Movie review: Real-life nurses star in 'Siglo ng Kalinga'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jun 04 2023 04:25 PM

'Siglo ng Kalinga' features real-life nurses as its cast members. Facbeook: Siglo ng Kalinga
'Siglo ng Kalinga' features real-life nurses as its cast members. Facbeook: Siglo ng Kalinga

Anna Formantes (Joy Ras) lived in an island community which was now suffering an epidemic of diarrhea and fever. Her father Tomas (Val Ramilo) was one of those taken ill. Because of her good grades, Anna had just been accepted for a scholarship for any course in Manila. She chose to take up nursing. She did very well, graduating at the top of her class and was among the Top 3 of the nursing licensure examination. 

During nursing school, Anna became very close friends with two of her classmates -- Rita Gamez (Bambi Rojas) and Tony Faraon (Tads Obach). Tony made romantic overtures to Anna, but she begged off because she wanted to stay focused on her career goals. Two years after their graduation, the COVID-19 happened and Anna and her friends remained dedicated to their hospital work despite the great risks. 

Nurse, review center operator, businessman and broadcaster Carl Balita had already produced a film before -- "Maestra (An Educator)" in 2017. This time around, Balita decided to tell a story written by Archie del Mundo about Balita's own profession of nursing, timing its release on the 100th anniversary of the Philippine Nurses Association, an organization which was founded by Anastacia Giron-Tupaz in the year 1922. 

The life story of Anna was the main story upon which various side stories about her nurse friends Tony and Rita, her senior nurses like Dean Estancia Cruz (Irma Bustamante) who believed that nurses should go beyond the clinics and take on positions as educators and leaders, and Adela (Mila Delia Llanes), a veteran nurse who had been in practice for 45 years, who did not back down from her duties even during the Covid scourge. 

Watch more News on iWantTFC

Some historical flashbacks were also randomly inserted into the narrative. One was about the challenges faced by Anastacia Giron-Tupaz (Ellener Cruz) herself facing a tough investigative panel, and another about the heroic underground practice of nurses during World War 2. These were also some political commentary in that part where a Mayor (Andre Nicdao Canaria) became defensive when Anna tried to have water from his deep well tested. 

The advocacy of this film is clear -- the nursing profession is a noble one, and nurses deserve to be respected, paid proper wages and not denied their rights. These principles are repeatedly drilled into nursing students by their professors and clinical instructors, who quote from Florence Nightingale herself to emphasize their points. Sometimes they could sound too didactic, earnest or idealistic, but the filmmakers were transparent about their motivations.

There were no name stars here, in fact, everyone in the cast was actually a nurse in real life, so we can cut them some slack for their self-conscious acting. Joy Ras had an attractive face and a strong screen presence, and her acting skills were worthy of her lead role. Bambi Rojas made Rita a cheerful character, but she was also given some heavy dramatic moments. The older members of the cast gave their best efforts, but their line delivery can be unnatural.

The effort of director Lemuel Lorca to be inspirational can be awkward. There was a scene where various nurses with high positions were introduced one by one, with a quotable quote from each one. It turned out that these "leaders" were only actors, not the actual personality quoted. I know the final reunion scene at the beach was supposed to be heartwarming, but having everyone else dressed in white had a rather odd, humorously creepy vibe. 6/10.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."