3 Best Filipino Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

It is hard to be unmoved by how Die Beautiful defies conventions and explores the essence of identity, acceptance, and resilience. Centered around the life of Trisha, a transgender woman with a passion for beauty pageants, the film takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions as we witness Trisha's life unfold, both in joyous moments and in the face of painful degradation and assault. The film seamlessly weaves together humor, tenderness, and raw vulnerability, delivered stunningly by its lead, Paolo Ballesteros. With other films such as Kalel, 15 and Bwakaw under his belt, director Jun Lana continues to meld reality with hope, injecting kindness and heart into much-needed queer stories.  

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adrian Alandy, Albie Casiño, Cedrick Juan, Christian Bables, Eugene Domingo, Gladys Reyes, I.C. Mendoza, Iza Calzado, Jade Lopez, Joel Torre, Kokoy de Santos, Lou Veloso, Luis Alandy, Paolo Ballesteros

Director: Jun Lana, Jun Robles Lana

Rating: TV-14

Sunday Beauty Queen starts with a basic but startling fact: there are about 190,000 Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong. They toil for six days a week, with little breaks in between, but on Sundays, the one day they are given rest, they choose to take part in a fabulous beauty pageant.  

More than just a mere show, the pageant is a source of joy and relief for the migrant workers who, despite earning significantly more abroad than they would back home, are mired in a host of problems, including discrimination, loneliness, and underemployment. Because of the Philippines’ and Hong Kong’s stringent statutes, some helpers are also forced to go into hiding, unsure of who will protect them each time.

It’s to director Baby Ruth Villarama’s credit that the film feels both like a criticism and celebration of this migrant reality. She exposes the rotten system that forces these women to flee their country but doesn’t forget to highlight the humanity that keeps them going. This result of this deft balance is a story that is just as warm and exacting as any old home. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Cherrie Mae Bretana, Hazel Perdido, Leo Selomenio, Mylyn Jacobo, Rudelyn Acosta

Director: Baby Ruth Villarama

Rating: 0

In the years since Fan Girl's original release in the Philippines, its ultimate message and execution has become polarizing: is it enough that the film shows the corruption of a parasocial relationship into an abusive one, without offering much hope? Is its vision of justice actually constructive or disappointingly limited? No matter where you fall, it's exciting that a movie can stir up these kinds of questions through a bizarre dynamic between characters, in a place that's clearly set somewhere between reality and delusion. The narrative is circular and frustrating for a reason—a constant push and pull as the titular fan girl keeps getting drawn back into the celebrity's orbit—and the film only grows more disturbing with each repetition.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Bea Alonzo, Camille Penaverde, Charlie Dizon, Gie Onida, Paulo Avelino, Sheenly Gener

Director: Antoinette Jadaone

Rating: PG-13