This being a Filipino movie, there is of course a happy ending. The women find themselves, and the men get what they want, which is fulfillment sexual or otherwise. Zialcita is a popular filmmaker. He cannot afford the brazen political effrontery that the likes of Pasolini or Godard may have been allowed. But being a populist auteur, he nevertheless subtly sneaks in a point or two. Although the end is happy, the women nevertheless seem unsatisfied. Romero’s face as she walks away with her husband could only be compared with Beauty’s face when she finds Beast’s true identity in Cocteau’s version of the fairy tale. Tolentino becomes pure and innocent, but despite her efforts her mother is still making money off of her name by blackmailing her producer and director. de Leon ends-up with Tony, but not only does she lose her spunk which made her appealing, her acceptance of Tony is just that. She kind of just…takes him.
To some extent, it is Zialcita’s—and Gosiengfiao’s, and Bernal’s, and Brocka’s, and the old Celso ad. Castillo’s—irreverence that is lacking in the industry today. Of course, irreverence isn’t lacking in Filipino filmmaking. In how it looks like, much of the indie scene contains these voices and maintains a monopoly on them. As of right now, O’Hara is silenced and the most irreverent movies made in the past few years were Crying Ladies and La Visa Loca which, despite being fun and different, lacked the social consciousness of the aforementioned auteurs (in La Visa Loca, the movie’s “epiphany” was that immigration was a result of lack of national identity, never examining if it is the nation itself that is pushing its citizens out of its borders). Heck, one cannot even make the bourgeois and elitist argument that it is the “increasing” catering to the “Bakya” crowd that’s leading to the degradation of Filipino movies. Let us remember that even the lowly FPJ action films and in our case, weepies, had some sort of a finger in character—that is Filipino character—development and growth. Even Nora’s very image as “the little brown girl” had so much social and political connotations. Seeing Hollywood domination, Filipinos couldn’t see any choice other than to acquiesce. In addition, since Hollywood has a tendency of shipping out only the most banal and formulaic of its movies, Filipinos are thus not even acquiescing to the best of American cinema. Thus, not only did Filipinos absorbed the worse exploitation of the most American of all methods of filmmaking—that is, genre filmmaking—we also absorbed the worse of how it conducts business—that is, see the profit and the numbers as the only indication of a cinema’s health.
I must stop before this rant turns into a deadly spark of outrage. Watching Zialcita’s film—or any other Filipino movie made before the 90s, for that matter—right after watching O’Hara’s Babae sa Bubungang Lata (“Woman on the Tin Roof”) will never result in optimism or hope…
*NOTE: I use actors' names because it is a pain in the ass to get character names. Having to either remember them or listen through the faded audio track on the tape, I decided to say fuck it and just use actors' names.