Chapter 3. Images of the Mothers Who Question Their Role and Affirm Themselves as Persons

by Jose Gutierrez III

As Lino Brocka became more politicized as an artist, he was able to flesh out more progressive characterizations, narratives, and resultant images of the mothers which belong to the second cluster, namely: (1) mother as transgressor, and (2) mother as aggressor of patriarchy.

Note: This is an excerpt from my M.A. thesis, “Images of the Mother in Lino Brocka Films: 1970-1991” (2008), submitted to the University of the Philippines-Diliman. In 2009, my journal article — Images of the Mother in Lino Brocka Films: 1970-1991 — based on this thesis was published in Plaridel: A Philippine Journal of Communication, Media, and Society 6 (2): 107-26.

Brocka’s films from 1984 to 1991 generally belong to this second cluster of images. Here, these mothers question their role and affirm themselves as persons. The liberated mother challenges patriarchy by openly expressing her sexual desire and refusing to judge herself from the patriarchal point of view that categorizes women as either “pure” or “loose” and mothers as either “good” or “bad.” The transgressive mother also declines to take it upon herself to protect her daughter’s innocence at the expense of the truth. She also refuses martyrdom and struggles for power with men both in the domestic and the larger social spheres. As the aggressor of patriarchy, the mother directly confronts not just her husband or father but the dominant patriarchal system itself. The mother, as a person, demands justice that is due to her. She also proceeds to search for social justice in the collective in which she, her husband, and children are part of. She does not limit her energy to the family; for her, the family and the collective are not distinct spheres. Indeed, the personal is also the political.

(1) Mother as Transgressor

By expressing their desires, Aling Pacing (Insiang, 1976), Elena (Mother Dear, 1982), Aida (Adultery: Aida Macaraeg Case No. 7892, 1984) Metring (Pasan Ko ang Daigdig, 1987), Beatrice (Kailan Mahuhugasan ang Kasalanan?, 1989), and Maia (Sa Kabila ng Lahat, 1991), question the confines that patriarchal expectation imposes on them as mothers and women. By testing and cross-examining the arbitrary limits that patriarchy, through culture, sets for the mother, the woman transgresses social expectation and eludes judgment based on black-and-white morality. This image of the mother marks the start of the woman’s rebellion against patriarchy.

The mothers in this section question patriarchy by challenging the “commonsense” patriarchal demand that the mother’s desire is confined to her husband and children. These mothers challenge the notion that when they express their personal desires – in essence, affirming themselves as persons – they break the acceptable code of behavior for women and should be punished. These mothers therefore attempt to break away from the confines of their role as mother. The expression of their desire as individuals become natural for them. They use their desire – whether in sex, career, or decision-making – to develop and complete themselves as independent individuals. These mothers’ expression of desire as women with desires outside the family and as persons who pursue their own decisions and dreams transgress what Rich (1986) described as “institutionalized motherhood” which, she explained, “demands of women maternal ‘instinct’ rather than intelligence, selflessness rather than self-realization, relation to others rather than the creation of self” (p. 42).

The Woman in Heat

The mothers in this section pursue their sexual desires and defy the patriarchal expectation that the mother should restrict the expression of her sensuality in the marital bed strictly for two reasons: for reproduction and for the satisfaction of her husband’s sexual needs. From the patriarchal point of view, in the absence of her husband, the mother should either disavow her sexual needs as a woman or displace the energy to taking care of her children. Aling Pacing, Metring, and Beatrice transgress this by pursuing their own men from whom they derive sexual satisfaction in the absence (death or impotence) of their respective husbands.

The Mother Openly Expresses Sexual Desire and Does Not Protect Her Daughter’s Innocence

Aling Pacing (Mona Lisa), in Insiang (1976), while not being free from the confines of patriarchy, wields enough power to avail herself of some tools of oppression. Positioned by the narrative as the antagonist, Aling Pacing clearly is an image of the mother that Brocka does not endorse. But one thing is certain, this mother – not venerable as the “Blessed Virgin Mary” but as Hera or Venus – is a testament of a woman subverting the patriarchal notion of the self-sacrificing mother. Aling Pacing, as a woman and as a person, recognizes and asserts her desire that steps outside the bounds of the idea of the “good mother” imposed and endorsed by patriarchy as a desirable value for the woman. In Aling Pacing’s mind, motherhood is just a role, a biological circumstance that does not and should not impose itself on her. By her disavowal and subversion of the “commonsense” construct of the “good mother,” she transgresses patriarchal discourses of morality and opens an exploration of the discourses of self-expression and freedom as a person who is resistant to the impositions of society and culture.

While Aling Pacing pursues her sexual desires with Dado, she also openly transgresses the patriarchal imposition for the mother to protect the innocence of her child, especially the daughter. While Insiang beats eggs for breakfast in the morning, she is surprised to see Dado taking a bath in their small home. The man goes to the room where Aling Pacing is, and her daughter hears her playful moans and teasing utterances: “Ikaw na ang hinihintay ng kakatayin mong baboy.” The mother then goes to a corner in the house, in full view of her daughter, squats, and, right then and there, urinates. She washes her vagina with water and stands up, unapologetic for anything that has been happening. The mother does not take it upon herself to protect the innocence of her daughter. Aling Pacing, after all, is a woman desperately in heat, to the point that she practically has to pay for sex and public opinion may go hang. When Insiang asks her mother, “Inay, dito na ho ba titira si Dado?” Aling Pacing replies, “Oo, at kung iniisip mo ang mga kapitbahay, bahala sila sa buhay nila.”

Insiang (Lino Brocka, 1976)
Figure 7. Aling Pacing (Mona Lisa) and Dado (Ruel Vernal). Insiang (Lino Brocka, 1976)

The Mother Rationalizes the Status Quo to Her Daughter to Maintain Her “Lover”

Aside from refusing to protect her daughter’s innocence, Metring also transgresses the patriarchal notion that for the mother, the child should take precedence over any of her own desires. In fact, she uses her daughter as a tool in begging for money that she can give to her lover Kadyo. Notably, the mother uses neither force nor pity to achieve this. To maintain her man, Metring (Loretta Marquez) attempts to rationalize – albeit fruitlessly – the status quo to her daughter. Using her own brand of twisted reasoning, she tries to instill fear and anxiety in her daughter. The older woman discourages the younger woman from taking a risk. She limits her daughters’ horizons. Lupe opens up to her mother, “Inay, ayoko nang mamalimos.” The daughter refuses to share her mother’s worldview. Lupe is proactive. Metring responds, “Ano?” Lupe continues, “Ayoko nang mamalimos. Ayoko nang magkalkal ng basura. Hiyang-hiya na ako.” The mother continues to rationalize and naturalize for her their miserable condition. She retorts, “O, e, ano? Eh, ‘di mamamatay na tayo sa gutom, gano’n ba?” Lupe says, “Inay matanda na kayo. Kailangan niyo na ang pahinga.” The daughter expresses her desire to take charge of caring for her mother. Metring replies, “Magpapahinga ako, kung pantay na ang mga paa ko.” The mother, notwithstanding her self-pity, still adamantly upholds the status quo. She does not want her daughter to take charge of earning money because it might entail her “freedom” from Kadyo who she knows “needs” her to earn money. She practically pays for her own illusion of love from a man.

Pasan Ko ang Daigdig (Lino Brocka, 1987)
Figure 8. To maintain her man, Metring (Loretta Marquez) rationalizes the status quo to Her daughter. Pasan Ko ang Daigdig (Lino Brocka, 1987)

Lupe says, “Alam ko naman napipilitan lang kayo, eh. Namamalimos tayo para kay Tiyo Kadyo na wala nang ginawa kung ‘di magsugal.” The mother responds with her twisted version of the truth that serves to again rationalize and naturalize the status quo. She says, “Namamalimos tayo, dahil kahit paano, kumikita tayo nang walang puhunan kung ‘di ang pagpasan mo sa akin. Singkwenta, sisenta pesos isang araw. Hindi na masama! Kaya nagsusugal ang Tiyo Kadyo mo, dahil nagbabakasakali siyang kumita. Saan ba niya kinuha ang pinagpatayo ng bahay na ito? O, di sa napalanunan niya sa sugal. Aba, kahit paano, matino-tino ito, kung sa ibang bahay lang diyan. Mula nang mamatay ang Itay mo, si Kadyo na ang tumulong sa atin. Nang magkasakit ako, lahat ginawa niya para makaligtas ako. Pero minalas ako, minalas ang Tiyo Kadyo mo. Pero lilipas din ang malas na ‘to. Kaya ayokong makakarinig ng anumang masakit na salita tungkol sa kanya.” The mother rationalizes the sins of her lover.

The Mother Castrates the Impotent Husband

By deciding to employ the services of a younger man whose erect penis she uses to serve her sexual needs as a woman, Beatrice (Pilar Pilapil), in Kailan Mahuhugasan ang Kasalanan? (1989), symbolically castrates her impotent husband. She overturns the patriarchal ideology that places the burden of fertility on the woman and blames her tremendously if she cannot conceive a child. In an argument with her husband, Beatrice blurts out, “Ako rin, gusto ko rin ng pamilya! Magsisimba ako, luluhod ako, dadapa ako, at tutuwad ako, para magkapamilya lamang.” The wife derides her husband for his impotence. She takes it against her husband who essentially deprives her of the motherhood that she personally desires. This subverts the patriarchal idea of the all-powerful phallus. She uses her words to castrate her husband even more. Through her words and the unfortunate circumstance of her husband’s impotence, she asserts her power over him.

In another fight between the husband and wife, Don Claudio tells his wife, “Hindi lamang doktor and kailangan ko, kundi isang asawang makakaunawa!” Beatrice shouts, “At kailangan ko din, ng asawang makakasiping!” Don Claudio slaps her as he shouts, “Walang hiya ka!” After absorbing the shock, she quickly faces him and says, pointing to his crotch, “Bago ka manampal, buhayin mo muna yan!” He slaps her again. She immediately picks a knife – a sharper and harder phallus – and points it to him. She says, “Sige, sige, sige!” The little girl runs to them crying as she says, “Mama, papa, huwag po. Huwag na po. Tama na po. Tama na. Tama na po. Mama… Mama…” Don Ignacio quietly walks out. Beatrice tells the little child, “Tahan na, tahan na.” When her daughter grows up, she realizes that Beatrice obtains sexual satisfaction from a younger man named Douglas, but she respects her mother for her decision as a woman with her own sexual needs. Beatrice actively uses the younger man’s efficient tool for her own pleasure, not merely for reproduction. In bed, Beatrice – like a “padrino” – tells Douglas, “Ako ang alalahanin mo, hindi si Claudio. Alam mo namang ako ang bahala sa’yo. Basta ikaw ang bahala sa akin.”

Actress Pilar Pilapil in Kailan Mahuhugasan ang Kasalanan? (Lino Brocka, 1989)
Figure 9. Beatrice (Pilar Pilapil) with her lover, Douglas (Gino Antonio). Kailan Mahuhugasan ang Kasalanan? (Lino Brocka, 1989)

The Interrogator of Patriarchy

Elena, Cristina, Aida, and Maia subvert patriarchal expectations by expressing their desires as persons with a strong sense of self. Their self-regard and self-definition are not determined merely by their roles as mothers. The discourse that being a mother is just one aspect of the person comes into play. They now start coming to terms with their personhood. They approach the liberated image of the mother who realizes that the expectation for the mother to embrace and embody total obedience to the laws of man and God very often goes against her personal rights.

For example, the imposition of marriage to protect the purity of the woman and to legalize motherhood may go against her personal choice to not be a wife but still raise her own child and develop herself more as an independent person. The mother, as a person who refuses to be confined by the words of others, now suspends social and personal judgment. She has her own life. She has her own money. This mother also questions the very nature of the role assigned to her. For her, motherhood is merely a phase in a woman’s life. She thus raises her children so that they can stand on their own feet as soon as possible. She has her own life to live, her own person to develop.

The Mother Refuses Martyrdom

Elena (Gloria Romero), in Mother Dear (1982), confronts her husband about the consequences of his indiscretion. She tells him, “Hindi tayo ganito noon, Pinggoy.” Elena allows her children to openly express their emotions so that they can vent out their anger and deal with the situation. In one instance, Elena confides with a friend, “Lalong lalaki ang problema pag nalaman nila na nahihirapan ako… Pero matatalino ang aking mga anak.” The mother recognizes that her children can think on their own. She does not have to disavow her personal emotions or sense of self just to protect them from the truth. Indeed, her worldview about her own motherhood is in line with the significantly more liberated woman as mother who refuses to constantly monitor and control the morality of her children out of fear that she will be judged by society for her children’s actions. Her children, especially as adults, are persons distinct from her. She only sympathizes with them when they are already destroying themselves as persons.

When the children’s expression of their anger starts to go out of hand, the mother finally asserts to the father, “Pag di mo pinaalis dito si Lagring, kaming mag-iina ang aalis!” She is confident that she has the hearts of her children. She also tells him, “Ngayon naman, ako ang pagbibigyan ko. [. . .] Ang masakit nun, I never doubted your word.” She now realizes the volatile and illusory nature of the word of the father. She asserts that her husband has the burden because it is he who caused the situation; he should pay for his sin. The mother continues, “Kailangang magdesisyon ka… If you love me at ang ating mga anak, paalisin mo si Lagring.” She bravely dares pose an ultimatum which puts her husband in an intense emotional, moral dilemma.

The Mother Struggles with Men for Power

When Aida (Vilma Santos), in Adultery (Aida Macaraeg Case No. 7892) (1984), offends the pride of her husband, he invokes the law to punish her. This mother, however, does not just accept the status quo. She actively fights for her rights – up to the extent possible for a woman judged by men – within the four walls of the courtroom which is ruled by patriarchal ideology. The mother finally reunites with her son in the end, notably, not because her husband pities her; instead, it is because her husband understands her as a person who fights for her rights.

Maia (Dina Bonnevie), in Sa Kabila ng Lahat (1991), transgresses the patriarchal imposition that a woman should never compromise her purity and the moral boundaries of her culture in order for her to get what she wants. In the patriarchal point of view, the woman should just wait for the support of either her husband or her father. She cannot use her body and her capacity to give pleasure to a man to serve her own end. As a transgressor, she is judged harshly as an unclean woman, a bitch, a “puta.” In this film, Maia’s actions are determined by the value system that patriarchy endorses for the woman to internalize. She is a bitchy femme fatale who uses her body in order for her and her daughter to survive within the corrupt system of local politics in Manila. To do this, she plays with the games that men play. She is not naïve. She is not just manipulated by men; she also manipulates them.

The spectators see the mayor entering a hotel room. The narrative reveals that the mayor’s mistress is Maia. As Mayor Velasco and Maia take off their clothes, in between kisses, the mistress asks, “Inexempt mo na ba sa municipal tax yung concert ng kaibigan ko?” The mayor affirms. She continues, “Yung mga premium need requirements ng city hall pinasa mo na ba sa kaibigan ko?” The mayor affirms again. Maia continues and asks if the uniforms of the employees of the city hall will also be given to her. After the mayor and his mistress have sex, she asks if the security of the city hall will also be provided by her agency. Mayor Velasco says that he already gave it to Boy Boga (Mark Gil), his right-hand man. Maia has always been threatened by Boy Boga’s closeness to the mayor. She says, “Natatakot ka ba kay Boy Boga?” The mayor responds, “Anong klaseng tanong ‘yan?” He continues and raises an issue on her protégé Mike Serrano. The mayor says, “Hawak mo yun ah, ba’t di mo mapagsabihan na tigilan na ang pagtira sa ‘kin sa radyo.” Maia says, “Hawak ko lang siya sa TV. ‘Di ko siya hawak sa radyo.” Through the conversation, the narrative reveals that Maia has always stealthily hit the enemies of the mayor through her program. She tells the mayor, “Ginagawa ko lang ‘yon para lang sa ‘yo.” The mayor gives his mistress another reward. He says that she can have the contract for the dump trucks. The city hall will pay for eight times of “hakot” per day but the actual service will be four times. The mayor says, “Malaking pera din ‘yon.”

To uphold her pragmatic and utilitarian orientation, she refuses to judge herself based on the point of view of men and the institutions – religion, law, and “commonsense” ethics – that they have infiltrated ideologically. She builds trust with men. She also destroys this, so that she can have a fair share of power with them; otherwise, she will merely be an object to men. She refuses to be objectified in a “loving” relationship between a man and his “querida” (mistress).

(2) Mother as Aggressor

The mothers in this section challenge and confront the dominant system that constantly threatens to oppress them by demanding personal and social justice.

The Avenger

In the film Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (1985), after Auring’s (Nida Blanca) release from prison, she returns to the small town primarily to demand retribution from Mayor Ven and his cohorts, not just to look for her son and continue her thwarted motherhood. She asserts herself as her own person to whom justice is due. She exacts justice even if it may mean that her son will be implicated in battle. For Auring, blind forgiveness is out of the question. What she wants is retribution for the injustice that she suffered. She is not a self-sacrificing mother for her son. As her own person who deserves dignity, she declares war so that her son will know the history of her oppression. She was a victim of the small town’s fear of the mayor and the connivance of his men. Unlike Kuala (Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, 1974) whose violent abortion results in regression to unconsciousness, Auring’s incarceration results in an understanding of the structure and dynamics of power in society. When Auring returns to the small town, she refuses to be a victim by her disavowal of fear that gripped her in the past and now still grips the whole town. The mother is proactive in her personal crusade.

Auring confronts each of the mayor’s men who all conspired against her in the past. She first confronts the judge who betrayed her 15 years ago because he was paid by her former lover Ven. He asks her, “Ano ba ang kailangan mo sa akin?” She tells him with conviction, “Ang karapatan ko. Ang karapatan kong ipinagkait niyo sa akin!” She tells him that she is resolved to have the case reopened. He tells her that the case is already moot and academic because she has already served her sentence. She vehemently asserts that what she wants is “Ibangon ang karangalan sa harap ng Diyos at sa harap ng tao! Hindi ako kriminal!” She refuses the judge’s offer to help her find a job in Manila. She also pronounces that the reason that she returned is that she wants to see her son Miguelito. He tells her that Miguelito’s life will be disturbed. She retorts, “Nagulo rin ang buhay ko!”

Actress Nida Blanca in Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (Lino Brocka, 1985)
Figure 10. Auring (Nida Blanca) demands personal justice. Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (Lino Brocka, 1985)

Auring speaks with the restaurateur who used to own the “kabaret” where she used to work. He falsely testified against her 15 years ago. He tells her that he can vaguely remember her case and offers her a job in his hotel’s kitchen. She tells him that what she really needs, “Hindi trabaho, hindi pagkain. Katarungan!”

Auring also speaks to the doctor and now hospital owner who witnessed her deliver Miguelito. He tells her that according to the documents, she is not Miguelito’s mother. She tells him, “Pero alam ng buong bayan na si Cristina ay baog.” The doctor tells the mother, “At ako rin ang pumirma sa bagong birth certificate.” The conspiracy of men orchestrated the manipulation of the truth – name and reality of birth – by “managing” the word of the law of the father. Felix tells Auring, “Kalimutan mo na ang nakaraan [. . .] Nabibili ang katotohanan.” Auring angrily says, “At nabili ka na rin ni Ven!” He admits, “Mas madaling bilhin ang tao kesa katotohanan.” Felix, too, offers to give her “kaunting tulong” in exchange for her silence, and continues, “Tahimik ang bayan, panatag ang loob ng tao.” The mother is tenacious. She pursues her demand for justice. In Auring’s dialogue with Cristina, she expresses her progressive worldview.

Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (Lino Brocka, 1985)
Figure 11. Miguelito’s (Aga Muhlach) two mothers, Auring (Nida Blanca) and Cristina (Gloria Romero). Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (Lino Brocka, 1985)

The following conversation ensues between the two mothers:


Auring, magugulo ang buhay ng bata. Masisira sa iskandalo ang kanyang kinabukasan. Naparito ako para kausapin ka na hanapan ng ibang lunas ang iyong kaso. Alang-alang man lang sa kanyang kinabukasan. Kung nagkasala man sa’yo si Ven, dapat ba nating idamay si Mike sa mga parusa?


Ano pa ang magagawa ko? Sa ayaw natin at sa gusto, kasangkot siya sa buhay ko.


Maaatim ba ng isang ina na masaktan ang kanyang anak?


Minsan. Kailangang madapa ang bata, magalusan, mapaso, upang matuto, tumino, at tumibay ang loob. Alam ko masakit yan sa bata, Cristina, ngunit tinitiyak ko sa iyo na mas masakit ‘yan sa ina.


Ano pang halaga ang makukuha ni Mike sa mga nangyari? Na tarantado’t sinungaling ang kanyang ama? Na iba ang kanyang tunay na ina? Anong magagawa’t maiisip ng bata? Kapag napalayo sa amin si Mike, ano ang ihaharap niya sa ibang tao? Ano ang kanyang ikabubuhay?


Hindi ko naman inaangkin o inilalayo sa inyo si Mike. Wala naman akong maibibigay sa kanya katulad ng naipagkaloob na ninyo. Maliban sa katotohanan. Masakit man at nakalilito. Bago pa ang ibang tao, harapin muna natin ang ating mga sarili. Panagutan ang dapat panagutan.

Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (Lino Brocka, 1985)

Searcher for Social Justice

The Activist Becomes a Mother and Limits Her Energy to the Family

Even as an expectant mother, Trixie (Orapronobis, 1989) already struggles in her commitment to human rights advocacy. When her brother Roland whom she practically raised, is killed in a shoot-out, Trixie fails to see beyond her personal grief.

In Roland’s wake, his fellow activists speak with Trixie. They propose that his body be paraded in a protest march. They think that his death can be used as a symbol of oppression. They hope that his death will mobilize people to action. Trixie declines the proposal. She says, “Patay na si Roland. Wala siyang pinagbilin.” She tells her companion, “Nagplano na kagad, di man lang kami tinanong.” Trixie then tells Sister Marie that she can’t take the tension anymore and she wants to resign. Sister Marie persuades her to take an indefinite leave instead and continues, “Pagkapanganak mo, saka tayo mag-usap.”

When Trixie gives birth, her husband Jimmy declines to accept speaking engagements. When news about Esper’s abduction reaches Jimmy at home, he gets ready to act. Trixie raises a personal issue, “Akala ko ba ang usapan natin?” She wants Jimmy to be by her side throughout her pregnancy. Further, she says that maybe Jimmy still loves Esper. Trixie uses her being a jealous wife and an insecure mother to have Jimmy all to herself and her child at the expense of the larger cause of the fight for the freedom for all. Jimmy utters, “Wala na ba akong karapatang magmalasakit sa iba? Ginagawa mo akong duwag!” Trixie responds, “Ayokong mawala ka sakin Jimmy. Sasama ako.”

The Mother and the Activist in the Same Body: The Family and the Collective Are Not Distinct Spheres

In contrast to Trixie, Luz, as a mother-to-be, upholds her sense of self as an activist. She does not use her pregnancy as an excuse to participate in collective action. She openly expresses her will to join the struggle of the workers.

In Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (1985), the co-workers of Turing and the pregnant Luz arrive at their home. Ka Ador, the eldest of the workers, explains the purpose of their visit. The old man tells the couple that it is now time to act as one so that they can collectively demand their rights as workers. He invites Turing to join them. Ka Ador tells Luz that they are not inviting her right now because she is currently not in the printing press. Luz tells Ka Ador, “Sayang nga ho eh, kung pwede lang sana.”

The woman’s advocacy for activism is tenacious. Luz listens attentively as the conversation continues. Ka Ador asks Turing, “Maaasahan ka ba namin?” Turing tells Ka Ador, “Kilala nyo naman ako eh, kaisa sa damdamin. [. . .] Unawain ho nyo sana ako, buntis si Luz.” Luz quickly responds, “Turing kung ako lang ang inaalala mo.” Turing then reveals that he has already signed a waiver that proves that he is not a member of any workers union. Lus is silent (she is her husband’s wife and friend), but the spectators can clearly see the disappointment in her eyes.

Later, at the hospital room Luz clutches her newborn baby. Turing relates to her that he chanced upon a former co-worker on his way to the hospital. Luz expresses her progressive concern about her co-workers: “Eh yung kaso nila? Akala ko ba magdedemanda?” Her being a mother does not automatically transform her worldview; she maintains her sense of self, her identity, and her convictions. She continues that it may take a while but they can still win their case.

Turing tells his wife, who is now a mother, “Wag mo nang problemahin ‘yun. Tayo nga ‘tong mabigat ang problema.” For this woman, who now happens to be a mother too, the problems of others also concern her; their fight is also her fight. Being a mother does not make her mind and heart exclusive to her child.

Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (Lino Brocka, 1985)
Figure 12. Luz (Gina Alajar) has just become a mother. Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (Lino Brocka, 1985)

For Esper (Orapronobis, 1989), her identity as a person is not merely defined by her motherhood, her being an activist, or by any aspect of her personhood for that matter. The said two aspects of her personhood co-exist with each other both in terms of body and discourse. The Orapronobis attacks the small town. Jimmy, Esper, Sister Marie, and some press people arrive near Esper’s house. Kumander Kontra confronts the group. Esper hears the cries of her children. She very discretely looks to the direction of the sound. The mother does not let go of reason; she does not hysterically run toward her children. Esper masks her anxiety as a mother because she knows that she should maintain her composure, for the safety of her children, the group that she is with, and herself.

Esper is brought to the lair of the Orapronobis. The mother sees her child and says, “Camilo. Anak ko…” Esper’s father, who is among the captives, sees her daughter. Esper is brought to Kumander Kontra in a room that has a very conspicuous altar. Kumander Kontra drinks from a glass on a table. On the wall are mounted a picture of Ferdinand Marcos, a picture of Rambo, and an American flag. Kumander Kontra speaks of light and darkness. Esper is tenacious. Kumander Kontra yells, “Puta ka!” He contemptuously tells her that he will not give her the “mahiwagang kaalaman.” He continues, “Bibigyan kita ng kaligyahan. Higit pa sa binigay ng asawa mo.” Kumander Kontra rapes the mother in front of an image of Jesus. After Kumander Kontra is satisfied, he says, “Dyango ikaw naman.”

Camilo strikes Kumander Kontra with his plastic sword. Kontra shoots Camilo. Esper seizes Dyago’s gun and shoots Kumander Kontra, the very embodiment of oppression. The mother’s act asserts that the personal is also the political. Indeed, the mother’s fight begins from the domestic sphere and naturally culminates to the larger power dynamics and struggle in society. A couple of bullets hit the picture of Ferdinand Marcos mounted on the wall. The injured Kumander Kontra picks up a machine gun and shoots Esper.


  • Brocka, L. (Director). (1974). Tinimbang ka ngunit kulang [Weighed but found wanting]. [Film]. Screenplay by Mario O’Hara. Prod. CineManila. Philippines: Mever Films.
  • Brocka, L. (Director). (1976). Insiang. [Film]. Screenplay by Mario O’Hara and Lamberto E. Antonio. Prod. Ruby Tiong Tan. Philippines: CineManila.
  • Brocka, L. (Director). (1982). Mother dear. [Film]. Screenplay by Jose Javier Reyes. Prod. Lily Monteverde. Philippines: Regal Films.
  • Brocka, L. (Director). (1984). Adultery (Aida Macaraeg Case No. 7892). [Film]. Screenplay by Jose Javier Reyes. Prod. Lily Monteverde. Philippines: Regal Films.
  • Brocka, L. (Director). (1985). Miguelito: Ang batang rebelde [Miguelito: The rebel boy]. [Film]. Screenplay by Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. Philippines: D’Wonder Films.
  • Brocka, L. (Director). (1985). Bayan ko: Kapit sa patalim. [My country: Seize the blade clutching at straws]. [Film]. Screenplay by Jose F. Lacaba. Prod. Vera Belmont and Antonio Gonzales. Philippines: Stephan Films, Malay Films.
  • Brocka, L. (Director). (1987). Pasan ko ang daigdig [I carry the world]. [Film]. Screenplay by Rene Villanueva and Orlando Nadres. Prod. Ramon Salvador. Philippines: Viva Films.
  • Brocka, L. (Director). (1989). Kailan mahuhugasan ang kasalanan? [When will the sin be washed away?]. [Film]. Screenplay by Jose “Butch” Dalisay. Prod. Charo Santos- Concio. Philippines: Vision Films.
  • Brocka, L. (Director). (1989). Orapronobis [Fight for us]. [Film]. Screenplay by Jose F. Lacaba. Prod. Leonardo dela Fuente. Philippines: Cannon Films
  • Brocka, L. (Director). (1991). Sa Kabila ng lahat [No matter what]. [Film]. Screenplay by Roy Iglesias. Prod. Vic del Rosario. Philippines: Viva Films.
  • Rich, A. (1986). Of woman born: Motherhood as experience and institution. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.