8 March 2006
The story is set in Guagua, Pampanga a decade after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo which ravaged the province with lahar. It follows the lives of Rodolfo "Mang Rudy" Manansala, a woodcarver, and his three daughters and their relationships with the people close to them in the span of seven summers. Grace, the youngest daughter, marries the mama's boy Conrad, and has to face the reality of leaving the ancestral house, to which she is deeply rooted, to go and live with her in-laws. Much against her will, to the point of staging a escape, she yields to the dictates of tradition. Yet she manages to cope up with married life, and on the fourth year of her marriage gets pregnant with her second child. Lourdes, the middle daughter and married to the weakling Andy Pineda with whom she has a daughter, goes into an illicit affair with a bank manager, for which reason Mang Rudy succumbs to a heart attack and becomes bedridden. For a while numbed by the infidelity of his wife, Andy later realizes his insignificance and retaliates by beating up and nearly killing Lourdes. Lourdes atones for her guilt by ministering to Andy's wounds after he joins the rituals of the flagellants during the Holy Week. However, they both decide to separate. Jess, the eldest daughter, is a lesbian whose bitter luck in life is being unwanted by her own father. Yet she serves Mang Rudy to the hilt after he gets bedridden and makes the common sense of allowing her girlfriend Rowena to move in at the Manansala house, not so much for their own convenience as lovers but for Rowena to help in looking after Mang Rudy and in helping out with the household chores. But when a conflict arises between Lourdes and Rowena, Mang Rudy sends Rowena away. A year later, Mang Rudy succumbs to a second attack and when he dies several months later, Rowena sets foot on the ancestral house once more to pay her last respects. At the wake, Rowena comes to the realization that, like Andy, she never belonged and finally decides to leave Jess. Rowena realigns herself with normal procedures by getting married while Jess, along with her sisters, moves on with life. The story is told in three segments, with each segment told from the point of view of the three daughters. Attached to each segment are social occasion popularly observed in the Philippines, with a symbolic motif for each, represented by the elements sun, fire, water, air, blood, moon and earth. With Rowena's wedding at the end of the film, as in Grace's wedding at the start, a full cycle of life transpired.
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