Award-winning film 'Pauwi Na' inspired by a true story

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 17) — The award-winning film Pauwi Na is inspired by a true story of a Filipino family that travelled by pedicab to go home to Leyte.

The story took shape based on a report director Paolo Villaluna read on the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

"A decade ago, merong isang article tungkol sa isang pamilya from Quezon City, gustong umuwi... Wala silang ni kusing na pera, nag-pedicab lang sila," Villaluna recounted on CNN Philippines' The Source.

[Translation: A decade ago, there was an article about a family from Quezon City which wanted to go home... They didn't have a cent, so they took a pedicab.]

Villaluna also interacted with another family living across his house in Cubao. They too made a living off of a pedicab.

"When I went down to the family... grabe yung element ng hope and faith nila [their element of hope and faith and incredible]," he said.

Villaluna discusses this faith, hope, and resilience in Pauwi Na, his first film in seven years. The comeback work won Best Feature Film at the prestigious Shanghai International Film Festival's 20th Golden Goblet Awards this year.

It was submitted under the title Pedicab and was praised for "the humanism and universality of the story, for the simplicity of the style and realization, [and] for the non-conformism with which it represented our desire to believe that there is a sense in this Universe."

Similar to the inspiration for the story, the film follows a family which decides to leave their life in the slums of Manila and return to their home province, but because of financial trouble, they take a pedicab.

Among the motley crew are an ailing patriarch (Bembol Roco), his wife (Cherry Pie Picache), his cigarette vendor daughter (Chai Fonacier), his thieving son (Jerald Napoles), his blind daughter-in-law (Meryll Soriano) who sees and converses with Jesus Christ (Jess Mendoza), and their family dog.

In the real instance, Villaluna recalled, the family was picked up by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and brought home.

"When I read the article, sabi ko [I said], this is a good inspiration of a story about the Filipino struggle," said Villaluna.

"I would like to think it's the story of the Filipino. We are all struggling — in whatever class, regardless kung low, middle, high class ka... At the end of the day, ang lakas ng resilience at ng hope at ng faith ng Filipino."

[Translation: We are all struggling — in whatever class, regardless if you are in low, middle, high class... At the end of the day, Filipinos have strong resilience, hope, and faith.]

Villaluna said he was surprised by Chinese viewers' warm reception of the film, recalling that they "wanted to hug" the cast when the screening ended.

He said their reaction to the film shows that the story had transcended, and was universal.

"You know, that night when we won, it was totally unexpected, but [my] biggest takeaway [was] you forgot who you are, and you suddenly feel like ang sarap maging Pilipino [it's good to be Filipino]," said Villaluna.

The film previously bagged other awards from the first ToFarm Film Festival last year, including Best Actor for Bembol Roco, Best Actress for Cherry Pie Picache, Best Story, Best Editing, Best Production Design, and the Jury Special Award.

Pauwi Na will run at Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino from August 16 to 22.