FILMS of 2012:

1. Vincent Sandoval’s Aparisyon
2. Jun Lana’sBwakaw – WINNER
3. Joyce Bernal’s Of All The Things
4. Chris Martinez’s I Doo Bidoo Bidoo
5. Mes de Guzman’s Diablo
6. Sherad Anthony Sanchez’s Jungle Love
7. Pam Miras’ Pascalina
8. Marie Jamora’s Ang Nawawala
9. Brillante Mendoza’s Thy Womb
10. Erik Matti’s Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles

Also considered: Tyrone Acierto’s Grave Bandits, Marty Syjuco’s Give Up Tomorrow, Adolfo Alix, Jr.’s Kalayaan, Richard Somes’ Mariposa sa Hawla ng Gabi, Sari Lluch Dalena and Keith Sicat’s Himala Ngayon, Loy Arcenas’ REquieme, Will Fredo’s In Nomine Matris, Lawrence Fajardo’s Posas, Arnel Madroquio’s Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim, Erik Matti’s Rigodon, Ian Loreno’s Alagwa, Cathy Garcia-Molina’s Unofficially Yours


1. Will Fredo – “In Nominee Matris”
2. Chris Martinez in “I Doo Bidoo Bidoo”
3. Jun Lana – “Bwakaw”
4. Brillante Mendoza – “Thy Womb” – WINNER
5. Vincent Sandoval – “Aparisyon”
6. Mes de Guzman – “Diablo”
7. Marie Zamora – “Ang Nawawala”
8. Tyrone Acierto – “The Grave Bandits”
9. Pam Miras – “Pascalina”
10. Loy Arcenas – “REquime!”

2012 also gave us indelible performances. We’ve narrowed down our choices to a maximum of 10. Six names are big studio draws; one is a Thai superstar. Kristoffer King drew thespic strength from Paul Sta. Ana’s “Oros” and Armando Lao’s “Ad Ignorantiam“, but we had to pick his more complex performance to make the list.


1. Eddie Garcia as the grumpy and closeted Rene in Jun Lana’s “Bwakaw” – WINNER
2. Aga Muhlach as Emil, the Bar Exams flunker, in Joyce Bernal’s “Of All the Things”
3. Dingdong Dantes as childless husband Edward in Ruel Bayani’s “One More Try”
4. Coco Martin as carpenter Pol in Emmanuel Palo’s “Santa Nina”
5. Kristoffer King as the necklace-snatching suspect Roberto in Armando Lao’s “Ad Ignorantiam”
6. Jericho Rosales as a grieving father Robert in Ian Loreno’s “Alagwa”
7. Dennis Trillo as Ruben, the lonely caretaker of a former President’s house in Aloy Adlawan’s “Ang Katiwala”
8. John Lloyd Cruz as news intern Mackie Galvez in Cathy Garcia-Molina’s “Unofficially Yours”
9. Ananda Everingham as disturbed soldier Julian Macaraeg in Adolfo Alix, Jr.’s “Kalayaan”
10. Dominic Roco as Gibson, the traumatized twin, in Marie Jamora’s “Ang Nawawala”


1. Nora Aunor as Shaleha, the childless Badjau midwife, in Brillante Mendoza’s “Thy Womb” – WINNER
2. Angel Locsin as Grace, the mother with a very sick child, in Ruel Bayani’s “One More Try”
3. Ama Quiambao as Nanay Lusing, the lonely mother of three sons, in Mes de Guzman’s “Diablo”
4. Eugene Domingo as Rosie in Chris Martinez’s “I Doo Bidoo Bidoo”
5. Olga Natividad as a hotel’s housekeeping supervisor Ella in Julius Cena’s “Mga Dayo”
6. Shamaine Buencamino as barangay chairman Swanie for Loy Arcenas’ “REquime”
7. Angelica Panganiban as Jacqui in Ruel Bayani’s “One More Try”
8. Bea Alonzo as Sari, the seamstress with a secret, in Olivia Lamasan’s “The Mistress”

I have to say that Angel Locsin turned in a career’s best. In this tackily titled movie, Locsin bravely tackles a role with a considerable degree of difficulty that she was able to hurdle quite impressively. Locsin was as empathetic as Aunor’s Shaleha. However, La Aunor succeeded more as she gracefully disappeared into her character without much vocal calisthenics or excessive physical artifice.


1. Art Acuna as menacing Inspector Domingo in Lawrence Fajardo’s “Posas” – WINNER
2. Ronaldo Valdez as philandering husband Rico in Olivia Lamasan’s “The Mistress”
3. Daniel Fernando as the aging boxer Lauro in Jose Antonio de Rivera and Bianca Catbagan’s “Suntok sa Buwan”
4. Nicholas Varela as the doped out Mike in Christian Linaban’s “Aberya”
5. Joey Paras as the feisty Tracy in Jun Lana’s “Bwakaw”
6. Tommy Abuel as the sympathetic father in Joyce Bernal’s “Of All the Things”
7. Cesar Montano as Andres Bonifacio for Mark Meilly’s “El Presidente”


1. LJ Reyes as Doray, the orphaned girl driven to prostitution, in Lemuel Lorca’s “Intoy Syokoy sa Kalye Marino” – WINNER
2. Janice de Belen as the vengeful wife in Rico Maria Ilrde’s Pridyider
3. Annicka Dolonius as heartbroken Enid in Marie Jamora’s “Ang Nawawala”
4. Raquel Villavicencio as guilt-stricken Sister Vera in Vincent Sandoval’s “Aparisyon”
5. Hilda Koronel as Regina, the wife who desperately craves for her husband’s undivided love, in Olivia Lamasan’s “The Mistress”
6. Clara Ramona as Mercedes Lagdameo, the dance ingenue who sacrificed her family for her love of dance, in Will Fredo’s “In Nomine Matris”
7. Tami Monsod as Ava Bonifacio, the former flamenco star who gave up everything for love, in Will Fredo’s “In Nomine Matris”
8. Andi Eigenmann as man-eating Rafi, who desperately tries to claw her way into a man’s affection, in Nuel Naval’s “A Secret Affair”
9. Alessandra de Rossi as Madel, the incestuous cousin, in Emmanuel Palo’s “Santa Nina”

Breakthrough Artists of 2012

This category spotlights the performers, mostly new names, who made quite an impression in their roles from films released in 2012. Other personalities (Nicholas Varela, Art Acuna, Annicka Dolonnius) belong here, but since they’re in major categories, we’ve decided to take them off this list to avoid being redundant. This list contains promising names that deserve better projects and more exposure in the entertainment business. Some of them will create bigger waves in the industry.

1. Alex Medina – He already won an acting award for his part in Ato Bautista’s “Palitan“. This year, we first noticed him in Dimaculangan, Ramos and Rivera’s “Balang Araw” (Bullet Day). He then appeared in four more flicks: Richard Somes’ “Supremo” and “Mariposa: Sa Hawla ng Gabi“, Bautista’s “Palitan” and Pam Miras’ “Pascalina“. He was, of course, in several other indies like Paul Morales’ “Concerto“. His father is actor Pen Medina.
2. Patrick Sugui. This former PBB Teen was a revelation in Gino Santos’ “The Animals“.
3. Carlo Cruz in Archie Dimaculangan and company’s “Balang Araw” (Bullet Day). We also saw him as a sinister senior fratman in Gino Santos’ “The Animals“.
4. Acey Aguilar – He appeared in Alcazaren’s “Colossal” opposite Mercedes Cabral. He also headlined the MMFF Student Short Film, Nikko Arcega and Minette Palcon’s “Lugaw” where he played out-of-luck Boyong, the father of a sick child.
5. Jacob Miller as Brat for Lem Lorca’s “Bola“. This newbie from Davao can give many veteran actors a run for their thespic money!
6. Kristoffer Martin as Abet in Paul Sta. Ana’s “Oros“. His eye-catching turn here should usher more roles in prestigious indie film projects as he is clearly underused in his mother studio.
7. Mara Lopez – She was quite an eye-catcher in Ron Morales’ “Santa Mesa” a few years ago. This year, she comes into her own in Ato Bautista’s “Palitan” and Maribel Legarda’s “Melodrama Negra“.
8. Ronald Pacifico – He charmed the audience as the grave-digging thief Romy in Tyrone Acierto’s Zombie flick “The Grave Bandits“.
9. John James Uy and Yam Concepcion scorch the screen in Erik Matti’s ultra-sexy “Rigodon“.
10. Gino de la Pena played Emman in Jose Javier Reyes’ “Mga Munting Lihim“.
11. Benjamin Alves. This Piolo Pascual-lookalike is Pascual’s real life nephew and has his uncle’s strong presence. He appeared opposite Lovi Poe in Tara Illenberger’s “Guni-Guni“. He is now groomed by GMA7 for bigger things.
12. Micko Laurente as Berto, the solvent-sniffing street urchin in Michael Angelo Dagnalan’s “Paglaya sa Tanikala”.
13. Richard Bradley Arma earlier played lead in Gabs Ramos’ “Mestizo: A Beautiful Boy“. He then re-appeared in Ronaldo Bertubin’s “Gayak“. This Caucasian looker speaks flawless Tagalog.
14. Sef Cadayona. He is arguably this year’s most successful breakthrough actor, moving out from career limbo by appearing in Emmanuel dela Cruz’s “Slumber Party” then in Ronaldo Bertubin’s “Gayak“.


With 45 titles released in 2012, this genre clearly represents the worst lot in the film industry. They exploit men willing to wave their shortcomings for the 2-minute glory under the celluloid sun; they have sparse narrative, redundant scenography and limited imagination. It is thus a pleasure whenever we find titles that rise above the muck. We’ve written about them here. And we’re proud to declare these 4 titles, the year’s Best Pink Films:

1. Gerardo Calagui’s Marcie
2. Monti Parungao’sThe Escort
3. Lem Lorca’sBola
4. Niko Jacinto’sSalo” (Share)


1. Khen Aldovino is an all-around irritant in Krizzie Syfu’s Big Shot entry, “Tahanan“.
2. Suspenseful scenes in Somes’ “Corazon Ang Unang Aswang” where the characters of Tetchie Agbayani and Erich Gonzales are written and depicted as insane people more than monsters. There’s a stark difference between monstrosity and insanity.
3. Protracted building of mood and atmosphere in Muhammad Yusuf’s The Witness” tests fortitude and challenges common sense. Every action is done in slow motion that the mere opening of doors will take 2 minutes!
4. Every single creature in Joel Lamangan’sThe Mommy Returns” is a despicable character. There’s the dying father who’s rushing his matrimonial plunge so someone could take care of his children when he croaks (isn’t deception horrible?) There’s the new stepmother who dubiously agrees to marry her beau less than two weeks after their serendipitous meeting (why was she that desperate to tie the knot?) There’s the greedy in-law (Gloria Diaz as Mabel Diaz Laurel, a society matron who has fallen on hard times) who’s ecstatic over Catherine’s marriage to William as it would allow her to pay off all her accumulating debts (aren’t we the opportunistic in-law?) There are the meanest children who would do everything to embarrass their stepmother.
5. Cesar Montano’s pa-burgis demeanor as Ben Muriilo in Montano’s action flick, “Hitman”.
6. Wenn Deramas’ “Moron 5 and the Crying Lady“. Need I say more?
7. Arkey Munoz’s incessant bawling in Edz Espiritu’s Pink fodder “Hubo“. You’d think he was competing for an Olympic-gold for his irritating lacrimation prowess.
8. Gigi Alfonso-Javier’s preachy and amateurish “Flames of Love“. This is how a Manunuri and film professor make movies? Whenever she needs help, Dina Bonnevie’s character would ask everyone to kneel down and pray, yet she flagrantly prods her friend Lani Mercado, a married dermatologist, to sleep outside her marital bliss. This revolting piece runs for a painful 2 1/2 hours and doesn’t show much artistic intuition. Truly one of the year’s worst!
9. Sexual assault/rape is deemed hilarious in Emmanuel dela Cruz’sSlumber Party“.
10. Vacillating accents of a physician played by Alex Cortez in Joyce Bernal’sKimmy Dora and the Temple of Kiyeme“.
11. Paul Singh Cudail’sHawla” – A stark proof of Cudail’s cinematic idiocy is a scene showing a medical report confirming that, indeed, a character was HIV-positive! This paper was amazingly signed by an X-ray technician and a radiologist, instead of a medical technologist and a pathologist!
12. Very unsteady and aimless camera in Armando Lao’sAd Ignorantiam“. Come on, enough of this gag-inducing and lazy film-making shtick!
13. Films that made me want to walk out: a. Raymond Red’sKamera Obskura“. While visually arresting, the novel concept eventually loses steam as the second half wavers into narrative indecision. b. Khavn dela Cruz’sEdsa XXX” is a revolting pastiche of dissonant and noisy musical-cum-comedy-cum-political satire. c. Gym Lumbera’sAnak Araw“‘s overly self indulgent musings of an albino who believes he’s an American’s child. The film is filled with visual borborygmus (flipping through the pages of a dictionary lasting for more than 3 minutes) that will initially draw you in, but ultimately repel you from excessive aimlessness. The film is in dire need of a narrative structure. An experiment that does not work. Yet these three works are some of the year’s most critically praised pictures. Go figure!
14. Angelica Panganiban’s mostly inebriated character in Dante Nico Garcia’sMadaling Araw, Mahabang Gabi“.
15. The choice of employing the Queen’s English as medium of expression in Leonardo Belen’sPinoy Super Kid” is befuddling! In fact, the first few minutes felt like a joke. Take one look at Buboy Villar and his physical attributes: brown skin, flat nose with upturned nostrils, eye slits typically Asian – then he opens his mouth and out comes English, in its most horrifically pugnacious form! This eventually turns into a laughfest with teachers, drivers, sari sari store tinderas “trying” their spine tingling twangs. What’s wrong with Tagalog?


Some of the most compelling stories are told in the most concise manner. You don’t need 2 or 5 hours to tell a clamorous tale. These are a few of the short films that we thoroughly enjoyed in 2012. “Manenaya” has some of the most sublime scenography. “Salvi’s” brilliant use of set transcends local post-apocalyptic scenario – in Ilonggo! What is the price of a stolen necklace? Hannah Espia’s “Ruweda” provides a disturbing answer as she drives us around a congested perya (a local town carnival). Pagotan’s “Manibela” is buoyed by striking leads (Jennica Garcia, Bernard Laxa, Paloma and the sinister Joey Cando). Acey Aguilar makes a delectably sympathetic, albeit dreamy protagonist as his character Boyong looks for work so he could buy his sick child food and Paracetamol – in Arcega and Palcon’s “Lugaw“. Move over, Piolo Pascual! :) But the best realized story is Matutina’s relentless “Imik” with Mercedes Cabral and the intimidatory/predatory Paolo Rodriguez. “Imik”, in fact, feels like a feature film more than a mere short feature.

1. Richard Legaspi’s “Manenaya” (Waiting)
2. Hannah Espia’s “Ruweda”
3. Roberto Pagotan’s “Manibela
4. Anna Isabelle Matutina’s “Imik
5. Nikko Arcega and Minette Palcon’s “Lugaw
6. TM Malones’ “Salvi

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