Film review of Rosario: Love's many faces

Film Review: Rosario
Love's many faces
By Danton Remoto (The Philippine Star) Updated December 29, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (1)

MANILA, Philippines - I remember those days when one went to the Metro Manila Film Festival to see the likes of Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Marilou Diaz Abaya, Celso Ad. Castillo, and Mike de Leon compete for the December prizes with their amazing films.

It’s in this spirit that I went to watch the film fest on its first day, and I chose Rosario, the first film offering of CineMabuhay and Studio 5. I was not disappointed.

Duty and love are the twin poles that Rosario (Jennylyn Mercado) had to contend with in 1920s Philippines. Back from studies in New York and stuck in a tobacco hacienda in Isabela, she meets her match in the bright but poor Vicente (Yul Servo), the administrator of their vast estate.

Duty and love are also the twin poles confronting Vicente, who was sent to school by Rosario’s parents. Bright thought he may be, he will always be at the bidding of Rosario’s feudal father (Philip Salvador). The mansion and the opulent dinner, the hectare upon hectare of land are shown. Subtly, these vast wealth is possible because it sits on the backs of the poor, the ragged farm workers — and their children and children’s children — who will be servants of the landowners.

While having dinner with American administrators, the feisty Vicente recites a Spanish poem about a parakeet, this beautiful bird, in its golden cage. The Americans walk out of the dinner table, and Rosario’s estimation of Vicente grows. He lends her a book of poems in Spanish, and in turn she lends him a book of poems in English. Then she asks him, “What is your favorite poem?”

He answers, The Road Not Taken. This now-classic poem by Robert Frost, this poem about taking “the road less travelled by” seals their fates.

For schooled in New York (it must be a music school, but we are not told) and wizened to the ways of the modern world, would Rosario choose a rich but weak man? Would she really settle down to the boring and cloistered life in the vast estate?

But their love is doomed, Vicente is tortured, Rosario is sent to the nunnery. She flees, elopes with Vicente and they leave behind the hacienda, to live in the new world.

It’s a world of work, where people sit behind desks from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in an insurance company called Shimon & Schuster Insurance Company (complete with the S & S publishing logo in NY) to receive their just wages and not some entitlement from the harvest of the land. It’s a world of work where women are equal to men, in both their lives, their loves, their lusts.

However, the hardworking Vicente falls ill to the sickness of the times — tuberculosis — and Rosario is seduced by her cousin’s boyfriend (Dennis Trillo). What I love about this film, among others, is the camera. Carlo Mendoza's cinematography shows the candle-like fingers of Rosario caressing the back of her ailing husband while giving him a bath. The camera later shows the car of Dennis stuck in the rain, steaming and steaming. He is wet from the rain, his shirt is unbuttoned, and inside the closed car sits Rosario, torn again between duty and lust.

Sent into destierro (exile) in Hong Kong by the court after they were convicted of adultery, Rosario and Vicente suffer. Because this film is framed by the narration of Rosario’s son, Jesus (Dolphy), the life in Hong Kong is just told. They must have suffered, but how? A shot or two showing us what they did for a living would have convinced us that an insurance salesman and a disinherited woman did indeed suffer in HK.

From hacienda to entresuelo is the distance that Rosario’s life travels. Upon returning to the Philippines, they wander from town to town, in a subtle allusion to the pariahs of society who have to shuttle from place to place, unwanted. They settle in lowlife Manila, with the grasping landlord played with wicked glee by Ricky Davao and his sensitive and kind nephew, Carding (Sid Lucero).

Music binds this film together like a thread. Rosario plays on the piano, painfully showing a refined and sensitive woman like a beautiful bird caged by her fate. Rosario’s daughter and namesake (played by Empress Schuck) is renamed Soledad, and in her solitude the daughter plays Lizst’s Lebenstraum in a concert. If life, indeed, is a dream, Rosario must have surmised, watching her daughter play with such intensity and fire, then why am I caught in this nightmare?

Life is the enemy, the film seems to say, and in the end Rosario had to choose between another love and a life alone. What is the punishment for the sins of lust and love?

Aside from the cinematography and the music, the production design by Joey Luna is faithful to the era — from gramophone to mansion to the office in Binondo. Director Alberto P. Martinez stitched the film together in an almost seamless way.

The ensemble acting is very good: Dolphy, Yul Servo, Chanda Romero, and Dennis Trillo stand out. Jennylyn Mercado has a face perfect for the role, and acquits herself well in her role. Her last scene with Carding (Sid Lucero) alone is worth the price of admission. Look at the eyes of love, the bright and expectant eyes of Carding, the slight movement like a tick in his right jaw, before Rosario turns away, and the blade of sadness descends.
December 22, 2010


Contact Person:

Clara Rita “Claire” A. Padilla, JD
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Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders Won Vote
in the UN General Assembly Resolution Protecting Against
Extrajudicial Executions Based on Sexual Orientation

Manila , December 21, 2010 – Yesterday, Tuesday, December 22, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trangenders (LGBTs) won the inclusion of a provision in a resolution on extrajudicial executions protecting them from extrajudicial executions based on sexual orientation at the United Nations General Assembly.

“This a very important resolution for LGBTs especially since there are countless extrajudicial executions made on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is the only UN resolution to ever include an explicit reference to sexual orientation,” said Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.

Ninety-three States voted to include the reference to sexual orientation, 55 rejected the inclusion and 27 states abstained, including the Philippines.

Atty. Padilla added, “Despite our efforts in lobbying with the Philippine government, it is unfortunate that the Philippines ab stained in supporting the inclusion of such provision. I am personally dismayed. With the Philippines ’ ab stention, it is as if the Philippine government is making a pronouncement that it is fine for anyone to execute on the basis on one’s sexual orientation. Instead of ab staining, the Philippine government should have clearly supported the provision thereby sending a strong message that no extrajudicial executions should be done including on the basis of one’s sexual orientation. The Philippines should uphold universal human rights where all rights apply to everyone including if one is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The Philippine government also failed in its obligation to uphold equal protection of the rights of LGBTs. In this important resolution, the Philippine government failed to stand up for the rights of LGBTs not just in the Philippines but around the world.”

“The abstention of the Philippines is a step backwards from its previous support when it voted to include sexual orientation in the EJE resolution at UN GA in 2008. In the past years, there have been numerous reports of gay men being murdered in the Philippines without clear investigations and active prosecution being conducted leading to the perpetuation of the gay murders with impunity. The Philippines must perform its obligation to prevent, investigate and prosecute all killings including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Atty. Padilla concluded.


Copy furnished through email:
Amb. Lesbie B. Gatan
Asec. for UNIO
Dept. of Foreign Affairs, Philippines

Amb. Libran N. Cabactulan
Ambassador and Permanent Representative, New York
Philippine Mission, Geneva

Office of the Executive Secretary

Office of the Presidential Management Staff

Presidential Human Rights Committee

Office of the Press Secretary

Philippine Commission on Women

ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights – Philippine Representative

Commission on Human Rights

Response to TOFIL

Dr. Isagani Cruz of the Manila Critics Circle is one of my good friends. Congratulations, Gani, for winning the TOFIL. I am reprinting his wise words on how writers shaped -- and gave a habitatin and a name -- to our country. Then and now, our writers are public intellectuals who never shirked from their roles as voices and commentators in our quotidian lives.


Response to TOFIL
MINI CRITIQUE By Isagani Cruz (The Philippine Star) Updated December 23, 2010 12:00

Here are excerpts from the response I prepared for the awarding ceremonies last Dec. 9 of The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL), which had the theme “Of Hopes and Heroes” (I have translated the Filipino portions into English):

Thank you very much for the great honor you gifted me with this Christmas season. I cannot possibly repay your kindness.

Please allow me to use my three minutes of fame to appeal for outstanding writing and outstanding reading.

You gave the TOFIL to Dionisio Salazar in 1994 for “Drama and Literature” and to Crispin Maslog in 1995 and Florangel Braid in 2007 for “Literature and Journalism.” You have always attached literature to another field. This is the first TOFIL you awarded solely for literature.

Although I am happy that I am the first awardee solely for literature, I am unhappy that this is apparently the first time you have acknowledged that there are many writers that have contributed to national development.

Why do I mention this? Because literature united and will unite the Philippines.

The Philippines is a country created by writers. The first natives to imagine the Philippines as a separate and free country – the first true Filipinos – were writers. The poet and novelist Jose Rizal, the poet Andres Bonifacio, the poet Marcelo del Pilar, the novelist Pedro Paterno, the essayist Apolinario Mabini – these were all writers, wrestling with words, using words as weapons against oppression, using their imagination instead of, or in addition to, their hands. They shaped our past. They shaped the present we are living in now. They are still shaping our own future.

They were our original heroes. They gave us hope, hope that we could be free from foreign domination, from our own weaknesses, from our own tendencies to be corrupt and to be greedy and to think only of ourselves and our families. They placed country above self and family. They showed us, through the example of their own lives and through their writings, what it means to be Filipino.

They were not the last Filipino writers to be heroes. Epifanio de los Santos was a poet. Claro M. Recto was a playwright. Diosdado Macapagal was a poet. Ninoy Aquino was a poet. And since the NDF is seriously talking peace, I should mention that Jose Ma. Sison is an internationally awarded poet. There are so many writers that have played major roles in the history of our country.

But there would not be heroic writers without heroic readers. Had they not read the writings of Rizal, Bonifacio, and our other heroes, Filipinos would not have fought against Spain, America, and Japan. Had they not taken to heart what our heroes wrote, they would not have stoked the fires of nationalism and revolution.

It is true that times have changed. We can no longer live by ourselves in the world. We can no longer treat foreigners and foreign countries as enemies. Media, television, and the Internet now rule the world, no longer books, poems, plays, stories, novels, and essays.

This is the reason I stand here before you tonight.

To read today is an act of heroism, an act of hope. It is an act of heroism because it means going against the tide. It is an act of hope because it means going for sustained thinking, rather than the compartmentalized, short-lived thrills that we get from reading a newspaper or a blog or a post in Facebook. It means sitting down and talking, not with flesh-and-blood persons around us or online, but with authors long dead but who used to be as flesh-and-blood as we are, who had all kinds of things to say about what it really means to be human.

Let me quote from my favorite Filipino poet, Balagtas, who wrote about people experiencing too much joy, just as I am experiencing tonight: “Dito naniuala ang batà cong loob / na sa mundo,i, ualang catoua-áng lubós, / sa minsang ligaya,i, talì nang casunód, / macapitóng lumbáy ó hangang matapos.

There is a natural law called regression towards the mean or the law of averages or “weather-weather.” Balagtas says that I should not be too happy tonight, although of course I have great reason to be. Similarly, the Bible, which is the greatest work of literature, says that “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

What I am trying to say is that this award makes me proud, yes, but it also humbles me, because I now have to live up to its name.

This award inspires me to continue ensuring that our authors furnish the public with words of wisdom and beauty, that readers inside and outside our country view us for what we really are – a race with remarkable literary achievements second to none in the world.

Since we cannot have good writers if we do not have good readers, my Christmas message to you is this: Give a Filipino book for Christmas.

My suggestion for your New Year’s resolution is this: Read a Filipino book.

Thank you, JCI Senate and Insular Life, for having chosen me for this award. Thank you for encouraging good writing and good reading.

Thank you to my family, my mentors, my students, my fellow writers, my readers, and my friends inside and outside of Facebook.