Anyone who has ever lived in the Philippines for even a year knows that the Chinoys (Chinese-Filipinos) among us are a force like no other. They rule major industries. They celebrate Chinese New Year, and the government declares a holiday. And so we join them in their dragon and lion dance merry-making.
Regal Entertainment’s Mano Po 7: Chinoy shows us that although these Chinoys are rolling in wealth, they are who they are today because of sheer hard work. Wilson Wong (played by Richard Yap) learned the ropes of business as a child in his father’s company. He didn’t inherit wealth. He worked hard for it.
Wilson spends too much time making his successful real estate company grow, he neglects his family—made up of his wife (Jean Garcia) and three children (Enchong Dee, Janella Salvador, Jana Agoncillo). The result is a dysfunctional household whose hurts and pains become apparent, even to the Wong couple’s well-heeled colleagues.
It’s true. Money can’t buy happiness. Despite Wilson’s luxurious office in a high-rise building, Debbie’s thriving jewelry store and beautiful clothes, and his organized household staff, the successful businessman is unhappy.
The same is true with other members of his household.
Unlike most Filipinos families, the Wongs’ struggles are not material, but internal. But just like the typical Filipino family, this one impresses you with how it deals with its issues.
Richard appears suited to play the Chinoy patriarch: spare with his words, driven in providing for his family, and above all, crystal-clear about what he wants his children to be. His Chinoy features also comes in handy.
Could the Chinese’s typical reserved attitude be the reason why Richard’s face remains inscrutable, even at the height of conflict in the story?
No wonder, Enchong’s character gives his dad a lesson about expressing love while the person is still around to appreciate it.
Jean’s face is far more expressive. Her eyes offer a wellspring of emotions—sadness, joy,love, regret, etc. You can’t help but join her in her roller coaster journey.
So you realize all over again that although the father sets the rules, it’s the mother who keeps the family going.
Speaking of women, the ladies of Mano Po 7 show strength within and the power to hold their own against the forces that test their ability to beat the odds.
Janella Salvador as the troubled Carol Wong shows the pain of growing up in a dysfunctional family and dealing with wolves in sheep’s clothing. Her scenes with Marlo Mortel as Henry, her knight in shining armor, have to be developed some more, however. Their moments together were few, not enough to create any impact on the viewer. Yes, they have chemistry. But chemistry is not enough to leave a lasting impression on the moviegoer.
Jean and Jake Cuenca (as Marco, Debbie’s customer)—largely because of their mature roles and acting experience—show more depth and a greater knack for reacting to each other’s feelings. You feel their tension, and the words left unsaid as they stare at each other, shed tears, or turn toward and away from each other.
Enchong and Jessy Mendiola (as Jocelyn, his rehab mate) show promise as the next love team. Their intimate scenes show a chemistry that should be developed in more projects.
The film is as much a tribute to the family as it is a story of love, forgiveness and moving on. The characters are Chinoy, but the story is as Pinoy as can be. If it isn’t, why did my eyes turn misty at some of the touching scenes?
Not all of the scenes were that powerful, though. The motivation behind one of the characters’ tragic end was unclear (Did someone envy her? Was someone jealous of her?).
The film spans a couple of years in the characters’ lives. Yet, only Debbie’s (Jean) hair partly turns silver. Wilson does walk more slowly, but his face hasn’t changed. His hair remains as full, and as black as can be.
These shouldn’t keep the moviegoer from going to the cinemas, however. Mano Po 7’s lessons on love and family values are a fitting reminder of what Christmas is all about. It shows us how to deal with the family outcast in the annual Christmas reunion. It reminds us that wealth at the expense of family time is a sham.
It makes us go back to where it all began, to what we had, and continue to have, before the back-breaking work schedule, the scramble for wealth and power, took over.
Mano Po 7 makes us want to take our parents’ hands again, chat with our siblings, enjoy our children’s presence, while we still can.
It’s a telling reminder for us to treasure what we have, lest we lose it in our mad dash for wealth, fame, and glory.
Ed's Note: The 'PEP Review' section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial team.