A Modern Love, A Modern Death
How To Die Young in Manila sets an anxiety inducing tone as we witness a naïve young boy encounter his first hook-up date. The modern love: one hidden behind a black mirror, only to hope your vision of the person in reality proves to be true. Getting out of the cab, he spots a group of male prostitutes, stereotypically young, cool, masculine. Thinking one of them is his date, he follows them, almost stalker-like, down dark alley ways and into the train station.
Throughout the journey, surreal dead bodies are strewn along the streets, all covered in different forms of liquid: water, faeces and the last body he sees: covered in thick red blood, one can only interpret as the foreshadowing of death. The character stares at it, with almost some sort of connection, before following the men once again.
Hate crimes against the Philippine LGBTQA+ community has long been a pressing issue. With the murder of Jennifer Laude, a transgender woman, and more recently, in 2019, of Jessa “Shantal” Remiendo. The death of the women have sent fear amongst the local transgender community. Without the protection from the government and support from the people, the film is an outcry of injustice.
The film fades to white in an ambiguous ending. Could this represent the death of the character? Or a suggestion of fantasy did this all happen in his head? In this short, it seems to be ambiguous yet intentionally so. Director Petersen Vargas presents a pressing societal issue of human rights. The ending of the film is not a solution but a call to the people and the government. It questions and challenges the cruel policies of our society and government against the LGBT community, which kill young men and women everywhere. Hiding under the darkness of night, the streets loom with desire and death.