Scene to Scent: 12 Filipino Films Paired with SAAN SAAN Candles


Words by Alyssandra Maxine | Illustrations by Bea Pangandian

We’re all about enhancing the connections between scent and cinema. The 126th anniversary of Philippine Independence Day reminds us of our rights to exercise our creative freedoms and invites us to celebrate uniquely Filipino narratives and experiences. What better way to do both than by pairing 12 SAAN SAAN scents to 12 great Filipino films? We invite you to travel with us through each scene etched in our struggles, joys, and memories through the lenses of scents.

Himala — No. 03 Patchouli at the Temple

Elsa’s touch cures chronic headaches, restores the eyesight of the blind, and saves children on their deathbed. She attributes her powers to witnessing the Virgin Mary during a solar eclipse. But then the masses swarm her home daily for her to heal their ailments. Her barrio monetizes upon her divinity. No. 03 Patchouli at the Temple is a deep scent sturdied by sandalwood, as serious as how Elsa treats her vocation, and elevated through lavender, an herb also known as “Mary’s drying plant.” However, overall Himala (1982) is a commentary on spiritual prostitution and the backlash of groupthink and mobs. There are no miracles—only people who believe in them and the people that ruin their own.

Sila-SilaNo. 43 The Archaeologist’s House

This scent is originally inspired by another film, Call Me By Your Name (2017). For this Filipino reimagining, we picked a film that would focus on No. 43 The Archeologist’s House’s metallic afternotes of summer, of an older Elio contending with a bitter past. Years later, after ghosting his friends and ex-boyfriends, Sila-Sila (2019)’s Gabriel returns to Manila with more baggage and a hesitance to reconnect. Some relationships are easily mended, but others require pool dives and hard conversations to fill in those gaps with a mutual understanding. The oranges of the film’s hues match with the citrus tones of the No. 43 candle. A natural warmth within the dialog and its unspoken histories fills each scene with a nostalgic yet bittersweet atmosphere.



Bituing Walang NingningNo. 10 Kung Tag-Araw

Of course, the bestselling candle gets assigned to the flick of chart-topper Sharon Cuneta. Her character in Bituing Walang Ningning (1985), Dorina, is a sampaguita seller with a fervent adoration for popstar Lavinia, played by the late and equally iconic Cherie Gil. After an accident, Dorina rises within the industry to become a star that burns brighter than her lodi. The penultimate duet between Lavinia and Dorina oozes with more chemistry than a second between either one and Nico (Christopher de Leon), the man more deserving of the “nothing but a trying-hard copycat” label. The fluffy, zesty watch makes this the perfect film to watch together with friends, much like the beach gathering painted in the description of No. 10 Kung Tag-Araw. “Nakukubli sa liwanag ng ating pag-ibig,” belts Dorina during her finale with Lavinia. How fruity.

Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? — No. 05 Linen Room

Spanning from the tail-end of the Spanish era to the beginning of the American occupation, Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon (1976) centers upon Kulas (Christopher de Leon), a peasant. He finds his footing within Manila through comical interactions with different races and classes. His garments reflect his fortunes. He starts in simple long-sleeved shirts with Chinese collars. When he gains upward mobility, the thread count of his fabrics thickens, and he dons on vests and hats. Kulas favors katsa—our country’s closest equivalent to European linen. Even if grappling with the film’s questions about national identity are hefty, seeing Kulas make it through each day relieves us. No. 05 Linen Room tempers powdered naivety with sagewood and lime for the next generation to learn from.

Billie & EmmaNo. 39 Shimizu Island

Maybe all that we, when troubled, need for sustenance are gentle hands to collect the cantaloupes out of reach and someone devoted by our bedside to spoon diced kiwis into our mouth. Billie & Emma (2018) shows how two teenage girls in Eastern Samar during the 90s care and support one another through their slow burn romance. Billie is exiled from Manila and struggles to fit in; Emma is a type-A student initially wary of the newcomer. Then when Emma gets pregnant, her stomach brims like a watermelon. Among all the international and local lesbian films, this one is among the kindest and most tender to its WLW protagonists—and thus most befitting of being connected to the sweetest scent in SAAN SAAN, No. 39 Shimizu Island.



EndoNo. 49 Roastery

Despite his tiredness, Leo has no time to stir an instant coffee before the jeeps to the M-F grind. His stints in the service industry permit for brief reprieves to call up his girl, Tanya—also entangled in contractualization—about unpaid bills. Much like how No. 49 Roastery isn’t just a caffeinated scent, Endo (2007) isn’t just about the dreariness of our labor industry. It’s about how love is a palliative against exploitative capitalism. The love between Tanya and Leo erupts passionfruit in between the mango-shaded frames of their jobs and homes. During the dates that they squeeze in between shifts, their conversations remain realistic, such as the travels that they cannot afford while snuggled in white Eurohotel sheets. “Sinabi nga niya parang Cubao daw 'yung Rome,” says Leo.

Biyaya ng LupaNo.52 Botanika

With a stunning five main notes—thyme, neroli, calamansi, kiwi, and lime—, No. 52 Botanika is one of the most layered scents in SAAN SAAN's fragrance collections that befits a movie with an ensemble cast. In Biyaya ng Lupa (1959), a rural family staves off landowners hungry to absorb their lanzones farm. While the latter half is a stellar example of classic dramaturgy, the first half of Biyaya ng Lupa paints an idyllic picture of daily provincial life. Weddings are lush and vibrant. Men sprawl outside sari-sari stores to drink liquor. When hands brush soil over seedlings and pluck lanzones from branches, the pacing is meticulous, perfect for sinking into a green oasis that we all wish was left untouched.

MoralNo. 07 Campfire 

The sandalwood, peppermint, and cinnamon—heavy spices with a refreshing afternote—within No. 07 Campfire often lead customers who sniff the candle in-store to exclaim, “This smells like Coke!” To us, it smells more like the warmth of a sisterhood than the sugary conglomerate. And there isn’t a better film in Pinoy cinema for that than Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Moral (1982), a movie about four friends voyaging through the cosmopolitan 80s. The film is known for candid takes on loaded issues such as Martial Law, infidelity, drug abuse, and stardom. When Sylvia, Joey, Maritess, and Kathy unite during car rides and drinks out, the fire in their eyes crackles as vividly as their laughter.



Kung Mangarap Ka’t MagisingNo. 50 Anluwagian

Artisans frequent the hardwood forests of Baguio. That’s why No. 50 Anluwagian, a candle crafted with carpenters in mind, is connected to a romance slowly whittled between a university student, Joey (Christopher de Leon), and a mother, Ana (Hilda Koronel), who’s here for a spell. As their relationship develops, so does the threat of rain that could rend their relationship apart. “It’s not complicated. I just make it so,” mourns Joey. Petrichor melds with sour figs and sharp pines. They share the handle of their red umbrella, entranced by their moment in the park, ignoring the oud underneath their noses growing more pungent by the second.

Cain at AbelNo. 45 Talyer

A cardinal rule: men squabble over tracts of land where santals bloom and set the fields that they cannot claim aflame. Hailed as one of the most masculine scents in the shop, No. 45 Talyer encapsulates the same rush as watching Brocka’s, a gay director’s, straightest action film, Cain at Abel (1982). Similar to its biblical origins, Lorenzo rages at his brother, Ellis, for arriving home years later with a fiancee in tow and making moves with their dying mother to claim their ancestral land—the same land that Lorenzo has cultivated in Ellis’ absence. Men smoke tobacco (or papaya leaves). Babies scream when they leap out of wombs. Gunshots echo all throughout the barrio. As part of the Workshop series, No. 45 Talyer reflects the cool-toned coloring and machismo of Cain at Abel through its steel exteriors and the synthetic blend.  



CleanersNo. 42 A Reading Nook

Cleaners’ B&W photocopied frames and hand-drawn highlights resemble the textures of Xeroxed pages from a textbook. The high school ensemble of Cleaners (2019) has a lot of learning to do as they tackle their teenage problems, ranging from personal embarrassments to political dynasties. The youthful chocolate and cinnamon notes of No. 42 A Reading Nook are countered by the earthy, vetiver-tinged lessons of reality. Furthermore, the connotations of a “nook” to a safe space is as familiar and cozy as the average Filipino’s connection to Cleaners’ OPM playlist. “Unlonely nights, romantic moments. The love, the love,” moans Typecast.

MelancholiaNo. 18 Sierra

Those devoted to Lav Diaz’s oeuvre attest to the ongoing histories breathing within his settings, enhanced through the drawn-out motions of the characters. For Melancholia, three activists grapple with traumas within the fog-drenched mountains and pine forests of Sagada. The photography matches the sobering top notes of eucalyptus within No. 18 Sierra. We, the audience, have an imperative to witness the reflections of our nation’s inertia found within Melancholia (2008). Perhaps the other natural oils within No. 18 Sierra—clover, cedar, and vetiver—center the candle in the same way that the moments of empathy and tenderness within Diaz’s films soothe his character’s meticulously chronicled agonies.


Alyssandra Maxine is SAAN SAAN's resident film writer and customer experience associate. She is the managing editor of MARG1N, a print-only annual Southeast Asian film magazine based in Cambodia. She recently participated in film criticism workshops at Udine's Far East Film Festival and QCinema.

Bea Pangandian is a creative pursuing forms of visual storytelling. Drawn to the intersections of her interests in the arts, fashion, culture, and lifestyle, she allows it to direct her creative process and practice. She previously worked on SAAN SAAN limited collections like Amihan and Kasisidmon sa Uma.