This article contains spoilers. I originally wrote this for the Silip Sine section in the UPLB Perspective Tomo 44, Issue 1. Check it out here.
Films in the mainstream world are one of the epitomes of popular culture. Taking the extra effort to step into analyzing the world of mainstream may show us a tad more sense and values that these films portray; it is a looking-glass on who the Filipino persona is. Most of the time, such obra are taken for granted. And sometimes, we just have to take off our elitist goggles for once and appreciate the things unappreciated by the intellectual.
“Walang imposible,” the film asserted. To its extent, LYSB reiterated our day-to-day millennial fantasies. More than its surface idea of the road trip adjoined a love story, LYSB is more than what its poster and trailer says about itself. It is, in a nutshell, a gem in the mainstream battlefield which had long consisted of profuse affair plots and the retelling of the privileges of the petty bourgeois man.
The film, Love You to the Stars and Back, is a local romantic-comedy film which tells the story of Mika (portrayed by Julia Baretto) and Caloy (Joshua Garcia). The movie peered into the life of Mika as the runaway girl from home who sought to reach the peak of Mount Milagros where, she had earnestly believed, the aliens will take her away from Earth.
On another hand, Caloy, the Batangueño locale who was on his way to make amends and rekindle a relationship with his estranged father, happened to cross paths with the driving runaway who let him carpool along the province. Caloy also casually told Mika that he had leukemia thus he did not have much time to live long.
The metaphor of Mount Milagros
Preceding the movie’s timeline was the death of Mika’s mother whom she loved dearly. Evidently, she cannot accept the early death of her mother and instead pursued the peak of Mount Milagros which her mother told her that the aliens will take her away. Without a plan after the aliens’ hostage, Mika firmly held on to the idea of being with her mom after the aliens’ capture.
As the story progressed with tragedies clouded by his casual jokes, Caloy decided to also depart to the mountain after the tragedy of the rejection of his father. He rode along again with Mika, and said that he too, was prepared to go to the peak of the mountain.
Mount Milagros served as the end-all to Mika’s problems. While on the road, she learned the value of time and the thought of being adrift from home as the healing solutions: forgiveness. She learned to forgive her stepmother and father even before reaching the peak. And to note, it was not a development of Mika because of the company of the affectionate Caloy, it was her self-actualization. The film showed that an individual is as strong as herself such as Mika, who need not depend upon another person’s intimacy to develop, heal, and move on. It was neither time nor romance, she simply needed to get away and think things through, despite the rashness.
Mount Milagros is a metaphor to suicide. An assisted one at that – which they insistently believed the aliens as a euphemistic recipe to say that Mika, and Caloy, wanted to end it all – to end their lives.
As farfetched as it may sound, I asked myself if Mount Milagros really was the metaphor for suicide. After much debate, I realized that the characters were millennials, and the generation has been more than capable of feeling it all. And most especially, having an abundance of empathy.
The fruition of Mika
Mika was always the hopeful character. She decided on the night before their hike to the peak, that maybe they could do it tomorrow instead – she was not ready at all to reach the peak of Mount Milagros.
Caloy was passive, hopeless, and reckless; he thought that he had nothing to lose as himself, and only thought for the welfare of his family. Mika, being the once-reckless millennial, came into being after watching Caloy suffer the consequences of leukemia. At the brink of Caloy’s blood-spitting and vomiting on the last morning of their lives (aka the trip to the peak), she decided to call Caloy’s family while the young man heavily insisted to just let him die instead of his family worrying about him and selling all that they had, just to get him a bone marrow transplant in Manila; a 50 percent chance to survive and live a normal life.
Caloy had decided otherwise; he was not ready to take a risk for his family’s loss. But Mika did what she had thought she ought to.
Mika and Caloy are not lovers; they are empathic human beings capable of such a connected sensations. I could understand how much Mika knew the feeling of loss even at the moment of the trip; Caloy had cancer, and she knew the risk of getting involved with someone she knew she will lose too in the end just like her mother. She thought well that she should not invest too much on her newfound time bomb. Mika had mommy issues and Caloy had daddy issues. They felt the pain deeply cut.
As much as both have suffered because of family, they were never the indifferent kind. They were the millennials who taught us, their fellow millennials, that turning back is an option, and sometimes we just have to feel what another feels to think things through.
Adulting: a petty b. issue
Mika was devastated; for the actions she took may have saved a life, but adulting was such a bigger transition, and a painful one at that. Such actions that Mika had to, even at the cost of another millennial’s disproval, is an adulting issue. How capable and how rash one can be at the brink of extreme emotions, could we have easily decided, like Caloy, to just let ourselves be taken by aliens, an understatement to suicide? We often would ask ourselves, how this generation of the youth has come to be so bold; living their life to the fullest and YOLO-ing all day and night, unminding of the limitations our forefathers had to in their generation.
If democracy and freedom in this timeline gave us an option to be such a kind of millennial, then we must remember that our privileges should always be in check. One must remember that more than roadtrips, there are fellow millennials, if we call the age group as such, who do not experience such freedom and carelessness that cash could muster to afford.
These millenials cannot be found on traveling trips, mountain hiking, eloping episodes, or runaway cars. These millennials are in the heavily urbanized slums, fighting for their right to their shelter, instead of one who finds the time to look for a refuge away from her two-floor built house. These millennials are the sons and daughters of the farmers; who most likely in their age, did not pursue a college degree but pursued the call of the land where they were tied to and to their generations to come. These millennials are not shredding money from their parents; because they work that hard-earned money themselves for their parents in routinely, underpaid factories where they are treated as slaves twelve hours a day.
And if that was an underlying idea of a movie, a good laugh and entertainment would not hurt, but as Mika and Caloy with an abundance of empathy a generation they had, many hope that these empathy reach those who cannot afford to even watch a film. Come a day when millenials do not mean anymore the petty bourgeois to the elite young adult who had to lose oneself out of the many privileges they already had.