To judge from the movie Ploning, the island of Cuyo in Palawan teems with fit, good-looking men and boys who are often shirtless – playing futbol, parading during fiesta, doing ordinary chores. Actor Bodjong Fernandez, a Cuyo local, is a perfect specimen of deep brown skin and chunky beef. We almost never see someone like him play a lead role. The film makes him act like an unoiled robot most of the time, but his torso in the opening and closing scenes had me creaming my pants.
But the men are minor side attractions. The film itself is a wholesome, non-gay, G-rated piece of cinema that nobody in this country makes anymore: a widescreen sweep of virtuous bucolic life. Based loosely on a folk song about a woman who waits eternity for her lover to return, the movie, with its yearning, sacrificing characters, is really about the struggle and rewards of faith. Ploning can feel like chicken soup with scenes built around spoken metaphorical truisms spewed as wisdom, but when the froth works – especially in the locomotive final third – it’s damn near magical in its healing.