Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Babagwa (Jason Paul Laxamana, Cinemalaya 2013)

A dominant theme of Cinemalaya 2013 films is lies and duplicity. With giveaway titles such as Instant Mommy, Liars, and Quick Change, one can guess that the films dealt with various types of charlatans. The Best Picture winners, Transit and Sana Dati, had their own share of impersonators.

The engrossing film Babagwa unleashes a slicker, slimier breed of impersonators. Greg and Marney are catfishes. The term catfish refers to a person who pretends to be someone else via social media.

Greg (Alex Medina) is a Facebook scammer fleecing unsuspecting lovers. Using the personality of a dashing fashion model, he sweet-talks his victims into sending money to an account managed by Marney. Once the money is deposited, the catfishes break their links with victims. Problem arise when Greg falls in love with his latest victim, a beautiful matron.

                           Kapag ang puso'y nadurog, mahirap na siyang buuin muli

Audiences lapped up the cheesy romantic lines mouthed by the heartbroken woman, Daisy (Alma Concepcion). Greg has his conscience shaken up. He falls head over heels with Daisy. He does the unexpected by baring his true self to Daisy. The blurry camshot image of a remorseful, whiskered Greg has been etched in my mind as a definitive image of a repugnant catfish. Greg left everything behind and ventured towards the abode of Daisy.

Early this year, I chanced upon an episode of the MTV show titled Catfish. The hosts raised a red flag when they discovered that the telephone number used by a Caucasian lover is registered in the name of an Afro-American. Could it be that the latter is using a Caucasian personality to lure a white girlfriend? How come the white boy didn't eyeball the girl even once during the eight years or so of online relationship? Is he hiding something? There is so much suspense when the girl went to the boy's house. There is happy ending, too. The boy is really what the girl fell in love with online. No duplicity at all for the boy.

The ending of Babagwa, though, is anti-climactic. Daisy is too nice and too pretty to be true. There's a gut feeling that she is not what she is online. The little suspense left is anticipating what she is in real life.

I've encountered several viewers raising the question of why Greg was fooled by an impostor. Well, one plausible reason is Greg is really in love. Just like his victims who shelled out money, Greg threw caution to the wind and placed his bet on Daisy. All of them are hoping for the best romantic outcome but not all will have a fairy tale ending.

For those curious about Greg's fate, the English title of the film, The Spider's Lair, gives us a hint. Smacked in the middle of the film's end credits is an image of a shackled, incapacitated Greg. The World Wide Web-based scammer is trapped in a hellish, sinister web of lies. There are available space left for other scammers including Pogi, Tanda, and Sexy. I hope they get caught, too.

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