Bembol Roco is forced to face poverty, pain and tragedy in Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag.
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The window beside me is wide open, against my better judgment because I know there will be mosquitoes at dusk. But I wanted to hear the faint noise of a full blown protest rally from where I sit. From the direction it's coming from, I guess the protest is on Osmeña going in the direction of Roxas Boulevard right now. It sounds like someone shouting into a megaphone "Ibagsak si GMA." The jeeps on M.H. del Pilar roar by, but its strangely quiet afternoon in this neighborhood. Maybe people are more preoccupied with the fate of that cad Hayden Kho than the plight of the masses.
Vamos a makibaka, as the bohemian socialites say.
I'm channeling Lino Brocka this drizzly gray afternoon. I wonder if we would have gotten along (because I'm a total fag hag.) I'm thinking of how he died, how he lived, what he did, who he loved. He was a queen, an activist, an artist, a provocateur. And he did it all with such a definite tone and intensity. He made people squirm–the bourgeoisie, the government, the masses, the Church. His life was just as dramatic as his films: there was poverty, abuse, and tragedy but Lino Brocka was a hard-working, resilient, and very brave person. The very best of his kind.
Maybe Lino Brocka is rolling around in his grave, given the state we're in today. We're an even bigger mess with all these sex tape scandals, catty blogs, ceaseless karaoke, and still the grinding poverty. The population continues to explode, and the poor are still poor. Tondo is still Tondo, only the local gangsters have learned how to rap, they are making movies and releasing albums.
Brocka wanted to make films in an atmosphere of freedom, creativity, and with "the least compromise". Despite the pitfalls of showbiz and politics, Brocka made socially oriented films that were unbearably tragic, gritty, and beautiful. Also, he had the melodramatic touch that made the melodrama-loving public sit up and watch. In his seminal work Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, Julio Madiaga (Rafael "Bembol" Roco Jr. with hair; young, intense, and super hot) is a young man from the province who comes to the big city to search for his lost sweetheart Ligaya Paraiso (Hilda Koronel). In Manila he is forced to face poverty, pain, and the possibility that Ligaya has been sold to a miserable old Chinese man. On the corner of Misericordia and Ongpin in Santa Cruz, he watches and waits for a glimpse of his beloved. But only tragedy awaits Julio and Ligaya–their once idyllic love, played out on the shores of their small fishing barrio, disappears like sea foam in the greedy chaotic city.
Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag opens with a montage of Manila street scenes. Mike de Leon was Brocka's director of photography, and what an amazing job he did: the empty bridge in the early morning, the dirty estero, and narrow eskinita, the random kalesa, the omnipresent street corner tambay, the roaring jeeps. And in the middle of this fine Manila mess: a poor young man, waiting on the corner of Misericordia and Ongpin, to catch a glimpse of his hopeless love. This is the cross Julio bears.
It's the same thing we must bear as we walk the streets of Manila. There's lots of heartbreak and struggle here. Can you feel it? Brocka did it best.
If you missed the Brockamania at Magnet Katipunan last May, the Lino Brocka EssentialsDVD boxed setVolumes 1 and 2 (P650 each) are available at Powerbooks Greenbeltand in select National Bookstore outlets.Images from the Lino Brocka fan page on Facebook.