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Magnifico is a 2003 Filipino drama film which is directed by Maryo J. De los Reyes and written by Michiko Yamamoto. The film set in Laguna is based on the story that won the grand prize from a 2001 national screenplay writing contest sponsored by the Film Development Council of the Philippines.

The Story

The story is set in a poor town and opens with the birth of the second son of Gerry and Edna. Gerry names the boy Magnifico from the magician “Magnifico the Magnificent” who has impressed him.

Magnifico or Ikoy did not grow to become magnificent in anything, in fact he does poorly in school. But he has grown into a sweet little boy who has a good heart with a strong desire to help. He gets along well with everyone, even with his teacher. The townspeople have grown to love the kind-hearted boy who is sensitive to the needs of the people around him.

When a little girl’s pet dog dies, he gets hold of a puppy and surprises the girl with it. He is polite even to the unpleasant owner of a funeral parlor who is taunted by other children because of her scary black-clad appearance and croaky voice.

Magnifico’s family is poor. Gerry works whenever there are available carpentry jobs in town. Edna does embroidery to augment their income. The grandmother or Lola is the town massage therapist. Her meager income helps the family. The oldest son Miong, studies under a scholarship in Manila. The youngest child Helen, is afflicted with cerebral palsy.

Their life is one big struggle with the care of young Helen taking most of Edna’s time. When Lola falls from the roof and taken to the hospital, they learn that she has cancer and is not going to live long. And if that is not enough, the oldest boy comes home from Manila after losing his scholarship.

Since Lola needs medicine to manage her pain, even if she insists not to buy her medicines anymore, Edna has to pawn her ring, and Gerry foregoes lunch at work. He plays on a Rubik’s cube puzzle which he has been trying to solve for a year since he found it at the fair.

Magnifico loves his Lola. He asks if she is going to live long because his mother says that Lola may die soon.

His grandmother says, “If I live long, I will be a burden. If I die, it will cost so much.”

“Why, Lola, how much would it cost if you die?”

“You will need a coffin and a burial lot… you will have to buy all of that…”

“Is that expensive?”

“Yes, it is a bit expensive…”

“How much?”

“I don’t know but perhaps about 30 thousand, or more…”

“Thirty thousand?”

The older boy Miong also wants to help the family but his method is to try to marry into a rich family. Isang is the daughter Ka Romy, a rich businessman in town. Miong decides to woo the girl who has a big crush on him.

Edna worries that it’s going to be a big problem when Lola dies because they don’t have the money, but reminds Gerry to prepare for the coming fiesta.

Domeng is a single truck driver who has recently lost his mother. When Magnifico and his parents go to the mother’s wake, Edna learns that Domeng has long paid for the coffin and lot plus another extra burial lot for himself.

Magnifico notices the wheelchair on the upper floor which belongs to Domeng’s deceased mother. The next day, he asks his teacher how much is 30 thousand. His teacher replies that it is as much as five times her monthly salary. She asks Magnifico if he has seen a thousand-peso bill and he says he has when her mother pawned her ring. His teacher explains that one thousand-peso-bill times 30 pieces is 30 thousand.

Ikoy knows that 30 thousand is way beyond his reach, so he hatches a plan. With his best friend Carlo, he goes to Ka Romy’s woodcraft shop to ask for scrap wood and lumber which the older man readily gives him. Ikoy and Carlo walk home with slabs of wood and lumber.

He borrows a saw from his friend Cristy, and a hammer from another friend Tessie. When asked, he tells people, including his father, that he is making a box.

Meanwhile, his brother is busy making his move on Isang which angers her father.

Magnifico proceeds to measure his grandmother for the coffin that he is making for her. The old woman knows about her grandson’s endeavor and she cooperates good-naturedly.


Magnifico obtains a water gun from his friend Ria, the little girl whom he has given a puppy. He uses the water gun to squirt water into Helen’s mouth. It is quite difficult to make Helen drink water from a glass. He promises to take Helen to the fair when it comes to town. He promises her rides, and a balloon.

He asks Domeng for his mother’s wheelchair so he can take his sister to the fair but Domeng refuses. Instead, he offers to sell it to Magnifico for 3 thousand.

Ikoy and Carlo get busy constructing the coffin. Gerry who thinks that the two boys are putting together a big box has volunteered to help them.

Next, Ikoy goes to Isang’s shop to ask for the price of one white embroidered dress on display. She tells him it is expensive because the material is made from pineapple fibers but for him, it’s only 3 thousand.

He says, “Everything is expensive. It’s always a thousand, a thousand… three thousand.”

He needs a burial dress for his grandmother but he can’t afford it so he takes his grandmother’s white wedding dress and asks her to fit it. It still fits well except in the stomach and thigh area. He promises to take care of it.

The town fiesta comes and Edna prepares a spread to invite neighbors. When she comes home from market, she tells them to eat all they can that day because after the fiesta, they have nothing more to eat. Then she murmurs, “Life is a never-ending suffering.”

When left alone to fend for her sick daughter, Gerry grumbles and asks his mother why fate has given him one sick child, one dumb child, and intelligent enough but of no help. He wonders if he is being punished for expecting his children to get them out of poverty.

Ikoy feels bad that his father is angry at him because he is dumb. His father says he does not mean what he said. It’s just that their problems are piling up. When Ikoy sees the Rubik’s cube, he asks to try it. His father tells him if he himself cannot do it, how can Ikoy do it? It is tantamount to telling Magnifico that he is dumb, and Gerry quickly realizes his mistake and tells Ikoy that Rubik’s is not for children. He promises to let him try it when he is older.

Ikoy brings the wedding dress to Isang to get it altered. He tells her that his Lola is going to use the dress soon. Isang tells Ikoy that for him, the alteration is free of charge.

When the fair is in town, Ikoy and Carlo decides to sell water and juice to raise the three thousand for the wheelchair. Their strategy is to entertain the audience to sell more. They have earned three hundred six pesos that day.

He shows his Lola his money and tells her that he needs three thousand. Lola tells Ikoy that he is such a problematic little boy, just like what Carlo has told him, that he is a boy with so much problem. Carlo has told him to let the adults take care of the problems but Ikoy insists that adults also need help.

He asks his Lola about a concoction to treat sore throat. The next day, he gives a bottle of the potion to Ka Doring, the bad-tempered owner of the funeral parlor.

The fair has only two days left in town and Ikoy needs to take Helen to it so he approaches Domeng again for the wheelchair. After much haggling, Domeng agrees to rent it out to him for three hundred pesos.

That night, Lola writhes in pain so Ikoy uses his money to buy her medicine.

His father helps him finish his big box and Ikoy paints it himself. Miong is on a date with Isang when Ka Romy catches them. After an angry confrontation with Miong and his parents, Romy decides to send Isang to Manila.

As Isang delivers Lola’s wedding dress to Miong’s house, she overhears him tell his parents that he wants to help alleviate their poverty by trying to marry Isang. Gerry is enraged and disappointed at how Miong has turned out to be.

In his frustration that he cannot even solve the Rubik’s cube puzzle, Gerry throws it away. That night, Ikoy again promises Helen to take her to the fair the next day, its last day in town.

While he and Carlo look over the lots in the cemetery, Domeng visits his mother with flowers. He shows Ikoy the empty lot for himself. He asks him about the wheelchair rent but before Ikoy can explain, he becomes annoyed and leaves. Ikoy wonders how much flowers for the dead cost.

He goes to Ka Doring to ask the price of the burial lot and she drives them away after telling them it is 15 thousand. Ikoy asks about her sore throat and she says she threw away the bottle he gave her.


He and Carlo goes back to the fair to sell more water and juice again, but they find two girls selling at their spot and using their strategy, singing to make sales. He goes home dejected. Helen is waiting for him, ready to go to the fair or perya. She even speaks for the first time. “P-e-r-y-a,” she stutters.

Ikoy takes Helen to the fair by straddling her on his back secured by a blanket tied around his shoulders. They walk to the fair until his brother’s friend gives them a ride. When Tessie sees them in the fair, she gives Ikoy money for the ride, Cristy also gives them money, and the ride attendant gives them a free ride. The balloon vendor gives Helen a free pink balloon.

As they go home, Ikoy sees his father who carries Helen back home. Domeng also sees how Ikoy has taken his sister to the fair.

The next day, Magnifico sends another bottle of medicine to Ka Doring for her sore throat. She takes some of it but when nothing happens to her voice, she throws it away.

Ikoy’s mother sends him to see Domeng who has been looking for him earlier. Before he leaves, Ikoy tells Miong that Isang is leaving for Manila that day and he still has a chance to say sorry. Miong goes to the bus terminal and talks to Isang. He asks forgiveness for what he has done and promises to be a better man.

Magnifico nears the bus terminal and sees Domeng across the highway. He gets his attention. As Domeng tries to cross the street, Ikoy warns him of an incoming vehicle and he dodges it in relief but suddenly a woman screams that a child is hit by a vehicle. People ran to the child. Domeng runs, too. Miong also runs toward the child.

The next scene shows a sobbing Gerry cutting short the painted box that Ikoy constructed. It is going to be Ikoy’s coffin.

As Edna gathers Ikoy’s belongings, a slip of folded paper falls from his books. Inside the paper is about 200 pesos and a note says “for Lola’s flowers.”

The burial is attended by almost all of the people in town. Ka Doring is again made fun of by the children and she tells them to go away. To her surprise, her voice is no longer hoarse. She remembers Ikoy and she follows the people to the boy’s burial site. She grieves bitterly for him. Ikoy is buried in the empty tomb that Domeng has reserved for himself, next to his mother.

After the burial, Gerry counts the money they have accumulated from the donations of the people for Ikoy. It has amounted to 31,105 pesos, more than enough for Lola’s burial when she dies. What Ikoy could not raise while alive, he is able to get when dead.

Gerry clears up Ikoy’s carpentry tools and paints when he sees the Rubik’s cube among them. He looks at it and all the squares on each face are the same color. Magnifico has solved the puzzle.

Awards and Nominations

2003 Hawaii International Film Festival:

Nominated for Golden Maile Award – Narrative Feature (Maryo J. De Los Reyes)

2003 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival:

Nominated for Crystal Globe – Maryo J. De Los Reyes

2004 Berlin International Film Festival:

Winner: Crystal Bear and Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk Grand Prix for Best Feature Film

2004 FAMAS Awards:

1. Best Picture

2. Best Supporting Actor – Mark Gil as Domeng

3. Best Supporting Actress – Celia Rodriguez as Ka Doring

4. Best Child Actor - Jiro Manio as Magnifico

5. Best Child Actress - Isabella De Leon as Helen

6. Best Director – Maryo J. De Los Reyes

7. Best Story – Michiko Yamamoto


Best Actress – Lorna Tolentino as Edna

2004 FAP Awards:

1. Best Picture

2. Best Director – Maryo J. De Los Reyes

3. Best Actor – Jiro Manio as Magnifico

4. Best Supporting Actress – Gloria Romero as Lola

5. Best Screenplay – Michiko Yamamoto

6. Best Musical Score – Lutgardo Labad

2004 Gawad Urian Awards:

1. Best Picture

2. Best Direction

3. Best Actor – Jiro Manio as Magnifico

4. Best Supporting Actor – Albert Martinez as Gerry

5. Best Supporting Actress – Gloria Romero as Lola

6. Best Screenplay – Michiko Yamamoto

7. Best Sound – Arnold Reodica

8. Best Supporting Actor – Mark Gil as Domeng

9. Best Supporting Actress – Isabella De Leon as Helen

10. Best Supporting Actress – Celia Rodriguez as Ka Doring

11. Best Supporting Actress – Girlie Sevilla as Isang

12. Best Supporting Actress – Lorna Tolentino as Edna

13. Best Cinematography – Odyssey Flores

14. Best Editing – Manet A. Dayrit

15. Best Production Design – Gerry Santos

2004 Golden Screen Awards:

1. Best Motion Picture (Drama)

2. Best Performance by an Actor on a Lead Role (Drama) – Albert Martinez

3. Best Director – Maryo J. De Los Reyes

4. Best Screenplay – Michiko Yamamoto

5. Best Cinematography – Odyssey Flores

6. Best Editing – Manet A. Dayrit

7. Best Production Design – Gerry Santos

8. Best Musical Score – Lutgardo Labad

2011 Gawad Urian Awards:

Dekada Award – Best Film of the Decade (2000 – 2009) for Mayo J. De Los Reyes

Personal View

The film depicts a Filipino reality where poor parents expect their children to get them out of poverty.

The movie has touched a bit of that Filipino mentality where preparing for a fiesta is more important than saving for an urgent need.

There are many Filipino children who take on the responsibilities of their parents. Children as young as six work in unimaginable jobs and when asked why they do it, they reply, “I want to help my parents.”

In Magnifico, no one has forced the boy to solve a problem that is supposed to belong to his parents, and it becomes sweet. One reviewer says that the reason Magnifico is not doing well in school is because he lacks the time to study. What with constructing the coffin, and raising money for the wheel chair and worrying about the burial lot and all.

This is a movie worth watching. It is a drama but the overall feel of the movie is light and heart warming. Those moments between Magnifico and his Lola are funny and amusing but it tugs at the heart.


Norma (author) on December 12, 2014:

The twist at the end is quite unexpected... one of the best Filipino movies!

China Abarquez on December 07, 2014:

I watched this movie many times. I consider this as one of the best movie in the history of Philippine cinema. Who will think that it will end like that? I never taught at first that the one that he made will be the one he will be using.

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