By now, thousands of people may already have seen 2 Cool 2 Be Forgotten, a gay coming of age story set in the aftermath of Mt. Pinatubo’s explosion in the 90s. The film was lauded by critics and audiences alike that it nabbed the Best Film Award in the 2016 CinemaOne Originals. It for one hit close to home for me — a resonance I think I and many more shared. Let me tell you just why:

I have spent 16 of the past 24 years of my life in a third class, agricultural municipality in Tarlac. It was a small, secured, and paltry existence. Similar to the film’s Felix (Khalil Ramos), I felt that something was amiss; that there could be more to the life I was living.

One event changed everything. When I was in high school, I developed a crush on this amboy from Angeles City, Pampanga. I met him in a week-long leadership conference in Baguio City. We were grouped together in one of the activities.

“Jonathan” had a cute, dimpled smile, and a toned body from playing football in his exclusive school. He had blue eyes—the most incredible blue eyes I’ve ever seen.

I still remember how those eyes would moist whenever we talked about family. Similar to the movie, Jonathan’s father was an American serviceman and his mother was a local. His father was forced to leave his family after Mt. Pinatubo’s explosion. At 15, he was still holding on to his father’s promise that he will bring them all to the US.

At night, we would stroll together along the narrow pathways of Teacher’s Camp. On and on we talked, not minding the cold or the stories of ghostly apparitions. Life, frustrations, dreams, love—nothing was spared in our conversations.

It was a struggle. Both of us have yet to fully come to terms with our sexuality. In my town, SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression) was unheard of and homosexuality was an aberration. Plus, he was a cute demigod with good pedigree while I was just a barrio nerd from a public national high school.

I felt inadequate.

We resolved to maintain contact after that week-long company. We didn’t. Deep down, we knew that whatever it was we had must stay in the creaky villas of Teachers Village.

2 Cool 2 Be 4Gotten perfectly captured my experiences as a young teenager. Like Felix and Magnus (Ethan Salvador), my short-lived liaison with Jonathan, contributed to my coming of age narrative.

Suddenly, I felt the endless possibilities. I realized that I can be whatever I want to be and be with whoever I want to be with. Armed with this knowledge, I left my small town to study in UPLB. There, I let go of my inhibitions in order to meet loads of interesting people. I came out of my closet, fell in love, and had my heart broken several times. I met assholes like Maxim (Jameson Blake). And like Felix and Magnus, I had instances of painful, unrequited love.

2 Cool 2 Be 4Gotten is a great coming of age story. It was beautifully directed, the script was crisp, and the acting was great, considering that the actors are all new in the industry.

MTRCB’s R-18 rating of the film is unfair and inconsiderate. I believe that the film must be seen by a wider audience, particularly by teenagers struggling with their sexuality.