If thou couldst make thy way though the swirling mist of my over-analyzed thoughts or perhaps have once waxed musings with over-sized cups of coffee, you have at least once heard me rant at how Filipino gay movies never really show the homosexual condition. The gay themed movie mills of late have churned out a hodgepodge of plots that only serve to titillate and sell sex displaying bodies of upstart wannabes who wish to make it big in local showbiz by shedding their skivvies, egged on by their creators without a care for true artistry in film language and storytelling. Many, if not all, direct to video Filipino gay films have amounted to nothing but discs gathering dust under my bed or have been a serious waste of my time.
Surprising it is, in my rather elitist view of what a gay movie should be, that I would find myself excited after having watched the trailer for Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington. Having missed its CCP screening due to certain work obligations, I was fortunate enough to catch Zombadings' commercial cinema release a few weeks later. So do pardon if I go on with this one the way the Barefoot Baklesa does as always... And as much as the Barefoot Baklesa had wanted this to be a properly structured review, it does not do well to over-think movies like these. So, here goes...
In my lifetime, I have seen the many uses of the word Bakla: as a means of identification, as a weapon of ridicule, as a description of deviance, of non-conformity, of emasculation, a substitute for expletives, a punchline for jokes, and of course the root word for Baklesa.
But then came the boy who cried Bakla...
Remington, seems to be the macrocosm of the general Filipino attitude towards homosexuals as the obnoxious child who cries Bakla, going too far, to the dismay and embarrassment of his mother. And by way of a prologue from a Fairy Tale, Remington cries Bakla to the wrong fairy thus causing him to be cursed, "Pero ikaw bata ka, paglaki mo, magiging bakla ka!" [But you child, when you grow up, you too will turn gay!]
Years later, a series of unexplained murders occur, with homosexuals as the main target; baffling the authorities and Remington's mother -the chief of police. As the number of murdered homosexuals increase, Remington undergoes inexplicable changes like his speech, his mannerisms, his choice in clothing, and his sexual confusion and is transformed thus: into the cliched image of a Bakla.
Remington's struggle to make heads or tails of the situation is made complicated when his infatuation for a girl and his developing attraction for his best bud Jigs are thrown into the charmed pot. Their misadventures would lead them to conjure the spirits, make bold with the living dead, and come face to face with their own failings -that by some measure seems small but speaks most of our humanity.
Zombadings brings out the laughs but is victorious in saying what it wants to say without being overtly obvious. Daniel Fernando's tirade on the ills the Homosexual poses to mankind and Philippine Society is drowned out by the noise of a passing marching band. His bigotry and hypocritical self-righteousness is wasted on the audience who have begun to slide down the rainbow.
As the story unravels, Zombadings tickles as it leads one to think. The film pushes the idea of cursing one with Kabaklaan or Homosexuality yet does ask "what is so bad with being gay?" I have, of recent vintage, encountered young fathers holding their sons going, "Sana boy pa rin paglaki. Pero okay lang." [Hopefully he stays a boy. But either way is okay.] -inferring to the possibility that their son might turn grow up to be gay [I can only imagine the horror it poses to a parent gathering the courage to ask if their child was gay]. Or by curious reversal, does being Gay man hinder one from being a good father or parent for that matter?
To one side, I commend Kerbie Zamora's performance as Jigs, Remington's surprisingly Pansexual [hope that did not give too much away] best friend with his provincial boy next door charm. All too familiar as I have had many a trike ride on provincial trips with a Jigs at the helm... Hahahaha!!! Perhaps the greatest surprise is Mart Escudero as Remington. His quick shifts and commendable nuanced performance as he struggled through his emasculation was every bit entertaining. Mart Escudero's Remington and Kerbie Zamora's Jigs have forever earned them a spot in Filipino Gay Film history. It will be quite a while before anyone will be able to top that scene by the stairway, I tell you.
Also, Barefoot Baklesa extends his applause to veteran actors: John Regala, Odette Khan, Janice de Belen, Daniel Fernando, Eugene Domingo, and Roderick Paulate -still the reigning Queen of Gay Roles in Philippine Movies. Never has there been a cast so effective and well fitted for comedy.
By way of cinematic cuts -which did not seem fluid by some standards, the Barefoot Baklesa was confused whether the technical treatment was intentional but was willing to overlook it for lack of time to criticize as the next deserved laugh had to be cracked. Expect the Barefoot Baklesa to be the last one to be good at Fagalog or Gayspeak; it is not a language he is used to speaking, but thank god for the subtitles. And coming out of the movie house we kept on chanting
"Charoterang ispirikitik, umappear ka vakler, Magpafeel, magpasense ditey sa baler, Witiz shokoley ang utachi ditey, Sa fezlavoo mo mars, na super kalerkey!"
Now doesn't that say something?
If you do have the time, watch it. If you intend to watch it again, do so. And spread the word, how you will...