List of Illustrational Problematics for Manila by Night: A Queer Film Classic

Illustrational Problematics is a self-descriptive category spun off from the list of textual problematics. I designated it to explain issues with visual content. These affect pages 38, 45-46, 50, 82, and 127. For discussions of textual problematics, click here. To return to the corrigenda page, click here. The problematics are listed according to the order they appear in the book; for a topical list of issues linked to the discussions:

Bernal, Elena (Ishmael’s mother)
Bongbong at Kris (1987), play by Boy Noriega
Estregan, George, pic of Eric (1969)
Iginuhit ng Tadhana (1965), “Bongbong” Marcos in
Manila Film Center’s Malakas at Maganda mural
11011Si Malakas, si Maganda, at si Mahinhin (1980)
Paloma, Pepsi rape case
Presidential children as film performers
When It Is a Gray November in Your Soul Coffee Shop

Page 38, Figure 4:

Several elements in this pair of pictures are capable of generating discussions in themselves, but would detract significantly from the concerns of the book text. To bring up a novel example: one figure is common to both – Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., only son of the Marcos couple and latter-day frustrated vice presidential aspirant. This detail would alter most people’s impression that the first presidential offspring to perform in movies was Corazon Aquino’s daughter Kris. (At one point, Lino Brocka was considering casting Imee Marcos in the title role of his Cannes breakout entry Insiang, but fortunately managed in time to cast aside that phantasmagoria; see pp. 125-26 of Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon’s “The Brocka Battles,” in Lino Brocka: The Artist and His Times, ed. Mario A. Hernando, Manila: Sentrong Pangkultura ng Pilipinas, 1993, pp. 118-54.) During the euphoric period that followed the 1986 “people-power” revolt that deposed the Marcoses and installed Cory Aquino, playwright Bienvenido M. Noriega Jr. (formerly with Imee Marcos’s Experimental Cinema of the Philippines) wrote a popular stage comedy premised on a speculative Romeo & Juliet-inspired romance titled Bongbong at Kris (1987).

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Pages 45-46, Figure 7:

I would have preferred to use the evocative pic below (click to enlarge) in place of the solo portrait of Elena Bernal. Unfortunately its source, the phenomenal Pro Bernal Anti Bio volume (Manila: ABS-CBN Publishing, 2017) – drafted as an autobiography of Ishmael Bernal, passed on to his confidant Jorge Arago, and completed by Angela Stuart-Santiago in honor of her late friends – came out about the same time as Manila by Night: A Queer Film Classic. It would also have corrected the commonly misspelled and uncompleted name of the café run by Bernal, with “When It Is a Gray November in Your Soul Coffee Shop” rather than “When It’s a Grey November in Your Soul.”

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Page 50, Figure 9:

The pic in question came from a framed entry in Cinema Paraiso (Film Paradise), an exhibit of Filipino movie memorabilia with film screenings and lectures, held February to April 2003 at the National Commission for Culture and Arts gallery in Intramuros, Manila. According to historian and archivist Teddy Co, one of the organizers, “It’s actually from my collection of bomba magazines, ca. 1969-70. I cannot find the issue anymore so I cannot name the magazine and what month it was in. The other exhibit curators were Josephine Atienza and Cesar Hernando…. The pic was in a section called A History of Kissing in Filipino Movies, starting from the first smooch between Dimples Cooper and Luis Tuazon to a digitally rendered kiss from Lastikman (dir. Tony Y. Reyes, 2003)” (Facebook Messenger exchange, June 5, 2020). The explanation may be too long for a caption and should probably be written as a footnote.

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Page 82, Figure 15:

I could have replaced either one of two exterior shots of the Manila Film Center with the mural in the lobby, painted by Victor Cabisada Jr. and Peter Alcántara, then-impossible to access after a fire damaged the building. In September 2020, an art historian, John Paul “Lakan” Olivares, posted the pic below (click to enlarge), apparently taken when the object was still new, on his blog Lakbay ng Lakan, and granted me permission to use the illustration. It depicts the native myth of the first cis couple, Malakas (strong) and Maganda (beautiful), the latter resembling Imelda Marcos; both were supposedly locked together in a node of bamboo, pecked open by a curious bird. Although many other Malakas at Maganda murals with the same intent of identifying the Marcoses as first Filipinos can still be found in various government buildings, the Manila Film Center version was far and away the best-rendered of the lot.

11011Incidental observation, which I admit being unprepared to fully comment on: the couple were notoriously sensitive to criticism about themselves, but the biggest queer-themed hit up to that point, Danny L. Zialcita’s Si Malakas, si Maganda, at si Mahinhin [The Strong, the Pretty, and the Timid] (Trigon Cinema Arts, 1980), came out around this time. The surest speculation I can make is that the movie was released just as the controversy over Manila by Night was making headlines all over the world. Imelda was certainly not going to risk her culture-czarina status over what appeared to be a potboiler that would never attract the same amount of attention as the production she deemed was a smear on her dream of setting up what she termed the City of Man.

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Page 127, Figure 26:

Re the caption: upon the prompting of director-writer and actor Bibeth Orteza, a close associate of the accused comedians (one of whom had died), I reread available material on the controversy and was surprised to find that the case for reasonable doubt was strong. Pepsi Paloma advanced her accusation of rape in the media on the basis of a photograph where she was apparently being kissed against her will. Splashed on the front pages of tabloids and now inexplicably unavailable, the picture showed Joey de Leon kissing an unwilling Paloma, with the other comedians looking on with amusement. The worst that the picture denotes would be molestation, rather than rape.

11011The photographer was Guada Guarin, an actress who was also a ward of talent manager Rey de la Cruz; she has since refused to speak on the matter, as do the surviving accused. The rape story attracted renewed attention from an extended article and its follow-ups that were subsequently withdrawn by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, after the current Philippine Senate President, who was part of the comedy team but not present during the incident, successfully contested the timeline of events claimed in the articles.

11011I had to conclude that the rape accusation may have been one of the publicity gimmicks de la Cruz (whom I’d interviewed more than once) was known for. The softdrink beauties and the comedy trio used to have their own regular projects with Regal Films (also Manila by Night’s production outfit). When the production company severed its ties with de la Cruz and his talents as a result of the controversy, that indicated to me that the accused had enough of a strong case to demand that Regal either take their side or risk a lawsuit.

11011The circumstances behind the incident, where the alleged rapists invited the actresses to visit a room in a five-star hotel, had no indication of coercion or the use of an incapacitating agent; each side claimed that the other was enthusiastic about extending invitations to visit the room. The last few weeks before Paloma announced she was dropping her case, only de la Cruz continued to denounce the comedians. The Senate President, unfortunately, is a right-wing pro-Church bigot with the expected sexist and homophobic trains of thought; the condition gives rise to less-informed liberals readily believing that he shares the same type of malevolence with his associates – which, according to people within showbiz circles, is far from true.

11011As a direct result of the suppression of the Inquirer articles, several misimpressions about the incident have proliferated. In one instance, Eraserheads frontperson Ely Buendia found it necessary to debunk the long-standing rumor that the song “Spoliarium” (titled after the famed 1884 painting of Juan Luna) was about the rape of Pepsi Paloma. One other verifiably erroneous claim making the rounds of internet posts concerns the ungrammatical suicide note supposedly left by Paloma, stating “This is a crazy planets.” This was in fact the message left by a near-contemporaneous suicide, Stella Strada, who like Paloma also became famous as a sex-film ingenue.

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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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