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Recipe for Friendship
'Adobo' is a tasty Filipino-American dish

(2 1/2 STARS) AMERICAN ADOBO (R).

Filipino friends in New York City cope with the country, their 
friends and their hearts. Sometimes clumsy, often very 
tender. With Paolo Montalban, Dina Bonnevie, Ricky Davao, 
Cherry Pie Picache, Randy Becker and Christopher De 
Leon. Written by Vincent R. Nebrida. Directed by Laurice 
Guillen. 


By John Anderson
STAFF WRITER

January 25, 2002
THE INTENTION of "American Adobo" screenwriter Vincent 
Nebrida and director Laurice Guillen is to translate America 
via Filipino eyes - the way filmmakers Mira Nair, Edward 
James Olmos and Tony Chan have done for Indians, 
Hispanics and Chinese, respectively.

But it's the way they treat the totally nonethnic aspects of life 
- love, loneliness, dying, friendship - that makes the film so 
attractive in its way. And, in an ideal sense, at least, so 
American.

Low on budget, high on affection, "American Adobo" (adobo 
being the Philippine national dish) has a distinctly familiar 
setup: five friends, former classmates, get together to share 
native food and stay in touch with their mutual roots. 
Transplants to New York, they personify the diversity of their 
new home. In fact, if they weren't fellow countrymen, they 
wouldn't have anything in common at all.

Mike (Christopher De Leon) is a former political activist from 
Manila who works for a Philippines-based newspaper and 
is married to a cartoonishly shrewish, but wealthy, 
compulsive mahjongg player. Marissa (Dina Bonnevie) is a 
flighty babe with a philandering boyfriend (Randy Becker), 
who can't slow down long enough to see her life is a mess. 
Her male counterpart, Raul (Paolo Montalban), is up to his 
eyeballs in women and, ultimately, trouble.

But Nebrida's best-drawn characters, and easily the most 
sympathetic, are the two in the most despair. Tere (the 
deliciously named Cherry Pie Picache) is the one who 
keeps everyone together, does the hostessing, cooks the 
adobo, but is so lonely you could cry. "I could always use a 
man to bring some misery into my life," she mockingly tells 
Marissa, although there's nothing she'd like better.

Less lonely, but just as frayed, is Gerry (Ricky Davao), a 
genial sweetheart whose lover is dying of AIDS, whose virus 
of a mother doesn't know (or want to know) he's gay and 
who accidentally mails naked vacation pictures home to 
Manila.

Why Mom, or Gerry's close friends for that matter, are 
unaware of his gayness is the kind of question you probably 
shouldn't ask of "American Adobo." Another might be why so 
much cruel, if not clinically psychotic, behavior is allowed to 
go on among people who supposedly care for each other. 
Or why (although it's a motif that's adjusted by the end of the 
film) all the non-Filipinos we meet are such nightmares - 
Marissa's cheating boyfriend, Raul's bimbo girlfriend, the 
men who call up and break Tere's heart.

Still, while "American Adobo" should have no problem 
finding a Filipino-American audience, it really is a 
pan-American movie, with moments of genuine insight into 
the urban heart. And characters, a few at least, who are well 
worth getting to know. 

Copyright  2002, Newsday, Inc.