MMFF 2016 REVIEW: Nora Aunor saves shortcomings of Kabisera

by Mari-An Santos
Dec 25, 2016

“Kabisera” refers to the head of the dining table that is commonly the seat of the head of the family.

In this 2016 Metro Manila Film Fest entry, he is Tonying de Dios (Ricky Davao) who is married to Mercy (Nora Aunor).

The story of Kabisera unfolds over the course of a year, beginning with the customary Filipino celebration to usher in a new year: fireworks and food.

Tonying is a local official whose real activities are shrouded in doubt even from his wife and as violent attempts are made on his life, she confronts him but is reassured that nothing is amiss. That people who do good work have dangerous people as enemies.

The storytelling is slow, showing slices of normal Filipino family life, including the ubiquitous, typical conversations at the dining table over school and relationships.

However, the script by Real Florido suffers from that pothole of “telling, not showing.”

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The most striking scene in the movie comes in the middle, when Nora moves through the house, with only the sound of the rain serving as background, the camera is trained on her face as it reflects the different nuances of what is going on in her mind, until her worse fears are confirmed, and she starts to cry for her slain husband. This signals the more interesting part of the story.

From here, she is spurred by a strong desire to unearth the truth about her husband’s death--but more blows hit the family: her husband’s reputation comes under fire and her son becomes a fugitive. At this point, it seems the De Dios family is in the depths of despair and the most unfortunate of all.

Help comes by way of characters played by more seasoned veterans Ces Quesada and Victor Neri (as allies from the government), Menggie Cobarrubias (her brother in law), and Perla Bautista (her aunt).

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Karl Medina’s short turn as a tortured soul leaves a mark because of its intensity and believability. JC de Vera shows promise beyond looking cute for the camera, as he goes on the run as Andy, Tonying’s and Mercy’s son who is wrongfully accused.

The feisty Mercy spews out line after line reminiscent (in tone and motivation) of Nora’s classic: “My brother is not a pig!” from Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo. There is no surprise as to her more than convincing portrayal.

However, the musical score more often gets in the way rather than enhances scenes. The storytelling stumbles in some parts, and is only saved by the everyman portrayal of the Superstar. The year is rounded off by a Noche Buena feast with the mother of the family taking over the place at the head of the table.

Directed by Arturo “Boy” San Agustin and Real Florido, Kabisera reflects Filipino familial and societal realities and, based on a true story, is very relevant to our times.

Perhaps the best lesson is our resiliency and ability to wake up and fight again another day.

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(To stay updated about the latest news about the MMFF, visit

Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.

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