Our penchant for melodrama and stories about mother can be traced back to what critic Roland Tolentino calls our historical experience of the sublime, in which the nation is imagined or recognized as the suffering mother, allowing us to make sense of our own personal struggles into a collective temporal event.
As long as the nation continues to suffer, we will always see in literature, popular culture, and films this collective suffering or trauma as inscribed in the body of a woman or narrativized in motherhood.
There are countless characters of a demented Sisa or a helpless Juana or Nora in our stories, jokes, and literature simply because these issues remain unresolved or that our problems continue to become more complicated.
Watching Filipino films that depict different types of mother can provide an insight on such collective reckoning and by extension to our real conflicts and possible resolutions.
1. Andrea, Paano Ba Maging Isang Ina
We see an activist, NPA mother, played by Nora Aunor, who leaves her baby to her friend to look into the circumstances of her husband’s death in the hands of the military. Unfortunately, before she could return to her baby, she is arrested and detained in a safe house by military men who torture her mercilessly. Having lost contact and presuming her to have been killed, her friend decides to keep the child and bring him to the United States for seven years. When they return to the Philippines for a visit, the mother confronts them and tries to claim her child back. The issue of motherhood in this story is tied with the issue of liberation and class struggle and such idea is not implausible as the mother in this story makes compelling decision, owns up to her faults and weaknesses without being apologetic, and confronts her perpetrators. (1990, W: Ricky Lee, D: Gil Portes)
An OFW mother, played by Vilma Santos, wants to make a better life for her family only to find that her efforts have caused a rift between her and her children. The oldest daughter does nothing to disguise her resentment for what she sees as an abandonment of her family. The dramatic confrontation between the two reveals each other’s struggles and difficulties in caring for the family and their shifting perspectives as both confront the reality of globalization, contractualization of labor, and their Diasporic existence. (2000, W: Raymond Lee D: Rory Quintos)
3. Saan Darating Ang Umaga
The mother, played by Nida Blanca, deals with the accidental death of her husband and the loss of her affection with their adopted son. As mother and daughter deal with their loss, we see differing and compelling reasons of loving and living, the consequences of their decisions, and the manifold dimension of familial relations. (1983, W: Fanny Garcia D: Maryo J. Delos Reyes)
4. Ina ka ng Anak Mo
We see a different kind of a mother, played by Lolita Rodriguez, dealing with a licentious relationship with her son-in-law. Such tragedy is deeply troubling as the movie presents a humane yet darker aspect of maternal relations, one that even psychoanalyst calls a complex or a syndrome. (1979 W: Butch Dalisay and Leticia Farinas D: Lino Brocka)
5. Ang Tatay Kong Nanay
The mother is Coring, played by Dolphy, a gay beautician, who is left with a baby by his former ward. The baby grows up thinking that Coring is his real father. The movie challenges our common perception of motherhood in terms of gender and sexual preferences. Indeed, quite ahead of its time, the movie is very much engaging as it was then. (1978 W: Orlando Nadres D: Lino Brocka)
We see the travails of a stepmom, played by Sharon Cuneta, who takes responsibility as a mother to three children. As she strives to win their affection, she will make painful negotiations, willful assertions of her identity and place in the lives of her new family. (1996 W: Raymond Lee D: Olivia Lamasan)
Not a typical mother story, the liberal mother, played by Laurice Guillen, of one of its main characters, Joey, deserve to be noticed as a bold statement against the prevailing norms and values at that time. Feminist mothers are few in literature and utterly lacking in commercial movies and Moral proves that a movie can still be popular or commercial with good taste and better sense. (1982 W: Ricky Lee D: Marilou Diaz-Abaya)
We see Amy, played by Gina Pareño, as an aging bet collector who despite the regular crackdown on the illegal numbers game, clings to the job she has known for more than 20 years. The movie becomes a personal contemplation of her humdrum existence amidst poverty and crime. (2006 W: Joel Jover D: Jeffrey Jeturian)
Mona Lisa plays the mother whose daughter seeks revenge for those who have ruined her life, including her and her lover. The movie becomes an exploration of a deep scar in our repressed desires and emotions. (1976 W: Mario O Hara and Lamberto Antonio D: Lino Brocka)
Not a typical mother movie, Charito Solis’s character, Dely, is worth looking into as the film deals with strong themes of incest, murder, suicide and parricide. These Filipino movies offer conflictual images and views about mother and maternal relations and the gamut of emotions explored and depicted in these movies only affirms our conflictual and ever fragmentary reality. Such experience is indeed an encounter with the sublime, both ever frightening and awe-inspiring. (1981 W: Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. D: Mike de Leon)
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