Looking for Rafflesias and Other Fleeting Things: Short Film Review

Synopsis: Tikbalang transforms into a teenage boy to disprove the rumor that horse demons are killing civilians in the mountain. 

Did I miss something? I was more confused by the ending of this short film than before I started.

To give context, the Rafflesia being referred to in the title is an endemic  flower that emits a foul odor once in bloom. It is a rare plant species that can only be found only in the Philippines and some parts of Malaysia. It is hard to find, especially in the jungle.

Returning to Looking For Rafflesias And Other Fleeting Things, let me just say that I was confused by the approach of the short film, which seemed to bank on Pinoy folklore about a mythical being called the Tikbalang and a teenager who is rumored to be the son of one. As more and more people are mysteriously killed in the town, the townsfolk believe that is it the work of the Tikbalang and the young man Gubat becomes ostracized by the villagers.

As he seeks refuge in the jungle, he encounters a foreign botanist in search of the Rafflesia and develops a friendship with him.

Now, here’s where I got confused. The synopsis confirms that Gubat is a Tikbalang, but the film never confirmed whether he was a mythical creature or not. It also did not confirm if he was responsible for the dead villagers. I think sustaining the mystery may have been the reason why it held out on adding connecting scenes that could shed some light on the question.

Second, I found it odd that Gubat’s grandmother never once thought to seek him out even if when he spent days in the jungle.

Third, the botanist and Gubat seemed to take in stride the number of dead bodies they found in the jungle. Rather than report them to authorities, the duo buried them like they were nothing. And do botanists really scour the jungles late at night in search of Rafflesias?

As for Gubat, I could only assume that he was burying the Rafflesias to keep his friend from leaving because the foreigner was the only one who did not accuse him of being a Tikbalang.

Looking For Rafflesias And Other Fleeting Things generally had a great idea, but in trying to keep some details shrouded in mystery, the storytelling seemed fragmented and disconnected. Some additional scenes could have helped with telling a fuller, more complete tale. Still a good effort from director James Fajardo.