Last year, Fatrick Tabada wrote "Patay Na Si Jesus," a hilarious movie about a woman who goes on a road trip with her children to visit the wake of her long-estranged husband. This year, Tabada wrote and co-directed (with Rae Red of "Birdshot") yet another road-trip movie, "Si Chedeng at si Apple," about a woman who journeys with her best friend to find an old love she left behind many years ago to get married to someone else.
Mercedes "Chedeng" Suarez is a 66-year old retired school principal and mother of three adult boys. She now spends her days taking care of her invalid husband, Francisco. When her husband passes away one morning, she surprises her whole family during his cremation by announcing that she is a lesbian.
Chedeng's best friend is Apolinaria "Apple" Macaraeg. She is a 63-year old woman who has been living in with a violently abusive man named Doriteo Gomez. One day, after being severely beaten up and burned, Apple kills him. Chedeng goes to help Apple clean up the mess and dispose of the body (except for two vital parts).
The two women then boards a ship bound to Cebu, each for their own reasons. Apple needs to get away from the major crime she just committed. Chedeng needes to go search for and reconnect with a certain Lydia Cantilla, an old girlfriend who has "talented fingers." Neither us going to be an easy task for the two old ladies.
Comparisons of "Chedeng at Apple" with "Patay Na Si Hesus" are inevitable because its publicity reminded us that both were written by the same writer. Despite the dark comedy approach employed in both films, the farce of "Patay" felt more carefree and relaxed, more good-natured. In "Chedeng," the comedy involved getting away with murder. Hence, there are deeper shades of dark here, for which humor may come across as forced or contrived. But thanks to the earnest performances of the lead cast, the whole project still comes across as generally perky and delightful.
Chedeng and Apple are both such offbeat roles for the two veteran leads actresses Gloria Diaz and Elizabeth Oropesa, respectively. I don't think I remember the always refined and elegant Ms. Diaz tackle such a role that would make her say such outrageous crass lines, such as that one about a certain type of hair on her body. La Oropesa got to do a lot of wacky and disgusting physical comedy scenes. The comic timing of these two ladies were as on point as their undoubted dramatic prowess was in their serous scenes.
Venerable stage actors Dido de la Paz (as Francisco) and Teroy Guzman (as Dori) were on screen for a very short time as the soon-dead husbands. Chedeng's three sons were played Ian Lomongo (as the lawyer Rannie), Mike Liwag (as the problematic Romy) and Anthony Falcon (as the gay Rico), but we knew little about their relationship with their mother. Playing a more prominent featured role was Jay Gonzaga, as Adam, a journalist the two ladies met in Cebu. The funny purpose of Tabada for calling this character Adam will be quite evident before he exits the scene.
Sheenly Gener also only had a few scenes as Monique, the inhaler-sniffing, Louis Vuitton-loving daughter of Dori, but these were just so hilariously memorable because of her jaded line delivery and that bored deadpan expression she had on her face. That scene when she disgustedly pushed the plastic bag with a severed body appendage the policeman was holding near her face was so funny. Mae Paner also had a marked episode as a butch lesbian who called on our two ladies after Chedeng went on a public service radio show to announce that she was looking for Lydia.
There are certain story elements which were explained unsatisfactorily (like why Apple had to bring the head along, why the maid was not interrogated) or too conveniently easy (like how the head in the bag got through port security, how Chedeng hatched the plan to spring Apple out of captivity). The ending seemed rushed and uncertain in execution as well. But anyhow, the winning goodwill of Diaz and Oropesa as the senior-citizen Filipino version of "Thelma and Louise" carried the film through in a most entertaining fashion. 7/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."