Cinemalaya Review: ‘Batsoy’

A film about a dish and more

By Dexter R. Matilla

Moviegoers, it seems, have been spoiled with big budget films and complicated stories the past few years that filmmakers almost always want to one-up each other in creating something in that mold.

But for director Ronald Espinosa Batallones, that didn’t need to be the case. After seven previous attempts, the former medical laboratory scientist makes his Cinemalaya debut with the film “Batsoy.”

Batallones was inspired in 2011 when he went home to the Philippines for a vacation and saw the film “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank,” which to this day is one of his favorites. He saw photos of the participating Cinemalaya directors and told himself that one day, his image will be included on the display.

It took his eighth attempt, obstacles and naysayers included, to finally fulfill that promise. Batallones said that perhaps “Batsoy” made the cut because it was a story that was personal and authentic, therefore easy for him to tell. 

The narrative is pretty straightforward with a touch of the mystical, as viewers will discover when two siblings Toto and Nonoy go about their day selling firewood. The younger Nonoy has a craving for batsoy and as the film is set in the 1980s, it was a fairly new dish and considered a delicacy for people in the town of San Dionisio.

Batallones and his team, all 16 of them including the cast and crew, successfully remade the vibe of that era, even the currency, komiks, posters, and other products were given much importance. The language is of course in Ilonggo to add to the authenticity. 

The film basically endears us to the child within all of us, who at one time or another may have experienced the same type of craving and would do what’s needed to satiate it. Or, as in this case, what a kuya would do for his younger brother. 

It also captures the simplicity of that period, way before technology took over, when children spent their time outside, using only their imagination to pass the time. Most of the primary cast acted for the first time but delivered what was required of them with as much sincerity as they could to the story Batallones wanted to tell.

Despite being only 66 minutes long, “Batsoy,” much like the food, gives more than enough to entertain, enlighten, and endear viewers once more to something so simple yet surely satisfying.

Batsoy” stars Sean Ethan Sotto, Markko Cambas, Karen Laurrie Mendoza, Nathan J. Sotto, Jonalie Asdolo, and Annalyn Biona Hipolito.