Filipino mainstream moviegoers enjoy watching run-of-the-mill melodrama and unabashedly enjoy them for reasons that have little to do with art. To hell with cineastes and their “pa-deep” art films! At the movies, Filipinos seek an escape from their banal, everyday lives and demand a different reality—something that registers to them as laugh-out-loud, endearing, and, maybe, even a little too beautiful.
The more a film indulges mainstream Filipino moviegoers in their flights of fancy, the more it will sell. Of course, big-time movie producers have mastered the formula by now: cast a formidable loveteam in a romantic story whose title is lifted from some favorite karaoke OPM ballad and voila, an instant blockbuster!
More recently, producers have literally gone the extra mile to make their romantic flicks even grander spectacles than before by shooting in picturesque places abroad. For instance, the latest Star Cinema movie Barcelona: A Love Untold flies the swoony and now more mature KathNiel (Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla) to lovely spots in Spain.
In case you need reminding, Barcelona isn’t exactly the first Pinoy flick that banked on film’s photographic nature. Here we list popular Pinoy flicks that were filmed abroad and let its audience in on more than just simple escapism.
Sana Maulit Muli (1995)
Jerry (Aga Muhlach) and Agnes’ (Lea Salonga) heartbreaking tale was your first lesson in long-distance relationships. In Olivia Lamasan’s Sana Maulit Muli, written by Jose Javier Reyes, San Francisco turns the once meek and timid Agnes into an outgoing and independent woman, eventually causing Jerry and Agnes to grow apart.
Other than being filmed in Milan, this Olivia Lamasan classic is famous for a line delivered by the talented Claudine Barretto: “Mahal mo ba ako dahil kailangan mo ako o kailangan mo ako kaya mahal mo ako?” Don’t you dare forget that just in case your drama queen of a girlfriend drops the line during one of those fights. In this film, Claudine stars as Jenny, a headstrong and practical Filipina migrant whose ambitions drown her need for personal relationships. When the world weary Lino (Piolo Pascual) walks in her life in search for his missing wife, Milan becomes a whole new experience for Jenny. With Filipino diaspora in their background, the two develop an unexpected romance.
Filmed in the United Arab Emirates, Rory Quintos’ film stars three huge actors: Aga Muhlach, Claudine Barretto, and John Lloyd Cruz. More than a love triangle (you guessed it!), Dubai talks about the struggles that overseas Filipino workers go through to make ends meet abroad.
For the First Time (2008)
It is summertime in Santorini when the womanizer and happy-go-lucky Seth (Richard Gutierrez) crosses paths with the goody-two-shoes and beautiful Sophia (KC Concepcion). They clash at first but find themselves falling in love...which is not exactly the stuff of novelty. However, this Joyce Bernal film has us envious of Gutierrez for playing leading man to the sultry KC while enjoying the lovely scenery in Greece.
Fan or not of Filipino movies, the line “I care about my job, Sir. I care about you” must at least ring a bell. The famous quote is uttered by the Megastar Sharon Cuneta who plays Sarah in the tearjerker Caregiver. The film narrates Sarah’s harrowing and humbling journey as a mother who gives up her job as a teacher to be a caregiver in London to augment family income. The film is directed by Chito Roño and was written by Chris Martinez.
In My Life (2009)
Olivia Lamasan’s 2009 film has so much going for it. It stars veteran actress Vilma Santos as the stringent and ruthless retiree Shirley Templo who is challenged to live life anew in New York. Abroad, she is reunited with her successful gay son Mark (Luis Manzano), who still fights to win her mother’s acceptance despite his status in life. In My Life also stars A-list actor John Lloyd Cruz, who plays Mark’s boyfriend, whose personal struggle is to figure into the mother-son relationship. Another Olivia Lamasan masterpiece, In My Life is a fun and poignant drama that displays the Star for All Season's admirable versatility.
Miss You Like Crazy (2010)
We never know why Cathy Garcia-Molina’s film was named after Natalie Cole's popular song, when in fact, Barry Manilow’s “Somewhere Down the Road” is more fitting given its plot. It was the right love at the wrong time, so the song goes. In the story that unfolds in Los Angeles, California and Honolulu, Hawaii, and Asia, Allan (John Lloyd Cruz) meets and falls in love with Mia (Bea Alonzo) during a moment of doubt in his longtime relationship with live-in partner Daphne (Maricar Reyes). After reaching a point where he has to choose, he lets go of Mia but afterwards finds himself yearning for her. He crosses paths with her again in Malaysia while on business trip and goes after her only to find out that Mia is now engaged to another man.
In Your Eyes (2010)
Viva Films and GMA Films’ Claudine Barretto and Anne Curtis starrer is your typical soap opera that revolves around two sisters who fall in love with the same man. Claudine plays Ciara, a Pinay physical therapist in the United States who devotes her entire life to her younger sister, Julia (Anne) after their parents’ demise. When finally reunited abroad, the sisters find themselves at odds when Ciara secretly falls in love with Julia’s boyfriend, Storm (Richard Gutierrez). The film was directed by Mac Alejandro and was written by Keiko Aquino.
In the Name of Love (2011)
Never mind that this Olivia Lamasan film was shot in Japan and took it upon itself to be complex and more than your usual heavy drama. In the Name of Love is remarkable for Angel Locsin’s sizzling pole dancing moves, daring scenes, and just being...kawaii (or “cute” in Japanese). Remember that scene where she runs after leading man Aga Muhlach in a hot pink wig and Harajuku fashion? Our favorite bombshell actress’ presence in this film provides a soothing contrast to the film’s dark secrets and unsettling plot twist in the end.
The Prenup (2015)
Remember when we gave our take on filmmaker Jun Lana’s The Prenup? While our verdict still holds true, we still find Jennylyn Mercado breathtaking in her scenes, especially those shot in Manhattan, with the actress flaunting her to-die-for curves and stunning outfits. But the classic telenovela plot: a woman of modest upbringing falls in love with a handsome and rich dude (Sam Milby), is just not worth seeing again. Needless to say, the film is ridiculously entertaining given its able cast and had quite a promising subject matter unique in Philippine cinema: the prenuptial agreement.