Fields of Vision – Worth the While

Prior to uploading this Fields of Vision article, originally published in National Midweek, an interesting twist occurred: for the first time since I started graduate studies, I had the now-rare luxury to go over any film that interested me, since for the first time since I started teaching, I was able to arrange a half-sabbatical for myself. I decided to re-view (with the option to review) the possible entries in the Filipino film canon, and was startled by how many fine films were taken for granted during the 1980s, simply because too many others were already being celebrated even in other lands; I also wrote elsewhere that cultural critics during the first half of that decade felt obliged to tamp down their enthusiasm, since the call of the times was to denounce the Marcos dictatorship, which had cast its lot, for better or worse, with the local industry. My contemporary colleagues confirmed this discovery of an embarrassment of cinematic wealth, so I sought to rectify the earlier write-up by adding some titles I’d rediscovered, winding up with about a quarter new entries, as well as identifying all the films’ directors. To jump to specific years, please click here for: 1980; 1981; 1982; 1983; 1984; 1985; 1986; 1987; 1988; or 1989.

Three teachers are simultaneously handling the basic introductory film course at the national university for academic year 1990-91, and one inspired afternoon we all got together to coordinate our syllabi and agree on certain activities. One of these was the preparation of two sets of film clips, one on foreign films and another on local ones. I remarked that I was preparing a similar listing of Filipino film highlights to prove that, regardless of the few ups and greater downs it underwent, film as a medium still contained the country’s most consistent artistic achievements. My list was slightly different from what we were preparing – we were concentrating on what I had earlier called the second Golden Age of the latter Marcos era, 1976-86, while I was drawing largely from the scope of my then-forthcoming first anthology of reviews and criticism, namely the ’80s.

Surprisingly, although we had some differences when it came to deciding what scenes from what foreign titles to include, we were almost entirely in agreement regarding the Filipino films. Herewith are the scenes I listed for myself, with two urgent clarifications: first, I pinpointed each one in the context of remembering the entire film; and second, several of these films contained more than just one memorable moment – hence the notion of scene listings or film clips is still essentially a compromise. Also, since it would be easier to recall characters in terms of the actors who played them, it’s the actors’ names I used instead. I first tried to classify some of these (a lot of them were endings in their original works), but later I realized that the principle of time could best be employed in indulging in the persistence of memory. Mostly I searched for moments that were satisfying in the emotional rather than in the plastic cinematic senses, and arranged these chronologically according to year of release, with titles within the same year arranged alphabetically.

1980

Daria Ramirez regretfully walks out on her lover Fernando Poe Jr., then watches from a distance as he looks for her and gives up in Eddie Romero’s Aguila.

Reluctant to confront the reality of her enslavement to small-time film idol Phillip Salvador, Nora Aunor accedes to her neighbors’ invitation to drink and winds up momentarily forgetting her insurmountable sorrows in Lino Brocka’s Bona.

Amy Austria, just recovered from trauma-induced catatonia after killing her male oppressors, promises to name her baby after Gina Alajar as a means of forgiving her promiscuous and unscrupulous best friend in Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Brutal.

Dressed for a sunbathing session, Chanda Romero’s conversation with boyfriend Ronaldo Valdez leads to dissatisfaction with his hesitation to commit to their relationship in Danny Zialcita’s Ikaw at ang Gabi.

Bogus nuns, led by their Mother Superior Nanette Inventor, start with a religious hymn that breaks out into a disco number in Mike de Leon’s Kakabakaba Ka Ba?

Mia Gutierrez confronts her sister, Hilda Koronel, for whom her abusive husband Jay Ilagan still holds a flame, in Laurice Guillen’s Kasal?

Lesbian drug pusher Cherie Gil discusses true love with gay couturier Bernardo Bernardo at the sauna parlor where blind masseuse Rio Locsin, the former’s girlfriend, works in Ishmael Bernal’s Manila by Night.

Lloyd Samartino, upon realizing that the upper-class lifestyle he wanted demanded compromises he could not afford, watches his dance-instructor parents enjoying themselves and decides to obey his father’s admonition to take over the family profession in Celso Ad. Castillo’s Totoy Boogie.

Timid nymphets Dina Bonnevie, Maricel Soriano, and Snooky Serna finally find the courage to gang up on Mark Gil, their oppressors’ henchman, in Joey Gosiengfiao’s Underage.

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1981

Phillip Salvador, anxious about the fate of his missing son, discovers the infant on Smokey Mountain, dead on a mountain of garbage, and breaks down in Mike Relon Makiling’s Ako ang Hari.

Amy Austria chases lecherous executive Eddie Garcia with a bolo knife, threatening to castrate him; after he jumps out the window and is immobilized by an injury, she tells him to wait for her so she could finish him off in Junn P. Cabreira’s Cover Girls.

Charos Santos, a victim of incest who’s disallowed by her father-lover from leaving the family with her husband, dreams of being a bride in a house full of running water in Mike de Leon’s Kisapmata.

After suffering abuse and manipulation (including a near-fatal abortion procedure) in the hands of her manager and producer Charos Santos-Concio, Gina Alajar decides to take matters into her own hands by dictating her terms as a top-grossing star in Lino Brocka’s Kontrobersyal.

Rural migrant William Martinez arrives at Rizal Park for the first time and meets an entire range of offbeat characters, some of whom had appeared in previous Ishmael Bernal films, in the same director’s Pabling.

Rudy Fernandez shares a tender moment with his bride Tetchie Agbayani on their wedding night, both blissfully unaware of the politically catalyzed violence that will soon rip their town and family apart in Romy Suzara’s Pepeng Shotgun.

Annoyed at how her colleagues hold their former mama-san Mary Walter in such high regard, Alicia Alonso reminds her and them of how violently she had been introduced to a life of prostitution in Mel Chionglo’s Playgirl.

Johnny Delgado decides to kill his unfaithful wife Gina Alajar and himself after realizing that their shared guilt in murdering one of her lovers will forever haunt them in Laurice Guillen’s Salome.

1982

After investing so much in her prize cock that friends and family abandon her, Nora Aunor discovers to her dismay that it can’t win a major derby and mourns its death in front of cockfight onlookers in Pablo Santiago’s Annie Sabungera.

After favored son Christopher de Leon mourns his dead mother during her burial, his brother and now blood-feud enemy Phillip Salvador shows up and weeps over his loss of a family, and also over the fact that he nevertheless maintained filial affection for the mother who rejected him in Lino Brocka’s Cain at Abel.

Chanda Romero’s supreme confidence in her desirability overrides the comic limitations of her Southern accent and fake sophistication as she proceeds to seduce late-blooming virgin Ward Luarca in Mike de Leon’s Batch ’81.

Eddie Infante realizes that Rio Locsin, who had enchanted the town’s eligible bachelor, is the ghost of his sweetheart who had perished at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II in Butch Perez’s Haplos.

Brutalized sex worker Gigi Dueñas, who returned to her hometown to set up a whorehouse to avail of the tourists lured by her childhood friend’s popularity as faith healer, captivates a group of curious local boys by stripping and performing magic tricks with her body and dancing with them in Ishmael Bernal’s Himala.

Vic Vargas manfully apologizes to his best friend Paquito Diaz, who accepts it with just enough pride intact in Lino Brocka’s In This Corner.

Rodolfo “Boy” Garcia reconciles with rebellious son Albert Martinez in Ishmael Bernal’s Ito Ba ang Ating mga Anak?

Four female friends – unrequited lover Lorna Tolentino, talentless but determined singer Gina Alajar, gay husband’s ex-wife Sandy Andolong, and overburdened wife Anna Marin – kill time at their university building’s steps in Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Moral.

Two clans of the sugar gentry flee from invading Japanese soldiers who have burned their cane fields in Peque Gallaga’s Oro, Plata, Mata.

Mark Gil, frustrated with his gay relationship with a lumpen macho, casts a longing glance at Christopher de Leon while the latter drunkenly confesses his disappointment with the former’s best friend, Dina Bonnevie, in Lino Brocka’s Palipat-Lipat, Papalit-Palit.

Christopher de Leon meekly cleans up the plates broken in a fit of exasperation by his live-in mistress Vilma Santos in Ishmael Bernal’s Relasyon.

Illegitimate daughter Lorna Tolentino attempts one final conciliation with her legitimate half-sister Vilma Santos; unsuccessful, she decides to abandon the family abode in Eddie Garcia’s Sinasamba Kita.

Tough-minded lesbian lawyer Nora Aunor forgets her aversion to romantic commitment when she sees alluring showgirl Vilma Santos shimmying in front of her in Danny L. Zialcita’s T-Bird at Ako.

1983

Starlet Lito Pimentel and Len Santos, his gay manager, unconsciously demonstrate to Christopher de Leon, who’s estranged from Vilma Santos, how true lovers quarrel and then reconcile in Ishmael Bernal’s Broken Marriage.

Stranded foreign exotic dancer Amparo Muñoz teaches conservative lass Gloria Diaz how to seduce a man by flirting with her ardent admirer Rey “PJ” Abellana in Jehu Sebastian’s Hayop sa Ganda.

Tony Santos Sr. relates to his son Phillip Salvador his fulfillment in retiring as an honest though poor policeman in Lino Brocka’s Hot Property.

Destructively domineering father Vic Silayan chides his dead wife on her grave for abandoning him in this life in Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Karnal.

Rebel leader Lito Lapid, after deciding to await his firstborn as his wife undergoes labor among Aeta tribespeople, enjoys the quiet rural dawn prior to making his last stand in Celso Ad. Castillo’s Pedro Tunasan.

Long-suffering mother Charito Solis finally decides to turn against her criminally abusive son Ace Vergel, in favor of her adopted daughter Vivian Velez, in Carlo J. Caparas’s Pieta.

When her grieving mother Nida Blanca blames the death of her husband on adoptive son Jaypee de Guzman, Maricel Soriano finds herself torn between the emotional demands of her mother and the needs of her brother in Maryo J. de los Reyes’s Saan Darating ang Umaga?

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1984

Ilocana Gloria Romero and Visayan Nida Blanca maintain hypocritical geniality as next-door neighbors while plotting to outdo each other in terms of material success and involving their husbands and children in the process in Maryo J. de los Reyes’s Anak ni Waray vs. Anak ni Biday.

Dindo Fernando loses his equanimity in court after his client and former girlfriend Vilma Santos decides to incriminate herself by telling the truth in Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Baby Tsina.

William Martinez, Herbert Bautista, J.C. Bonnin, Raymond Lauchengco, and Aga Muhlach partake of hijinks and ’80s New Wave pop culture as they explore the world of adolescent masculinity in Maryo J. de los Reyes’s Bagets.

Barrio boys bravely line up for the traditional unanesthetized circumcision ritual in Boatman.

Gina Alajar escapes from prison by seducing her security escort and then handcuffing him to a bed in a mausoleum in Mario O’Hara’s Bulaklak sa City Jail.

Unaware that his older sister Nora Aunor suspects his involvement in gangland violence, Dan Alvaro submits to her care and counsel in Mario O’Hara’s Condemned.

Maricel Soriano enumerates to her elder sister Gina Alajar the several frustrations in slum life as her justification for aspiring to higher social standing in Maryo J. de los Reyes’s Kaya Kong Abutin ang Langit.

Gold-digging manipulator Eddie Garcia attempts to seduce lonely widow Gloria Romero, whose loneliness blinds her to his coarseness and greed, by plying her with liquor in Laurice Guillen’s Kung Mahawi Man ang Ulap.

Marilyn Concepcion and birthday celebrator Nora Aunor, Filipina nurses working in America, cry together from too much laughter and homesickness in Gil Portes’s ’Merika.

Alicia Alonzo pacifies her squabbling neighborhood friends by advising them to touch an amount of money whose sheer bulk they had never seen before in their lives in Abbo Q. de la Cruz’s Misteryo sa Tuwa.

Claudia Zobel (in a still photo) enumerates the deaths of great men after her own meaningless killing in Mel Chionglo’s Sinner or Saint.

Naïve nun Vilma Santos, mentored by her namesake Laurice Guillen, nervously takes her place in a picket line for the first time in Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L.

Just like her two younger sisters, conservative barrio lass Janet Bordon sings Maria Grever’s “Tipitipitín” (a.k.a. “Ladrón de amores”) after losing their virginity to stammering stranger Ernie Garcia in Celso Ad. Castillo’s Virgin People.

Single mother Gina Pareño, realizing that English will not be enough for corporate-climbing in Makati, works on her Spanish in Ishmael Bernal’s Working Girls.

1985

Former student activist Gina Alajar verges on a hysterical breakdown as she cradles the slain body of Phillip Salvador, her worker-husband driven by poverty to commit crime for her sake, in Lino Brocka’s Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim.

Frustrated from having to service too many demanding women, gigolo Al Tantay vents his exasperation with their limited cooking abilities by enumerating, to his elderly lover Rita Gomez, a wide variety of edible fish species in Ishmael Bernal’s Gamitin Mo Ako.

Exasperated banker Mario Taguiwalo recites a litany of local middle-class irritations he’ll be leaving behind when he migrates to the US in Ishmael Bernal’s Hinugot sa Langit.

Oppressed mother Nida Blanca and her son Aga Muhlach discover each other’s identity after years of separation in Lino Brocka’s Miguelito: Batang Rebelde.

Vivian Velez emerges as house favorite in the face of her mother Lolita Rodriguez’s disapproval, in her very first dance performance in Celso Ad. Castillo’s Paradise Inn.

Security guard Orestes Ojeda, aware of his wife Anna Marie Gutierrez’s infidelity to him, cries like a child to her prior to carrying out bloody vengeance in Peque Gallaga’s Scorpio Nights.

After her citified friend Sarsi Emmanuelle convinces her that her objection to worldly desires is unnecessary and unhealthy, Maribel Lopez begins discovering her body’s sensual potential in Elwood Perez’s Silip.

A ghostly band of adventurers sing “Atin Cu Pung Singsing” as they sail down the Pampanga River in Peque Gallaga’s Virgin Forest.

1986

Forced into gladiatorial hand-to-hand combat by sleazy-rich yuppies, Dan Alvaro defeats the reigning champion (working-class like him) but refuses to kill him in Mario O’Hara’s Bagong Hari.

Obsessive paranoid Joel Torre, tormented by the memory of a girl he killed and another he has kidnapped, goes into a hallucinatory nightmare in Mike de Leon’s Bilanggo sa Dilim.

Single parent Gloria Diaz tries her best to cheer up her kids upon their arrival at their rundown new residence in Celso Ad. Castillo’s Ang Daigdig Ay Isang Butil na Luha.

Gino Antonio and Jaclyn Jose, live-show performers and lovers, discover that a neighbor has accidentally witnessed them in bed and continue their lovemaking anyway in Chito Roño’s (a.k.a. Sixto Kayko’s) Private Show.

Jaclyn Jose, the only one among two couples who has fallen in love with the person she married, breaks down upon confirming her husband and best friend’s affair in William Pascual’s Takaw Tukso.

Married couple Michael de Mesa and Anna Marie Gutierrez match the former’s best friend, fugitive Joel Torre, with the latter’s schoolteacher chum, Betty Mae Piccio, during a picnic in Peque Gallaga’s Unfaithful Wife.

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1987

Gay soldier Roderick Paulate eulogizes his straight doppelgänger, a fallen rebel leader, in Mike Relon Makiling’s Kumander Gringa.

Successful executive Lorna Tolentino declares her intention to maintain at all cost her grip on hesitant lover Jay Ilagan in Lino Brocka’s Maging Akin Ka Lamang.

Before an audience of otherworldly creatures and earthlings, Alfredo Navarro Salanga states his preference for staying in the supernatural world to residing in Cubao in Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes’s Once Upon a Time.

Susan Roces gives vent to her emotions as her husband Eddie Gutierrez moves in with his mistress Charo Santos-Concio in Mel Chionglo’s Paano Kung Wala Ka Na.

Vilma Santos, dressed in black along with her mother- and sister-in-law, prepares to attend the funeral of Tonton Gutierrez, an intellectually disabled man whom she was forced to marry for convenience by her manipulative boyfriend, but with whom she eventually fell in love in Eddie Garcia’s Saan Nagtatago and Pag-ibig?

After her family discovers her trade, Celeste Legaspi attempts suicide but has to defer it several times to attend to the needs of her late prostitute-friend’s baby in Mario O’Hara’s Tatlong Ina, Isang Anak.

1988

Tough-as-nails Malou de Guzman teaches a demure Maricel Soriano how to become an effective bus conductor in Mel Chionglo’s Babaing Hampaslupa.

Presidential aspirant Laurice Guillen and her supporters celebrate the departure of a dictator in Robert Markowitz’s A Dangerous Life.

Bank teller Jaclyn Jose, flush with the exhilaration of freedom from big-city concerns, runs through a clearing in the wilderness in the dead of night as her bewildered boyfriend Mark Gil follows in Chito Roño’s Itanong Mo sa Buwan.

After confiding his apprehension to his sister Snooky Serna regarding her safety in the hands of her sadist husband, she winds up comforting her brother Anjo Yllana in Maryo J. de los Reyes’s Kapag Napagod ang Puso.

After years of avoidance, working-class couple Ricky Davao and Jackie Lou Blanco strive for civility with their upper-class counterparts and former swapped partners Edu Manzano and Dina Bonnevie in Carlos Siguion-Reyna’s Misis Mo, Misis Ko.

Matriarch Mary Walter explains to her brood of grandchildren how deforestation forces creatures of the woodlands to dwell among humans in Peque Gallaga & Lore Reyes’s Tiyanak.

Bargirl Debbie Miller, realizing that her boyfriend Rudy Fernandez needs money, decides to give him her earnings in exchange for a night of intimacy with him in Pepe Marcos’s Tubusin Mo ng Dugo.

1989

Nora Aunor admits her generation-spanning love, twisted by class conflicts, for Tirso Cruz III in Elwood Perez’s Bilangin ang Bituin sa Langit.

Tito Arevalo, charismatic leader of a band of right-wing fanatics, basks in his belief that God is on his side as his own family suffers in Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes’s Isang Araw Walang Diyos.

Macho dancers Daniel Fernando and Alan Paule, the former discovering his sister in a brothel and the latter anxious to comfort him, resort to homosexual tenderness in Lino Brocka’s Macho Dancer.

Former rebel priest and government apologist Phillip Salvador grieves silently for his illegitimate son murdered by right-wing vigilantes in Lino Brocka’s Orapronobis.

Cancer victim Vilma Santos pays tribute to a beautiful morning before death claims her in Ishmael Bernal’s Pahiram ng Isang Umaga.

Á!

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About Joel David

Teacher, scholar, & gadfly of film, media, & culture. [Photo of Kiehl courtesy of Danny Y. & Vanny P.] View all posts by Joel David

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