From falling in love at first sight to makeover montages, I think it's safe to say that we've seen it all when it comes to rom-com clichés, especially in the local film industry. After all, how many times do we need to see the bad boy fall in love with the good girl before we realize that we've seen the exact same plotline probably 10 times over?
While Filipino rom-com clichés can be repetitive, there are still those *shining moments* that make us collectively go "aww" in the theater as if it were a synchronized sport.
Let's take a moment to indulge our occasionally cheesy selves with a compilation of the most common Filipino rom-com clichés we always see but—admittedly—still love:
1. That awkward—yet totally endearing—first meeting.
Nothing says rom-com like an out-of-the-ordinary first encounter. Let's take the 2015 filmThat Thing Called Tadhana, for instance. The movie opens with a distraught Mace (Angelica Panganiban) at an airport in Rome en route to the Philippines. In a desperate attempt to minimize her excess baggage, she starts discarding personal items while crying over her heartache. Anthony (JM De Guzman) approaches her and offers to carry her extra baggage as he has ample room in his luggage to spare. After Mace contemplates the idea for a solid 10 seconds—yes, we counted—she agrees, albeit reluctantly, and they end up sitting next to each other on the plane. You'd think things can only go up from there, but no. Having been recently dumped by her ex, Mace ends up watching the classic tear-jerker One More Chance and proceeds to bawl her eyes out, with Anthony witnessing the whole ordeal.
In an ideal world, boy meets girl at the perfect time and place, both ~magically~ ready for commitment. However, in Filipino rom-coms, we notice that isn't necessarily the case. Usually, boy meets girl in the most unideal of situations. It's quite endearing to see on screen because this stuff happens in real life, and it happens to us. It might not exactly occur in an airport in a foreign country, but it's a comfort to know that no one, not even rom-com characters, is immune to first meeting jitters.
2. The well-thought-out date that proves he does pay attention!
I don't know about you, but one of my biggest pet peeves when going out on dates is the inevitable question, "Where do you wanna eat?" and its equally annoying reply, "Kahit saan!" We love dinner dates as much as the next person, but every now and then you look for something that's a bit more personal—nothing extravagant, but something that suggests effort was put into the whole planning.
In the movie Vince And Kath And James (2016), Vince (Joshua Garcia) plans a date for Kath (Julia Barretto) and his cousin James (Ronnie Alonte). Vince, who harbors feelings for Kath, knows that a movie date complete with twinkling lights, comfy blankets, pillows, appetizing food, and Kath's all-time favorite movie, Got 2 Believe, is the way ultimate way to go win her heart. True enough, Kath ends up impressed and was almost in disbelief that James could pull off something so elaborate. And though Vince didn't end up actually going on the date with Kath, I think we can all agree that the fact that he paid enough attention to Kath's preferences is definitely swoon-worthy.
3. The "support system" sidekicks!
Oftentimes, rom-coms are criticized due to supporting characters serving no other purpose than to act as comedic relief for the main character. However, the "support system" cliché we appreciate need not come in the form of a quirky best friend, but may be characterized by way of family, friends, or even just a random person with a good heart. What we love about this "support system" is that they're the kind of people that can talk some sense into you, no holds barred, but will also be the first one to reach out a hand to pull you up when needed. What makes this cliché work so well in the Filipino setting is that we, as a culture, put high value in the close bonds of family and friends.
A prime example of this is the coming-of-age rom-com Must Be…Love (2013). Kathryn Bernardo portrays the role of Patricia or "Patchot," a tomboy who prefers shooting hoops as opposed to wearing skirts. She was raised by her single but very loving dad and has been best friends with Ivan (Daniel Padilla) ever since they were kids.
All goes well until Patchot realizes that she's actually falling in love with Ivan. Much to her dismay, Ivan only sees her as his best friend and, all too soon, her cousin Angel (Liza Soberano) catches Ivan's attention. As a result, Patchot experiences love, jealousy, and heartache for the first time. Soon enough, Patchot undergoes a makeover courtesy of Ivan's mom and aunt. Initially reluctant, she admits to liking the change but is afraid of what her father might think, and this causes undue friction between the father and daughter. And though her father struggles to understand her daughter undergoing adolescence, he ultimately tells her that nothing will change the way he loves her, regardless of how she fixes herself up. Adding to that the continued support of family and friends, Patchot is able to embrace change and be true to herself.
Needless to say, altering her appearance wasn't necessarily the key to her happiness—we see enough of that cliché to last a lifetime. It was realizing that she need not be afraid of change and that no matter what happens, she's got one heck of a support system to back her up.
4. The career-driven woman can have it all.
In Starting Over Again (2014), Ginny (Toni Gonzaga) is an architecture student, with a huge crush on her history professor, Marco (Piolo Pascual). Being the outspoken woman she is, she pursues him. And despite Marco's reluctance at first, they soon begin a unique and passion-filled relationship that would span several years. Yet, out of the blue, things turn south when Ginny begins to realize that her career aspirations differ from Marco's. Determined to make something of herself, she flies to Spain in order to get a Master's degree in architecture, leaving Marco's heart shattered in its wake.
Fast forward to the present, Ginny has come back to the Philippines and now co-owns an architecture firm. The firm gets an offer to restore an old house and transform it into a restaurant, and to Ginny's surprise, Marco ends up being the co-owner of the business venture. Having had her regrets about the way things ended, she is ecstatic to start the job and sees it as the perfect opportunity for them to start over again, despite several setbacks—one being Marco's long-time girlfriend, whom he intends to propose to when the restoration finishes. As expected, feelings get involved, and their tragic past catches up to them. It seems that in Ginny's quest to further her career prospects, she lost Marco—and her chance at love—along the way.
It's a running rom-com formula that successful, career-driven women don't have the whole love-life thingamajig down pat. Initially portrayed as uptight or unyielding, these types of leading ladies usually start to let loose upon falling in love. Now, this thought process comes with its own pros and cons. The con is the idea that a man's love is what a woman needs in order to truly appreciate life. Which, to me, is definitely not the case. On the other hand, the pro of this cliché is that it's actually true to a certain extent—that a smashing career and a happily-ever-after aren't mutually exclusive terms. In almost all rom-coms operating this angle, the girl gets both the career and the man because she can.
So (spoiler alert!) Ginny may have not ended up with Marco—and that the turn of events may seem to support the "career or love" dichotomy—but the movie still ends with the idea of starting over again with someone else, giving us a glimpse that just because she chose her career over a guy at some point in her life does not doom her into an unfulfilled life. Ginny gets to have both because it was a never an "either/or" scenario in the first place.
5. The "finding yourself" theme
This is probably the most over-used cliché in the rom-com genre, but when executed correctly, this theme is nothing short of inspirational. What we love about the "finding oneself" concept is the idea that protagonists find their own purpose, apart from the person they become when they finally end up with their significant other.
In the 2015 rom-com Crazy Beautiful You, wild child Jackie (Kathryn Bernardo) gets into trouble and finds herself in jail after getting into an accident. Finally fed up, Jackie's father sends her off to accompany her mom (Lorna Tolentino) in Tarlac for a medical mission. She relents but is determined to shut off all her mom's attempts to mend their relationship, and so portrays an image of stoicism. She meets her polar opposite in Kiko (Daniel Padilla). Being the mayor's illegitimate son, Kiko hasn't had an easy life—he sidelines as a tour guide while also tending to his younger siblings as his mom jumps from one guy to the next. Realizing that both of them have more in common than they initially thought, the two develop a friendship, and slowly, Jackie begins rebuilding her relationship with her mom. And though Kiko and Jackie's blossoming romance was sure to give us butterflies, it was Jackie's growth as a character and her self-reflections that served a more important theme in the film.
6. The "look"
My personal favorite of all rom-com clichés: the "look." You know what we're talking about. You've seen it before. It's the look a guy gives a girl when he's just on the cusp of realizing he's falling head over heels in love. The vulnerable, intense, and searing look almost always occurs while the girl is unaware of it happening. It's the look a guy gets when his world does a 180-degree flip on its axis as he realizes she's the one. Every rom-com in existence has this cliché, but what makes it perpetually irresistible is that even if the look may vary from film to film, its intensity never fails to capture even the coldest of hearts.
7. The "almost kiss"
Lastly, if you're as big of a fan of the "look" as we are, then you have to admit that the "almost kiss" is pretty much on the same tier. In my opinion, the best rom coms don't even have to have passionate kissing scenes to show how deep their emotions are. Sometimes, what makes a kiss more memorable are the moments leading up to it—the way the main characters lean toward each other as if controlled by some magnetic pull, the mood filled with so much tension you can cut it with a knife, the stares so intense you can just tell they're seeing something beyond the superficial. That is what makes the kiss so much more worthwhile.