Anybody who has a cellphone in the Philippines has probably received that annoying text one time or another. I'm sure you know how it goes: an unnamed relative who's supposedly working abroad wants to send you some money or a balikbayan box but in order for them to do so you have to send them "cellphone load" first. You'll probably think that only the dumbest of the dumb will fall for this kind of scam. But what if, out of sheer coincidence, a well-to-do family is led to believe that the texter is actually a long lost relative? This is the premise of Ang Bagong Pamilya ni Ponching, a full-length film entry at this year's Cinemalaya Film Festival.
Directed by Inna Salazar and Dos Ocampo, Ang Bagong Pamilya ni Ponching is a comedy slash family drama that stars Janus Del Prado as Ponching and Ketchup Eusebio as his childhood friend Elmerson. Ponching and Elmerson are religious guys who dabble in relatively petty crimes such as movie piracy. Their latest gig? Camcording indie films to sell to patrons in Quiapo. Which is either a genius move since nobody really does that or the dumbest thing ever since as Ponching himself said, "Sino bang manunuod ng ganyan sa Quiapo?"
Looking for a new racket to try out, the two friends get into text scamming. Thinking that no harm will come out of it, Ponching sends out a text that accidentally cons a recipient into thinking that he's the bastard son of a recently deceased relative. But here's the catch: the dead relative left him all his money: a cool P2 million pesos. Ponching now has to play the part. But did this kind-hearted dimwit bite off more than he can chew this time?
Ponching and Elmerson, gives faces to those text
scammers that pester us day in and day out
Ponching's new family, the Dela Veras are apprehensive when he first arrives in their mansion and for good reason. Here's a guy who you never knew before today and he's supposed to be the sole beneficiary of an inheritance? But eventually, the family falls in love with the well-meaning Ponching. One of the highlights of the movie is actually the friendship that Ponching develops with the matriarch of the family and this subplot is what I liked the most about it.
Janus Del Prado and Ketchup Eusebio are funny as Ponching and Elmerson and the movie has its laugh out loud moments. Although some of the jokes fall flat at times which is usually the case for any comedy. But humor is different from person to person so while I didn't find some of the jokes to be funny, I'm sure there are others who will. Del Prado as the dimwitted Ponching should've been easy to hate—he's cheating a family out of their money—but we end up liking him anyway because he's a well-intentioned buffoon.
Del Prado plays the part of the fool rather convincingly.
That's meant to be a compliment by the way
The great thing about film festivals such as Cinemalaya is it allows our local filmmakers to tackle stories that would otherwise not be featured in mainstream cinema. Like "Bayaw" Jun Sabayton said in a video promoting the annual filmfest, we keep on seeing the same movies year in and year out. Naging senior citizen na yung bida pero yung leading lady pabata nang pabata. To be fair though to formulaic big budget productions, we have to admit that they do have a certain polish that some indie films lack. This holds true with Ang Bagong Pamilya ni Ponching. I think the reason why some of the jokes in the movie failed to deliver was because of the editing, which at times seemed awkward as it jumped from one scene to the next. Some scenes also felt too abrupt or randomly placed.
The movie, though absurd at times, is a welcome change to the love stories and romantic comedies that have become a staple of local cinema. Really, when was the last time you saw a Pinoy comedy that didn't star Vice Ganda? Those movies seem few and far in between. And independent filmmaking doesn't have to be synonymous to poverty porn as well. There are a lot of stories to tell about the Filipino way of life and not all of them need to tackle heavy subjects. The issue of text scamming, although trivial, is something that Pinoys encounter on a regular basis and is used in this movie to discuss much deeper topics such as family and being honest with oneself.
Ang Bagong Pamilya ni Ponching, if nothing else, is honest. It won't change how you view the world and it doesn't aim to do that. It just has a quirky story to tell. And that's perfectly fine. Sometimes you just want to go and watch a Filipino movie without feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders when you leave the cinema.
6.5/10 A quirky Filipino comedy that at times borders on the absurd, Ang Bagong Pamilya ni Ponching offers a premise that everyone can relate to.
Rey de la Cruz Jr. likes talking about films as much as he likes watching them. He runs www.reyview.org, a site that provides Filipino moviegoers with reviews written in a voice that is uniquely Pinoy.