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I have no shame in admitting I watched Starting Over Again. I don’t expect myself to be any less of a person seeing a local romantic comedy anyway. While I usually abhor the products of Philippine mainstream cinema, I also surrender to the need for entertainment from time to time. And Starting Over Again had a trailer which piqued my heart too. After all, I was, and still am, going through the motions of a break-up and I’m addicted enough to pain to purposely hurt myself emotionally to see a movie which seems to have been taken from a page of my life – my recent life that is.

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I won’t play the movie critic role and deconstruct the film based on its technical aspects. Starting Over Again isn’t perfect, and some scenes were simply too incredulous I had to chuckle. However, I’m happy to say, compared to most offerings of our country’s mainstream film productions, the Toni and Piolo starrer’s merits outweighed its bad moments.

If you’ve seen the movie, or heard about it from friends, you’d more or less know the story. While the bittersweet ending is marvelled at by local movie goers for being realistic in evading the traditional fairy tale ending, I’ve long been acquainted to a protagonist failing to get her happy ending, case in point – My Best Friend’s Wedding (which on a personal note, delivered a greater heartache but maybe because I saw it when I was eleven and I thought life was always rosy). Nevertheless, Starting Over Again pulled all the stops for waterworks, because at the end of the movie, I was drained from crying (I am appalled at how easily I related to Toni’s character) but also felt catharsis.

And yet it was Wella, played by an au naturale and inspired Beauty Gonzalez, who delivered the movie line which truly harpooned my heart.

Yang hope na yan. Lason yan. Parang drugs na nakaka-adik.” (Hope is a poison. It can be addictive like drugs.)

I think people tend to underestimate hope as a concept and as a feeling. Growing up, we are encouraged to be optimistic and to always see the silver-lining in our lives. But hope can also be a dangerous narcotic which makes us cling to the promise of daybreak when we might be, tragically, chasing sunsets.

Toni’s character, Ginny, is addicted to hope, so much so she swallows her pride to the point where she’s practically begging for Piolo’s affections. She hopes Piolo will come back to her. She bargains with her reason. She dismisses the sound advice of her friends. She disappoints people in the process. And in the end, hurts more people than necessary, including Piolo’s new girlfriend, played by the Mama Mary like Iza Calzado. All for the name of love, it seemed – a scrap of it, a glint of hope that everything will be restored and can be fixed.

In one of the scenes, Wella nonchalantly yet truthfully tells Ginny to take a dose of reality. Toni’s character was going mad that it was embarrassing. She was blinded by her emotions, by her hope, she had forgotten others needed to live their lives too.

While I see myself in Ginny – crazy, stubborn, and foolish – I also empathize with Piolo’s Marco, who was left without anything concrete after the break-up. Marco needed certainty, needed a reason on why Ginny left him, on why he had to take up the burden of looking like a fool. It was excruciating to hear the pains of Marco delivered with equal doses of resentment and love, with words which could have easily been spoken by me.

I left the cinema with swollen eyes but a slightly relieved heart. I guess I really needed to cry. Too much pain had accumulated and there was no other outlet but crying. It’s true though, what Piolo’s character said. It does feel like dying. And some days you wake up wishing you never did.

Eight months ago, I would have never seen myself experiencing my first heartbreak. All my life I’ve put up defenses, and contradictions (most of which are self-generated) to avoid opening my heart to someone. I was always too arrogant for love even if I had so desired company. My trauma being bullied as a child didn’t help. Even though I claimed to be immune from rejection, I knew deep inside I could never bear to not suffice.

My own whirlwind romance was brief but it has altered me in a most impressionable way. For reasons I cannot say, I fear my first relationship will be my last. While I am glad to have tasted the sweetness of romance, the bitterness has discouraged me to open myself again. If you knew how much humiliation I’ve put myself through, and have been put through, then you would understand why hope to me is a very dangerous matter. If you knew how utterly desperate I was in fixing the unfixable, then you would find it hard to forgive me for the unforgivable things I’ve done in the name of something as plebeian as love.

All that is missing now, and something which Ginny enjoyed, is closure. I haven’t got much time to waste. I’m working on it. In fact, I’m working on it so hard I’ve given myself a deadline. The schedule is painful and stressful. It is unhealthy to my heart. But it is the only solution I have left. It doesn’t help my heart problem (literally, a medical problem) has worsened. But that is another story I have to keep for myself.

For now, my focus is on finishing this chapter in such a way I can write a new and better one. I tell myself I’ll do it. I’ll make it. But as Ginny tragicomically showed, moving on and starting over again is easier said than done.

“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”

― Margaret Mitchell

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