This Metro Manila Film Festival is very special. Instead of the usual slapstick comedies and neverending horror series, we are treated to explore the creativity and talent of our homegrown talents, directors and artists. This may be new to many since we’re used to watching movies based on popularity of the cast. We should be more open to films with better quality that can earn us recognition worldwide. It’s definitely time to watch these “new” breed of films.

Before, they have been very linient when it came to criteria but this year, they’re more serious about the QUALITY of the movies shown for MMFF. The “Magic 8” were selected based on the following criteria: story, audience appeal and overall impact (40%); cinematic attributes or technical expertise (40%); global appeal (10%); and Filipino sensibility (10%).

This year also, aside from the Magic 8 movies, there would be one short film accompanying each movie.

Out of the Magic 8, I personally recommend watching “ORO” starring Joem Bascon and the accompanying short film, Mga Bitoon sa Siyudad (Stars in the City). Both are based on true to life stories and are very relatable. ORO is about the struggles of miners and MGA BITOON SA SIYUDAD is about the recent Davao bombing. If you’re looking to watch the film that would possibly take the Best Picture awards and numerous Acting Awards, then ORO & MGA BITOON SA SIYUDAD is our best bet!

I personally think that these two films would be raking in the awards so make sure you watch them with your family this Christmas and find out why they have an effective cast and directors that truly deserve acting and directing awards.

Here is the trailer for “ORO” (directed by Alvin Yapan):

Here is the trailer for “Mga Bitoon sa Siyudad” (directed by Jarell Serencio):

This Christmas, make your family date meaningful by watching movies that have depth and a story that will help open their views on real life struggles and how fortunate they are that they aren’t experiencing such struggles in life. What I love about the two films is they feel REAL and AUTHENTIC. ORO even has non-actors as cast so we’re sure that reactions and the “acting” isn’t too mainstream and Mac-mac is really very relatable. You’ll love him in this short film.

It’s time to make these masterpiece shine! Let’s support Filipino movies and help improve the quality of Philippine movies by supporting ORO and MGA BITOON SA SIYUDAD this MMFF 2016.



By asking for Linda’s hand in marriage, Elmer, a small-scale miner, plans to finally establish a life of his own; separate from Kapitana, his long-time employer-benefactor who buys the gold he mines. Linda works as an elementary teacher, while Elmer barely finished high school. Pregnant with their child, Linda keeps this a secret from Elmer, fearing that this would only pressure him to marry her.

Just when Elmer and Linda are about to reveal their plans and secrets to each other, their small mining community is disturbed by the arrival of an armed group, Patrol Kalikasan, masquerading as environmentalists. The loyalty of Elmer and the small mining community to Kapitana will be tested as they could not produce a permit to mine, even though they have been working the mines since World War II, with no effects of environmental degradation. As Kapitana scrambles to secure a permit to protect her community from the harassment of the armed group, Elmer and the rest of the community struggle to eke out a living, as Patrol Kalikasan settles down in their community, and takes over the mining operations.

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.


About the Film – Mga Bitoon sa Siyudad (Stars in the City) is Jarell Serencio’s second short film. It was shot entirely in Davao City, particularly at the now infamous Roxas Avenue, the site of a recent bombing which killed 15 people. It stars non-actors and 95% of the staff and crew are based in Davao City.


An hour before the bomb explosion at Roxas Night Market, Davao City, two young brothers, Oliver (12) and Mac-Mac (9) went from one table to another to serenade the market goers. The money they earn is used for their day to day school allowances and also their means of helping their father who work as a masseur at the night market. Few minutes later, Mac-Mac discovered that he lost some amount of money. The two brothers immediately traced their steps back hoping to find it. Oliver reassures Mac-Mac that he will help him look for the missing money and told him not to go anywhere until he comes back. Oliver went his way, while Mac-Mac patiently waits. Minutes ticked by and a loud explosion happened. Roxas Market turned into chaos but Mac-Mac was still waiting for his brother to return.

Official FB Page:

Here are some behind the scene photos of MGA BITOON SA SIYUDAD:


JARELL M. SERENCIO is a homegrown Davaoeno. He finished the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication at Holy Cross of Davao College.

He joined the 1st batch of ABS-CBN & Ricky Lee’s TV scriptwriting workshop in 2003. He started as a contributing writer for the soap opera “Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas” then later he became the head researcher/writer of ABS-CBN’s drama anthology show, “Maalaala Mo Kaya”.

In 2008, Jarell went to the US to work as a Photographer in Carnival Cruise Line which is based in Miami Florida. He travels to the Caribbean Islands and around US as a Wedding Photographer. After 2 years he advanced his career into Video Editor/Broadcast Technician in the same company. While working in the cruise ship he did not forget his passion in filmmaking.

He continues to hone his craft in writing by attending the workshop of Armando “Bing” Lao in 2011. A year after, he wrote, directed and produced his first film entitled “VICTOR” for which won Best Short Feature in the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 2012 and was also screened at the Bahamas International Film Festival, Cinema Rehiyon and San Francisco Film Festival.

Jarell was also a recipient of the Pandayang Lino Brocka Film Production workshop that promotes the effective social relevant storytelling of the late National Artist, Director Lino Brocka.

His second short film, Mga Bitoon sa Siyudad (Stars in the City), is an official entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival 2016. He is currently working on another film project about mining in Compostela Valley which received a film grant from National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).