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Sinag Maynila review: Audiences love ‘Akin ang Korona’ for good reason

Nar Cabico in ‘Akin ang Korona.’ Photo from the website of Sinag Maynila

Since I had seen all five of the feature film in competition for this year’s Sinag Maynila 2019, my personal bet for Best Picture is this little unassuming film about what happens behind-the-scenes in a reality TV show. It lost to “Pailalim,” however it did win as Audience Choice, and it was no surprise. “Akin ang Korona” was the only comedy in a sea of very serious dramas, and it dealt with something the ordinary moviegoer can relate with — television.

Mariano Castillo Jr. or “Nonong” (Nar Cabico) is a young gay guy from Catanauan, Quezon who worked in a facility making dried fish. Ten years ago, his father abandoned their family and totally disappeared. His mother suddenly died soon afterwards, leaving Nonong alone to raise himself and his much-younger sister Letlet. He is a cheerful person, and enjoys joining gay pageants with his best friend Pia (Philip Palmos).

Nonong’s life was selected to be featured by the reality TV show “Akin ang Korona” hosted by cool, calm and elegant Ms. Hope (Angel Aquino). Segment producer Marky (Aaron Rivera), researcher Dona Mae (Kiray Celis) and cameraman MJ (Kirst Viray) visited Nonong in Catanauan to shoot his story, promising him not only a talent fee for his cooperation, but also with the hope of locating his long-lost father. 

These reality TV shows are all the rage nowadays, and in each one of them, we see several taped segments featuring the case study or the contestant in his home town with his family and friends. Sometimes, we do get to thinking how they actually shoot these segments and make them overflow with emotion to connect effectively with the viewing public. Granted that this is a comedy film, I am sure “Akin ang Korona” has more than a sliver of truth to share about how they shoot these kinds of shows. 

Lead actor Nar Cabico is being introduced here as a movie actor. However I already knew him as a theater actor and singer as far back as 2012 in “Walang Sugat.” He was most memorable stealing all his scenes as the nasty villain Senor Blangko in “Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady” in 2015. As Nonong, Cabico was naturally wacky and carefree as his character. We also get to hear his beautiful singing voice. When things got dramatic, he can also inspire empathy.

It was very refreshing to see Cabico win the Best Actor award for his comedy (with drama) acting here, winning over heavier dramatic hitters like Joem Bascon (in “Pailalim”) or Oliver Aquino (in “Jino To Mari”) who arguably did more intense roles. 

The segment producer cum director Marky was convincingly played by Rivera, coming across as serious and no-nonsense to the point of being insensitive and ruthless. He will do anything to get the dramatic effect he wanted from a scene, even if it totally went against or actually changed the original thoughts, attitudes and the very personality of the subject matter. His character makes you wonder how much of this was based on reality.

Celis was realistic as the harassed researcher cum production assistant, who did all the legwork on all the whims of the director, like a slave with no mind of her own anymore. I am sure overworked PA’s will all identify with her. Handsome commercial model Viray first got known for being romantically linked with Celis a few years back. Here as cameraman, he did not do much except to look good brooding behind his camera.

Aquino hied back to her days as a magazine TV show host on “F!” (with Cher Calvin and Daphne Osena) in the early 2000s to play the host of “Akin ang Korona” Ms. Hope. Aquino’s Ms. Hope could match Korina Sanchez or Jessica Soho of the real world, she should revive her career in this type of TV. Ms. Hope was smiling, kind and personable as a rule, but when things do not go smoothly, her feathers do get ruffled, and how. 

Of the five entries in the Sinag Maynila this year, this is the best entry for me. It was eye-opening and thought-provoking as any other indie film, without losing that vital aspect of being entertaining to watch.

This review was originally published in the author’s blog, “Fred Said.”

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