Want to get more intimate with the wondrous nation of islands we call the Philippines? Look no further than your movie screens.
Through the hands of many talented filmmakers (both local and foreign), you’ll get to know the Philippines and her many aspects.
On screen, she’s quite the chameleon, all right. From the gritty film noir pockets of Quiapo to the Spain-by-way-of-Mexico pastoral corners of her provinces, these 7,107 islands surely can thrill, enchant, or make you fall in love. The wonders never cease.
So what are you waiting for? Try hunting for these 10 movies that best show you the marvels of our native soil.
10. Amigo (2010)
Little is written or filmed about the American Occupation of the Philippines in the early part of the 20th century. Thank God for this independent film helmed by John Sayles. The set pieces here are economic at best, but it gives viewers a glimpse of our assimilation to the United States, through the story of a mayor building a province during peacetime. The performances are top-notch, nonetheless.
9. Close To You (2006)
Equal parts rom-com and travel adventure, this blockbuster follows the hot-cold love story of John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo as they join a rock band’s tour through the islands of Visayas and Mindanao. See how the story unfolds as the lovebirds go on a raft in Loboc River and visit the university towns of Dumaguete. This one is quite the charmer: it’s hard not to fall in love with the charismatic leads as well as the postcard-perfect sights.
8. The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (2005)
They say the Philippines is fast becoming the Gay Capital of Asia, and it could be with no small thanks to this beautiful coming-of-age indie film set in the slums of Quezon City. The film wears a lot of its heart on its sleeve—it’s never preachy, never self-important. It surely speaks volumes on how Filipinos treasure the small joys of family life
7. Ang Nawawala (2012)
A loving snapshot of the underground art scene in Manila, this charming coming-of-age drama presents a side of the nation not often portrayed on celluloid: the adventures of the upper class. Immerse yourself in the hipster conclaves of Cubao X, Ronac Art Center, and The Collective and experience Manila’s exciting youth culture through the story of a mute filmmaker.
6. That Thing Called Tadhana (2014)
One of the biggest blockbusters in ticket sales history, this one here’s a simple story about the fated encounter of two strangers in an airport. But the real gift to be taken home here (aside from the sharply hewn dialogue) is the setting: the northern territories of Baguio and Mountain Province. Follow the two leads as they banter with rapier wit in quaint coffee houses, kitschy massage parlors, and fog-bound mountaintops.
5. The Bourne Legacy (2012)
If exotic locations are now obligatory tropes in the spy thriller, then it looks like Manila lucked out on this one. The Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz thriller takes viewers through the cramped streets of Tondo and the muddy banks of Navotas. Be sure not to miss out on that white-knuckle chase scene through EDSA.
4. Crying Ladies (2003)
A quirky comedy set in the historical Binondo district, this Sharon Cuneta starrer shows in spades the very Filipino trait of not taking things too seriously. The film follows the misadventures of three funeral criers (yes, such a job exists) as they eke out a living for their families in the heart of Chinatown. Heartwarming like a bag of hopia!
3. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Stories surrounding this Francis Ford Coppola classic are the stuff of legend by now. Filmed in three years in the Philippines, where the jungle grounds of Quezon, Baler, and Laguna proxy for Saigon, this war epic is testament to the formidable partnerships of American and Filipino filmmakers during the Golden Age of the ‘70s. Breathtaking like a cloud of napalm fire.
2. On The Job (2013)
See how the other half lives in this internationally acclaimed crime thriller that’s rumored to have a Hollywood remake. A balls-to-the-wall performance from Joel Torre’s hitman-in-hiding shows the seedy underbelly of Philippine politics. See the squalor and the splendor as you follow two men from the gulags in their everyday struggle to survive in the dog-eating world of professional crime.
1. José Rizal (1998)
A biopic about our very own Renaissance Man and national hero, this period drama boasts the best production values and dynamite performances from the likes of Cesar Montano and Jaime Fabregas. With much spectacle, the viewer is taken through the birth of the Philippine nation—through the sylvan pastures of Calamba to the torch-lit streets of Intramuros. Simply put, this is the best that the country can offer.