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Here are some of our thoughts on Hello, Love, Goodbye, a film starring Kathryn Bernardo and Alden Richards and directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina.

By now, you’ve probably watched—and admit it, ugly cried to—Hello, Love, Goodbye, a Star Cinema film featuring the unexpected pairing of Kathryn Bernardo and Alden Richards. And if you’re not yet one of the millions who have seen the movie, well, MA!-nood ka na

Hello, Love, Goodbye revolves around the lives of Joy Fabregas (Bernardo) and Ethan del Rosario (Richards); both are Filipino workers based in Hong Kong. Joy is a domestic helper who dreams of working as a nurse in Canada while Ethan is a bartender who is waiting out his permanent residency. Just like how most romantic films go, these two characters meet, fall in love, and face difficulties in their relationship.

The movie’s opening scene introduces us to Joy’s frustrations and motivations: she talks of transience and impermanence, of discontent, of wanting more and chasing something bigger. The first time we meet Ethan, he pulls a prank on Joy and then nonchalantly talks about his terrible life decisions. Exhibit A: that Tanya (take note, Tanya. Y kasi ‘yun, hindi G!) tattoo. The lives of these two characters couldn’t be more different. And as the audience, we knew what was about to come: these eventual lovers will have some difficult decisions to make. 

The movie is chock-full of the usual elements of a love story. There’s the meet-cute, the chase, the comeback of exes, the kunsintidor friends, and the inevitable “What are we?” conversation. The story is built from this blueprint. That much was expected. However, the film weaves the  familiar with the unforgiving socio-economic realities of its characters, and in doing so provides insight into the complexities of choice, womanhood, and class struggle. 

To view Hello, Love, Goodbye as just a dramatic love story is to do great disservice to the reality that it portrays. Hence, this article attempts to unpack some of the most compelling themes that the film has explored. 

1. “Ang choice para lang sa may pera.”

This line, uttered by Joy, is the very premise of the film. Choice is a luxury only the privileged can afford, an idea portrayed many times throughout the story. Joy laments and curses at how the lack of choice has driven her to scrub toilets and do odd jobs, despite being a graduate of nursing. The lack of choice forces Joy’s mother (Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan) to endure domestic abuse. The lack of choice prevents Joy’s friend Sally (Kakai Bautista) from leaving Hong Kong despite her family’s repeated requests for her to come home.   

Choice and privilege also define Joy and Ethan’s relationship dynamics. If Joy and Ethan were privileged, we would get not just a different ending, but an entirely different film altogether. It would have been more resonant of Richard Gutierrez and KC Concepcion’s 2008 movie For the First Time, which was also set abroad and featured two stars from rival networks. Much like Joy and Ethan, the movie’s lead characters were also a driven and ambitious woman (Concepcion’s Pia) and a charming playboy (Gutierrez’s Seth). Only one thing made the stark difference between For the First Time’s happy ending and Hello, Love, Goodbye’s heartbreaking one: Seth and Pia were more privileged. 

What Hello, Love, Goodbye portrays is how one’s socio-economic strata influences one’s choices, hence shaping one’s experiences, even the experience of love and relationships. 

But for all of its bleak portrayal of choice, the film delivers a ray of hope towards the end. Faced between the choice of staying in Hong Kong with Ethan and leaving for Canada to pursue her dreams, Joy chooses the dreams she has for herself, an act of self-love.  

Ethan, immensely heartbroken, respects Joy’s choice and acknowledges her independence. Our baby boomer fathers could never.

2. Women take on the heavy toll of emotional labor. 

Throughout the film, we see Joy devoting a lot of time and energy in performing emotional labor. Now, emotional labor is a complex and evolving concept but in the words of journalist Gemma Hartley, it’s the “unpaid, invisible work we do to keep those around us comfortable and happy”. 

The women in the film do a lot of this unrecognized work. Joy goes above and beyond for her two wards: the grandmother with dementia and the child with special needs. She takes the responsibility of teaching and protecting her newbie cousin, Mary Dale (Maymay Entrata). Caught between the crumbling marriage of her parents, she acts as the glue that holds her family together. She even tracks down Ethan to offer him comfort after he went AWOL from work. And it’s not just Joy but also the other women in the movie. Joy’s mother was literally pimped by her own husband to an abusive man just so she could secure permanent residency and petition her family to Hong Kong. Plus, there was also a quick but memorable reference to Vilma Santos’s most iconic scene in the film Anak, where she narrates the hardships and sacrifices that she experienced as a domestic helper in Hong Kong.    

3. The film is a reminder of the plight of the working class. 

Joy works as a domestic helper by day and and as a dishwasher by night. On the weekends, she gives manicures and pedicures and sells goods on the side. She even joins a beauty pageant because as her friends said, “matindi ang pangangailangan”

She’s always on the go, always looking for ways to earn more money. She doesn’t even have time to eat properly. My sister says it best: “Nakakapagod panoorin si Joy.” 

The portrayal of the struggles of OFWs is not new. It’s been done before by Anak, Milan, and Sunday Beauty Queen. But Hello, Love, Goodbye is a refreshing take on the millennial experience—which is often portrayed in mainstream media to be filled with so much privilege to the extent that soul searching in faraway places can be done on a whim. There is none of that frivolity in this film. Instead, it focuses on the struggle of migrant workers. 

Even the depiction of the movie’s location is meant to emphasize the condition of OFWs. The film, despite being set in Hong Kong, does not indulge in glamorous shots of the city. Instead, it takes us to Joy’s cramped space at the bottom bunk, to the dark and narrow back alleys of the city, and to the cardboard-lined crowded street of Central on Sundays. 

Sure, there was the usual couple montage at the end, meant for fan service. But even that supercut of Joy and Ethan doing touristy things in Hong Kong is a possible reflection of Joy’s experience as a Filipino worker—she’s never had the time nor the money to experience Hong Kong outside of her role as a domestic helper.   

Some stray observations: 

  • A Cathy Garcia-Molina film and not a single wig in sight? Mind. Blown. 
  • The supporting cast is amazing. 
  • Is Joross Gamboa in every nice Pinoy romcom?

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