Text and Photos by Euden Valdez
DIRECTED by veteran music video director Treb Monteras 2nd, scored by South Border frontman Jay Durias, and topbilled by today’s most in-demand hip-hop artist Abra.
One would easily think that “Respeto” is film about music, particularly the fliptop scene and how the underdog rapper makes his way to the top of the underground world—as is said in its synopsis. But watching it proved otherwise because all those were secondary to the film’s bigger picture, deeper message and powerful portrayals.
This was what Monteras succeeded doing in his first-ever movie, no less than a full-length entry at the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 2017. It held its gala screening on August 6 at the main theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), home of Cinemalaya.
In “Respeto,” Hendrix (Abra) is an aspiring rapper from Pandacan, Manila but is bogged down by a series of unfortunate events around him. He is a product of a shantytown on the verge of demolition, an orphan stuck in a drug-dealing home, and a boy just always finds himself in trouble.
He seeks to find salvation, or it can simply be recognition, from the underground hip-hop world. But even there, he is still impeded by Breezy G (Loonie), considered the best rapper in the hood.
But he finds hope in Doc (Dido de la Paz), a retired doctor who owns a dusty and crumbling bookshop. Doc is also a poet who used to pen verses about love and country. They form a love and hate relationship as the young man tries to learn a thing or two from a grumpy old man with serious Balagtasan skills.
In one scene, Hendrix and Doc confront one another, throwing arguments that sounded like verses and felt like daggers.
Hendrix also has two of the most loyal friends who are always rooting for him, always following him, almost revering him. They are portrayed by Chai Fonacier and Sylvester who added depth to the films through their characters.
Yet as the film unfolds, so do tensions and truths and at the center of it all is Hendrix. Slowly, he sheds all his arrogance until nothing is left but vulnerability. For his major acting debut, Abra did a pretty awesome job.
But what’s really striking about the film is how it managed to sew the past’s Martial Law era and the present’s war on drugs into the lives of Doc and Hendrix who are witnesses to the two tumultuous times.
And at the end, history repeats itself because it really does. Not convinced? Better see “Respeto.”