Words by Gianna Sibal
Photos provided by My Letters to Happy Official Facebook
Pertee Briñas, known for writing films for the hopeless romantics such as Always Be My Maybe and the recent 2019 film Tayo Sa Huling Buwan ng Taon—approaches a more… realistic and serious take on love and slice of life, and also tackles a silent and sensitive topic in the Philippines with My Letters to Happy.
Starring Filipino stars TJ Trinidad and Glaiza de Castro, the film gives a voice and awareness to mental illness. Director Briñas and producer Melai Entuna, with executive producers Kent Cuyco, MD and Gabrielle Alvarez-Cuyco, partnered up with the I Am Who I Am foundation’s project MediScene—which is an indie film production showcasing public health awareness.
My Letters to Happy revolves around Albert “Abet” Tantoco (TJ Trinidad)—a career-oriented businessman, and Maria Jasmin Pantallon, A.K.A., Happy (Glaiza de Castro)—joy personified, with her exuberant personality and love for life. Abet’s sudden loss of family spirals him down into retreating from his job and subsequently retreating into himself, and at his lowest point, he meets Happy through an online dating site. For the first time in so long, she makes him laugh, and Abet finds a place of warmth and joy in Happy. However, Abet then learns that Happy is struggling with her own happiness—battling against a mental illness.
The film took three years to create, and the director and producers wanted to shape this film with the intent of creating conversation, breaking the stigma, and giving hope. My Letters to Happy doesn’t provide solutions to people who suffer from mental illness, or to those who relate to knowing a person or a friend who suffers from it—but it certainly opens the discussion. Something that Philippine society tends to avoid.
My Letters to Happy is also the first Filipino film with a character who is diagnosed with mental illness. Ms. Entula said, “Romantic films in the Philippines deal with people who are sad and lonely, but when they find love, parang okay na sila. But here, when I read the script…wala pang character in the Philippines na diagnosed. We don’t have a film like that.”
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Director Briñas, meanwhile, shared that he found no better way to push awareness towards the silent, sensitive topic of mental health other than the big screen. “My Letters to Happy is my love letter to everyone who feels alone in this world. To everyone who feels that nobody understands them. To people who have lost hope in the world.”
Catch My Letters to Happy in cinemas nationwide on July 17.
Watch the trailer here: