Magnifico (2003) is a poignant and motivating movie about a young Filipino boy who, despite his lack of intelligence, remained optimistic which enabled him to help not only his family but also those living within their community. Because of his profound generosity and sympathy to the people around him, he was able to change their lives. Eventually, they have developed a positive outlook in life. The film opens with the birth of Magnifico in their home – which is evidently a typical house of a poor rural family in the Philippines. His peculiar name was acquired by his father, Gerry, from a magician of the same name.
Because of his amazement to the magic tricks the performer showed, he named him that. Gerry – whose only amusement is the rubik’s cube he got during the town carnival in the previous year – is a carpenter but does not have a regular employment while Edna, Magnifico’s mother, stitches embroideries for a living. He has an older brother named Miong who was expected by his father to save their family from poverty but unfortunately lost his scholarship in a particular university in Manila; and a younger sister named Helen who has cerebral palsy depriving her from walking and speaking comprehensively.
Their family was greatly impoverished that their father could hardly provide for their everyday needs. At the outset, Magnifico saw his friend Lia grieving for the death of her puppy on his way home. Greatly saddened by this incident, he gave her a new one which he got from his neighbour. Another minor character of the movie is Ka Doring, a strict ill-tempered old woman living in the cemetery who is usually teased by the kids passing through her house because of the hoarse voice she has.
Due to this, Magnifico gave her a bottle of herbal medicine which he got from his grandmother but she threw this away suspecting that Magnifico was just like the other kids making fun of her. As soon as Miong arrived from Manila, his grandmother Magda had encountered a serious accident and had to be hospitalized. It was then that they discovered that Magda had diabetes and pancreatic cancer. This was another financial dilemma considering the fact that a huge amount of Gerry and Edna’s scanty income had to go to medical expenses.
Eventually, it has come to Magnifico’s knowledge that his grandmother was soon to die and that the burial expenses were too expensive that his parents could not shoulder all that so Magnifico formulated a secret plan of constructing a coffin with the help of his friend Carlo. They asked for wooden materials from a woodcarving shop where Magnifico’s father occasionally works and borrowed carpentry tools from his neighbours. He also planned to collect money for his grandmother’s funeral dress, flowers, and tomb by selling iced water and juice at the town carnival.
Due to his patience and hard work, he was able to save a few amount of money. Aside from problematizing the expenses of his grandmother’s wake, he was also saving for his sister Helen to fulfil his promise of bringing her to the town carnival so that she could buy a colored balloon and enjoy the rides. Because Helen could not walk, Magnifico borrowed a wheelchair from their neighbour named Domeng who, at that moment, was grieving for the death of his mother. He agreed but asked for a rental payment of Php 3000.
Unluckily, his grandmother’s situation worsened. Because his parents had nothing, he had no choice but to spare the money he earned for them to be able to buy the medicine of his grandmother. Magnifico may have failed from his mission of earning a huge amount of money but because of his immense determination of pursuing his promise, he brought his sister to the town carnival by carrying her on his back. Before leaving, Helen bade goodbye to their mother making her greatly amazed since that was the very first time Helen ever talked.
This incident left her mother and grandmother teary-eyed as they watched Magnifico brining Helen on his back. As they were on their way to the carnival, a friend of Magnifico’s brother who used to tease Helen for her illness drove them to the site where the carnival was taking place. When they arrived, Magnifico showed his sister the different enjoyable rides, the delicious foods and candies sold at the stalls, and many more. It is apparent on Helen’s face the happiness she felt as they wandered around the town carnival.
They had only tried one ride since the money they had wasn’t enough. Fortunately, a ticket controller of the merry-go-round gave them a huge discount. Not only that, some of the people who saw Magnifico hauling Helen on his back showed them sympathy and benevolence. One ride conductor pitied them so he admitted them without charge and a vendor gave Helen a pink balloon for free. Two of his feuding neighbours – namely Tessie and Cristy – each gave them Php 100 to be able to afford the other rides.
Unaware of each other’s presence, they both waved and smiled at Magnifico and Helen as they made their way to the entrance of a ride. Spontaneously, they caught each other’s eyes and exchanged smiles. For a short moment, the abhorrence they felt with one another had faded away. On their way home, Domeng witnessed how Magnifico strenuously hauled Helen on his back and realized how compassionate and giving Magnifico’s heart was. Having understood why Magnifico earnestly wanted to rent his wheelchair, he decided to give it to him for free so he immediately asked him to go to his house.
Heartbreakingly, Magnifico was hit by a truck on his way to Domeng’s house and died instantly. The vibrant coffin he covertly built in preparation for his grandmother’s death was the one used for his untimely demise. During the burial, everyone whose life was touched by Magnifico came – even Ka Doring who later realized that the herbal medicine he gave her is actually effective. By the end of the movie, Gerry found the rubik’s cube he was trying to solve for a year at the workplace where Magnifico constructed the wooden coffin.
A few days before Magnifico died, he asked his father if he could try fixing it but didn’t allow him thinking that he was too unintelligent to be able to put it together but he did – just like how he tried to resolve the problems his family and friends were facing. The movie shows how typical low-income families struggle in this intricate world we all live in, how they deal with the people around them, and how they manage to smile even just for a while despite their huge dilemmas. Regardless of how often they argue and how tough their situation is, they still remain intact.
The compassion of helping one another still remains. As depicted in the movie, although Edna kept on complaining of how miserable their life is, she’s still there – ready to sacrifice for the sake of her loved ones. And when Gerry thought of giving up, his mother encouraged him and told him that they will be able to surpass all those challenges. This conveys that family relationships, in spite of the various problems they are encountering, last. In addition, it is apparently portrayed in the movie that an individual’s social class shapes one’s actions and perception about life.
Like, for instance, Magnifico’s brother (Miong) who badly wanted to lift his family from poverty courted a rich man’s daughter and made her fall in love with him assuming that if they get married, he would take part of her family’s wealth but in the long run, he also fell in love with her and wanted nothing else but to live with her for the rest their lives. In contrast, the father of Miong’s girlfriend wanted them to separate thinking that what Miong desired is their riches and possessions, that he didn’t really love his daughter. This contradicting iewpoint of both sides is only one of the many reasons why people of different social statuses don’t usually agree with one another. In this movie, one can feel Magnifico’s profound sincerity in all his actions and immense empathy to those close to his heart. When he died, his genuineness was somewhat passed on to the people around him. This is reflected on how Edna’s treatment on Magnifico’s grandmother changed after his death. She had been greatly irritated by the ill and aging Magda who have been repeatedly asking for sugared bread.
She didn’t want to buy her that since Magda had diabetes but after Magnifico’s death, realizing how short life could be, she finally gave her request leaving Magda extremely happy. Another indication of the passing on of Magnifico’s benevolence is the transition of Ka Doring from a hostile old woman to a benign person. Magnifico may be too young but he has certainly affected and changed the lives of the people around him. He taught them forgiveness resulting to a better relationship with one another. He served people with love and compassion. His name really suits him. He is truly magnificent.
Courtney from Study Moose
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