Poetry Meets Philippine Cinema

‘’100 Tula Para kay Stella’’ was definitely not on my list of films to watch for Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino. Philippine cinema is swamped with films like these—romance films meant to appeal to our sappy, melodramatic selves.

But here comes a film that uses poetry to do so, for what can be more romantic than a handwritten poem? A poem straight from the soul of the writer—his very heart and soul on paper? It may sound promising, but ultimately, writing a hundred poems isn’t enough to give the film depth and make Stella lovable, at least. You’ll wonder why anyone would ever fall for her, save for the fact that she’s gorgeous.

Pampanga Agricultural College. 2004. A 17-year-old BA Psych freshman with a speech impediment, Fidel Lansangan (JC Santos) meets Stella (Bella Padilla), a rocker chick of the same age and degree major. They become good friends, Fidel falls in love with her, but for him, Stella is way out of his league. He expresses his love for her through poetry, while Stella goes around having a different boyfriend every now and then in hopes that one of them could help her snag a recording contract. As Fidel becomes more confident after transferring schools, Stella’s life seems to spiral downwards. She chooses to go after her rockstar dreams, rather than going to school.

Read Also: The Dilemma of Working on Television

After the 100th poem, will Fidel be able to express his love for Stella? Won’t he be too late?

The attempt at poetry is one of the very few things I liked about the film. As someone who writes poetry, I understand Fidel’s struggle and the evolution of his writing style. From simple lines in Tagalog, he eventually reaches his peak writing verses in English. And there’s the problem right there.

I appreciate the attempt at placing poetry at the center of this film, but is poetry in English truly the highest form of poetry? In my case, I know a lot of people, myself included, who can write in English. Writing in Filipino, however, is another story. I couldn’t write a poem in Tagalog or in my native Hiligaynon, for the life of me. For a film that should be celebrating the Filipino language, I think it did a horrible job.

Casting is an important part of filmmaking. Casting the right people makes the film a lot more realistic. Would you actually believe that Fidel and Stella are 17-year-old freshmen? This fact that they’re surrounded by actual college students makes it even more unrealistic. Yes, this is a problem in a lot of Filipino films, as well. There are lots of younger, talented actors out there, but perhaps the studios can’t do away with casting actors who ‘’sell’’.

Read Also: ‘Ang Panahon ng Halimaw’ and the Devil of Philippine History

When it comes to characters, I find the protagonists so one-dimensional. Fidel is your typical good guy. In fact, he’s too much of a good guy that he’s so boring. He’s good-looking, he writes poetry, he ‘’sings’’, he’s sweet, he’s smart, and it seems that his only flaw is that he has a speech impediment. Stella, on the other hand, is the yin to his yang.

She’s cool by 2004 standards—well at least she tries to be. She’s rebellious, manipulative and dependent. At least, she was able to redeem herself in the end. If you’re a feminist, you’ll probably like Stella if you’d stop being a feminist for the duration of the film. For me, I don’t understand Fidel’s motivation, save for the fact that Stella was nice to him at some point. I don’t understand why you would waste 4 years of your life going after a girl who just uses and manipulates other people just so she can get what she wants. And is it that impossible for Stella to get what she wants by her own talents, without the help of any man?

Spoiler alert: As her life was falling apart, Stella was saved because a man found her and took her in. She can’t save herself and redeem herself, it seems. I like strong female characters—female characters that don’t end up as tragic figures, just so the male protagonist can look good. And that’s exactly what happened in the film. We’ve got a long way to go when it comes to writing great female characters. The film didn’t even try.

Read Also: Of Gunslingers, Magic Realism: Birdshot (2016)

The film’s attempt at evoking a sense of nostalgia is commendable, at the very least. There’s Friendster and you’ll also hear the names of some of your favorite OPM bands. Sadly, though, you’ll only hear a bad version of Rivermaya’s ‘’Balisong’’ again and again, which makes you wonder why Fidel was allowed to stay in the Young Performer’s Guild if all he can sing is that one song.

The cassette tapes seem a bit out of place, too. It’s 2004. Cassette tapes, really? Stella says that she isn’t into CDs because they break easily. This also shows that Stella is one of the earliest hipsters, probably in an attempt to draw in some hipster viewers. For a film that portrays Stella as a rocker chick wearing a Pink Floyd shirt and carrying around a guitar case with a plethora of rock band stickers, she doesn’t really play a lot of songs. Don’t expect the film to be a celebration of rock, or OPM, or poetry, or anything.

In the end, one of the main moral lessons of the film is this: Stay in school. Or you’ll end up like Stella. A loser who was only saved because a man found her. Sorry feminism. The film has failed you.

Martin, aka “The Earl”, has a graduate degree in Japan Studies from the University of the Philippines. He’s an Arctic Monkeys fan, knows his whiskey, and his films. For more of his reviews, visit his page at https://letterboxd.com/mat914/.

113 Comments

  1. chocopie

    NOIfbN This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I ave joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your wonderful post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!

  2. volunteer

    Normally I don at learn article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, quite nice article.

  3. Download

    Outstanding post however I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject? I ad be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Appreciate it!

  4. "JUY-863"

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn at show up. Grrrr well I am not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say great blog!

  5. Milwaukee Escorts

    If you are free to watch comical videos on the internet then I suggest you to pay a quick visit this web site, it contains actually therefore humorous not only videos but also extra information.

  6. gamefly

    This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger.
    I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of
    your excellent post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!

  7. minecraft download mojang

    I was curious if you ever considered changing the page layout of your blog?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 images.

    Maybe you could space it out better?

  8. "SSNI-492"

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I ave truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I all be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  9. nhuy hoa nghe tay

    What as Happening i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I ave found It positively helpful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & assist other users like its aided me. Good job.

  10. buy music

    It’а†s really a great and useful piece of info. I’а†m glad that you just shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  11. buy mp3

    You can definitely see your skills in the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. At all times go after your heart.

  12. Centres

    I simply could not depart your site before suggesting that I really enjoyed the usual information a person provide to your visitors? Is gonna be back frequently to check out new posts

  13. Kasha

    That is a very good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate info Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!

  14. TE210

    Wow! This could be one particular of the most helpful blogs We ave ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Great. I am also a specialist in this topic so I can understand your effort.

  15. 다잡아

    This blog is really cool and besides informative. I have chosen a lot of useful advices out of this amazing blog. I ad love to visit it over and over again. Thanks!

  16. 먹튀폴리스

    It is really a nice and helpful piece of info. IaаАа’б‚Т€ТšаЂаŒаАа’б‚Т€ТžаБТžm glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  17. login sbobet

    This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I ave joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!

  18. minecraft download for free

    When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a
    comment is added I get several e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Cheers!

  19. Mckenzie

    This blog is obviously cool additionally informative. I have chosen a bunch of useful stuff out of this blog. I ad love to return every once in a while. Thanks a lot!

  20. Divina

    This unique blog is really cool additionally factual. I have picked up a lot of interesting tips out of this amazing blog. I ad love to visit it over and over again. Cheers!

  21. for more info

    You can definitely see your skills in the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. At all times go after your heart.

Leave a Reply