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Friday, December 30, 2011

Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story

For the past 10 years, the Metro Manila Film Festival has provided with several repeating genres that would surely make money. It is sad to say that most of the entries in the festival are recycled every year, from the Ina series, to Panday, to Enteng, Agimat and Shake Rattle and Roll series - Mano Po at least rested this year. It is just frustrating to know that we are out of good ideas when there are actually good ones just waiting to be discovered. Asiong Salonga is not even fresh, it is more of a re-envision of the classic Asiong Salonga movies back in 1961 when Joseph Estrada once had the role. However, it is also timely to bring back the series after it has been long-forgotten in this fantasy-driven festival.

Nicasio "Asiong" Salonga is a notorious gang leader back in the late 40s to 50s in Tondo, Manila. Having been feared by most of the people there, he also have gang rivals and one of the most noted nemesis is Totoy Golem. The movie Manila Kingpin, depicts the life of Asiong and his struggle to power to become the most feared Gang leader of Tondo up to his murder in October of 1951. 

The film is presented in black and white, which is a first in Philippine Cinema. I would like to coin the word "presented" since I believe that this movie is shot entirely in full color and was digitally altered to black and white which is totally different on how Schindler's List was shot. This alteration was very obvious on some scenes where instead of having a total black and white frame, one can see that it sometimes shift in Sepia tone. 

Asiong is like a breather from the usual fantasy, comedy and horror movies that are shown during MMFF. It is the first time that I was drawn in an action movie in a festival. The last entries of the action genre seemed to lack the ability to convince me to watch their flicks (Lapu-lapu, etc.). What made me decide to watch this 2 weeks ago is the promise of a good movie from its trailer. This, ladies and gents, is a perfect example of good advertising. 

Manila Kingpin as a film is a classic. Director Tikoy Aguiluz provided a new door for the fading Action genre of Philippine Cinema with this film. It has reignited a dying flame of action heroes we once had. We have Joseph Estrada, FPJ, Rudy Fernandez among others who are considered to be our heroes and not the flashy ones. This is an indication that Filipino Action movies are not yet dead. With the right people working on a project, they can come up with a great picture and that is what Manila Kingpin is all about. I am impressed primarily with the cinematography. I particularly love the Karetela Scene. The movie is treated with much attention with every frame. It is surprising enough that with  good cinematography, it has also provided a very cohesive story that would not drag their viewers. 

It also fresh to see Jeorge Estregan Jr. to play the character of Asiong Salonga. As for my childhood memories of Estregan, I always see him as the nymphomaniac/psycho/villain in most of FPJ's movies and with Manila Kingpin, I saw a different actor. Carla Abellana and Phillip Salvador also gave solid performances as Asiong's wife and older brother. Baron Geisler provides a natural performance having been acting the same role for most of his movies or television appearances. Ping Medina, on the other hand, could have more frame time if I were to ask. John Regala's performance as Asiong's rival Totoy Golem stole the show as he deliver a consistent sinister gang rival. With a cast of veteran actors, the movie could never go wrong. 

But what do we really want during the MMFF? Quality movies. We need a good story. We need an effective story telling whether it is Comedy, Action, Fantasy or Drama. Manila Kingpin has quality. It may not be as good as Himala or Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang but it sure has achieved a goal to be called as a classic Filipino movie. 




  1. I heard from a friend na hindi daw consistent ang wardrobe for some characters (maybe) sa asiong. me mga modern daw. is that true? haven't seen it yet. i know it's a good movie.

  2. i noticed that too, mostly yung kay Baron na wardrobe. sometimes i'm eyeing Jeorge Estregan's shoes, parang converse na may pagka modern ang dating... hmmmm.. :D

  3. so it really is true. lol.