Lingua Franca.jpg

still from Lingua Franca (2019)

Manila Baby

writer, director

full-length | fiction | development 



In the Philippines’s bustling dystopian capital, three individuals, each dealing with the loss of their loved ones, find their longing momentarily filled by Baby, a trans woman working as a replacement for other people. As they all deal with their sadness through her, Baby starts grappling with her own yearning when she finds in her fourth client what she longs for: a nurturing father figure.

director's statement

I had a very hostile relationship with my father when I was younger. It came to a point that I’m used to it when he’s not around. He’s far away from home working to sustain all of us. He’d be gone for weeks, months, and on normal days, he would arrive at home so late from meetings. He had to do that, we’re not rich. His pseudo absence caused a lot of angst coming from me growing up. We always fight over things that made me distant from him—but I still love him.


This trauma explains my longing for a man who’ll care for me. When I used to date people, I always yearned for a man who’ll hug me at night, who’ll stroke my hair, who’ll treat me like his possession—his baby. Yet knowing how gay dating works, all of them were gone. Everyone leaves. And with death being an inevitable stage of our lives strengthens the idea: everything is fleeting. Yet, despite knowing all this, I still chose to take risks: to form relationships that won’t last long; to dwell in the memories that will never happen again; to live in an enjoyable moment that will just contribute to my never-ending longing.


Now that we’re financially capable and our relationship is far better, there’s a question that keeps on looming around me: if living didn’t cost too much, will my father be there for me? Even if he tries reconnecting with me now, all those possible moments that I could’ve made with him are now gone. Capitalism stole my father from my younger self. I want to tell the story of Baby to illustrate the yearning of someone who lives in the capital. I want this dystopian city to reflect what industrial sadness looks like. The story is an intentional irony knowing that Baby works to fill in others’ emptiness while the void inside her grows continuously. That her seemingly meaningless brief encounters with her customers bring nothing aside from an intensified desire for something real. For a love that is for her, wherein she is not only a vessel of an unsent affection; instead, the one who receives. I wish to show how it feels to be in a place, where populations grow exponentially, where Baby always feels invisible and left unnoticed, where relationships are tendered as transactions. Brief and commodified.

This film is a visualization of my feeling as an urban boy wishing for a genuine and lasting connection. This film ought to validate Baby’s pining for fatherly care and the old man’s wish to relive moments with his deceased daughter. This is something universal. At some point in our lives, we all wanted something that seems to happen impossibly. But when our wishes come along unexpectedly, we grab that opportunity and dwell in it like there’s no tomorrow despite knowing that it will be gone, soon.


Ma. Sophia Sibal

project deck available upon request.