Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nora Aunor bilang "Tunay na Alagad ng Sining ng Mamamayan"

Kasabay ng pagdiriwang ng Buwan ng Wika, pinarangalan ng mga guro si Nora Aunor bilang “Alagad ng Sining ng Mamamayan”  para sa kontribusyon ng aktres sa pelikulang Pilipino.

Ang parangal ay pinangunahan ng Quezon City Public School Teachers Association at Alliance of Concerned Teachers kasabay sa isinagawang Forum sa Kahalagahan ng Wika sa Pagpapaunlad ng Kultura at Lipunan” na ginanap sa Magsaysay High School, Cubao, Quezon City noong ika-19 ng Agosto, 2014.

Napaiyak si Bb. Nora Aunor habang inaalayan ng bulaklak at kinantahan ng mga estudyante bilang pagpugay sa kanyang nagawa sa larangan ng sining.

Maliban dito, gumawa din ang mga estudyante ng skit na may kaugnayan sa naging buhay ni Nora Aunor mula noong nag-umpisa itong artista.

Ayon sa panulat ni Jaymee T. Gamil, sinabi ni Bb. Nora Aunor sa harap ng mga kabataan, “I want you (students) to remember that whatever hardships you may now have, no matter how poor you are, you can reach your dreams if you work hard.”

Dagdag pa niya, “You came to know me as Nora Villamayor, the girl from the province (Camarines Sur) who sold water at the train station, who picked through trash for scraps of lead (tingga) to be sold per kilo at the junk shop for at least 10 centavos. On my way home from school, I often passed by the dump to look for copper so I could have some money to give to my parents. I worked hard to lift my family from poverty. There’s no such thing as an impossible dream.”

Kuha ni Jek Jumawan
at mula sa

Monday, August 18, 2014


Nora Aunor keeps having the last laugh.

As expected, the nation’s most celebrated actress tucked another accolade under her belt when she was named Best Actress in the Directors Showcase category at the awarding ceremonies for Cinemalaya X Sunday night at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater.

The honor, for her role as a human trafficker  in the film “Hustisya”, follows the recent presidential snub of her nomination for the National Artist award.

When Nora, who is also known to fans as Ate Guy, was announced as the Cinemalaya 2014 Best Actress for Hustisya, presenter Mimi Juareza described her as “our National Artist.”

In response, the crowd inside the Main Theater gave Ate Guy a standing ovation as she went up the stage to receive the Balanghai trophy.

In her speech, Ate Guy thanked the Noranians who comprised a huge portion of the crowd.

“Sa wakas po, nagkaroon ako ng pelikula sa Cinemalaya,” exclaimed Nora in her acceptance speech.

Robert Arevalo won Best Actor, also for Directors Showcase, for his performance in “Hari ng Tondo”. In the New Breed category, Eula Valdez (“Dagitab”) and Dante Rivero (1st Ko si 3rd”) were named Best Actress and Actor, respectively.

Hailed as Best Film were “Kasal” (Directors Showcase) and “Bwaya” (New Breed).

Following is the complete list of winners:

Best Film (Directors Showcase): “Kasal”
Best Film (New Breed): “Bwaya”
Best Film (Shorts): “Asan si Lolo Me?”
Special Jury Prize (Directors Showcase): “Hari ng Tondo”
Special Jury Prize (New Breed): “K’Na The Dreamweaver”
Special Jury Prize (Shorts): “The Ordinary Things We Do”
Best Director (Directors Showcase): Michael Tuviera, “The Janitor”
Best Director (New Breed): Giancarlo Abrahan, “Dagitab”
Best Director (Shorts): Kevin Ang Tan, “Lola”

Best Actor (Directors Showcase): Robert Arevalo, “Hari ng Tondo”
Best Actor (New Breed), Dante Rivero, “1st Ko si 3rd”
Best Actress (Directors Showcase): Nora Aunor, “Hustisya”
Best Actress (New Breed): Eula Valdez, “Dagitab”
Best Supporting Actress (Directors Showcase): Cris Villonco, “Hari ng Tondo”
Best Supporting Actress (New Breed): Barbie Forteza, “Mariquina”
Best Supporting Actor (Directors Showcase): Nicco Manalo, “The Janitor”
Best Supporting Actor (New Breed): Miggs Cuaderno, “Children’s Show”
Special Citation Ensemble Acting: Elmo Magalona, Coleen Garcia, Sophie Albert, Kit Thompson, Slater Young, Chynna Ortaleza, “#Y”

NETPAC Award (Directors Showcase): “Hustisya”
NETPAC Award (New Breed): “Bwaya”
Best Editing (Directors Showcase): Tara Illenberger, “The Janitor”
Best Editing (New Breed): Gerone Centeno, “Children’s Show”
Best Sound (Directors Showcase): Michael Idioma, “The Janitor”
Best Sound (New Breed): Bryan Dumaguina, Jedd Dumaguina and Yves Patron, “Children’s Show”
Best Musical Score (Directors Showcase): Richard Gonzales, “Kasal”
Best Musical Score (New Breed): Erwin Fajardo, “Bwaya”

Best Production Design (Directors Showcase): Harley Alcasid, “Kasal”
Best Production Design (New Breed): Toym Imao, “K’na The Dreamweaver”
Best Cinematography (Directors Showcase): Mycko David, “Kasal”
Best Cinematography (New Breed): Neil Daza, “Bwaya”
Best Screenplay (Short Film): Kevin Ang Tan, “Lola”
Best Screenplay (Directors Showcase): Aloy Adlawan and Michael Tuviera, “The Janitor”
Best Screenplay (New Breed): Giancarlo Abrahan, “Dagitab”

Audience Choice (Shorts): “Lola”
Audience Choice (Directors Showcase): “Hustisya”
Audience Choice (New Breed): “Sundalong Kanin”
Best Poster Design: Justin Besana, “Asintado”
Canon Award for Best Cinematography: Mycko David, “Children’s Show”

Erickson Dela Cruz
Teddy Pelaez

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Film Review: HUSTISYA

By Jonathan Catunao

“Academia is the death of cinema. It is the very opposite of passion. Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.” --- Werner Herzog

I am a big fan of movie critics. In fact, I owe a big chunk of my soul’s nourishment to the minds of people like Roger Ebert, Oggs Diaz, Noel Vera and Richard Corliss. Had I not discovered film criticism, I would still be a fan of Fernando Poe Jr, Sharon Cuneta and Lito Lapid. Had I not opened my eyes to the fact there are good cinema and bad cinema, I would not be bathing in the intellectual sunlight of the French and Spanish Film festivals in Greenbelt and Shangrila. Had I not joined my UP dormmates as they drag me to watch the then-obscure-to-me ‘Silence of the Lambs’, I would not have known that cannibals do not only devour people, they also look handsome and blurts out quotable quips.

But if my intellect studies cinema, it is my soul that engages with it. The moment the lights are out, everything and everyone disappear – including film critics. What is left is the big screen in front of me. The characters and their plights.

In Hustisya’s case, this is applied. I was not able to join the CCP gala night for health reasons and was only able to watch it the day after at Trinoma. Travelling on the bus from Laguna to Quezon City, I scrolled through early reviews and read some private messages from well-meant fellow Noranians who are not enthusiastic about the finished product. My film buddy Janna was getting our reserved tickets and on the way we have prepared ourselves for the worst. “Initial reviews ng ilang mga Noranians mismo eto as usual daw, hindi daw pulido si Joel”. "And unanymous ang lahat including non-Noranian critics-- napakagaling daw ni Guy for portraying evil in a humanistic way, di ko alam ibig nilang sabihin but that we have to see”. These are actual messages in our inboxes sent as I travel to Trinoma.

Joel Lamangan is what I call the most reckless Nora director ever. Gusto ko siya laging sabihang, “My idol is not a pig!” for messing up many Nora films. I know this by heart. If there is an NFF member who loathes him openly, isa na ako dun. His ‘Bakit May Kahapon Pa’ is a mash-up of ‘Fatal Attraction’, ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle’and ‘Kill Bill’. ‘Death Row’ is a poor pirated version of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. It’s a good thing most Vilmanians are busy with defaming Nora Aunor on the web than researching their idol’s materials because had they been reading and watching movies enough, they would have known that in ‘Mano Po 3’, their idol was made by Joel to impersonate Meryl Streep in ‘Bridges of Madison County’.

So we went there with only one mission. Nora Aunor. With early buzz of yet another great performance from Nora Aunor, Janna and I had enough reason to get excited for the movie. After all, if we were able to endure the trash ‘Ekstra’, we can surely entertain ourselves with the Nora Aunor magic tricks inspite of the ‘trash’ ‘Hustisya’.

The movie was scheduled at 6:30 pm at Trinoma. As early as 5:45, there was already a long line. We were allowed to enter at 6:10. The posh cinema house was like a city engulfed by waves of ants as the ticket holders rushed to get their seats. There were a group of Noranians being herded by the heroic and dashing doctor Vener, but I noticed a lot of young people in the audience. Not high school young but maybe college or young professionals. Except for some giggling Noranians looking for their seats, one even surprised that, “may seat number pala sa ticket!”, there was no major commotion during the start of the screening. (I learned of the minor altercation with security guards and some Noranians outside the movie house after the screening when I met up with Doc).

The lights went off. The Cinemalaya vinta logo appeared. The title ‘Hustisya’ and Joel Lamangan’s name is flashed.

First scene was a top view of Quiapo area with the giant Mercury Drug electronic billboard and Quiapo bridge. Among the vehicles crossing the iconic bridge is a van. Inside the van is Nora Aunor as Biring, looking irritated as her boss’ lover Gardo, played by Gardo Versoza canoodles her boss Vivian, Rossana Roces.

“Baka tigasan ka na naman niyan, itigil mo yan”, Vivian warns flirty Gardo. Biring looks irritated and she is not holding back. She makes sure that with her uncomfortable wigglings and furious stares, Gardo and Vivian know she is not pleased. Biring even managed to blurt out some expletives referring to the shameless lovers. In Bicolano dialect, I think she said something like, “Ang lilibog, di na mahiya,”

There was laughter all around. From that point, from that van ride, we knew we are not about to watch the darkest nor the most tear-jerking Nora Aunor movie of all time, in the mold of ‘Condemned’ or ‘The Flor Contemplacion’. We are watching Dolphy, este Vice Ganda, este comic Nora.

From that point, the entire cinema was in for the ride including me and Janna.

Yes. There was the evil crime of human trafficking. There are EDCA’s and Imperialisms. There are blowjobs on the streets and pimps peddling little girls like mineral water bottles being sold on bus stations. There are the family travails of Biring. There are dark underground mafia-like organizations and politicians as co-horts. There is even a priest expecting money from the syndicate to build a church in Bicol. Dark issues.

But then, there is that pesky illegal recuitment victim that Vivian wants to starve, "ang kulit ng isang yan, wag pakainin at baka lumakas, makahawa pa ng iba”

Then there is that obnoxious mendicant.

That petty thief stealing the show from Biring who is stealing another item too.
That sing-along inside the city jail and that jail bully who wants a perfect 100 in her videoke score or someone will be beaten or raped.

That lesbian lover who is a sabungan ‘kristo’.

That catatonic woman who murders her father for raping her daughter and finally joining the musical number featuring ‘Pusong Bato’.

The John Rendez reference. The Nora self-parody in ‘Akin na ang notebook ko!”. The Biring sexual innuendos to hunky lawyer Gerald and that sexy Rocco Nacino look.

There are loopholes as well.

But when the entire cinema is breaking out with laughter. When you can hear a humanity of feet stomping the Trinoma floors. When iphones are being dropped because people are jerking unstoppably. When the entire audience wants to be a part of Biring’s Motley Crew, who cares about loopholes?

Messy? I don’t think so. And I am not the type to insist my interpretations but for this one, allow me to give my interpretations.

The throwing of money at the City Hall tower. For me, this isn’t real. This is a dream moment. Lamangan cannot be allowed to have a dream scene? And the awful ‘Great Beauty’ who is 90% dream scenes rewarded with the Oscar Best Foreign Language trophy?

The Liwasang Bonifacio EDCA and wisdom scene. Biring is now on top of the world. She stands at the corner of Liwasang Bonifacio where an anti-EDCA rally is taking place. A van stops. Attorney Gerald comes out and ask her, “Bakit mo ako pinatawag?”. Biring pleads, “Bigyan mo ako ng libro. Nasisikipan na ako sa bago kong tirahan. Walang hangin. Kailangang magbasa ako. Kailangang malaman ko ang mga lugar kung saan natin dinadala ang mga babaeng ating kinikidnap.” – unnecessary? Unrealistic scene? Of course not. This is not real. This is a conscience sequence and this is very powerful because by the time this scene arrived, we all are already drawn into our antagonist’s pathetic life. In fact, some tears might have even come out of the audience’s eyes during that scene.

But the film wasn’t all about dreams and punchlines. Like any black comedies, the punchlines and the slapsticks moments of the good-for-nothing gang cannot totally mask the darkness. In ‘Hustisya’, comedy is a medium. Sorrow is the theme.
During the party, while Chynna was very serious with her new life as Biring’s right-hand woman, Biring is no longer the cranky Biring when she was still an assistant to Vivian. She is now the boss. She is now loose. She is now easy. Biring has everything. And nothing.

At the powerful finale, Joel Lamangan shot a close-up of Nora Aunor laughing furiously. Her minute grimaces and the swelling tears in her eyes cut across the cinema hall like a sword piercing the heart. We have been laughing all the time, but we were all dead quiet during Biring’s slow motion laugh at the end.

It is because we are all shocked and grieving for her fate. And for the fate of her victims. And for the fate of this nation.

As she began laughing, the Trinoma crowd broke in a massive applause. Janna and I were gasping and broken. The applause continues until the final frame, the frozen close-up shot of Biring’s face, her mouth open, her eyes shut, her back turned against all the people she now rule.

Great endings are not great because they are great.

Great endings are great because the movie is great.

Like ‘Casablanca’.

Like ‘The Usual Suspects’.

Like ‘A Dangerous Liaison’.

Like ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.

Like ‘Hustisya’.

In watching those great movies, I went inside with the knowledge of the critics and the passion of a movie lover.

In watching ‘Hustisya’, I went inside with the opinions of the critics but with my passion as a movie lover.

And like anything in my life, passion prevailed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Soul is a Hindrance

Movie Review: HUSTISYA


 “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Hustisya is the first Cinemalaya entry of Nora Aunor penned by Ricky Lee and directed by Joel Lamangan. I watched it at Fairview Terraces last August 4 Sunday because of the excitement to see another sterling performance of Nora Aunor. From the depths of Tawi-tawi in Thy Womb to the spiritual peak of Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, this movie of Lamangan put all of us in the descent of one’s soul to hell. The hell is Manila, the corruption of people, the rat race, the dog eat dog way of life, the predator –prey relationship and the unbearable lightness of being nothing .

A Very Dark Piece of Cinema

When I watched the movie it reminded me of the movie Thirst by Park Chan Wook which was about a kind catholic priest who became a vampire and corrupted by his damned condition of being on the dark side. It reminded me of a woman named Vera Drake by Mike Leigh played brilliantly by Imelda Staunton about a simple woman who was in secret an abortionist but her evilness had banality because for her she only tried to helped the women to lift their burdens of being a single parent. It reminded me of a man named Faust who sold his soul to the devil. Hustisya is a very disturbing film with no hope to hang on but despair and being helpless. It is so heavy in its deliberation of ideas and no point of happiness to cling to.

Merits of the Movie

The movie is the best Joel Lamangan so far because there are no pretensions and you will feel that it was not made to please the audience. The acerbic and witty humor were very commendable , how we laughed at those moments where Biring made her witty and sardonic remarks. I loved the way it criticized the powerful figures of society. The cinematography was very crisp and ravishing unlike last year’s cinematography of Ang Kwento ni Mabuti which I think was not pleasing to the eyes, the cinematographer should win the best cinematography award for a job well done. The core of the movie was none other than the perfect acting of Nora Aunor. She really raised the bar of acting in movies . I loved her controlled manipulations of emotions and the used of her simple actions that made the scenes explode with excellence and profound meaning. The movie was more in the league of European cinematic style of film making.

Demerits of the Movie

The movie suffered from an uneven editing, I hoped they polish it more to make it engaging. There are under used and under developed characters like Sunshine Dizon and Jeric Semeniego Gonzales characters they seemed to be decorations and displays . The script wanted to tell many ideas which lack cohesiveness. The direction was with passion but meandered on its focus.


In conclusion Hustisya is a diamond in the rough, for me it is still a great movie but its not for easy viewing , you have to be very discerning to appreciate a film like this . Despite its flaws it still shine and a great testament to the artistry of Nora Aunor. As an educator it can be a medium to teach about the right decisions that we must make in our daily lives. A soul is a hindrance to evil because it came from the breath of God. According to Oscar Wilde - “Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else's music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly -- that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to oneself. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry, and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion -- these are the two things that govern us.”

4/5 Two Thumbs Up

Monday, August 4, 2014


Movie Review: HUSTISYA


Hannibal Lecter: Hello Clarice. Have the lambs stopped screaming?

Clarice Starling: Dr. Lecter!

Hannibal Lecter: I do wish we could chat longer, but... I'm having an old friend for dinner. Bye.

(Lecter hangs phone.)

Telephone conversations that are as horrifying as the finale of ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ doesn’t come very often in films. It took almost a quarter of a century for me to find another movie where the phone conversation is the very central core of the terror that is happening.

In a riveting scene in Joel Lamangan’s highly engrossing Cinemalaya X entry ‘Hustisya’, Biring (Nora Aunor), after realizing what had just transpired, took a phone out of her bag, dialled a number and said, “Hello Chief”.

In the 'Silence of the Lambs', a cannibal psychopath makes a phone call and warns of more horror and deaths to come. Terrifying.

In 'Hustisya', a mob queen calls a top ranking military official and ensures the cycle of corruption and crime is unabated. Terrifying.

Terror is the name of the game for Vivian (Rossana Roces), the queen of a syndicate who hijacks young men and women to be sold into prostitution and Biring is her trusted right-hand woman. Initially, Biring did not approve of the nature of her distant relative’s business but eventually grew deeper and wiser into the criminal organization and like any former apprentice, she becomes a threat to her master. In both ‘The Departed’ and ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’, Leonardo Di Caprio and Zhang Ziyi respectively play protégées to powerful mentors that eventually became their rivals after the mentors have gone out of control while the apprentices grew deeper in the tricks of the trade.

But if ‘The Departed’ and ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ have Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee on the helm to create world-class dramatizations, ‘Hustisya’ is bound to be crippled by a director who has the reputation for wrecking havoc on otherwise brilliant materials because of his excessive self-indulgence. “Sidhi’ was a Palanca winning play about gender inequality before it became a barren melodrama that resembles that of a cheap teleserye than a serious Nora Aunor starrer. ‘Bakit May Kahapon Pa’ was a serious attack on the militaristic excursions of the government before it became a trying-hard Brocka wannabe.

Then Ricky Lee introduced humor.

While critics will definitely be blown away by yet another above-genius delivery from Aunor, the real star of the film is Ricky Lee’s funny screenplay and dark undertones. Talk of Coen brothers. Talk of Alexander Payne.Talk of comedy as a tool to tackle the darkness in the human heart. Yes, Sir Ricky you took us there.

In fact, 2 hours into the movie about human trafficking, moral depravity, drug abuse, imperialism and all the social maladies you can think of, there were no tear-jerking melodramatic moments ala-'Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan' and there were no violent repeated stabbing scenes ala-'Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan'.

And you’re tackling the decadence of Manila? Not full of drama? Not full of violence?

Full of comedy. Yes. From Biring offering Vivian’s ‘pangkamot’, to Shunshine Dizon asking ‘paano ang asawa ko’ after having shattered their entire china, to Biring telling her grandson about his drug use, ‘alam na ng Nanay mo, di niya lang alam ang gagawin’, Ricky Lee was at his most brilliant.

But then the screenplay cannot stand on its own alone without the swift rendition of great actors. And as it turned out, the entire cast is a comedy riot. Nora Aunor, Rocco Nacino, Rossana Roces, Chynna Hortaleza, Sunshine Dizon, Gardo Versoza,Tony Mabesa and Miles Kanapi in a scene stealing turn, together created a terrific acting ensemble of remarkable characters all benefitting from the blood of innocent young men and women. Unfortunately, the weakest characters are that of Romnick Sarmenta’s idealistic journalist and his equally idealistic polio-stricken son. There is something really wrong when the most exciting character in a movie deploring moral decay exhales to the sound of ‘hindot’ and ‘libog’ while the most boring are those that insists, “Gusto kong ipagmalaki ng anak ko na hindi tumatanggap ng suhol ang ama niya.”

I can’t think of a more ostracized director than Joel Lamangan. To many, he is a visual assault to the senses especially when pitted against the subtle works of Jeffrey Jeturian or the meticulous rituals of Lav Diaz. In fact, this writer personally thinks Joel should be charged with crimes against humanity for such atrocities as ‘Sidhi’ and ‘Bakit May Kahapon Pa?”.

And like the gathering dark clouds on the horizon, the bad Lamangan threatens. The snatching scene while Biring was eating at a turo-turo was awful, awkward and yeah, puke-worthy. So Lamangan back at his wayward ways in Hustisya? For the most part of the film, NO. He was able to properly tame his elements, creating sufficient drama while maintaining humor in the air as prescribed by Ricky Lee’s script.

And there is the coup de grace that could finally end the mockeries that have hounded Joel Lamangan’s reputation and make critics rethink their regard on the infamous Arnofzky of the Philippines. A glorious slow motion close-up shot that will not easily be forgotten in the annals of Philippine Cinema history.

In the film’s finale, Biring, now the syndicate head is celebrating her birthday in a lavish party attended by the mob bosses, their political sponsors and business partners. In the middle of entertaining guests, Biring was interrupted by Atty Gerald, played with suave and danger by Rocco Nacino, and whispered something to her ear.

Biring laughed uncontrollably but the slow images show miniscule grimaces between wide grins.

“Ano ang ibinulong ni Attorney kay Biring?”

I do not need to know. Because one thing is sure and the grimace betrays the truth. That for choosing a life of crime, no matter what comes in her way, no matter what she hears, no matter what she says, from hereon, she will forever be unhappy. Filthy. In need of a cleaner.

In need of ‘Chief’.


Movie Review: HUSTISYA


Madaling araw na akong nakauwi matapos ang Gala Screening ng HUSTISYA (2014) ni Joel Lamangan. Nag-dinner pa kasi, at napahaba ang mga diskusyon tungkol sa halos dalawang oras na pelikula. Tinuloy ang mga sigawan at talakan, naming mga Noranians, mula lobby ng CCP Main hanggang sa KFC sa kabila. Tinuloy namin ang kwentuhan, discussions at nagpalutang ng mga tanong.

Pagkabukas ko ng pinto’y nagulat akong gising pa rin si Nanay. Hindi namin siya kasama sa Gala Screening sa CCP. Nauna na silang manood sa Greenbelt kahapon ng tanghali. Naka-receive ako ng isang text bandang alas tres: “Tapos na. Maganda. Tinatanong ni Vising kung anu raw ang ibinulong ng abugado niya sa kanya.”

Hindi ko nasagot yun. Hindi ko pa napapanood ang pelikula ng mga panahon na un. 

“Gising ka pa?” tanong ko.

“Hinihintay kita,” sagot ni Nanay. “Marami akong tanong.”


“Dun kay Nora.”

“Diyos ko! Matulog ka na! Magpatulog na kayo!” bulas ko.

“Bakit ganun?  Bakit parang bitin?” sabi ni Nanay na parang kinakausap ang sarili.  “May mga ayaw sabihin sa tao.”

“Pagod ako! Plist! Bukas na lang. Kahit ako, iniisip ko pa.”

“Magaling ang pagtawa niya,” tuloy ni Nanay. “Parang may gustong sabihin, pero nalunod siya sa mga tawa niya.
“Alam mo, ‘Nay, simulang mapanood mo ang Norte, nagpapaka-profound ka na masyado lagi. Pero OK yan.”

Tiningnan lang ako ni Nanay. Pumunta siya ng kusina at kumuha ng tubig. Uminom. Nalunod ng tubig ang tawa niya.

“Matulog na tayo. Bukas na natin pag-usapan yan. Alam mo naman si Ricky Lee, profound-kung-profound kung minsan,” sabi ko.

Hindi na ako kinibo ng Nanay ko. Parang nadismaya. Kung sa pag-udlot ko ng sagot, hindi ko alam.

Matapos kong magbihis, nahiga na ako agad. Kelangan kong matulog ng maaga dahil hahabulin ko mamaya ang mga naka linyang pelikula sa CCP. Napakabigat na ng mga mata ko.

Pero maging ako’y hindi pinatulog ng mga tanong na pinalutang namin nina Nestor, Mon at Gilbert. Anu nga ba ang ibinulong ni Atty. Gerald sa naka-gown at fully made up na si Biring? Anu ang gustong ipahiwatig ng katapusan ng pelikula?

Sa buong pelikula’y nakita ko si Biring na pilit binalanse ang kabutihan at kasamaan? Matapang niyang nilunok ang marumi, subalit tuluyang siyang kumapit sa kung ano mang alam niyang tama at ma-prinsipyo. Sa bawat mali, kusa niyang binayaran ang mga ito ng kabutihan. Sasampalin niya ang pulubing may dalang bata, pero aabutan ng limos. Seseryosohin niya ang ilegal na trabaho, pero matapos ng shift, ay magbibigay sa simbahan. Magbibigay sa simbahan, pero hindi makaharap sa Diyos.

Sa buong pelikula, nakita ko at nakilala si Biring. Para sa kanya’y patas lahat. Siya ang karakter na marunong bumawi. Tulad ng mga pagbawi natin sa tuwing nag-so-sorry tayo kung meron tayong biglang na-offend. Tulad ng pagyakap natin sa ating mga magulang sa umaga matapos nating mag-cutting classes kahapon.

Biring swam on the dangerous principle of compensation. She tried her best to balance thing out. This was her definition of justice. Her own scale swang back and forth in a dangerous game of self-preservation amidst a society so evil that there’s already no way out.

Sa huli’y natalo rin siya.  Na-rape. Sumuko. Na-devirginize si Virginia. Nilunok niya ang masama at tuluyang niyakap ang mundong minsang binalak niyang takasan.  Siya na ngayon ang isa sa mga “boss.”

Sa isang banda’y may isang eksena kung saan humingi si Biring ng pagkakataong malaman kung ano ang nasa labas ng kanyang mga operasyon. She wished to know what happens beyond her crimes. She wanted to learn about the society, what corruption means and how she can help.

Sa ganitong perspektibo’y maari mong sabihing pinipilit parin niyang binabalanse ang kanyang timbangan.

Marahil ay hindi pa rin siya nagpapatalo.

Toward the end, there was a party. Her birthday was attended by almost all the you-know-who’s. People who are on the other side. People who spin the vicious web of eternal deceit, corruption, lies and social decadence. People who were on her side. 

Before the screen faded to black, Atty. Gerald approached her and whispered to her. Silence. Her eyes seemed to have eavesdropped too.

And then the laugh.

Napakaraming nagtatanong kung ano ang ibinulong? Joke ba raw? Tsismis? Balita tungkol sa isang tauhan? Tungkol ba sa katabing bagong assistant?

Para sa akin ay hindi na mahalaga un. Ang mahalaga sa akin ay ang pag tawa ni Biring. Sa unang pagkakatao’y tumawa siya sa pelikula. Malakas. Nakakalunod. Isang pahiwatig na siya at ang bago niyang  mga “boss,” ay iisa na.

Parang lang yang usaping Sino Ang Pumatay Kay Elsa? Hanggang ngayon ay maging si Ricky Lee ay hindi pa rin alam ang sagot. Tayo na raw ang magbigay noon.

Tama nga naman.

Pero sa usaping Elsa, ang mahalaga sa akin ay hindi kung sino ang pumatay. Ang higit na mas mahalaga’y namatay siya sa harapan natin sa gitna ng isang talumpating kinukundena ang kasakiman, kasinungalingan at korapsyon. Doon ay may malalim ang mga paghuhugutan na mga realisasyon. Doon ay mas higit ang pagkatuto. Nalaman kong hanggang sa huli’y walang kaligtasan ang tao sa lipunang kanyang ginagalawan. Tayong lahat ay nakatali sa taniklang ibinuhol sa atin ng mga nakararami, masama man sila o mabuti. Sa huli'y magtatanong din tayo: tayo rin ba ang nagtali sa mga sarili natin?

Where is justice in that? Wala. 

That’s Literary Naturalism on your face.

Ganun na rin si Biring. Hindi na importante kung anung ka-putanginahan ang sinabi ng gagong si Gerald. Ang mahalaga’y kung ano ang nakita at narinig ko sa tabing. Ang pagkalakas lakas na tawa, ang nakabibinging halakhak. Hindi pilit, pero walang kaluluwa. Busog, pero walang laman. 

Sa akin ay tahasang sinasabi nito na si Biring ay isa na sa mga tauhang pilit niyang tinatakasan sa kabuuan ng pelikula. It was a scene that depicted her inevitable decadence. Siya na ang tusong palaka. Nag-anyong lupa. Nagkulay putik. Gagawin ang lahat para lamang malinlang at makain ang inosenteng lamok. That's her transformation, and that's what made the story great. 

Great, in a sense, that in Biring's decline as a character, she teaches us to continue our fight against what we think is evil. Though uninvited, some goodness still sits in our souls. Biring's story warns us that if we continue to ignore our conscience for the sake of survival, that small amount of purity will soon leave us for good. 

And that is where Justice ends.