Pare Ko is about a bunch of kids struggling to keep a friendship despite money, love, and family problems. From left: Jomari Yllana, Nikka Valencia and Mark Anthony Fernandez
Culture Movies

‘Pare Ko is 25?!’ Joey Reyes reflects on the film that captured youth & friendship in the '90s

On the occasion of the film's 25th anniversary, its writer and director looks back on an age of innocence — "when kids were still kids, when friendships were real and not virtual.”
Jose Javier Reyes | Jan 11 2020

A Facebook friend of mine posted: “Saw a clip of Pare Ko starring the Guwapings. Digitally restored daw. 25 years ago na rawDYOS KO. Talaga ba?

Even I was surprised when I realized this movie I shot with the then teen heartthrobs of the country is now celebrating its silver anniversary. But, really, I should not be. Jomari Yllana is a father of a teenage boy who is about his age when he shot this movie. Mark Anthony Fernandez is also the father of a young actor named Grae who is now a part of Star Magic. 

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Note the big shirts and the bigger pants. The gang on a night out Gio Alvarez (Abe), Jao Mapa (Chipper), Yllana (Mackie), Fernandez (Francis), and Victor Neri (Lester). 

Victor Neri, Jao Mapa, and Gio Alvarez occasionally appear in films and television but have built careers of their own outside the biz. Nikka Valencia also comes out in the small screen every so often but has a separate career on her own—while there is Claudine Barretto, now a mother and still visible in the public eye.

Yes, a generation has passed without fully realizing how the stretch of decades has created such great change in the world around us. There is great truth in the saying that youth is wasted on the young because it passes too quickly. The feeling of omnipotence and immortality which arm young people with such candor, (sometimes) misguided courage and cunning fade away all too quickly, all too suddenly.

Ogie Diaz plays Chipper's nosey boss in a fastfood chain.
Mackie and love interest Nadine (Claudine Barretto) early in the film, before Chipper becomes a third party in their romance.

I look back at Pare Ko not with a sense of nostalgia but with wonderment. I remember that first meeting with Charo Santos-Concio and the late Simon Ongpin with Malou Santos as we sat around a table in the makeshift offices of Star Cinema in JUSMAG, discussing the possibilities of coming up with a benchmark movie about the youth of the mid-'90s. Whereas the world of the Filipino kids in  the '80s was captured in Maryo J. de los Reyes’ Bagets, we wanted this project based on a song popularized by the Eraserheads to be the exemplification of the world view of the fin de siècle generation.

Valencia and Mapa. "What we did not foresee was how the film was embraced by the youth of that time," says Reyes.

But what we did not foresee was how the film was embraced by the youth of that time—how the idea of the barkada movie was embodied by the characters we gave life to, in a film about growing up in an age where kids were still kids, where there were no cellphones as appendages to existence, and when friendships were real and not virtual.

Viewing Pare Ko two decades and a half later was like peeking into a specific frame of a time machine. Suddenly, I felt this was no longer a film but more of a document of the way they were, what being young meant then, and how different it has become now. This was the life of Filipino teenagers at a time when there was no social media, no manic obsession for materialism and, as the cliché goes, when the world was far simpler than it has become today.

Lester, Mackie, and Francis hang out. 

Yet despite all the changes that have taken place, there are still so many things that have remained the same. Kids are still acting tough to hide the fear of going to the next phase of life in a highly competitive and ambiguous world. Kids still seek the love and attention of parents—without asking for it. Kids still want to be needed but have found new ways of fulfilling these desires with what is accessible to them.

Then and now, "Kids still seek the love and attention of parents—without asking for it," says the author. Fernandez with Isabel Rivas, who plays his mother in the film.
Must be cold in the '90s: Lester, Chipper, and Abe dressed for Baguio weather.

Pare Ko is 25 years old and now restored. It somehow rattles me to think that films I have done are now being “redigitized” for the sake of drawing them out of the archives to be shown to a succeeding generation of movie viewers. 

Finding the meaning of true friendship in the age before Facebook.

It is both sad and exhilarating. It is sad because the moving shadows I captured have become testaments to a past that can never be duplicated or retrieved—but it is exhilarating because films are immortal. The youthful faces and laughter of Jomari, Mark, Claudine, and the gang will remain forever as long as there are moviegoers curious and interested about life then and now.


ABS-CBN is screening Pare Ko this Sunday evening on Sunday’s Best. Images courtesy of ABS-CBN Film Restoration