‘Ina’: What Price Family, Faith and Love | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Crowd-drawer: The Our Lady of Peñafrancia feast
Crowd-drawer: The Our Lady of Peñafrancia feast

Love, commitment. The self, comfort, material possessions. Family.  Occasionally, these are put to the test. Which will endure? At what price?

Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s latest film, “Ina: Ikaw ang Pag-ibig,” does not beg for obvious answers as it follows what looks like separate journeys of individuals whose lives are inexorably linked with one another. Although familial, emotional and spiritual ties exist among them, each has a road to follow, a different drummer to heed.

Then there is “Ina,” the venerated image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia who is known for her miraculous intercessions, and who is at the heart of the movie.

Vangie (Ina Feleo) is a single mom to Gabby (Yogo Singh), her young son with boyfriend Joey (Jomari Yllana), an OB-Gyne who keeps pressing her to finally marry him so they could have a family. Dr. Joey is caring, committed and affectionate but Vangie who works in advertising is afraid to commit.

Vangie lives with mom (Shamaine Centerera), who looks after Gabby, because her absentee dad (Noni Buencamino) has been working abroad for years and is ostensibly not coming home soon.

Vangie has a pro bono sideline radically different from her commercial productions. She’s working on-and-off on a documentary on the Virgin of Peñafrancia.

Fr. Johnny (Marvin Agustin) is Vangie’s only brother, who takes his priestly vocation to heart, braving sun and rain and driving his motorcycle through dirt roads to reach his flock in remote places. Work and stress take their toll and he comes down with leukemia.

At this point, the Cruz family must either hang together or pull apart. Family problems, medical procedures, financial woes and spiritual questions surge on them like a tsunami.

Son in tow, Vangie travels to Bicol to visit the Virgin of Peñafrancia, whom she only knows through her video footage. They quietly slip into the small chapel where the image is usually kept after the feast. Vangie seeks out an aunt who turns out to be the keeper of the virgin’s miraculous cape, and returns to Manila with it.

Fr. Johnny is close to dying. A risky bone marrow transplant could spell the difference. Vangie is the only matching source for bone marrow. Will she or won’t she?

An intense moment: Vangie confesses to her ailing brother in the hope that the sacrament would result in healing for him, for herself and her family. She spills all.

By this time, the “Ina” that Vangie used to know only as the image on her video screen has come alive in her family who is drawn closer together. But there are loads of material and interior baggage they’d have to give up. Will there be healing for Fr. Johnny and the rest of them? Where is the miracle?  You will have to watch the movie.

Weaving footage of a true-to-life event (the Peñafrancia feast) into a fictional feature film takes a lot of creativity.  Diaz-Abaya and her crew braved the surging crowds to film this once-in-a-century event.

The budget-challenged indie film is a celebration of the 300th year of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, whose week-long September feast draws hundreds of thousands of devotees, spiritual seekers and tourists to Naga City where she is enshrined. It was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Nueva Caceres under Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legazpi.

“Ina,” says its director, was no ordinary project.  Even while battling cancer, she forged on to do what she now considers the film closest to her heart. The multi-awarded director has done many groundbreaking and socially-relevant movies (“Rizal,” “Muro-ami,” and “Bagong Buwan” among many), but “Ina” has a special place in her heart.

“It could be my swan song,” she quips. “I had no idea if I could see it through. If I didn’t, there was [director] Laurice Guillen or Olive Lamasan, both Marian devotees, to finish it.”

But Marilou Diaz-Abaya and her “Ina” came through with flair and flourish. A miracle.  Viva la Virgen!