[FILM EXPERIENCE] Miel Espinoza, Bodjie Pascua starrer ‘Pan De Salawal’ is a Cinemalaya gem

DISCLAIMER: This is not a film review; I don’t do such. As the title says, this is a film experience. Films are made to be experienced, not reviewed, in the first place. 

Pan de Salawal

Of course, I cannot give you the entirety of my film experience without giving spoilers. While I want to be as detailed and clear as possible, I will simply give you some misty abstract of what I saw. And felt. And conquered.

I saw “Pan de Salawal” on August 7, 2018 during its gala night at the Cinemalaya Film Festival 2018 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines. Prior to the screening, I had a brief interview with one of the main stars, Miel Espinoza, a ball of fire, then aged 7.

Miel Espinoza, Conan Altatis

Miel Espinoza, Conan Altatis

Miel shared to me that she had to be absent from school for a week while filming “Pan de Salawal.” She added that her favorite scene in the film was the part when she was not asked to cry but she did in response to a co-actor’s dialogue.

I’d love to discuss that particular scene but doing so without giving spoilers is impossible. So, let’s skip that part.

So entering the cinema, that was what I kinda expect. Maybe this film will try to make me cry, which is not easy.

When was the last I cried while watching a movie prior to “Pan de Salawal”? It’s been a very long time I couldn’t remember.

Before the climax, there was one particular scene with my Tatay Soliman, who plays a butcher named Bruno, that made me cry. (A year later, I learned that the writer/director’s mother used to be a butcher herself). I cried because I saw Soliman, not Bruno. That was something personal though.

For the most part, “Pan de Salawal” made me cry laughing. That has to be my favorite part of this film.

On July 22, 2019, I got to meet “Pan de Salawal” writer and director Che Espiritu. It was an honor to be able to tell her in person what I loved the most about the film. I had no reason to flatter her. It’s not like I wanna act in her next film or something. (Looking back, I actually forgot to introduce myself to her.) I just felt like she deserved to know what I loved about the film, her first full-length film as a writer and a director and I wouldn’t be able to sleep like a baby at night if I deprived her of that.

Bodjie Pascua, Miel Espinoza, Che Espiritu, Conan Altatis

Bodjie Pascua, Miel Espinoza, Che Espiritu, Conan Altatis

Like what I usually do, I started with a disclaimer. I told her I am very (very) picky when it comes to comedy. But I loved the scaffolding of the different layers of comedy embedded into the “Pan de Salawal” scenes. Usually, a comedy scene or a joke has one funny element, the punch line. The audience laughs and that’s it. We move to the next scene or to the next joke.

That’s not the case with “Pan de Salawal.” Just as when you think that’s the punch line, it’s actually just the appetizer. You just gave the loudest laugh that the first funny element deserves then you start to calm down. Then another funny element follows when you least expect it. Then you go, “Okay, twin jokes or two consecutive funnies” and start to settle down. Well, no. Here comes the third (and the strongest) funny.

That was actually ingenious. It’s hard enough to make people laugh. It’s even harder to make people laugh continuously.

But to categorize the film as comedy seems inadequate if not inaccurate. It wasn’t about making people laugh. It’s about reminding each person that everyone of us has a burden to bear. We all have a particular pain that keeps haunting us and we are willing to sacrifice anything just to get rid of this pain. Young or old, we all are a child inside. To end our suffering, we just need to believe. Faith. Magic. Healing.

After torturing me with a series of funnies, the climax of the film hit me to the core. That was the part Miel said she (her character) cried although she was not asked to.

The climax already started to subside but I was still sobbing. Minutes later, I had to force myself to calm down because the lights inside the cinema were already on.

I don’t know how to end this.

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  • Movie title: “Pan de Salawal” (Believe in Miracles)
  • Director/Writer: Che Espiritu
  • Actors and Characters:
  1. Miel Espinoza as Aguy
  2. Bodjie Pascua as Sal
  3. Soliman Cruz as Bruno
  4. Madeliene Nicolas as Pilar
  5. Ruby Ruiz as Candeng
  6. Anna Luna as Lala
  7. Felix Roco as Brando
  8. JM Salvado as Bruh
  9. Lorenzo Aguila as Dingdong
  10. Ian Lomongo


“Pan de Salawal” will be screened on July 24, 2019 across the Philippines particularly in the following theaters:

  • Ayala Cloverleaf, ONLINE TICKETS, or call (02) 755-7955 /
  • Ayala Fairview Terraces, call (02) 755-7955 /
  • Black Maria Cinema, call (02) 782 4566
  • Cinema 76 Anonas, SCHEDULE, or call
  • Gaisano Davao
  • Gateway Cineplex, call (02) 911 5555 /
  • Glorietta 4, call (02) 755-7955 /
  • Greenhills, call (02) 531 6024 local 102 / (02) 722 4496
  • Market! Market!, call (02) 755-7955 /
  • Robinsons Galleria Ortigas , ONLINE TICKETS
  • SM Angono, ONLINE TICKETS, or call (02) 4702222 / 0917-8702222 / 0925-8702222 /
  • SM Bacoor, ONLINE TICKETS, or call (02) 4702222 / 0917-8702222 / 0925-8702222 /
  • SM East Ortigas, ONLINE TICKETS, or call (02) 4702222 / 0917-8702222 / 0925-8702222 /
  • SM Manila, ONLINE TICKETS, or call (02) 4702222 / 0917-8702222 / 0925-8702222 /
  • SM Marikina, ONLINE TICKETS, or call (02) 4702222 / 0917-8702222 / 0925-8702222 /
  • SM Megamall, call (02) 4702222 / 0917-8702222 / 0925-8702222 /
  • SM North EDSA, call (02) 4702222 / 0917-8702222 / 0925-8702222 /
  • Sta. Lucia
  • Trinoma, call (02) 755-7955 /


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