MANILA - Anyone who has ever experienced being reminded of someone by everyday things such as food, a smell, a song, a sight -- despite great effort to forget -- will find "That Thing Called Tadhana" painfully familiar and somehow, freeing.
This was the promise of director and writer Antoinette Jadaone to moviegoers who will finally get to watch the romantic-comedy, three months after its initial limited release as part of the 2014 Cinema One Originals Film Festival.
The film about moving on from a failed relationship, which won the Audience Choice Award and Best Actress for Angelica Panganiban, has been picked up by Star Cinema for a wide-scale release on February 4.
"Maraming hugot lines sa pelikula, maraming makaka-relate kasi parang halos lahat naman dumating sa stage na hindi maka-move on," said Jadaone during a recent press conference. "'Yung buong movie, tungkol siya sa tamang pag-move on. Tutulungan ka niya kung paano mag-move on at makalimot."
"That Thing Called Tadhana" follows two strangers, Mace (Panganiban) and Anthony (JM de Guzman), whose chance encounter at an airport in Rome, Italy leads them to a road trip in Luzon. Heartbroken over the end of her eight-year relationship, Mace enlists the help of Anthony to help her move on.
In one scene, Mace offers to pay Anthony a certain amount every time she mentions her ex-boyfriend, who she insists looks like TV idol John Lloyd Cruz (Panganiban's real-life partner).
However, the task is easier said than done. Smallest details or mention of names prompt Mace to remember the relationship, from ketchup (her ex often pairs it with hotdog), Cebu (Valentine's Day 2010), Hong Kong (2008), spaghetti (censored), to malunggay leaves (malunggay pandesal, his favorite).
An anguished Mace later tells Anthony, referring to her ex-boyfriend: "'Hindi na kita mahal. Makakaalis ka na.' Seven words? Walang taon tapos seven words lang kaya niyang ibigay? 'T*** *** naman, sabihin naman niya kung bakit, ano'ng ginawa ko!"
Mace, to most, may sound like a familiar character -- a friend who needed consoling, a brother who turned to alcohol after a breakup, or a reflection of oneself upon the realization of a crumbling relationship.
Here's why, in Jadaone's words: "[I drew inspiration for the film from] my own experience and experiences ng mga friends ko, friends ng friends ko. Kumbaga, pinool ko 'yung lahat ng mga kwento ng pag-mo-move on at pag-iyak at nilagay ko sila sa isang buong pelikula."
From mockumentary to 'hugot film'
Jadaone made her directorial debut in 2011 with the acclaimed mockumentary "Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay." Just recently, she had a streak of projects making it to the big screen within months of each other.
"Ekstra," which she co-wrote, competed in Cinemalaya in 2013. This was followed by three movies last year -- "Relaks, It's Just Pag-Ibig" (director), "Beauty in a Bottle" (director and writer), and the award-winning "English Only, Please" (writer).
Of her film projects so far, Jadaone considers "That Thing Called Tadhana" closest to her heart. "Baby ko siya, eh. Ito po 'yung favorite ko sa mga ginawa ko," she said.
"Noong kinuha siya ng Star Cinema for distribution, doon pa lang sobrang happy na ako. Parang, okay na ako na mapanood ng mga tao, na may chance na ang mga tao mapanood siya... Doon pa lang nabuo ko 'yung dream film ko, okay na ako doon," she said.
Where do broken hearts go?
Before landing a deal with the ABS-CBN film outfit, Jadaone and her team hit a road block in the production of "That Thing Called Tadhana." With only weeks away from the Cinema One Originals opening, Jadaone belatedly got word that the foreign publishers of Whitney Houston's "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," a song prominently featured in the film, is charging them $5,000 or around P220,000.
As a competing entry in the film festival, the project had already used up its awarded P2-million budget at the time. Jadaone turned to Facebook to ask for the support of friends and fans, and managed to raise just enough for the licensed use of the well-loved tune.
Those who pitched in P500 each found their names in the film's credits.
Explaining her insistence on using "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," Jadaone said: "Iyong paggamit ko ng kanta dito, from scriptwriting pa lang po, nakalagay na talaga iyon. Kasi personally, isa siya sa mga repertoire ko sa videoke!
"Parang, personally, pag 'yung mga ganyang kanta ni Whitney, kanta ni Adele (British singer), in popular culture, pag kinakanta mo 'yan sa videoke, meron ka nang hugot. Pinili ko siya dahil feeling ko, pag marinig siya ng mga tao sa isang pelikula, maririnig nila 'yung sarili nila doon sa kanta. Parang, 'Isang beses sa life ko, noong nag-videoke ako, ito 'yung kinanta, tapos ganito 'yung naalala ko.'"
Asked to answer the question posed by the song and, by extension, her own film, Jadaone did not seem to think twice about her answer.
"Sa friends po," she said. "Pag broken-hearted ka, ang dami mong kaibigan na [handang dumamay]. Kasi, usually, pag meron kang girlfriend o boyfriend, sobrang saya mo na hindi mo na napapansin na meron kang mga kaibigan na hindi mo na nababati, hindi mo na na-ha-hi man lang. Pero pag broken-hearted ka, doon mo ma-ri-realize na maraming kang kaibigan."
"Where do broken hearts go? Sa friends ko."