Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa (The Last Hopes and Flavors) was the last film in this year’s Cinemalaya short films Set B. It was also the last film of main competition pieces that I watched. Let me just say that it was the perfect finale to cap off this year’s roster of stellar films from talented young filmmakers. I was in tears by the film’s ending.
Synopsis: Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa is a documentary that centers on Ilocano food and how it connects Ilocanos to their culture. Rather than focus on just the food itself, filmmakers Kevin Jay Ayson and Mark Moneda shone the spotlight on small business owners, operators of stalls and carinderias, whose creativity in cooking made them well-known among the locals.
The film really made an impact because it also depicted how the pandemic lockdowns affected the business owners. While the lockdowns and business closures were merely protocols on paper for most Filipinos, the documentary highlighted how it impacted the lives of these passionate Ilocanos whose lives revolved around discovering and sharing delicious food that is an innate part of their identity.
These generation of Ilocanos loved what they did, and they passed on the businesses through generations to sons and daughters who also continued the legacy. Their lives are greatly connected to food and flavor. They loved the food and they loved their customers not only for fueling their livelihood but because of the sense of family that each encounter inspires.
It really hits viewers in the gut, not only because the delicious food on display are mouth watering. The scenes from the food preparation, as well as the stories behind them makes the audience yearn for the days that they can travel back to Ilocos to experience the dishes for themselves. The documentary gives faces to the people behind the extraordinary food that provides comfort and joy like no other. In the same vein, it is heartbreaking to learn of their challenges during this pandemic, which is ill deserved for these people whose joy is cooking.
As the film depicts the darkness that the pandemic brought, it also shone a light on the beacon of hope that these small business owners received. They came in the form of the Ilocano youth who stepped up to help the elder generation save their businesses through social media. It was a heartwarming sense of bayanihan that made viewers proud to be Filipino.
It was a beautifully crafted piece of storytelling that illustrated the filmmakers’ pride in his culture and his love for his province. It was pure heart and the message was communicated effectively through this simple, powerful, and sincere short film. It is definitely one of the best in this year’s entries. I hope that this one makes its rounds in the international film festivals. I have high hopes for it.