Young Intoy’s life is quite ordinary: he is poor, a high school drop out, and he lives in a remote, obscure fishing island (in Samar province) where he meets his usual buddies, and participates to the organization of the local fiestas. However, his charm and persuasive talk are his best assets. His father Jamin barely earns his life as a motor repairman, and his mother Alicia survives by doing side jobs. Their only hope is Intoy’s sister, the expatriated Vicky, who seldom sends a paltry remittance from abroad (in Finland), as she has a lover and baby daughter, after having sold her property to finance her trip abroad.
Intoy also has a girlfriend, Rachel, with whom he grew up on the island. But they could never have a real relationship, as most women are expected to go to the big city to work in bars and hopefully marry a rich foreigner. Despite her love for Intoy, Rachel has to submit to her father’s plan to find her a suitable American husband in Olongapo’s bars.
One day, Intoy gets an urgent call from his sister Vicky, telling him she fled her abusive husband, and took her young daughter with her. An ugly custody battle escalates, as Vicky could lose her daughter, unless she can prove that she has enough wealth to raise her child. This breaks Intoy’s heart. He tries to save both his sister and his doomed relationship by spinning an elaborate scenario, involving his parents friends and also town members, the Mayor and his wife, and even the Parish priest, to portray his sister as a woman with financial means. Fake property titles and documents, photos of real or fake houses add up to several comic and tragic consequences, just to save Vicky and her daughter from a poor life on their island.
Finally, everything comes to a head when the Finnish consul announces his impending arrival in the village to verify Vicky’s property claims. Intoy gets desperate at this turn of events, fearing the forged documents will be uncovered by the consul. They leave on a fragile bangka (boat) to meet him, just as a typhoon is coming, threatening the whole process. Intoy prays a miracle will happen…
Signal Rock is the latest film by well-established director Chito S. Roño, shot again in his native Samar, on a small island, where he had shot Badil in 2013. A remote island, where women go far away to find a foreign husband, and where life is not so different of what it was decades ago. With his usual craft, Chito Roño tells the story of a young boy trying to help his sister, expatriated in Finland, to win a child custody battle. This is the eternal story of the drama to emigrate to so-called “rich countries”, mainly in Europe. Signal Rock, or how to find the signal, is an amazing experience, beautifully shot by great cinematographer Neil Daza, and a comment on different ways of communication.