It's obvious that J.P. Habac had Mike de Leon’s Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising (1977) in mind while making Sakaling Maging Tayo.
De Leon’s elegant romance, starring Christopher de Leon as Joey, a free and easy college student and Hilda Koronel as the discontented housewife that becomes the object of the student’s sudden adoration, is not just squarely set in Baguio. It uses the city’s landscape, dotted with pine trees and log cabins, to evoke the dreamy escape that love provides to the film’s pressured and troubled love birds.
De Leon’s film opens almost bereft of worries, before the narrative exposes the underlying concerns of its main characters, evolving into something drastically deeper than what its initially whimsical sheen promises.
Also a Baguio-set romance, Sakaling Maging Tayo is less ambitious than De Leon’s beloved love story.
While Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising chronicles the romance within several days, the bulk of Habac’s film happens within a night where Pol (McCoy De Leon), also a college student, finally gets the chance to declare his affection for Laya (Elisse Joson), a girl he has adored since she lent him her handkerchief when both of them were having their photographs taken for their IDs.
That specific night, Laya tearfully leaves a bar where her ex is performing. She serendipitously lands in the taxi that Pol borrowed for the night. From there, the two college students spend the night doing dares, dilly-dallying and finally developing an endearing comfort with each other’s company. (READ: How McCoy de Leon, Elisse Joson kept it professional on the set of 'Sakaling Maging Tayo')
To endear is exactly what Sakaling Maging Tayo excels at.
While Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising cleverly expands its breadth to not just grant escapist pleasures but also to sufficiently map the conflicts the characters are escaping from, Sakaling Maging Tayo stops at serving sweet and satisfying bliss.
Habac’s film never crosses the borders of youthful mirth. In fact, the film only has one adult character, Pol’s doting father (Bembol Roco). It is inevitable that the film be limited by what can be considered as petty and juvenile from the perspective of jaded adults, with Laya’s uncertainty whether or not she is indeed pregnant and Pol’s inability to admit his feelings to Laya as pressing non-issues, supposedly unworthy of any serious discourse unlike De Leon’s film.
Love, life and everything in between
It wouldn’t be inaccurate to brand Sakaling Maging Tayo as trivial cinema, that it exists only as a diversion and not to expand views about love, life and everything in between. That, however, is not a problem since Habac plots the boundaries of his endeavors and mostly succeeds in mining all the joy and drama out of his marked and limited territory.
Definitely, Sakaling Maging Tayo is eclipsed by the film that inspired it.
However, that doesn’t mean that the film is far from being delightful. The film has beautiful moments. There are lovely interludes where the hints of a future romance between Pol and Laya are overwhelming, with Habac’s camera cleverly conscious of the importance of still and silent junctures where cute uncertainties overpower overt gestures of love. More importantly, Habac mines immense charm from De Leon and Joson.
In a film brimming with sequences and conversations that amuse and enchant, one key scene resonates.
Teary-eyed Pol confesses to his father that he wasn’t able to get what he has always wanted to have, for which the old man replies that he made sure not to raise him to expect things the humble life he can afford cannot give him.
Of course, the father misunderstands his son because Pol is desolate not out of his lot in life but out of his recent defeat in love. The immaculately written scene doesn’t make the mistake of having Pol correct his father. What it does is even more compelling. The father simply asks his son if he fought for what he wanted.
Without burdening the very delicate dramatic scene with excessive dialogue, Habac carves ageless wisdom out of a disconnect between a man who has experienced so much of life to think about love and his son who thinks love is life.
Sakaling Maging Tayo is fervently a teenybopper romance.
Thankfully, the film didn’t simply rely on the charisma of its leads or the amusement generally expected from the kind of love story it tells. It is surprisingly fluent in its unabashedly frank portrayal of today’s youth, their erstwhile issues and contagious joys. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.
Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.