Who/what is a Filipino? The film’s greatness lies in its exploration of the Filipino question.
Kulas gets confounded with the different definitions of ‘Filipino.’ It originally referred to a person of pure Spanish descent born in the country. However, the term evolved. A travelling Chinese merchant born in the country is also called a Filipino. Being born in the country seems to be the main criteria.
Kind-hearted and gullible Kulas searches out for a boy named Bindoy and reunites the kid with his grateful father, a friar named Padre Gil Corcuera. The latter endows Kulas with a house and a huge sum of money. He gets transformed from a lowly indio into a rich senyorito. He asks a Visayan lawyer named Tibor if he can rightly be called Filipino. Tibor says that in order to be called a Filipino, one must be a worthy and valuable person.
The young man finds a worthy cause to live for. He is disgusted at so-called Filipinos collaborating with the enemies, the Spaniards and the Americans. Just like Jose Rizal, who was heartbroken, he abandons his love for Diding and shifts his love to his country.
Kulas, in the end, realizes that a Filipino is someone who loves or will love the then newly created Filipino nation. It is not enough to be born in the country in order to be called a Filipino. One should also love his country through actions. Kulas approaches a group of orphans and reminds them to call themselves Filipinos. He then hikes off to join the insurrectos.
This great film started strong, puttered somewhat in the middle, and then bounced back in the last act. The script by Romero and Roy Iglesias oozed with spot-on humor as seen in Kulas’ transaction with a potential property buyer and his second encounter with a notorious jailbird.
A raw and fresh Christopher de Leon is a joy to watch. He is still decades away from becoming the hammy actor that he is today. His Kulas Ocampo is no different from Forrest Gump. Both characters find themselves caught up in their respective countries’ upheavals. De Leon manages to show his character’s naivety without resorting to stuttering and doing acts of stupidity.
Christopher de Leon : Nicolas ‘Kulas’ Ocampo
Gloria Diaz : Matilde ‘Diding’ Diaz Patron
Leopoldo Salcedo : Fortunato ‘Atong’ Capili
Eddie Garcia : Tibor
Tsing Tong Tsai : Lim
E.A. Rocha : Padre Gil Corcuera
Dranreb Belleza : Bindoy
*original online posting in 2009