Jaclyn Jose won the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her understated role as Rosa Reyes—Ma’ Rosa—who runs a convenience store in an impoverished neighborhood on the outskirts of Manila. Scratching for every peso they can raise, she and her husband, Nestor, supplement their income by selling small quantities of illegal drugs. Barely 20 minutes into the film, the police raid the store, find the evidence they need and haul Rosa and Nestor to police headquarters—not to arrest them, but to threaten them with arrest unless they pay about $4,000 to the officers in charge, an amount that is way beyond their means. The police coerce Rosa and Nestor into ratting on their supplier, from whom the police try to extort an even larger sum.
Eventually, three of Rosa and Nestor’s four children agree to go out and do anything they can to raise the money required to release their parents from police custody. They do so in a stoic manner, imbued with family love and solidarity, the end goal of which is get Rosa back to square one in her unending struggle against poverty.