At first, it is very natural to draw a connection between Sakaling Hindi Makarating and that wildly popular femme road movie Eat, Pray, Love.
After all, both women protagonists embark on travel beyond all things comfortable to them after their respective relationships come to a bitter end.
What is it about traveling that is anathema to a broken heart?
Perhaps it is the freedom of being alone, distinctly opposite from being one-half of an “us.” Even the most independent of women changes when part of a unit.
When a woman travels alone to unfamiliar landscapes, it is an acceptance of change and a first step to inevitable recovery.
Alessandra de Rossi plays Cielo, a young woman who emerges scarred and bruised, in a manner of speaking, from a long and committed relationship with Mark.
She moves into a small apartment and begins to grieve the end of her 11-year relationship.
However, the appearance of Paul (played by TV comedian Pepe Herrera) and handpainted, handwritten postcards on her doorstep shatter the silence and solitude that she seeks.
Addressed to a “C” and signed only with “M,” the picturesque scenes are accompanied by short, mysterious dedications that pique Cielo’s interest, as they arrive in succession at her address.
So much so that she decides to pool her savings and travel the Philippines in an attempt to find the mysterious “M.”
Now here is where the movie could go to MTV-style montages of scenic locations.
Instead, the film documents Cielo’s visit to colorful sights Zamboanga, Siquijor, Marinduque, Pagudpud, and Batanes, and her interaction with people there. This does not, thankfully, become a travelogue of tourist attractions and traps at this point.
Along the way, Cielo meets handsome stranger Manuel (JC Santos), and it seems like she may be getting over her heartbreak after all.
She also meets Sol (played by Therese Malvar) and her mother (played by Lesley Lina) in a small Batanes inn.
Both Therese and Lesley play well off each other, and they, along with Cielo, are incandescent in their scenes together. Therese is a firecracker of a girl, very natural in her portrayal of a wide range of emotions.
Sakaling Hindi Makarating shines with performances from its highly talented cast.
Alessandra, who always breathes authenticity to her role, keeps Cielo grounded and vulnerable.
Pepe, who is more popular for his comedic timing, is relatable as a guy pining after a girl who is unavailable.
JC plays boy-next-door well, but also shows deeper emotions of anguish and desperation.
The script displays a balance of a soft-beating heart, but raises a few questions. In a sense, it becomes dated due to the declining popularity of using postal services in this digital age. How Cielo comes to the decision that she can actually find the person who wrote and sent the postcards by going to the places painted on them seems irrational.
But the denouement is satisfying and the entire film feels more than a romantic comedy.
The film’s cinematography is amazing in capturing the colors and nuances, especially of wide-angle landscapes and seascapes of provincial Philippines.
Ice Idanan, who is also the film’s director, shows a temperance in trying to replicate the natural beauty while still relating it to the film’s story.
The film’s song, sung by Alessandra, is light but haunting. It is catchy enough in melody to have audiences humming after the screening.
It is also a gentle soundtrack that captures the hope after heartbreak that the film wishes to communicate.
Time will tell if this will do for director Ice Idanan what That Thing Called Tadhana did for Antoinette Jadaone.
Sakaling Hindi Makarating, which is graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board, opens in cinemas on February 1, 2017.
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.