Films–especially ones shot in one’s own locale–provide a refreshing, excitingly new perspective into what seemed like ordinary everyday scenes. There’s always that sense of awe seeing the ridges of the Mayon volcano as Ian De Leon leans forward to kiss Donna Cruz in Lamangan’s Pangako Ng Kahapon, or an eerie feeling hearing the crickets in Bulusan Lake in Diaz’s Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis. Nevertheless, the stories in the films are interspersed with the narratives experienced in its location, making the location another character in the film.
We’ve listed down films shot in exciting locations all over the region and definitely, a traveler’s (or a film buff’s) bucket list: the majestic Mayon cameos in several iconic films!
Pauwi Na (Paolo Vilaluna, 2016)
Filmed across several locations in Bicol
Starring Bembol Roco, Cherry Pie Picache, Meryll Soriano
Written by Paolo Villaluna and Ellen Ramos
Mang Pepe and his family travel from Quezon City to Bicol on pedicab (sikad-sikad). Mang Pepe and his wife, Remedios, their daughter Pina, their son JP with his pregnant blind wife Isabel, and their dog Kikay, live together in a shanty at a Quezon City slum. To survive daily, Mang Pepe drives his pedicab and carry various loads to the market while Aling Remedios washes laundry for her neighbors. JP and Pina both try to earn a living and Isabel, in her blindness, sees and converses with Jesus Christ. Realizing their futile life in the city, Mang Pepe convinces the family to go back to their hometown in Bicol. Without enough transport money, they decide to use the pedicab so they could “pedal” their way back to the province. A series of unfortunate events occur that will either test their determination or distract them from their journey home. Pauwi Na is a tragic-comic portrait of a dysfunctional family and the disquieting blind faith they invoke as they dream of going home. But, ultimately, Pauwi Na is not a film about family but about what it means to be part of one (via IMDB).
This black comedy is filmed across several locations in Bicol, and has won the top award at the 2016 Shanghai Film Festival.
Pangako ng Kahapon (Joel Lamangan, 1994)
Filmed in the town of Daraga and Legazpi City, Albay
Starring Agot Isidro, Donna Cruz, and Alice Dixon
Screenplay by Ricky Lee (Viva Films)
A film about three sisters who are the daughters of a powerful landlord fighting for ambition, power, love, success and money (via IMDB), this film is shot in Albay and features the scenic view of the Mayon Volcano via the Daraga Church. This Ricky Lee-written film has bagged awards such as Urian for Best Supporting Actor (Albert Martinez), FAMAS for Best Picture and Best Director, and Young Critics Cirlce (YCC) for Best Film and Best Screenplay.
We love Ricky Lee‘s recognizable body of work. Check out more of his works here.
Angustia (Kristian Cordero, 2013)
Filmed in San Jose, Nabua, Buhi (Cam Sur) and Naga City
Starring Alex Medina, Isabel Lopez and Michelle Smith
Written by Kristian Cordero (Cinema One Originals/Cine Rinconada)
Don Victorino Hernandez, a creole secular priest from Manila, has two passions: botany and the total conversion of the native population particularly the Agtas, who in spite of the rigorous undertakings of Spanish colonialism continue to live in the hinterlands, giving them a notorious reputation in the minds of the lowlanders as well as the colonizers (via TMDB).
This directorial debut by Kristian Cordero is shot in parts of Rinconada, Camarines Sur.
Oro (Alvin Yapan, 2016)
Filmed in Partido District, Camarines Sur
Starring Irma Adlawan, Joem Bascon, Mercedes Cabral
Written by Alvin Yapan (Feliz Film Productions)
The film is about the lives of simple folk caught between the crossfire of Kapitana accused of political patronage, and Patrol Kalikasan using the environment as a front for their own political and economic interests on the small mining community. As the provincial government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) fight over the jurisdiction over small-scale mining operations, Elmer and Linda suffer the devastating consequences of the legacy of violence and corruption of the country’s turbulent political and ideological history (via IMDB).
An entry to the 42nd Metro Manila Film Festival, Irma Adlawan delivers a riveting performance as a Kapitana in a barangay. This film is shot in Caramoan, Camarines Sur highlighting the town’s pristine shorelines, lush greeneries, and the Mother of Peace shrine in Mt. Caglago.
Most of Alvin Yapan’s stunning body of work are filmed in his home, Bicol. Check out Alvin Yapan’s filmography here.
Salome (Laurice Guillen, 1981)
Filmed in Pulang Daga, Paracale, Camarines Norte
Starring Gina Alajar, Johnny Delgado and Dennis Roldan (LVN Pictures)
A persistent suitor is stabbed to death by Salome, the wife of a coconut farmer. From the simple crime of passion three conflicting versions of the truth are given – by Salome herself, by the people of the small fishing village, and by her own husband. Each version contributes a piece and facet of the truth, and slowly reveals to us the real character of Salome and her husband, and the true nature of their relationship (via IMDB).
Also written by Ricky Lee, the highlights of this film was shot in Pulang Daga Beach in Camarines Norte, close to the popular Calaguas.
Debosyon (Alvin Yapan, 2013)
Filmed in Naga City and Albay province
Starring Paulo Avelino, Mara Lopez, Ramona Rañeses
Written by Alvin Yapan (Voyage Studios/Cinemalaya Foundation)
To love is to have faith. Mando, a Bikolano devotee of Ina, Virgin of Penafrancia, Patroness of Bikolandia, injures himself in the middle of the forest at the foot of the Mayon Volcano. He will be nursed back to health by a mysterious woman, Salome, living there. They will fall in love with each other. But when Mando invites her to come with him to the plains, Salome refuses, saying a curse prohibits her from leaving the forest. Salome holds a secret that will devastate Mando’s love for her. Mando relies on his devotion to the Virgin of Penafrancia to lift the curse, making realize how inextricably linked are the virtues of love and faith. (via IMDB).
This 2013 Cinemalaya entry by Vim Yapan is shot in Naga City during the height of the Peñafrancia Festival and key locations in Albay.
Kagadanan Sa Daigdig Ng Mga Engkanto (Death In The Land Of Engkantos), (Lav Diaz, 2007)
Filmed in Albay Province
Starring Roeder Camañag, Angeli Bayani, Perry Dizon
Screenplay by Aloy Adlawan (Sine Olivia)
A Filipino poet named Benjamin Agusan (Roeder Camanag) is the hapless native who returns to his hometown Padang to witness the aftermath of the super typhoon. For the past seven years, Benjamin had been living in an old town called Kaluga in Russia. With his grant and residency, he taught and conducted workshops in a university. The poet published two books of sadness and longing in the process. In Russia, Benjamin was able to shoot video collages, fell in love with a Slavic beauty, buried a son, and almost went mad. He came back to bury his dead-father, mother, sister and a lover. He came back to face Mount Mayon, the raging beauty and muse of his youth. He came home to confront the country that he so loved and hated, the Philippines. He came back to die in the land of his birth. He wanders around the obliterated village meeting old friends and lovers (via IMDB).
This black and white docudrama film is shot at the foot of Mt. Mayon in Albay, showing the (even more) grayed landscape brought about by torrential rain and ashfall.
Lav Diaz is one of the key members of the slow cinema movement, making some of the films with longest narratives, such as Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis, also shot in Bicol (see feature below).
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ANi (The Harvest, Sandro del Rosario and Kim Zuñiga, 2019)
Filmed in the province of Catanduanes
Starring Zyren dela Cruz, Ricky Davao, Anna Luna
Written by Toni Zuñiga, Kim Zuñiga, Sandro del Rosario (Blacksheep, Cinemalaya Foundation, Wanderstruck Film)
Year 2050 Federal State of Bicol. A newly orphaned boy moves to a farm to live with his estranged grandfather. When Mauricio falls ill and as the crops in their farm seem to fall ill with him, Mithi embarks on a quest with his malfunctioning robot to search for magical grains that he believes will save the old man’s life (via IMDB).
This exciting sci-fi film “is also an attempt to question the double-edged nature of development as it was set in a sci-fi depiction of a future Philippines at the crossroads of technological advancements and environmental decay,” from a pre-filming press release.
ANi is Cinemalaya’s first-ever sci-fi film.
Seduction (Peque Gallaga, 2013)
Filmed in Caramoan, Camarines Sur
Starring Richard Guttierez, Sarah Lahbati, Solenn Heusaff
Written by Aloy Adlawan (Regal Films)
A fireman is in love to his landlady but is seduced by the girl she saves from a fire. He falls trap to the seductress and one day call it quits but the seductress is out for revenge. A conflagration ensues (via IMDB).
This steamy film makes use of Caramoan’s pristine beaches and colorful downtown sceneries.
Peque Gallaga’s body of work includes some of Philippine cinema’s finest: Oro Plata Mata, Scorpio Nights, the Shake, Rattle and Roll series, among others. Read more of his filmography.
Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis (Lav Diaz, 2016)
Filmed in Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon
Starring Piolo Pascual, John Lloyd Cruz, Angel Aquino, Cherie Gil
Written By Lav Diaz (Sine Olivia et al)
Interconnected narratives on the Philippine Revolution of 1896-1897 against the Spanish characterize, the story of the ballad Jocelynang Baliwag, which became the hymn of the revolution; Gregoria de Jesus’ forlorn search for the body of the Father of Philippine Revolution Andres Bonifacio; the journey of our national hero’s fictional book characters Simon and Isagani; the role of the Philippine mythical hero of strength Bernardo Carpio and the half-man, half-horse tikbalang/engkanto, and a discourse on the Filipino psyche (via IMDB).
This eight-hour film, besides having scenes shot in the Casas de las Acuzar Filipinas in Bagac, Bataan, is also shot in some of Sorsogon’s most breathtaking locations, such as the Bulusan Lake.
Hinulid (Kristian Cordero, 2016)
Filmed in the towns of Gainza, Buhi, Pasacao, and the cities of Naga and Iriga (Camarines Sur)
Starring Nora Aunor and Jess Mendoza
Written by Kristian Cordero (Cine Rinconada)
A woman returns to the village of Kagbunga in the Bikol region carrying the ashes of her only son via the old train that circles her universe like the tandayag, the primordial serpent. In a filial act of mourning, she will reckon and reconcile the thin line that exists between tragedy and transcendence and prove and that even the most broken life can be restored to its moments (via IMDB).
Nora Aunor speaks her mother tongue, Rinconada, for the first time in film and has been nominated for a Best Actress award for Urian. The film won Best Sound from the same award-giving body The film is shot across different locations in Camarines Sur.
Pink Halo-Halo (Joselito Altarejos, 2010)
Filmed in Masbate Province
Starring Angeli Bayani, Paolo Constantino, Allen Dizon Written by Joselito Altarejos (Cinemalaya Foundation, Beyond The Box, et al)
Natoy, like any other child, finds joy and excitement in the simplest of things, especially in eating halo-halo filled with pink gelatin and red sago. Things change suddenly when, as he is watching television, a news report about the ongoing war in Mindanao shows footage of a badly wounded soldier waiting to be rescued. That soldier, almost bleeding to death, is his father, Corporal Lino Bolante. This starts his journey as he and his mother Sonia wait for help that comes too late. This story does not only show how the war in Mindanao robs a child of his innocence, but also shows the shadows of war that Filipino homes confront everyday (via IMDB).
The first film shot entirely in the Masbateño language and is shot in the province of Masbate where the director is from.
Jay Altarejos is behind some of the most unforgettable titles in Philippine queer cinema: Ang Lalake Sa Parola (2007), Ang Lihim Ni Antonio (2008), Kasal (2014), and Tales of the Lost Boys (2017). Read more of him here.
Ikaw Ang Pag-Ibig (Marilou Diaz-Abaya, 2011)
Filmed in Naga City
Starring Marvin Agustin, Jomari Yllana, Ina Feleo
Written by Marilou Diaz-Abaya (Marilou Diaz-Abaya Film Institute)
“Ikaw ang Pag-ibig” tackles the story of a woman named Vangie Cruz (Ina Feleo) who is called upon to be a donor for his only brother Fr. Johnny (Marvin Agustin), a newly ordained priest who happens to be diagnosed of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. However, she declines due to clinical phobia for medical procedures that were triggered by a failed attempt of abortion many years before. She meets Dr. Joey Lucas (Jomari Yllana) with whom she has a love child and they eventually get married. Suddenly Vangie and her family caved in with her brother’s condition. Through their struggle, they gravitate to their faith in Ina, The Our Lady of Penafrancia. A miracle comes not through the cure of Fr. Johnny’s illness, but through the family’s reconciliation and a new found faith in hope and love (via Star Cinema)
Naga City and the region’s Marian faith serve as background for this film produced in partnership with the Archdiocese of Caceres, featuring the city’s iconic churches Peñafrancia Church and the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.
Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s work in the 80s are some of the most iconic: Brutal (1980), Moral (1982) and Karnal (1983), among others. Read more of her here.
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Ako Ang Katarungan (Pepe Marcos,1992)
Filmed in Partido, Camarines Sur
Starring Bong Revilla and Gretchen Barreto
Written by Ricky Lee (Seiko Films)
San Jose, Camarines Sur’s (also known as Sabang) fishing village is the location of one of the film’s key action sequences.
Seiko Films is behind some of Philippine Cinema’s most unforgettable titles.
Donsol (Adolfo Alix, Jr., 2006)
Filmed in Donsol, Sorsogon
Starring Sid Lucero, Angel Aquino, Cherie Gil
Written by Adolfo Alix, Jr. (Bicycle Pictures)
Donsol, a fishing town in Sorsogon province, serves as a sanctuary to a group of whale sharks, the largest fish in the world. Locally, known as butanding, whale sharks visit the waters of Donsol from November to May. In this film, Donsol is a place of refuge for the butanding but also a holding pen for lost and lonely people who wish for things they are no longer likely to get. Daniel, a Butanding Interaction Officer who accompanies tourists on whale watching expeditions and assists them in interacting with the sharks, is a broken hearted man who meets an older woman, Teresa, a widow fighting breast cancer. The two share their miseries and discover that they like being together. Will their newfound bond be strong or will it be blown along with the amihan wind which signals the end of the butanding migratory visit to the small town (via IMDB)?
This film features the locations where the sea’s gentle giants emerge, alongside Donsol’s colorful locality.
After his family is killed, a teacher heads for the mountains to find peace.There, it becomes clear to him that the injustice is much deeper-rooted than he believed.
While we have limited online sources on stills and photos from the film, our sources have mentioned that this film has been shot in the town of Pili, Camarines Sur.
Kailangan Kita (Rory B. Quintos, 2002)
Filmed in Irosin and Sorsogon City in Sorsogon and Ligao City in Albay
Starring Claudine Barreto and Aga Muhlach
Written By Shaira Salvador, Raymond Lee, Emman de la Cruz (Star Cinema)
New York-based celebrity chef Carl Diesta is coming home to the Philippines after being away for seventeen long years to marry his fiancée, supermodel Chrissy Duran, in her hometown of Albay province. With Chrissy still being held up somewhere in Europe for a photo shoot, Carl has to meet her family by himself and instantly impresses everyone except for Chrissy’s father, Papay Rogelio. Here Carl gets to meet Chrissy’s other sister – Lena. Through Lena, Carl has now come to terms with his forcibly forgotten identity – both as a son and as a Filipino. Lena has also awaken a love in Carl that he has never felt before.
Celebrating not only the beauty of Bicol but also its rich culinary heritage, this movie made extensive use of the region’s memorable landscapes. From scenes of the century-old houses to the use of Mayon in the background, this film is hands-down of the most iconic films set in Bicol.
Kailangan Kita is Rory Quintos’ one of many unforgettable works with Star Cinema: Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay (1999), Anak (2000), Dubai (2005) among others.
Are there other films filmed in Bicol we missed out on? Let us know! ■