WHERE I AM KING (HARI NG TONDO) Image

The impending loss of his fortune forces self-made businessman Ricardo (Robert Arevalo) to sell off most of his personal assets and properties. He refuses to part with the tenement building, Tondo, that he owns in the neighborhood he grew up in, however. After seeing his granddaughter Anna (Cris Villonco) suffer with a well-off fiancé who has little problem sleeping around, and his grandson Ricky (Rafa Siguion-Reyna) fruitlessly chase his dreams of being a singer/songwriter, Ricardo proposes that the three move back to Tondo under the theory that, if it can make him the man he is today, it can surely change their lives for the better too.

Unfortunately, the neighborhood he left has fallen on even harder times than he remembers. Tondo lacks working water, the residents are none-too-fond of Ricardo and Ricardo’s friend and building manager, Boyong (Rez Cortez), resents Ricardo for leaving all those years ago. When things begin to look up for Ricardo, Anna and Ricky, however, Ricardo’s children, fearing the potential damage that could be done to their inheritance, employ Boyong to make matters worse at Tondo so that they’ll give up and return home.

Where I Am King is an entertaining family drama with a social statement to make about the responsibilities, or non-responsibilities, of the successful. Ricardo climbed his way out of the old neighborhood and made his life better, but he turned his back on those he knew and loved while coming up. His return to Tondo is less about a fondness or nostalgia for the old life, but the hopes that he’ll be accepted as the king he thinks he is; now that the big pond is done with him, why not be the big fish in the small pond?

His grandchildren are spoiled and sheltered, and the experience is an eye-opening one. They don’t always make admirable decisions, such as Anna’s inability to see beyond a potential suitor’s speech impediment, but they do grow through the process. Likewise Ricardo eventually sees the reality of the situation that he has created, and how little he truly did when he still had the power to do something. It’s a sobering realization.

Where I Am King has a strong sense of humor and a good heart, walking a tough line between being fun and serious. It’s a dramedy that isn’t entirely unpredictable, but the familiarity does not lessen the overall experience. The film makes a number of statements about society, love and personal responsibility without becoming too preachy for its own good.

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