By Ghio Ong
*Warning: Spoilers abound
Surprisingly, ‘1st ko si 3rd’ – a film written and directed by Real Florido for the New Breed category of the 10th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival – gave viewers more than the nostalgia of falling in love, or rather such nostalgia we may have not used to know.
It is a story of Corazon/Cory (Nova Villa), a newly-retired government employee who got lethargic with the monotony of a senior citizen’s everyday life with her husband Alejandro/Andong (Dante Rivero). One day, Cory and her BFF (best friend forever) Maria (Ruby Ruiz) saw Cory’s first love, the fair and fit Third (Freddie Webb) before leaving the church. As the sudden flashback of Cory and Third’s memories of being together some 40 years ago brought sentimental feelings to Cory, it also complicated her humdrum existence.
Villa’s and Ruiz’s portrayal of child-like senior citizens reminiscing the past was convincingly brilliant: that moment when Cory was reading all the unsent letters she wrote for Third all these years; catching up with Third after learning how to use Facebook; her joining an open Zumba class with Maria; that salon makeover where she wanted to copy Rihanna’s hairstyle just like how a younger customer requested for such. Villa may have been known as a comedy actress, but her portrayal of the lead character in this film cemented the fact that she is so much more than that.
Meanwhile, Rivero’s restrained portrayal of Andong is also worthy of praise. His performance won the Best Actor award in the New Breed category of the recently-concluded Cinemalaya X. He was praised for his “touching portrayal of a man in his sixties seeking to come to terms with his wife’s attempts at a romance with an old flame.”
While he carried the title role in the film, and while his previous onscreen tandem with Villa in a sitcom in the 1980s clicked with the viewers, Webb may be deemed to have had a cameo exposure in the film.
Consequently, the young Third and Cory, played by Ken Chan and Coleen Borgonia, brought more kilig in the film effectively.
But what could be the films’ defining moment was Cory throwing her love letters to Third after their “first date” into an open fire, and her breakdown inside the “Mercedes-Benz” which Andong just repaired. It just showed how painful it was for Cory to move on after some 40 years of separation with Third, with the looming possibility that her former flame’s annulment with his wife 20 years ago might happen to her as well.
One dominant symbolism in the film was time, as repeatedly shown by wall clocks present in most scenes. It just showed how time became Cory’s enemy in two different depictions: on one hand, her boredom with its slow passage whenever she was with Andong, and on the other, the mixed excitement and nervousness she felt upon meeting Third for the first time in four decades.
Aside from the kilig, the film also depicted the pain of moving on from one’s “great love,” which was quite a good show of balance. It showed how the wistful yearning of past loves could be hopeful at first, but frustrating in the end.
While the ending was unexpectedly frustrating, it could give viewers room for discussion on the what-ifs and what-might-have-beens.
*Poster courtesy of Facebook; screencap grabbed from the film.