REVIEW | ‘Siargao’ is literally a feature on the island

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A scene from 'Siargao.' Screengrabbed from the trailer.

As you watch a SkyJet plane land smoothly on the runway in Siargao Island, you feel that it’s the beginning of a travelogue. A tourism film. “It’s more fun in Siargao.” And you are right. Revel in the breathtaking advertising shots of the island’s translucent azure waters, groves and groves of palm trees, mangrove forests, white sand bars, and perfectly tanned beach bodies dancing, crying, vlogging, and, of course, surfing.

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Vlogger Laura (Erich Gonzales) goes on a solo trip to the surfing capital of the Philippines—Siargao. She immediately meets celebrity musician Diego, or Jig (Jericho Rosales) on the boutique airplane. Sparks soon fly between the two. And both internally broken, their guards slowly dissolve on the picturesque island and their secret drama unravels. Joining them in the drama is Abi (Jasmine Curtis-Smith), Jig’s ex.

“Siargao,” an entry to this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, is literally a feature on the island, using a weak love-triangle tale as backdrop. The movie is aptly titled, because the spotlight is on the island, not on the story. Directed by Paul Soriano (“Kid Kulafu,” “Thelma”) and written by Anj Pessumal, the movie is also peppered with copious amounts of cleavage and abs that it totally forgets to add emotions.

Sure, it’s a paradise island, an international surfing scene, and showing lots of skin is expected. But if the dialogue and the characters are as flimsy as their #OOTD, might as well watch “Biyahe ni Drew” featuring Siargao, for a more authentic local travel show.

The movie establishes too soon that Laura and Jig are in love with someone else, so there is no such thing as a “love triangle” here. We just wait for the predictable ending. And Rosales lacks chemistry with both women. His Siargaonan accent, though, is commendable.

“Siargao” tries very hard to create conflict and drama, but there really is none. It actually forces the conflict and drama by showing the characters’ eyes welling up with tears, or in more dramatic cases, making the tears roll down their cheeks. The “love triangle” is emphasized with shots of Curtis-Smith’s perpetually sad face (such a waste of talent), and Gonzales’ worried expression.

We are also shown vague daddy issues, a contrived waste management thing, and an inexplicable presence of a mute little boy placed next to Rosales’ older brother, Kuya Step (Leon Miguel). Uninspiring philosophical thoughts and platitudes are also inserted in odd, unnatural moments and, following the pattern, you see them coming in the next scenes.

Watch “Siargao” if you are a rabid fan of Erich or Echo, or a loyal advocate of the Erich-and-Enchong love team—or if you enjoy pretty and sexy visuals and nothing else. Otherwise, just Google photos and videos of Siargao. Or if you wish to see a surfing movie, watch Stacy Peralta’s 2004 riveting, passionate, and brilliant Sundance docu on the surfing culture: “Riding Giants.”

1.5 out of 5 stars

Opens Dec. 25, 2017 in Philippine cinemas, as part of the Metro Manila Film Festival.

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