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The kid in the poster doesn't really look too happy.

If you haven't heard about Happyland, I honestly don't blame you. It's an indie film. And we all know how popular indie films are in the Philippines.

It used to be as popular as this sport.

The project is great, don't get me wrong. It's about football. But I think the whole approach is wrong.

About as wrong as putting a football jersey on a religious icon.

First off, it'll shatter your notions about Philippine football. I always thought that Barotac Nuevo in Iloilo was the center of local football. I never thought there would be a football mecca in Luzon. Apparently, there is. And in the country's capital to boot (pun not really intended). It turns out that Tondo, Manila is one of the few places in this country where you can hold a summer football league and have like ten participating teams, easy. And we're not just talking about pee-wee football. We're talking like the summer basketball leagues in every municipality, the ones where a few black eyes and a few knocked out teeth are quite normal. And it's Tondo, so you could also end up having an ice pick through your abdomen. Just kidding, Tondo.

The story, by the way, is about how a Spanish priest from the Don Bosco seminary taught some street ruffians from Tondo how to play football. And this isn't fiction either. It's a true story. And because it was an indie film, it operated on a meager budget. So why didn't the filmmakers do a documentary instead? I mean, in my opinion, if budget constraints would compromise the storytelling, then to hell with a narrative feature. A documentary would cost less to produce, and be more respectable-looking compared to a cheaply-made feature film.

On the other hand, I also get director Jim Libiran's vision. He says this film isn't geared toward making money. His aim is to spread the football virus and bring it down to the grassroots level. And that won't happen with a documentary, because no one really watches documentaries in this country. A narrative feature would appeal more to the average Filipino moviegoer. Yeah, okay, I get it.

"Look at our son. Bending over like Beckham."

There were a few saving graces to this film, though.
  • Father John Andreu's cute Spanish accent. He speaks straight Tagalog, but with the unmistakable accent of a non-native speaker. As long as they're not into pedophelia or rape, old Spanish priests are cute.
  • Peter Amores, who plays Brother Pedro. (Really? Pedro.. Peter... could you be any more subtle?) He is actually the lead proponent of the futkal program. One of futkal's aims is to bring football down to same level as popular children's games like taguan and patintero. Great job, Pedro. I mean, Peter.
  • Phil Younghusband's cameo. One thing I noticed about Phil Younghusband was his legs. He has relatively skinny legs, compared to the football players I know. Ideally, he should have thighs like BeyoncĂ©.
  • The tears in my eyes. There were some dramatic moments toward the end, and it was pretty effective, because the kids didn't seem to be acting at all. That's because they're not actors. They're real street ruffians.
  • China Cojuangco is a football chick. Surprisingly, she's still hot. 
  • Jun Sabayton's cameo. I don't even have to explain.

And now, here are my parting words of wisdom: Watch this only if you're a football fanatic. Otherwise it would be a total waste of time.

Damn. Should've let Garry Potter of the Azkals write this review.

*some info from
pic from The Best Films and YouTube

Happyland. Philippines. 2010.

Rating: Five out of ten.


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