Pan de Salawal, joie de vivre, and the Filipinos

A mysterious child with healing powers. A septuagenarian ravaged by a kidney disease contemplating ending his life. A community of people with various maladies and unreached dreams, living in a poverty-stricken section of the city.

These were my observations in the first few minutes of the movie Pan de Salawal, an official entry to Cinemalaya 2018 but one I only got to watch recently, prompting me to think that whoever called this movie inspiring must be out of his/her mind.

But as the movie progressed, yes, the charm worked! The plot presented simple city folks living near the Manila Railroad, in their day to day lives, wanting to spend time with family, earning a decent living, engaging with their neighbors, falling in love. What is obvious is that the characters, despite their illnesses and poverty are resisting against giving up and losing hope.

A scene from the movie Pan de Salawal, where Aguy and Sal share a smile while eating pan de sal

Salvador or Sal, the man with a kidney disease is undergoing dialysis. Bruno, who observed a tumor on his breast is convincing himself every day that it is nothing to worry about. Hidalgo, despite noticing that his hands has been constantly trembling recently still call people to come to his barbershop (although no one comes except for Sal whose ear he almost cuts). Pilar, a former beauty queen with a bad cough, never loses her queenly walk and posture, despite frequently reminiscing about her glorious days. Brando and Lala, exchanging loving glances for a year, even if they do not know each other yet fully well. These are the characters you will meet in the movie, and whom you will learn to empathize with and even love as the story progresses.

The use of the Visayan folk song Pobreng Alindahaw is apt for Aguy, the little, outspoken, cheerful, brave girl who can heal people by momentarily inflicting pain. The song choice also added to what made the film distinctly Filipino, aside from the setting (Manila railroad), the malasakit among neighbors, the close-knit neighborhood, the inuman for celebrating, the pakipot when you like someone, love for beauty pageants, and of course, the pan de sal–that staple bread among Pinoys.

In the movie, all characters who had maladies were cured by Aguy, except for Sal, who developed a friendship with the adorable Aguy. It was only after he regained his hope to live did he get well. It is a reminder for us all not to lose hope and to appreciate every moment of life, to feel a joie de vivre.

As to why the title is Pan de Salawal, I leave it to you. But for certain there is no bread like that in the Philippines. So watch the movie, be inspired and discover why the salawal (trousers in English or in general, a short lower garment worn at home) was chosen as the title of the movie.

Watch the movie and you will see a glimpse of a slice of the Filipino culture. Enjoy! ❤

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