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Kyle Christian F.

Uy
2014-06493
Ang Nawawala: A Middle Class Film

Instantaneous ang kasiyahan, tulad sa kulturang popular. [1] These


words may seem to hurt, but also undeniably true. It was Roland B.
Tolentino who authored these words in his work, Kulturang Popular at
Pakiwaring Gitnang Uri. He discussed that the happiness that we
receive is sudden and for a short while only, just like in Popular
Culture.
Popular culture is every type of product or activity that is directed
to the masses or created to cater the taste of the majority of the
people [3]. There are many representations of Popular Culture in our
everyday lives. From our individual preference to music and film
genre, to the style of clothes we wear, and even the food that we
choose to eat, Popular Culture has affected each one of us. But why
us? Because we are the masses. The Lower to Middle Class bracket
consumes the products of Popular Culture created by those of the elite
and powerful. But then again, only the middle class has the enough
purchasing power to enjoy what they consume.
An indie film by Marie Jamora represents a great deal about the
aspirations of the Middle class based on Popular Culture. The drama
film, Ang Nawawala (or What Isnt There), was first screened in 2012
as part of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival under
the New Breed category. Cinemalayas New Breed Category features new
and upcoming talents which create the film they desire with the help
of the grant of the Cinemalaya Foundation. The film won the Best
Original Score and Audience Choice Award in the same film fest. The
film was also screened internationally including Los Angeles Asian
Pacific Film Festival and ASEAN International Film Festival & Awards
amongst others. [2]
The film stars Dominic Roco as Gibson Bonifacio, a young adult who
chose to stop speaking when his twin brother died in front of him when
he was still a child. The movie starts as Gibson arrives at the
airport during Christmas season where his sister welcomes him back
home after staying in the United States of America for several years.
Scenes showing his relationship with his mother, Esme played by Dawn
Zulueta, explains how horrifying it must have been for the whole
family regarding the incident.
He then reconnects with his childhood friend whom which introduces
Gibson to his new set of friends which includes a girl named Enid.
Enid and his friends show that they like to go to gigs (especially
that some of the group are in a band) and listen to the local indie
music scene, attend parties, visit and enjoy Cubao expo, etc. The
group also shares Gibsons fascination and addiction to marijuana. He

Kyle Christian F. Uy
2014-06493
lights and smokes a joint every once in a while wherein he finds
peace, away from the disorderly world that he experiences.
The movie also shows that Gibson is reconnecting with his dead
brother, Jamie played by Felix Roco (actual twin brother of Dominic).
He imagines the presence of his brother, who acts like his guiding
light. He has this imagined persona of his brother opposite to the
personality of Gibson himself. The scenes with his brother show that
Jamie is the only one Gibson talks to.
As the movie progressed, Gibsons attraction for Enid grew. This
attraction earned him enough courage and reason to speak again. He
first spoke words after a long time to tell Enid how much he started
to love her. However, Enids reaction was not the one Gibson expects.
She wants to reconnect with her ex because she believes that it can
work out between them again.
The movie ends when he sits with his crying mother during New Years
Eve and as she wakes up from crying herself to sleep, Gibson finally
speaks with his mother.
While watching the film, I was entertained with the aesthetics of the
film. I loved how different it is from the status quo of Filipino
films. It featured long shots where it seems like nothing is happening
but shows a dramatic pause in between scenes as opposed to the popular
films which engages the watcher more by utilizing a lot of dialog.
The movie also appeals to a lot of millennials who currently enjoy the
local indie scene of the Philippines. I will admit that event though
Im not a huge fan of the indie scene and others like it, it was
entertaining to watch because I know for a fact that some of my
friends will relate to what the movie portrays. The usage of
marijuana, the retro vibe of playing the vinyl, the numerous
underground gigs where you can find exclusivity these appeals to the
middle class millennial. Maybe this is the reason why the film
garnered the Audience Choice Award from Cinemalaya. It appealed to the
masses of people who liked indie or people who wanted to like indie
for social purposes. And this is what Rolando Tolentino discusses
further in his work.
Content-wise, the film was made for the middle class and for those who
want to be in the middle class. It tackles no major issue regarding
the lower class like poverty, labor, or oppression. The major problem
of the film is that Gibson does not speak. And his reason for not
speaking is that he chose not to speak. It was not any physical injury
that caused him not to speak. It was his own free will.
He also likes dealing with his problems through marijuana. This is
very middle class-minded since he believes that problems will just go
away by not addressing the problem. He simply puffs away the problem
so that he wouldnt think about it anymore. The problem with this

Kyle Christian F. Uy
2014-06493
aspect is that in the real world, we have to deal with our problems by
addressing it directly. Furthermore, marijuana is more accessible to
those with purchasing power. Lower class has no time and money to
spend for those purposes because they are consumed with the problem of
everyday life.
I noticed that the shaky relationship of Gibson and his mother was not
discussed well in the movie. Heck, it even resolved the problem with a
bad ending when Gibson spoke to her mother. The movie deserved a
better ending however bad its content may be. The ending was a great
disappointment. There was no sense of accomplishment or any
cliffhangers as opposed to most films that Filipinos watch. And the
argument that it is different from most films would mean it changed
for the worse.
But this may actually show the true representation of the film as an
advertisement to middle class: the middle class has problems that are
easily solvable when you have money or when you have the resources.
The middle class has problems that are very light. And this is what
people aspire. Not those problems like, How will I feed my family?
or How can we cure my sons illness?. Middle class isnt the easy
mode to life, but its definitely easier than the lower class.
The film is a great example of the different ways of propagating
popular culture. It may not be popular genre, but its content promotes
the aspirations of the middle class. As Tolentino stated in the same
work, Ang ginagawa ng kulturang popular ay pinaasa tayo na maaasam
natin ang gitnang uring pagkatao kahit matumal naman kaysa regular na
mangyayari ito. [1] Not everything we see in the films happen in
real life, so we shouldnt expect it to happen in ours.
Word Count: 1249

Sources used:
[1] Tolentino, R. (n.d.). Kulturang Popular at Pakiwaring Gitnang Uri.
In R. Tolentino.
[2] (n.d.). Retrieved from What Isn't there:
http://www.whatisntthere.com/
[3] (n.d.). Retrieved from Dictionary.com:
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/popular-culture