29. “Himala”, Ishmael Bernal (1982)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list


Himala aka Miracle

dir. Ishmael Bernal scr. Ricky Lee cin. Sergio Lobo with Nora Aunor, Veronica Palileo, Spanky Manikan, Gigi Duenas, Vangie Labalan, Laura Centeno, Ama Quiambao, Ben Almeda, Cris Daluz

In 100 words: Bernal’s masterpiece is a scathing criticism of Filipino social and religious mores, providing such a potent depiction of spiritual prostitution and the blind fanaticism that rises from poverty. Few films can match it for its cultural resonance in the Philippines, and fewer films around the world can match its depiction of religion as an opiate for the masses. Connects the dots between religion, the free market, the media, and the government, all within the confines of a story that shrouds itself in enigmas and ironies. On top of that, this is one expressively shot and sound designed film. Aunor’s legend.

Other Movies for Context: Within a country that is tied to Catholicism and has used faith as the subject of many films, Himala stands at the totem pole of iconoclasm. Bernal’s other major picture, Manila by Night has a similar sensuality that he imbues here, but more diffuse. Aunor’s other best movie is Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (1976) offers a similarly bleak view of faith in times of crisis, similar to this movie’s treatment of the subject, but that one is more black and white than the ambiguity here.