Director Ralson Jover has always had a thing for dirt and grit, a veritable minefield of drama and struggle of the human spirit. We’ve seen it before in his previous works and now again in Bomba (The Bomb), a berserker drama set in a Metro Manila dumpsite.
The film was one of the big winners in the recently-concluded 2018 Sinag Maynila Film Festival and is currently being screened overseas.
Life in the slums is especially hard for Pipo (Allen Dizon), a near-middle aged man who is both deaf and uneducated. He has recently been fired from his job at a funeral parlor after going AWOL and is now doing odd jobs. On top of the daily stench and grime, the body count of suspected drug users and pushers in his neighborhood rises every day.
But he is just as deaf to the everyday chaos so long as in the end, he spends a quiet night at home with his 16-year-old lover Cyril (Angellie Nicholle Sanoy) who also poses as his daughter.
Until one day, word goes around that Cyril’s real father is looking for her, threatening their illicit union. The police are also becoming more aggressive with the nightly gunshots heard closer to home very night.
Pipo is also one blunder away from getting fired from his job. It’s only a matter of time before the thin line between stoicism and insanity is crossed.
Set against the backdrop of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, Bomba has a relatively simple plot that it serves more like a character study rather than a plot-driven film.
The mountain of filth on which the story unfolds serves merely as a backdrop for the real putrefaction that occurs in the lives of the characters. A funeral business owner finding a bonanza from the drug war, a junkie taking advantage of imprisonment to have free housing.
The relationship of Pipo and Cyril itself is both putrid and pristine, unsullied by the daily stresses of life but is tainted by a dark past.
Allen delivers a painfully authentic performance of a man willing to be broken over and over again so long as he gets to keep what is important to him.
Angellie mastered a role that is far advance for her age. A woman-child scarred beyond measure that she is willing to wipe out her own identity and withdraw into the shadows with an older lover.
Bomba progresses at a glacial pace in an effort perhaps to mimic Pipo’s uneventful and routinary existence. His joys, after all are rooted in silence and near-invisibility.
But for a relatively simple plot with not too many surprises, the pacing may not be at all justified especially if the ending is already more or less determined.
The climax itself was given such a long buildup you do not really expect it to end so abruptly as to have no resolution or meaning other than being a moment of losing it.
Other than being a tale of an ill-fated union of two extremely unfortunate people, Bomba is a social commentary on the brutal drug war that continues to rage in the country. It juxtaposes what is socially considered to be an immoral relationship between Pipo and Cyril with the drug-related killings, messing with your moral compass in the process.
If the road to perdition is indeed paved with good intentions, one may sympathize with the love Pipo and Cyril is fighting for as well as the cold-blooded killings of not-so-innocent derelicts in the name of creating a more peaceful society.
At the same time, we are left to think: is anything so broken that it isn't even worth saving or it is better to just light the end of the wick and watch everything burn?
The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board initially gave Bomba an X rating but it was rated R-13 by the MTRCB upon second review (without cuts).
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.