First Day High This movie has so many things going for it, and it's only limited by the quality of actors they had, to be honest.
It's a mystery.
“First Day High” follows the lives of five students in freshman college, each portraying an archetype established in the Rexona commercials. We have Nathan (Jason Abalos), Nice Guy High; Gael (Geoff Eigenmann), Rebel High; Precious (Maja Salvador), Sosy High; MJ2 (Gerald Anderson), MVP High; and Indi (Kim Chiu), Brainy High.
One month into the schoolyear, during the first game between FDHU and Madison, the FDHU players, for some weird reason, just acted crazy, and it turns out that it was because the water the players drank was contaminated. The subsequent investigation leads to a very interesting, kitsch/pastiche, campy at times, sappy at times, but overall enjoyable, romp into five kids trying to find themselves in the middle of song and dance numbers, tears, laughs, and spills.
Making my day was the fact that the original Rexona commercial cast members (Though I didn't see Sosy High anywhere, sadly.) were there, and Patty was't kidding when she said she didn't have that much of a role. Still, she had a lot more lines than the original Nice Guy High had, which was... errmmm... one (“Nathan!”).
I won't spoil the story at this point, but what I really liked was how well the archetypes and the very hokey color-coding of students worked to the movie's advantage. The song numbers were very amusing, and the loveteam of Gerald and Kim, as well as the Jason and Maja undertones worked just well, while Geoff's character of Gael really kept the movie from being overtly sappy and too sweet for its own good.
The movie played stereotypes very well, and very wittily. Despite being the “sosy” types, Pre's faction, while a bit annoying to the ears, were still clearly a good-hearted bunch, and it kind of made you feel less antagonistic of them and more forgiving of their annoying speech patterns. Gael's rebellious streak was tempered by his artistic tendencies, and Nathan's being nice was precisely what gave a lot of spice to the movie in the first place, especially since he was doing most of the exposition for the movies.
The adults in the film also played their roles well. Cherry Pie Picache played the estranged wife and loving mother to Indi; Michael De Mesa played the father who wanted to live through his son, Gael; Gardo Versoza played the noveau rich father with a heart of gold to Pre; and of course, Bembol Roco played the no-nonsense detective who tried to piece together what happened in the basketball water contamination incident.
One of the biggest shortcomings/sources of amusement of the movie though was the fact that the lead loveteam, Gerald and Kim, both had to work through stilted speech, as Gerald had his Amboy accent, while Kim had her Cebuana Chinese accent, which really resulted in one of the most awkward-sounding onscreen arguments I've ever heard, but the movie's self-awareness and fourth-wall breaking with the inside jokes when it came to subtle Rexona references more than made up for this. If anything, I found the stilted speech rather cute, but I would be less forgiving of such in future film involving them. Yes, I find Kim Chiu hot, but that's beside the point. 'Sides, I personally prefer a certain other Brainy High person...
And, err... well, Kim sounded too much like Elsie, Elbert's sister. They really really sound alike.
I found it very refreshing as well that the movie used product placement very sparingly. Not a single Rexona bottle was in view, and the most they would do was talk about confidence and raise their arms. When you contrast that to the sheer commercialism of Kris Aquino's movies, you realize that was an amazing practice of restraint...
In any case, don't let anyone tell you that the movie was bad fool you. Quite sadly, a lot of people just can't see beyond the fact that it's a Filipino movie and are quick to dismiss it as fluff. To be frank, if you walked into the movie expecting to find the deeper meaning of life, then you walked in for the wrong reasons.
Witty writing, non-linear storytelling, healthy doses of self-awareness, catchy songs, brilliant motifs, and very entertaining character developments. With all of these going for First Day High, along with the fact that my uncle was one of the guys who put the whole movie together, FDH was definitely a great movie worth catching.
“Fun” Evaluation: A
“Critical” Evaluation: A-
I've said it before that quite frankly, I am no big fan of the overtly commercialized Manny Pacquiao, but I am not surprised nor am I resentful of the people who are fans.
I know a lot of Pacquiao fans who believe that they are being patriotic simply by declaring their support for the boxer. They assume that they become nationalistic by doing a little “rah-rah Pacquiao” ditty, and on first sight, it does seem to be so. They're proud when he wins, devastated when he loses, and verbally assault the judges when they feel differently about how the fight should've turned out.
At the end of the day though, are they really being nationalistic? Or is that just one facet of them and the rest of their personality would rapidly fly in the face of their claims at being so?
While I will not point an accusing finger at a friend of mine over this, I recently saw that there have been a lot of people I knew who were wont to bash a movie solely on the basis of it being a Filipino movie. Or bash a song solely on the basis of it being a Filipino song. You don't have to like Hale, but I knew they actually lost some fans when it turned out they were a local bad and not the latest U.S. rock act to hit the country.
It's inane and it's retarded. One moment you have people feigning Filipino pride in cheering Manny Pacquiao on, the next, you have them turning their noses up to stellar films like “Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros”, or coming into “First Day High” and expecting nothing short but a movie that will give them the meaning of life. In the same breath, they will praise the brilliance of “The Aviator”, and get the tongue-in-cheek pastiche that “Snakes on a Plane” was supposed to be, while utterly missing those very same qualities in the aforementioned Filipino films.
Why is that? Because the movies were bad?
Because the movies had shoddy production values?
Because the actors couldn't act their way out of a paper bag?
Or was it solely because it was a local movie?
My uncle Raymund helped produce First Day High and easy as it may have been for me to just go and ask him for free tickets, I watched the movie with friends. Twice. I love the movie, and I wouldn't hesitate watching it a third time if someone wanted to MST3K it with me for another go.
I have a personal stake in the movie, given how uncle Raymund happens to be my favorite uncle.
I would harp on FDH as a movie more than any other film right now mainly because I've heard too many people who watched the movie and missed out on the parody and took it seriously. It's like punching Dave Chapelle out for saying stuff offensive to blacks, or calling out Margaret Cho for her Asian slurs. It was self-aware, self-referential, and maybe the acting of the lead stars wasn't the best, but the script was tight and had lots of heart.
But I digress. I think what I'm trying to drive home is the plain and simple fact that after all has been said and done, “Filipino pride” does not solely consist of rooting on a Manny Pacquiao, or heaven forbid, a Dave Batista. Filipino pride is a way of life, and it's learning to look at all things, not just those made in the Philippines, with more discerning eyes, listening to all things, not just those made in the Philippines, with more meticulous ears.
.:Hoping On Empty:.
One of the best lines in “First Day High” came from the last exchange between Indi (Kim Chiu) and her mom (Cherry Pie Picache)... I'll try to paraphrase the line, if I can.
Indi: Ma, bakit mo ba mahal si Papa?
Mom: Kasi, minsan, dumarating sa buhay natin, na ibibigay natin ang ating sarili at ang ating lahat, kahit hindi natin alam kung ano ang maasahan nating bumalik.
And I think about that, and I realize why I felt I could relate to Ms. Brainy High the most, and only to Mr. Nice Guy High the next...
Nat-Nat, in the film was the nice guy who tried to help out his friends but ended up bungling things up miserably. He's the guy with the Atlas complex, as he tried to take on all their problems while ignoring his own. In fact, to my recollection, the part of his lyrics in the song “Ayan Kasi, Ayan Tuloy” was...
Paano nangyari ito?
I was so nice
I forgot about myself
Ayan kasi, ayan tuloy...
And I know, at times, I'm guilty of that. In fact, at the risk of coming off as sadistic, I am more at home with helping friends deal with their problems than I am at dealing with mine, because in helping them out, not only do I make them feel better, but for a fleeting moment, my problems are shelved as I put their concerns to the forefront.
But then, I remember that time when I wished I had access to Lacuna Industries, the way Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet did in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, and I realize why I related to Indi the most...
You see, her story arc involved her not working out too well with the guy she liked, mainly because he was torn between his duty to the school team and their budding relationship. I put a lot of weight in that relation, because it truly hits home... how one would be torn between one's duty and responsibility with what one truly feels, and how one could possibly turn off all feelings and emotions in order to do what they feel they should be doing instead of what they want to be doing...
I understand that. It doesn't mean it hurts any less.
And there goes Indi, who, as a means of coping, attempted to invent an anti-love potion that would allow her to stop loving him, only to find out that all it induced were side effects (Poor bunny! That was animal testing! Meeeeeaaaannnn!!!)...
... and again, she had a killer line...
Indi: Apparently, hindi lahat ng bagay, may formula.
There's no formula to curing heartbreak, or formula to hoping on empty. Or hoping for someone to come around.
All one can do is to deal with it, and to live with it. And to recall that no matter what, there are still other facets of life that will give one cause for joy, and to not let that one stinging aspect of one's being override the remaining good there is in everything else.
But then, it's true. There comes a point in one's life where you would just give and give and hope on nothing but empty words.
It is painful. It is wretched. But at the end of the day... it is worth it.
It always will be, if you're being true to yourself.
I'd rather have bad times with you, than good times with someone else
I'd rather be beside you in a storm, than safe and warm by myself
I'd rather have bad times together than to have it easy apart
I'd rather have the one who holds my heart.
Luther Vandross, I'd Rather
.:Counting Your Eggs Before Your Chickens Hatch:.
A few months ago, an editorial from the Guidon by Sports Editor Gerald Santos came out, which essentially all but declared that the ADMU Blue Eagles will win the championship this UAAP season, and lamented on how “empty” such a victory would be since the so-called archrivals, DLSU, weren't there to validate it.
And now, in what was no doubt a nail-biter of a game, the UST Growling Tigers pulled what is viewed by some to be a huge upset, akin to how the Phoenix Suns pulled out of a 3-1 hole in the playoffs against the Lakers last season, or how the supposedly “unbeatable” lineup of Kobe, Shaq, Payton, Malone, and Fisher for the Lakers during a couple of seasons or so prior were unable to get the job done.
No doubt, the Blue Eagles gave their all, and I would be loathe to take that much away from them. That is not the point of this long-delayed formal reply to the Guidon editorial in question, after all. Rather, the point is that in light of such an “upset” defeat, journalists of the stature of Guidon should be far more discreet than to count their chickens before their eggs hatch.
Throughout the season, I was personally rooting on the N.U. Bulldogs, and while they did only marginally better this season, I had no problems whatsoever if it turned out that the Blue Eagles did win the championship. Whether or not the Green Archers were there to “validate” such a victory, it would've been a victory nonetheless, but I was only going to celebrate it when and if it actually happened, not long before the first jump ball of the season took place.
Quite frankly, was this so-called Blue-Green Symbiosis purported by Mr. Santos even of merit? Of the five championships that DLSU won in the last six or seven years, how many of them were against ADMU in the finals? To my recollection, only one.
So really now, did DLSU need ADMU to “validate” their championships? Why would “the” Ateneo even need to bolster its own image atop another school's, when it is most certainly capable of doing it on its own merits?
I am obviously not the most ADMU-centric alumnus that this institution has to offer, but I would certainly give my congratulations if, when, and to whom they are due. This was UST's season, no matter how many times we claim it to have been an upset, or tsamba, or blame Typhoon Milenyo for ruining our momentum. This takes nothing away from our players, either.
This ending, however, takes away a lot from the credibility of the sports editor for trumpeting an Ateneo victory even before the season began. This ending would be a lesson in humility and discretion to all of us who echoed his sentiments as if there were only two teams in the entirety of the UAAP.
One can only hope that more judicious and less arbitrary opinions can be thrown about in editorials in the Guidon in the future. If there should at least be one thing that we may (hope to) continue to fairly request of the Guidon outside of relevance, then integrity would have to be it.
This movie has so many things going for it, and it's only limited by the quality of actors they had, to be honest.