Romantic Violence in Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak (Celso Ad Castillo, 1978)

photo credits:

Dindo: Kailan kita pwedeng ligawan?
Julie: Hindi ko alam eh.
Dindo: Kailan nga?
Julie: Baka sa pagputi ng uwak, pag-itim ng tagak!

Little did Dindo know that Julie’s joke and proverbial reply would actually have a literal meaning.

Celso Ad Castillo’s 1978 post-WWII romance I believe is one of the very few genuine rich girl-poor boy (and vice versa) love story. In the tradition of summer flings, Julie Monserrat (Vilma Santos) is a beautiful Manila-bred music student who went back to her hometown to be crowned fiesta queen. Dindo Ventura (Bembol Roco), an average Juan, who also enjoys music and plays the guitar, performs in the program of Julie’s coronation. He discreetly gives Julie a rose, scandalizing her two spinster aunts; Beatriz (Adul de Leon) Monserrat and Miguela Monserrat (Angie Ferro). In the following days the two of them would further scandalize the entire rural town.

The divide between the star-crossed lovers is not limited to economic class but also in locality (modern Manila-rough road province, center-margins), complexion (“mestiza”-“moreno”), their names (Dindo/Hispanic-Julie/English) and even the kind of art particularly music the two are fond of (Julie plays the violin, a student in the UP Conservatory of Music, while Dindo plays the guitar, performing popular songs like Crazy Love). The antagonism also extends to their families, Dindo’s mother (Mona Lisa) hold grudges with the Monserrat for stealing their land resulting to their poverty. In the realm of politics, just like when Romeo kills Tybalt and sent to exile, Dindo also kills Claro (Robert Talabis), his (ex-)girlfriend’s brother. The two happen to be children of the alkalde, who maintains close ties to Julie’s aunts. Dindo was arrested, beaten up and set to be killed, a fact much welcomed by the Monserrat sisters. Dindo’s uncle, Komander Salome (Lito Anzures), a leader of a Hukbalahap unit (this film was released in 1978, when you talk about Huks you pretty much talk about the violence in countryside this time between the state and the New People’s Army) saves him from harm. Dindo goes to the mountains, while Julie carries and gives birth to their child. After sometime the rebels went down so that Dindo can talk to Julie. Government spies got the wind of the plan, and an armed clash occurred in the town. Gunfire is heard simultaneously with the crying of Dindo and Julie’s child.

Dindo and Julie’s love is not selfish. There is no overabundance of kilig scenes or mushy lines exchanged between the two, there are just brief shots of them getting along, occasionally holding hands, in the backdrop of the idyllic rural landscape. It romance locates itself in the larger social fabric along with class conflict and struggle, norms and hypocrisy, families, and a past no one wants to confront. They are lovers in a world of injustice and hatred. Unfortunately this world that the film vividly portrays could be a factor why subsequent love stories become more egoistic, magical, and mushy if you like. And after the audiences leave the cinema, they again brace themselves, like clockwork, to a world where genuine love could only exist sa pagputi ng uwak, pag-itim ng tagak, aspired for but ever fleeting.


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