In Vincent Sandoval's Aparisyon, cloistered nuns must face their personal demons after one of them gets hit by a tragedy. Set against the backdrop of former President Ferdinand Marcos's brutal martial law, this film is one of the strongest in Cinemalaya 2012's lineup.
Aparisyon tells the story of four nuns living in a closed monastery in the mountains of Rizal. Sister Lourdes (Jodi Sta. Maria) is the newest member of the group, and she befriends Sister Remy (Mylene Dizon), the exte, or the extern nun assigned to go out of the monastery once in a while to sell medicinal herbs, or to get groceries.
When Remy learns that her brother gets abducted by Marcos's forces, she gets distraught. She asks her superiors Sister Ruth (Fides Cuyugan-Asensio) and Sister Vera (Racquel Villavicencio) if she can exit the monastery to find her brother, but her request is turned down. They tell her that her duty as a nun is to pray, so this is what she should be doing.
Not satisfied, Remy uses her time outside the monastery to communicate with other individuals who also have missing family members. She also brings Lourdes along, who sympathizes with her.
Eventually, Remy and Lourdes spend more and more time away from the monastery. Then one dark night, the two are on their way home when they get assaulted by three thugs. Remy runs away, leaving Lourdes in the hands of her abusers.
This incident makes Remy question her motives. Is her missing brother more important than her duties as a nun? Is caring for a family member a selfish act that sacrificed her duty to her fellow nun?
Also, why do Ruth and Vera feel guilty for what happened to Lourdes? Is it mere responsibility as superiors, or is there something more?
These tough questions are what make Aparisyon engaging. Watching the movie makes you question your own beliefs and traditions.
The foreboding sense of dread also makes the movie effective. This is achieved through the excellent set design and cinematography, so that even shadows hold meaning.
Sound design is also admirable. The use of silence props up the movie's themes. Loud sounds also help achieve the movie's jump-out-of-your-seat moments.
The solid performance of the ensemble cast is also remarkable. Come awards night, all four actresses--Jodi Sta. Maria, Mylene Dizon, Raquel Villavicencio, Rustica Carpio, and Fides Cuyugan-Asencio--have a strong chance of bagging the best actress award.
All-in-all, Aparisyon is the must-see movie in this year's Cinemalaya. It is not only a notable drama and thriller, but a brilliant morality play where the answers are not black-and-white.
Aparisyon is one of the 10 entries competing in the New Breed category of the 8th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, which is ongoing until July 29, 2012.