Edward (2019), dir. Thop Nazareno

Edward: A Story of a Hospital

Shirley O. Lua

Edward (2019), directed by Thop Nazareno, depicts the horrendous conditions of a public hospital. The opening scene is a classic four-minute long take. We hear ambulance wailing, breath panting, and metal cranking. We witness a patient on a stretcher being brought in and we are guided to glimpse a bustling, boisterous, and overcrowded lobby, a harassed receptionist appeasing two worried women, a sign that says “PUNO NA PO ANG EMERGENCY ROOM!” (The emergency room is full), multitasking nurses running around, wards and corridors packed with the sick and injured, to a doctor who calmly moves from one patient to another—a woman with a bloodied chest, a cook suffering from stomach pain, an unconscious elderly, and a man with multiple gunshot wounds, to two teenage boys loitering in the corridor, against the backdrop of children crying, patients groaning, and the anxious clamor of people. These two boys—Edward (Louise Abuel) and Renz (Elijah Canlas)—are playing a betting game, waging ten bucks on the gunshot patient, whether he will die or not. 

This sets the tone for the film, a heart-rending coming-of-age story, with flashes of humor and irony. The appalling hospital environments and the family failure to provide a 24-hour caregiver compel a minor to grow up, shouldering an immense responsibility. “Why me?” asks a bewildered Edward, as if he is inquiring of the world that apathetically thrusts him into a situation he is not trained for. Edward grew up with his mother, who passed. It is Edward who now watches over his negligent father Mario (Dido dela Paz), who suffers from pulmonary tuberculosis, although poor Edward does not comprehend his father’s health condition. He sleeps under the bed. He helps the nurses by running errands. He even watches over another patient, who does not have a caregiver. And he develops a crush on this Jane Doe (Ella Cruz).

A hospital is really no place for healthy active kids. Hilarious is the pardonable callousness of youth in the face of the sick and death, especially as Edward and Renz play games and create fun to while away the mundanity of each day in the hospital. They race down the bridge in wheelchairs laden with liters of water, flirt with nurses, smoke secretly and drink beer, watch bodies carried in and out of the morgue, and go around the ER beds betting on whether a patient will live or die.

This film is an honest and intelligent story of a hospital no different from those in any municipality or city of our sad republic. This important social institution that is supposed to service medical treatment and proper healthcare ironically possesses the horrors of human living, so that many of us, after having been confined, or caregiving our loved ones, would fervently vow, “I don’t want to see any hospital ever again in my life.” Moreso, “I would rather die at home than in a hospital.” Overburdened workforce; the dearth of doctors and specialists (e.g., the doctor appears once a week as he has clinic elsewhere); the inadequacy of medical equipment and facilities (e.g., one boy uses a makeshift plastic bottle to pump air into his grandfather, as the ventilator has broken down; the lab tests take forever to gain results); and the scarcity of beds, wards, and spaces—these are some of the severe symptoms which befall a hospital, as shown in the film.

The concerns the film addresses are even more timely as we currently fight to overcome the coronavirus pandemic. We know that the deplorable state of hospital infrastructure is just a tip of the Smokey Mountain. Deeper concerns reside in the medical capacity and moral integrity of hospitals. For instances, how fare the basic sanitation requirements and the nutrition provisions for the patients? Are the numerous laboratory tests to diagnose patients’ conditions conducted as need requires, or are these clinical procedures done to ensure the viability of the costly machines? The rigid routine of having nurses and technicians barging in frequently and disrupting the patients’ sleep is detrimental to the healing rest of patients. The proliferation of interns and trainees makes the hospital more of a classroom with patients treated like formalin frogs to stick pins on. This is not to discount the doctors’ visitation timed at 3 minutes per patient. We are also losing our professionals, as many of them migrate abroad, to search for healthier meadows.  

In response to the news that the Philippines has the worse coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia, Dr. Jose Santiago, president of the Philippine Medical Association, declares, “We propose that this be used as a time out to refine our pandemic control strategies, addressing the following urgent conditions: hospital workforce efficiency, failure of case finding and isolation, failure of contact tracing and quarantine, transportation safety, workplace safety, public compliance with self-protection, social amelioration” (Barnaby Lo and Haley Ott, CBS News, 7 August 2020). An overhaul of the hospital infrastructure and medical technology is an utmost necessity as we foresee a dystopic-looking future for all.

It is such an indignity to humanity that the science of healing is still a very “frontier profession,” compared to, say, telecommunication or space science. In this time of pandemic, we can connect remarkably around the world via social media and other communication platforms such as zoom or google. For five decades, we have amazingly launched spaceships and giant satellites, and more than one country is prepared to fire their nuclear weapons upon hostile provocation. Ironically though, we are helplessly, despairingly unable to quell one annoying virus.

EDWARD (2019) Dir. Thop Nazareno. Screenplay: John Bedia, Denise O’Hara, Thop Nazareno. Production Design: Alvin Francisco. Cinematography: Kara Moreno. Editing: Thop Nazareno, BB. Joyce Bernal, JR Cabrera. Sound: Roy Santos. Music: Pepe Manikan. Cast: Louise Abuel, Elijah Canlas, Dido dela Paz, Ella Cruz. Producers: Cinemalaya, Viva Films, Outpost Visual Frontier, Awkward Penguin. Running time: 1:22:06

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