Friday, September 21, 2012

Bayan Ko: Kapit Sa Patalim (Lino Brocka, 1984)

Scriptwriter Pete Lacaba shared several anecdotes about Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim during the film’s October 2008 screening at the Dekada Cinemanila. The script for the brilliant film was the first one he showed to Lino Brocka after getting out of prison in the late 1970s. The two decided it was not the right time to rock the boat. Martial law was still enforced. They settled on making the less controversial Jaguar.

After gaining some clout with the Cannes Festival participation of Jaguar, the duo hooked up with Toni Gonzales of Malaya Films to pursue the filming of Bayan Ko. Originally, the film was titled Kapit sa Patalim. But, with the increase in number of political rallies and demonstrations against President Ferdinand Marcos, the song Bayan Ko gained prominence. The filmmakers decided to use it as main title of their new film.

Ibon mang may layang lumipad,
Kulungin mo at pumipiglas,
Bayan pa kayang sakdal dilag
Ang di magnasang makaalpas!
- Bayan Ko -

Brocka utilized amazing footages of actual opposition rallies. The rallies were huge and the participants were really brave and passionate. Majority of the exuberant demonstrators were wearing yellow T-shirts with portraits of Ninoy. There were no traces of fear in their faces. As the Bayan Ko lyrics state, a subjugated bird will try its best to break free. The key word is 'pumipiglas' and not 'umiiyak.'

The censors’ board eventually banned the public exhibition of Bayan Ko. The board used the flimsy excuse of nudity by Claudia Zobel to give the film an X rating.

With the help of some foreign supporters, the film was smuggled out of the country. It soon earned wide critical acclaim overseas. It was chosen to compete for the Palme d’Or. It was selected as most outstanding film at the British Film Institute Award.

More than two decades have passed but the film still evokes strong reaction from the audience. I was floored by the film’s strong statement against the regime of Marcos. Labor problems, health insurance woes, and the Ninoy Aquino assassination were the major issues brought out in the open by the film. 

Many of us can relate to the pharmacy scene wherein Turing Manalastas (Philip Salvador) bought only half of the prescribed medicines because of high prices. His pregnant wife is confined at the hospital. Faced with sky-high expenses, Turing takes part in a robbery.

This is a top-tier Brocka film.  It is better than the dated Brocka-Lacaba film, Jaguar. The dialogues are somewhat stilted in the latter film. Another good Brocka film that is anti-Marcos is Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak, which shows a Marcos-like couple wrecking havoc on a town they are governing.

* Originally posted in a Xanga blog

Re-posted in memory of the martyrs of Martial Law

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