The everyday routine of a Filipino family is founded on endurance and survival: surviving the traffic during rush hours, and surviving to make good on their respective jobs; and enduring the heat, the exhaustion, and the every struggle to make ends meet. That is of course unless you are privileged enough to pay someone to do those tasks for you. Yet, even so, life in the Philippines is a game of survival.
In Eduardo Roy Jr.’s Pamilya Ordinaryo, we see people at the very bottom of the food chain, doing what they can to survive. Jane and Aries Ordinaryo (Ronwaldo Martin and Hasmine Kilip) are a teenage couple who have recently given birth to their firstborn, Baby Arjan. They do everything from shoplifting and stealing just to feed the family ‘till fate does its way of getting back when Ertha (Moira Lang), a wolf in sheep’s clothing, takes and kidnaps their son.
Roy succeeds in providing us a gritty and realistic look on sights which we almost actively choose to ignore every time we see them. We have become desensitized to them. Many of the films from our current local indie scene tend to be sprightly, but Pamilya Ordinaryo is downright bleak. It throws mud right at your face, demanding your attention, and giving you no reason not to look without feeling dirty. The “game of survival” for Jane and Aries is no easy task, because it feels like the whole world is their enemy, and that it is up to the audience whether we’re going to root for them or not. The film gives the audience plenty of room to think by showing different scenarios, but in the end, the entirety of the film makes us all want to take a shower after the credits roll.
The highlight of Roy’s direction is building tension through the lens of CCTV cameras. By placing the camera on bird’s-eye view, Roy is giving us a clue that a crime is bound to happen. And by the time it occurs, all you can do is look and move on. Just like people and their tendency to observe, rant and react, without doing proper actions. In the end, we are not aware that exposure without action leads to exploitation, and that aside from being voyeurs, some of us are merely exploiting rather than helping them.
Casting Martin and Kilip as the leads is a stroke of genius, as they are implicitly believable as the modern-day Bonnie & Clyde of the third-world streets. Kilip sinks her teeth into Jane’s inner pathos and strength, making her character steadfast but heartbreaking. Martin, on the other hand, is pitch-perfect from his ragged looks down to his distinctive batang-kalye accent.
Pamilya Ordinaryo may seem a clichéd work by taking the form of “poverty porn” (a term that has become so damaging and elitist) , but the film is less this and more a harsh reminder that poverty still exists in this country and that no matter how many times we choose to ignore it, it will come back and slap us right in the face. Some of us just need to go down from our ivory towers and take a look at what’s really happening below our indulgent, little lives.