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A long-running joke

1 Nov

A tweet from the Inquirer today brought to mind a documentary I watched close to two months ago. Entitled Give Up Tomorrow, the film centered on Paco Larrañaga, son of a landed Spanish father and Filipina mother, who was convicted of double murder charges along with seven others for the disappearance of Cebuano sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in 1997. Below is a review of the documentary as written for my J 103 (Interpretative Writing) class.


It has been a long-running joke that the Philippine justice system is best described in two words: just tiis (“push on” in Filipino). For all the description’s merits as an exercise in wordplay, it belies the disturbing reality of cases that await resolution for decades, if at all.

“Just tiis” also paints a picture of restless complainants twiddling their thumbs in trepidation, as time and resources (i.e. legal fees) needed to sustain the case runs out.

One would be remiss to assume, however, that only plaintiffs suffer the brunt of lapses and delays in judicial proceedings.

Accused parties, after all, are movants as well. What separates them from petitioners is the converse burden of proving innocence, by emphasizing the impossibility – logistical or otherwise – of their involvement in the crime.

What happens, however, when a person accused and subsequently convicted of a crime cries out foul and clamors for justice?

This is the central predicament presented in the 2011 documentary “Give Up Tomorrow”, helmed by Michael Collins and produced by Marty Syjuco. The film chronicles the case of Paco Larrañaga, son of a landed Spanish father and Filipina mother, who was convicted of double murder charges along with seven others for the disappearance of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in 1997.

The Chiong sisters were abducted from a commercial complex in Cebu on July 16, 1997. A corpse believed to be Marijoy’s was found in a ravine, showing conclusive evidence of rape prior to the murder.

At the time, Paco – the 19-year-old great-grandson of former president Sergio Osmeña – and his group of friends from similarly influential families were deemed the neighborhood bad boys of Cebu. He also had a juvenile criminal record due to a scuffle at his high school’s parking lot.

Thelma Chiong, mother to the murdered sisters, also proffered that Paco was Marijoy’s suitor.  Ten months after, a Davidson Rusia confessed to being an accomplice to the crime, and pleaded for blanket immunity in exchange for becoming a state witness. Paco would firmly deny knowing either the Chiong sisters or Rusia.

As the trial of the “Chiong Seven” went underway, inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case began to surface. 35 witnesses testified that Paco was in Quezon City, Manila the night the Chiongs were abducted. This ran counter to Rusia’s claim that he accompanied Paco and his group as they raped and murdered the two girls.

Rusia’s credibility as state witness was questioned not only because of inconsistencies in his sworn statements, but also due to reports by his fellow inmates insinuating that he was tortured as the trial wore on.

Then president Joseph Estrada called to expedite the case. The film credits this political maneuver to the Chiongs’ connections in Malacañang – Thelma Chiong’s sister Cheryl Jimenea was at that time Estrada’s personal secretary.

Judge Martin Ocampo of the Cebu Regional Trial Court meted reclusion perpetua on the Chiong Seven. Lawyers for the prosecution were promoted to regional and national government posts. Members of the police force who were involved in the investigation likewise rose in rank.

The Larrañagas filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, citing violations to Paco’s human rights and his being subject to an unfair trial. The Supreme Court responded by elevating the sentence from life imprisonment to death.

The highest court of the land adjudicates based on the merit of cases presented and not on the conduct of courtroom trials as a lower court would. Thus, the resolution to aggravate the penalty was passed even as no new evidence was presented before the Supreme Court en banc.

Local media did not fall short of passing its own judgment on Paco and his fellow accused. Men and women of the press were all too pre-occupied with sustaining a stereotype of Paco and his friends: rich kids gone wild, now left with no choice but to swallow the bitter pill of the penal system.

The media harped on the prominence angle, always emphasizing how the accused were “delinquent” scions of historically and economically powerful clans.

Journalist Teddy Boy Locsin produced a news segment with a voice-over emphasizing how drug use altered the state of minds of Paco and his friends. This, despite reports that all the accused tested negative for drugs at the time of their arrest.

In a similar segment, Locsin would deliver a stand-upper explaining the crime scene. He cupped his hands together and says to the camera: “Ganito karaming semen ang natagpuan sa bangkay ni Marijoy Chiong (“This much semen was found in the corpse of Marijoy Chiong”).

It would later be known that only a single sperm cell was found in the corpse’s undergarment and admitted as evidence, a grossly far cry from the cupful Locsin reported.

Justice delayed is justice denied. But denying an accused person’s right to a fair trial – both in court and in the public’s eye –  makes a farce out of democracy.

Injustice is never doled in isolation. Injustice is societal in that if something of this magnitude happened to Paco, it can happen to any of us. The documentary serves to reinforce that the Larrañaga’s nightmare is our society’s reality.

To have the courts and the media remain unreceptive to criticism on their handling of Paco’s case would be the last nail in the coffin of justice. The long-running joke will no longer be “just tiis”, but the integrity of the Philippine justice system.

The Mean Reds and Friends as Tiffany’s

9 Aug

Growing up, I had my fair share of advice from adults and self-help books to be judicious in finding company. “Be careful choosing your friends,” a particular book said, “you become who they are.”

With time I came to realize that friendship, as with any relationship worth its while, becomes less about enabling circumstances and more about the choices we make to stay connected. This becomes especially true when circumstances – for reasons geographical, professional, spatial, or if you want to go all Bradbury or Spielberg about it, dimensional – make togetherness anywhere from a notch to an eon more difficult. Ultimately, the desire to connect — or re-connect — is a commitment.

Nineteen years ago, I was born on the last week of July in the midst of a thunderstorm. Every birthday since, it had been a challenge to invite people to celebrate with. Varying degrees of rain were constant gatecrashers at my parties, after all. But this July 29 was a different story, with some of those I hold dearest conspiring for a surprise get-together.

The tapestries of each friendship are as diverse as the people themselves, but a single thread binds them together. They are among the first people I could, would and do turn to when I get a bad case of what Audrey Hepburn (as Holly Golightly) called the “mean reds”.

My birthday outfit was inspired by the iconic “wild thing” Miss Golightly.

The Taylor black brocade dress (P250) is from Red Tomato. Black leather platforms are by Gibi. Layered teardrops choker (P150) is a tiangge find, and the necklace used as a hair accessory is a birthday gift.

Here’s one of my favorite scenes from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, where Holly explains the mean reds to her writer-neighbor Paul Varjak:

Holly: Poor cat! Poor slob! Poor slob without a name! The way I see it I haven’t got the right to give him one. We don’t belong to each other. We just took up one day by the river. I don’t want to own anything until I find a place where me and things go together. I’m not sure where that is but I know what it is like. It’s like Tiffany’s. 

Paul: Tiffany’s? You mean the jewelry store. 

Holly: That’s right. I’m just CRAZY about Tiffany’s! Listen, you know those days when you get the mean reds? 

Paul: The mean reds, you mean like the blues? 

Holly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling? 

Paul: Sure. 

Holly: Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name! 

In another scene, Holly said, “Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.” I may not see these lovelies all the time, but everyday I’m grateful for the likes of them, who make me feel like Tiffany’s — and eons, eons better.

via Tumblr

Reel life shifts

25 Jul

Watching a movie used to mean planning days in advance, buying popcorn and a large soda, showing up 15 minutes before the screening to watch trailers (or sneaking in 15 minutes late) and watching the whole thing again if you liked it enough. It meant keeping your ten-year-old chin up and feeling so bad-ass after sneaking into a — le gasp! — PG-13 movie.

Ten years ago, films came in orbs called VCDs/DVDs. I discovered the convenience of subtitles and memorable movie quotes started accumulating in my head. The pause button on the player remote became my bladder’s new best friend. The additions to my collection through the years and the constant need for rigorous alphabetizing  ensured that the OC part of me would have a sufficient outlet.

Now, watching a movie means having my laptop plugged for x hours (and subsequently forgetting all about the charger), loading a torrent file on VLC, sliding on earphones and amping the volume to drown out Mother’s saxophone music CD playing in the same room. Then I pause so very often (deviation from expression intended), watch the movie’s trailer on youtube after seeing the opening credits,  and check my e-mail, facebook, twitter, etc. The result? Three hours after opening the file, I’m only 43:24 minutes into the movie.


News Feats and Heart Beats: ‘Deadline’ in review

4 Jul

Lamangan and Ilagan incorporated real life elements and personalities into the screenplay of "Deadline", the last in a trilogy of films depicting grisly social realities in the Philippines.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

What happens when the pursuers of truth are themselves pursued by the very individuals whose wrongdoings they are committed to expose? Such is the question raised by “Deadline” (2011), the last in a trilogy of advocacy films helmed by Joel Lamangan and penned by Bonifacio Ilagan. In a bid to project social realities on the silver screen, the duo also produced “Dukot” (2009) and “Sigwa” (2010), films on extrajudicial killings and the First Quarter Storm of 1970. With “Deadline”, the filmmaker and scriptwriter paint a grisly picture of the situation of local press freedom and reels audiences into the lives – and in certain scenes, even the gruesome deaths – of journalists in the Philippines.

The Committee to Protect Journalists ranked thePhilippinesthird in their 2011 Impunity Index, a globally-recognized litmus test for press freedom that quantifies the number of journalist killings in various countries vis-à-vis the number of unresolved cases. The country’s high-ranking but dismal performance in the Impunity Index was caused by the dearth of justice for victims of the Maguindanao massacre, where 58 (previous reports counted 57; the body of one victim has yet to be recovered) people were murdered in a horrific display of election-related violence on November 23, 2009.

Lamangan and Ilagan incorporated real life elements and personalities into the screenplay, thereby making a significant chunk of “Deadline” a cinematic allegory to the Maguindanao massacre. The most discernable similarity to real life is the film’s antagonist, long-time governor Muntazir Ghazi of the fictionalMindanaoprovince Abdul Rabb, whose position, political and military influence and ruthlessness is patterned after former Maguindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan, believed to be among the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre.

In the film’s most gruesome tragedy, a press conference with close to a hundred attendees was bombed by Ghazi’s goons – leaving 57 dead, 32 of whom were media practitioners. Although her lines are brief and her face is never revealed to the audience, the nasal intonations and word choices of the unnamed Philippine president in “Deadline” is reminiscent of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, under whose term 79 journalists were killed in the line of duty, according to data from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

The journalist-characters portrayed in “Deadline” and the circumstances surrounding their practice introduce viewers to ethical dilemmas that media practitioners often find themselves in.  One prime example of this is the columnist Ross Rivera (TJ Trinidad), whose role as a “government apologist” earns him and his publication Metro Times Manila not only hefty bonuses from “clients” in politics, but also the disdain of their more critical colleagues.

Another ethical dilemma depicted in the film is plagiarism. When Henry Rosales (Luis Alandy) of the Philippine League of Journalists published groundbreaking articles on warlordism in the Philippine Sentinel, he failed to give credit to his main sources, reporters Azad Sinan (Allen Dizon) and Claire Pasinan (Ina Feleo) of the Mindanao Weekly Herald. When Claire expressed some regret over relinquishing the byline, her editor pointed out that the very exclusion of her name was the best defense against Ghazi, the unidentified but heavily-implied subject of the exposes.

The film concluded with Ghazi gunned down in his verbose mansion; the lone soldier who fired the fatal shot made like an armed David against a political Goliath. The casualties of the bombing were laid to their final resting place, but one is left to ponder about the quality of the “justice” they received. While the image of Ghazi being felled by bullets registers a sense of poetic justice, it is interesting to note that by letting justice be dealt by the hands of a man (in this case, the soldier), the film – intentionally or otherwise – discredited the due process of law. Perhaps this disregard could be interpreted as a metaphor for the disillusionment, or even distrust, towards the slow-moving judicial process that the loved ones and colleagues of slain journalists are left to contend with.

The practice of journalism is rooted in the thorough pursuit of information. Resourceful reporters do not only gather facts but rather hunt them down, especially when there are deliberate efforts to hide or distort them. At that point, the work is far from over – the conscientious journalist knows the importance of separating the grain from the chaff and enriching content by providing context.

It is no secret, however, that the fulfillment of professional and ethical standards comes at a price. All over the Philippines and indeed, all over the world, there will be powerful parties with close minds, deaf ears, iron fists and stone hearts who will attempt to hammer the last nail in the coffin of press freedom. But for as long as there are journalists who commit and continue to fight when they write and speak what is true, the watchdogs of society will not cower away amid the threats to their ranks and lives, and will never be rendered toothless.

The latest attraction at the UPFI

3 Jul

For those looking for a reel good time.

Saw this marquee on the way to Physics class last Friday.

Only in da [University of the] Philippines!


27 Jun

No, this isn’t about Lucky Me.

Following the Girls’ Night In tradition of our younger years, I finally got around to watching A Little Thing Called Love with my cousins AJ and Erika. AJ is still having a giggling fit as I type this. She even pretended to get a text message from the cute male lead declaring his undying love for her. I’ve known the girl all her life, but I only discovered tonight that a hyperactive imagination is among her strongest suits. That, and her firm resolve and even firmer bladder. To illustrate —

AJ: Kanina pa ko naiihi pero hindi ko magawa kasi nakakaputol ng kiliiiig!
Me: Sana kasi sinabi mo sakin, pwede naman i-pause diba?

Remember, kids -- the next time you want to impress your crush, go easy on the turmeric body scrub.

In one way or another, we could all relate to — and thus root for — awkward Nam (Pimchanok Leuwisetpaiboon) and her somekindofanotsosecret crush Shone (Mario Maurer), both of whom come to terms with insecurities, missed opportunities, trade-offs and that perpetual tug of war between love and loss, for better or for worse.

Product placement also figures in the movie.

Granted, the film is not without points for contention, chief among them Nam’s abrupt transformation from bespectacled, dark-skinned, metalmouth ugly duckling to long-haired and fair swan princess. This could serve to reinforce the notion, particularly among Filipinos and others from the Asian tropics, that only fair is beautiful. Second, Nam studied in the US after high school and became a celebrated big-shot after returning to her home country — two details that bring to mind and to the big screen strains of postcolonialist thought in Thailand. Transitions could have been more inventive too (really now, just a generic fade for a climactic moment?).


But who am I kidding? I enjoyed the movie despite its misgivings, and even its inclinations for in-your-face comedy. As a matter of fact, AJ and Erika agreed that the comic figure Teacher Inn (Sudarat Budtporm) bore an uncanny resemblance to local comedienne Pokwang. The girls gushed that A Little Thing is something they could watch over and over again and not tire of.

Equal parts sweet, saucy and bitter, A Little Thing, like its protagonist Nam, isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself and the prepubescent experience of infatuation.  This must be why it has people gushing (and perhaps, as in the case of my cousin, waiting with bated breath and controlled bladder) the world over.

The Uncharted and the Unexpected: “Never Cry Wolf” in review

17 Jun

When man and nature battle for survival, who will be the real prey?

The 1983 Carroll Ballard production  Never Cry Wolf began on the premise of wildlife and the wilderness encroaching on the well-being of man, as seen through the experiences of its protagonist Tyler (Charles Martin Smith). The film was based on a book of the same title written by real-life Arctic wildlife explorer and environmental advocate Farley Mowat, whose work changed the way the public viewed wolves and their role in the ecological system.

Tyler was commissioned by the Canadian government to investigate the conduct of “killer wolves” in the tundra and confirm the threat they posed on the caribou population. His main task was to take home a wolf carcass and examine the contents of its stomach. A biologist by training and a frustrated explorer at heart, he accepted the job in spite of his own misgivings: “I just jumped at the opportunity to go. Without even thinking about it, really. Because it opened the way to an old – and very naïve – childhood fantasy of mine: to go off into the wilderness, and test myself against all the dangerous things lurking there.”

But it wasn’t just the caribou that the wolves were suspected of feasting on. A drunkard he had met before heading for his trip warned Tyler, They’ll come after you, son. Just for the ugly fun of tearing you apart.” As the plane that would take him to the heart of the Canadian tundra flew through the snow-capped mountains, the biologist himself expected his six-month solitary expedition to be “a suicide.”

The man-versus-wild angle is reinforced even in the cinematography – the beginning of the film is abundant with wide-angle and long shots showing Tyler making his way through the vast white expanse of the Arctic. Within days of his arrival, he encounters a majestic Canis lupus arctica whom he christens George.

At first, Tyler struggles to facilitate interaction with – and consequently, scientific observation of –  the wolf. But thanks to his knowledge of animal behavior and 27 cups of urine-inducing tea,Tyler put his foot and pants down in a successful bid to establish his own territory. This much George understood respected, and both man and beast turned to observing each other from a distance. Soon,Tyler realized why George was being so watchful of him: the wolf had a family of five, one that he and his mate Angeline were committed to protect at all cost.

Tyler would soon find out that he wasn’t the only human in the tundra. He crosses paths with members of the Inuit tribe, the elderly Ootek (Zachary Ittimangnaq) and the younger Mike (Samson Jorah). Ootek lived his whole life in the wilderness, and had been a companion to the wolves since childhood. Mike, on the other hand, had been educated in southern Canada and found himself ensnared by the luxuries and trappings of modernity.

The film is a study of loss in as much as it is a study of discovery. The nature of Tyler’s dispatch suggests that man – represented by the Canadian government, in this case – has fancied himself the messiah of nature, the restorer of the ecological balance caused by the wolves’ supposed hunger for caribou. But as it would turn out, the wolves were far from being mercenary carnivores. As a matter of fact, the real preys of the wolves were mice in the field, as Tyler himself observed and tested out. He also discovered that there was truth in the Inuit knowledge that wolves only ate the weakest of the caribou. The rationale behind this was so that the ailment of their secondary prey would not be passed on to the rest of the caribou herd.

The loss tackled here is not only the loss of sustenance, but also the loss of resources, habitat and culture. The young Inuits, as characterized by Mike, were breaking away from their own culture’s beliefs and traditions and trading them in for the comforts of city living.  Far from restoring the natural order, human activity facilitated the destruction of the Arctic tundra. Technology and capitalism threatened the area’s wildlife and natural resources.

One telling indicator of this is the juxtaposition of the vehicles shown at the start and end of the movie. The vehicle that brought Tyler to the site was a dilapidated air carrier, one that would break down and conk out in mid-air. The vehicle that would later bring exploiters of nature to the same site was a sharp helicopter, its turbine making like fangs biting into the riches of the wilderness. The very vehicle used to take Tyler there was revamped with money that came from the sale of pelts from the wolves he had come to observe.

When the state of the environment and the satiation of our material greed hangs on a balance, like the fragile ice of the tundra, what we need be most afraid of is ourselves. Never Cry Wolf shows us that for all our technological advancements and biological know-how, we humans may be howling up the wrong tree when it comes to determining the perpetrator of environmental destruction. In the end, we may find that we are hardly even threatened by the wild – it is us instead, who pose the greatest threat to it.

Devotion and Assertion in Lino Brocka’s Bona (1980)

5 Jun

On the day that you were born

The angels got together

And decided to create a dream come true…

 Why do birds suddenly appear

Everytime you are near?

Just like me

They long to be

Close to you


How much of your life will you put on hold for someone who takes you for granted? Such is the question explored by Lino Brocka in his film Bona, starring Nora Aunor in the titular role and Philip Salvador.

The film opens with footage of devotees crowding around the statue of the Black Nazarene. The camera pans across the throng and zooms to a nonchalant bystander, a young woman named Bona. The next frame shows Bona at a film shoot, within arms’ reach of her real object of devotion – Gardo Villa (Salvador), a lower-tier actor with an ego heftier than his salary.

As Gardo’s not-so-secret admirer, Bona feels no remorse over cutting class and neglecting her household duties just to bring him refreshments at his shoots. This obsession puts Bona at odds with her domineering father, who sees no point in her reckless abandon.

A family scorned.

One night, the dazed fan girl stays over at Gardo’s place, tending to him after he was mauled by a group of thugs led by the brother of one of his lovers. She goes so far as to fetch water, cook breakfast and bathe him. As Bona sets out doing all these tasks, Gardo is reminded of his late mother, a tough but caring femme fatale under whose shadow he lived most of his life.

Later in the day, Bona returns home only to be beaten and disowned by her father. She then goes back to Gardo, offering to keep house and serve him in exchange for a place to stay. Despite having grown up in a middle-class household, Bona adjusts to life in the slums and assimilates well with the neighbors. She becomes a valuable part of the community, even more helpful and well-liked than Gardo ever was.

Gardo having a one-night stand with a coworker as Bona looks on

Her devotion to the actor, however, is unrequited and for the most part, underappreciated. And yet she draws a false sense of authority from her self-inflicted servitude. This is most evident when Gardo brings home another woman and makes love to her within Bona’s sight and earshot. When Gardo leaves in the morning, the woman bosses around an unyielding Bona.

Bona being bossed around by Gardo's paramour.

Gardo’s new paramour slaps Bona hard, a move that awakens the fighter in the latter. She slaps her right back, chasing her around the house and eventually beating her with a broomstick. Bona’s uncharacteristic violence is her way of marking her territory and asserting her place not only in Gardo’s house, but also in his life.

Gardo lets Bona know her place.

“Ikaw lang ang gusto kong pagsilbihan, Gardo, at hindi ibang tao. Ayokong dalhin mo sila rito sa pamamahay ko,” she told him.

Gardo responded by smacking her in the face. “Sira ka ba? At sinong nagsabi sayong pamamahay mo ‘to, ha? Sampid ka lang dito, at wala kang pakialam kung sino mang babae o ilan mang babae ang dalhin ko dito. Baka gusto mo ikaw ang palayasin ko dito?”

Bona, now in tears, answers, “Huwag! ‘di ko na uulitin.”

Bona bathes Gardo.

Bona is willful submission personified. The limits of what she can and cannot do are always in relation and in response to the men in her life: the father who controls her, Gardo who stunts her personal growth but whose every whim she yearns to satisfy, and the elder brother who becomes hostile to Bona after their father’s death, effectively severing her ties with the family.

Annie tells Gardo that she is bearing his child, and that she intends to have an abortion lest her parents find out.

In the same way, Gardo’s relationships with women also define him. The women in his life stand for different stages and repercussions of his maturity or lack thereof: his mother, a tough cookie who doted on her son to the point of spoiling him; Bona, whose devotion reminds Gardo of his own mother, a familiarity that would jinx any reciprocation of romance on his part; the prostitute and the actress in whose company he could feel “like a man”; Annie the seeming goody-two-shoes who bore his child, and whose abortion (organized by Bona upon Gardo’s plea) becomes a wake-up call for him and Katrina, an older woman besotted with Gardo who provides an opportunity for him to clean up his act and find his fortune elsewhere, albeit by spoonfeeding him still.

Bona, smitten and swooning.

The bedrock upon which Bona’s devotion is founded, however, remains largely untapped. Besides a brief sequence showing her hugging a signed photo of Gardo to her chest (with the strains of “Sayang” by Claire dela Fuente in the background nonetheless), the audience is left curious – perhaps to the point of exasperation – to know just how or why she fell so hard for him in the first place. After all, it’s no mean feat to sustain sympathy for a character who renders herself none.

A simple explanation is offered. Nilo (Nanding Josef), a young man from the squatters who initially showed interest in Bona, asks of her: “Bona, bakit? Bakit ka pumayag na magpaganyan? Inaallila, pinapagad. Ginugutom.”

Unflinchingly, she replies, “Gusto ko eh. At hindi naman ako inaalila. Hindi naman ako napapagod.”

At the end of the film, one realizes even more the relevance of the opening scene with the Black Nazarene. It sets the tone for the premise of the film – adulation, devotion and its consequent sacrifices – and juxtaposes it with Bona’s experiece. Unlike the Nazarene, Bona, despite having sacrificed her whole life, does not get adulation in return. She is powerless, and this powerlessness is what defines her existence. But in her moments of assertion and empowerment, as with her maltreatment of Gardo’s other woman and again in the movie’s heated conclusion, Bona proves that underdogs are not always toothless, and that not even servitude can bear the grunt of silence.

5 Reasons to Enjoy Joey Gosiengfiao’s “Temptation Island”

15 May

Smile, ladies! You won't be doing that for very long.

When news of a Temptation Island remake helmed by Chris Martinez came out last April, I made a mental note to watch the Regal-produced Joey Gosiengfiao original before its latest reincarnation hit the theaters.

Gosiengfiao’s film featured newcomers Bambi Arambulo (Miss Maja Pilipinas 1977), Dina Bonnevie (1st Runner-up, Miss Magnolia 1979), Azenith Briones (Miss Photogenic, Mutya ng Pilipinas 1975) and Jennifer Cortez (Binibining Pilipinas-Universe 1978) as reel beauty queens vying for the Miss Manila Sunshine crown.

A great deal has changed since the original was released — hairstyles! outfits! gadgets! — but its self-deprecating humor, takes on beauty and society and unabashed candor remains just as saucy as it was in 1980. Here are some of the reasons why:

Now substitute the first "e'' in "betch" and "betches" with "i"

1. BFs. Boyfriends? Not quite. If you’ve watched White Chicks, you’d know what I mean by BF — and boy, are there plenty of them in this movie. We’re talking four girls from different backgrounds, all fueled by their own desires and motives, pitted against the elements and each other under highly combustible circumstances. And when I say combustible, I don’t just mean the summer heat.

2. CATFIGHTS (no caps, no passion)

Nuff said.

3.  Alfredo “falls” in love (this be cheesy — you have been warned)

4. Communism 

5. Economics and God’s supposed punishment

What I like most about the film is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither does it compel you to. But more than being just a beach flick,  viewers are able to draw insights on the nature of civilization and society. Despite maintaining a front of comedy and shallowness, Gosiengfiao’s material dips into the best and worst aspects of human nature, probing what makes people savage and what makes them human.

Lastly, in the context of an accident that would prove life-changing for all those involved, Temptation Island immortalizes the tempests and travails the characters rise above, as individuals and as a unit. But while some revel in the triumph of the human spirit, others are left to contend with  things that leave a mark but eventually fade away – like discrimination, sunstroke, and summer love snuffed out by a change of heart nary a season after.

Don’t Write Me Off Just Yet

4 May

The most underrated song from Music and Lyrics.