Chapter 2. Images of the Mothers Who Struggle within the Confines of Their Role

by Jose Gutierrez III

Brocka’s films from 1970 to 1982 generally belong to the first cluster of images. Here, Brocka’s familiarity and affinity with the types of mothers as portrayed by the earlier studio films, popular literature, and “komiks” (serialized graphic novels) are manifested. Within this cluster, the following images are identified and fleshed out: (1) the “ideal” mother; (2) mother as victim; and (3) the controlling matriarch.

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.

Among these, the “ideal” mother is the most oppressed. By accepting and internalizing the patriarchal construct of the mother as the “ilaw ng tahanan” (light of the home), the woman enters into a role that imposes strict characteristics for her not just to display but internalize. Thus the “ideal” mother, to maintain the bliss of home and family life, leads her children in bringing pleasure to the father, looks and feels good all the time, and suffers silently. The mother as victim comes next to the “ideal” mother with regard to oppression. While for the “ideal” mother, the source of oppression is internal, for the victimized mother, it is external in the form of the violence and cunning of men and the patriarchal demands of the society that they dominate. The controlling matriarch also struggles within the confines of her role as mother. Superficially, the matriarch has power over people, objects, and objectified people, but this is never stable. The matriarch merely took over the properties left by the father; thus, she strains to maintain the volatile stability of her “realm” by controlling her children either through overt meddling or emotional manipulation.

(1) The “Ideal” Mother

The “ideal” mother, as the “ilaw ng tahanan” (light of the home), radiates warmth and love for her children and husband, but when she suffers, she must keep it to herself. Indeed, the mother is a venerable figure – pure, righteous, and silently suffering – patterned after the Blessed Virgin Mary; thus, the mother raises her children to be law-abiding and God-fearing. Patriarchy enforces the status quo through the mother who internalizes and embodies the values of society and culture. The “ideal” mother is therefore kind, just, and always makes the home a happy place for the entire family. She disavows and hides her personal turmoil from the eyes of her husband and children. Indeed, she upholds the bliss of her family’s home at all cost.

“Ilaw ng Tahanan” (Light of the Home)

As the “ilaw ng tahanan,” the “ideal” mother leads her children in bringing pleasure to the father, looks and feels good all the time, protects her children against attacks from outside the family, and upholds the value of love and tenderness in child-rearing.

The Mother Leads Her Children in Bringing Pleasure to the Father

In Wanted: Perfect Mother (1970), Edna (Lisa Lorena) is the “ideal” mother. She plays the piano and leads her children in singing and playing other instruments, as the father, Dante (Dante Rivero) happily watches from the sofa. The mother leads her children in bringing pleasure to the father, the head of the family; this makes the mother happy.

Edna is a full-time mother to four children who still has the time to meet regularly with the Ladies’ Club – a luxury endowed by class. Simply put, she is an upper middle class, stay-at-home mother who enjoys the help of her hired hands, the governess and the “mayordoma.” The core of her mothering is in the realm of giving “pangaral” to her children. In other words, her main function as a mother is to pass down to her children the values and beliefs of the dominant culture that she herself has internalized. This is deemed essential in their adjustment in the society where they are projected to thrive.

From the patriarchal point of view, it is a “commonsense” and taken for granted “fact” that the mother is happy when the father is satisfied about her work as the guardian of his children. This is deeply internalized in mothers. This is very much manifested in Edna who, even when the conflict of the narrative comes into play as the father makes advances on the new governess, still protects the ideal image of the father for her children and for the solidarity and happiness of the family.

The Mother Looks and Feels Good All the Time

Edna looks and – as the viewers of the film as a visual medium would assume on a superficial level – feels good all the time. The mother gives off characteristics that are strictly filtered through the matrix of the “ideal” mother and inevitably, that of a woman. Consistent with the role imposed by patriarchy to the woman as mother, Edna has already internalized the “need” to look and feel well all the time so that she, as the “ilaw ng tahanan” (light of the home), can always radiate warmth and love to her children and husband. The extreme primacy of her submission to her role as mother over her needs as a person makes her a caricature of the patriarchal image of the “perfect mother.” Consequently, her response to her husband’s indiscretion is also limited. As a woman in patriarchy, all she can do is accept it and hope that her husband remains to be with her and her children; further, it is also the mother’s task to facilitate the mood and image of their family life as undisturbed and perpetually blissful notwithstanding her personal pain that results from it.

In the inciting incident of the narrative, when the four children complain to their mommy Edna about their “matandang dalaga” governess, Tita Magna, who is “masungit,” “pangit,” and “matanda,” a complete antithesis of their kind, beautiful, and young mother, the image of the mother as internalized by the children is further avowed. As merely a caricature of the “ideal” mother, Edna’s motherhood is merely a vessel that can easily be replaced by her double, “Carla,” who is also kind, beautiful, and young.

Wanted: Perfect Mother (Lino Brocka, 1970)
Figure 1. Carla (Boots Anson-Roa), the governess, doubles as the kind, beautiful, and young mother. Wanted: Perfect Mother (Lino Brocka, 1970)

The Mother Upholds the Value of Love and Tenderness in Child-Rearing

The perfect mother responds to the grievances of her children. Edna justly confronts the old governess: “Kung luko-luko ang mga anak ko, then luko-luko na ang lahat ng mga bata sa buong mundo.” Edna explains that their behavior is “natural lang sa mga bata.” The film says that the mother defends her children especially from attacks from outside the family. The mother cannot readily accept that her children step outside the bounds of what is natural and normal.

Tita Magna defends her position. She says that she was brought up “sagana sa palo” and has always known to fear her parents and recognize their authority. Edna asserts that her style of child-rearing is “panahon pa ng Kastila” and that children should be brought up with “hindi takot, kundi pagmamahal.” The film says that the mother is always ready to defend her philosophy in child-rearing to anybody. This shows the spectators how important the concept of good mothering is to her. Edna continues, “Panahon na para humanap ka ng ibang mapapasukan.” Her children pull one last prank on the governess right before she leaves (they strategically place a toy car in front of the door). The film says that the mother does not reprimand her children in front of other people. Indeed, she defends the clean image of her realm. She neither punishes her children physically nor barrages them with harsh words. Instead, Edna gives her gentle “pangaral” – notably not in terms of Christian morality or sin, but of pragmatic understanding – to the children: “That’s no good, what you did was wrong. [. . .] Kaya nga’t dapat natin siyang maunawaan, kasi matanda na siya at nag-iisa. [. . .] Yan ba ang natutunan niyo sa eskwelahan? Yan ba ang itinuturo ko sa inyo?” The pleasure that the spectator derives from the idealized nostalgia of the blissful memory of childhood applies not only to mothers but to children, too. In short, the objective of this commercial film is to appeal to the greatest number of the movie-going public.

Indeed, the success of Wanted: Perfect Mother (1970) – attributed to the aspirational and positively nostalgic look, feel, and brand of the mothering of Edna – served as the springboard for Brocka to break through the film industry.

Silently Suffering Mother

The second type of the “ideal” mother is Cristina (Gloria Romero), in Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (1985). In the first half her character arc, Cristina is a silently suffering mother. Still in the mold of the traditional mother who suffers miserably when her child becomes wayward, Cristina uses her silent suffering to prevent the condemnation of her children and herself. For her, her silence protects her son from the possible risks that the young man might encounter when the truth about his parentage comes out. In the process, the mother also serves the boy’s father by making sure that his image to his son is never compromised.

The silently suffering mother disavows her internal turmoil and even sense of shame just to protect the solidarity of the relationship between father and son. Because of the mother’s silence about the truth, the boy looks up to his father. As a mother, this woman disavows her personal right to be treated with respect. She lets her role as a self-sacrificing mother to trample on her right to be treated by her husband with dignity. She knows that the whole town knows that she is sterile – and therefore Miguelito is not her son – and her husband now has a young mistress whom he lavishes with a fine house inside the small town.

In a casual mother-and-son talk one night, Cristina, behind a large image of the Mater Dolorosa, a sorrowful Mama Mary who wears a black veil, confides to Miguelito: “Wala akong nakikita, naririnig. Pero alam ko, alam ko. Nakangiti silang lahat, para bang hinihintay nilang magkamali ako, matapilok, lumuha. Pero wala silang makikita.” She knows all the rumors that go around the town. The mother knows that they secretly laugh at her, and her only weapon is her silence about the truth.

Actress Gloria Romero in Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (Lino Brocka, 1985)
Figure 2. Cristina (Gloria Romero) and the image of the Mater Dolorosa. Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (Lino Brocka, 1985)

When Miguelito asks his mother, Cristina, about the rumors, she says, “Ba’t ako ang tinatanong mo? Wala ‘kong nalalaman diyan. Bakit hindi mo tanungin ang Papa mo?” Cristina still uses her silence as her shield against the wrath of the father and society. Miguelito responds, “Ma, kayo lang ang makakapagsabi sa akin ng totoo. Hindi ko malaman kung paniniwalaan ko si Papa o hindi.” Still trying to be silent about the truth, Cristina responds, “Ama mo siya, Miguelito. Paniwalaan mo siya.” In the second half of her character arc, she breaks her silence. This act will move her to the category of the “mother as transgressor,” which will be discussed later in this paper.

(2) Mother as Victim

The mother can be a victim of male-dominated culture through violence, cunning, and patriarchal demands.

Victim of Violence and Cunning

Kuala (Lolita Rodriguez), in Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974), and Adora (Helen Gamboa), in Kailan Mahuhugasan ang Kasalanan? (1989), manifest images of the mother as helpless victims of men who forcibly carry out their will without regard to the basic rights of “their women.” The spectators become witnesses to the crimes that men do to the mothers and their children. According to Adrienne Rich, in Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (1986), “the mother-child relationship is the essential human relationship. In the creation of the patriarchal family, violence is done to this fundamentally human unit” (p. 127).

Abortion against the Will of the Mother to Protect the Name of the Father

From the patriarchal point of view, the “name of the father” takes precedence over everything. In patriarchal culture and ideology, the man, when he takes a wife, bestows his surname on her and her children. But when the father’s name is compromised because a woman bears a child that he and his society do not want, he has the option to commit acts of violence against her and her child, just to protect his stature and reputation.

In Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974), Kuala (Lolita Rodriguez) and her child bear the violence of Cesar (Eddie Garcia) who endeavors to protect his name from being compromised. The father’s word wins over the woman’s body. The spectators witness the crime of the father during the act of abortion of Kuala’s child. Cesar’s hand covers Kuala’s mouth, muffling her screams. The woman becomes unconscious, with her eyes open, as the spectators hear the sound of mumbling voices. The man, with the image of “The Sacred Heart of Jesus” behind him, looks at the “hilot,” a local abortionist, who, in silence, piercingly returns his look, as she carries out his will.

Within the context of the small town, the following logic prevails: the father wills for this to happen to prevent scandalizing his name that is more important than either the lives of his bastard child or even its mother. The child was a mistake, and the father controls the damage.

As Kuala regains consciousness, she sees her dead baby on the floor. She picks it up, places it near her breasts – ala Pieta – and loses her sanity. The screen becomes more surreal, and the spectators see the silhouette of the mother, in a wide shot, beside a desiccated tree. Kuala buries her child in an unmarked grave, and then a disquieting montage of the madwoman’s memories ensues. The spectators hear Kuala’s voice, uttering these words in the fashion of a children’s rhyme: “Ako’y isang matsing. Meme na bunso ko. S’ya ba’y natutulog, o busog, natutulog.” The mother leaves everything behind in the barren land. She wanders aimlessly, as a madwoman whose ego regresses to the blissful state of childhood and represses the traumatic history of the injustice done to her and her dead child.

Kuala is forced to instantaneously relinquish her motherhood by Caesar’s violent scheme. Kuala is indeed a victim. She is manipulated and subjected by patriarchy and is not able to rise again after her fall. When she loses her baby, the trauma is so intense that she loses her very meaning in life; indeed, it is so severe that she loses her very sanity. Throughout the narrative, however, the madwoman survives without depending on any single source of charity. Not even Berto – who provides her with hygiene and affection – is her salvation. The woman’s body survives, and it is this very body where, in Kuala’s final moment of lucidity, the liberated mother recognizes and ultimately damns Caesar by voicing out the injustice done by the father in the past.

Actress Lolita Rodriguez in Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (Lino Brocka, 1974)
Figure 3. Kuala (Lolita Rodriguez) regresses into madness after the traumatic death of her child. Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (Lino Brocka, 1974)

The Husband Steals and Sells the Mother’s Baby

In another film, Kailan Mahuhugasan ang Kasalanan? (1989), Oscar (Dante Rivero) steals his wife’s baby and sells it to save himself from being killed by his debtors. He tramples on both the rights of his wife Adora (Helen Gamboa) and her baby whom she conceived with another man before he married her. Oscar constantly berates his wife for her “sin”: “Hoy, pinakasalan kita, ha. Pinakasalan kita kahit na alam kong may laman na ‘yan.” Oscar does not respect the baby and Adora’s motherhood to it because it does not bear his name.

According to Rich (1986), “Motherhood is ‘sacred’ so long as its offspring are ‘legitimate’ – that is, as long as the child bears the name of the father who legally controls the mother” (p. 42). The man, therefore, has the “bastard” baby at his disposal so Adora wakes up one rainy night and sees that the “duyan” is empty. The following day, she searches for Oscar and her baby in vain. She does not have any idea for whom her husband works.

Actress Helen Gamboa in Kailan Mahuhugasan ang Kasalanan? (Lino Brocka, 1989)
Figure 4. Adora (Helen Gamboa) searches for her stolen daughter in vain. Kailan Mahuhugasan ang Kasalanan? (Lino Brocka, 1989)

Unbeknown to Adora, Oscar gets involved in a bank robbery and shoots a security guard. He is caught and is given a sentence of 25 years and six months. Due to lack of knowledge about the truth, the mother is now helpless in finding her daughter. She becomes a helpless victim of her husband’s selfishness and cunning.

Victim of Patriarchal Demands

The mother can be a victim of patriarchy through the demands that patriarchy assigns to her role. Of these demands, two are fleshed out in Hellow Soldier (1974) and Makiusap sa Diyos (1991). The two demands are that the mother wait for the father’s mercy and that she, as a woman, should always be “pure” to deserve her status as the mother of his children.

The Mother Waits for the Father’s Mercy

Lucia (Anita Linda), in Hellow Soldier (1974), is bound to the patriarchal expectation that a mother cannot demand too much from the father of her child should he decide to leave her. From the patriarchal point of view, it is deemed just for the man to leave his woman; given that the man is rational (as opposed to the irrational woman), there is always reason in the man’s decision and society does not even require him to defend his position. Indeed, staying with the mother of his child is the prerogative of the man who, according to patriarchal ideology, is naturally free. Thus, when the American father of Lucia’s child leaves, the mother is left with no other option but to wait for him, with the hope that he will have mercy on her plight as a single mother. While waiting for this to happen, however, patriarchy also expects her to devote her life to raising her child and enduring all the sufferings that come along with it.

The narrative slightly compromises patriarchy’s hold over the woman when Lucia, in a drunken state of consciousness – the half-light between full wakefulness and sleep – quite scandalously voices out her history of oppression, love, anger, guilt, and sufferings in raising her daughter. In the process, she facilitates her daughter’s decision to stay with her, in effect, prolonging her motherhood to the younger woman. Lucia also questions a norm, that America is the ultimate Filipino dream, by doing her scandalous act that compromises her daughter’s chances of leaving for the United States with her American father. What is notable in Lucia is that her act is not directly a manipulative effort to make her daughter stay with her. Here, the mother’s action is more of the catharsis for all her pent-up emotions and issues from the past with her former lover. In her drunken state, Lucia lets her emotional energy flow out, in order to settle things and to assert the validity of her history viewed from her own perspective. It is notable that her daughter’s decision to stay with her is borne not out of pity but for the love of the mother who in her own way liberated herself from her being a victim in the past.

Ligaya (Hilda Koronel) in Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975), is made helpless by her fear of the violence that Ah Tek can do to her child. Being a mother seals the curtailment of her freedom. It prevents her from leaving the source of her oppression. After her encounter with Julio, she returns to the house that is essentially her prison. She locks herself in her house as a mother who is afraid of what the father can do to the child if she tries to escape. She can only wait for the mercy of Ah Tek for any hope for her liberation. Apparently, she does try to escape later, but the narrative determines that she be killed. The threats – the word of the father – materialize into physical violence that leads to the mother’s death.

The Mother Should Be “Pure”

Dolores (Ruffa Gutierrez), in Makiusap sa Diyos (1991) embodies the mother who, by virtue of her being a woman, is oppressed by patriarchy via the discourses of morality and sin. Because of the double standard of morality, the woman is easily judged as dirty and irrational. This becomes part of the “commonsense” way of seeing women who should, as the ideology goes, be obsessed with being clean and pure, or else they will be judged as “loose” women. As a mother, the woman is doubly oppressed by the “institution of motherhood” because its aspirational impositions, in contrast to the woman’s “commonsense” attributes, make her more open to judgment by patriarchal culture. According to Rich (1986), “Throughout patriarchal mythology, dream-symbolism, theology, language, two ideas flow side by side: one, that the female body is impure, corrupt, the site of discharges, bleedings, dangerous to masculinity, a source of moral and physical contamination, ‘the devil’s gateway.’ […] On the other hand, as mother the woman is beneficent, sacred, pure, asexual, nourishing” (p. 34).

The weight of patriarchy against the “shamed” or “scandalous” woman, especially as a mother, is so deep-rooted in the consciousness of everybody that it is the very same point of view that women and mothers use to judge themselves and each other. Patriarchy’s “veneration” of the “institution of motherhood” gives men more reason to judge the woman. It is now easier for the woman to fall short of the patriarchal demand of being clean and righteous. Patriarchy now judges the woman as either a “good” (and pure) mother or a “bad” (and corrupt) mother. The oppression of patriarchy weighs greatly upon Dolores when her own mother becomes the sounding board of the judgment of men. Dolores’ mother blames her daughter for the wrong that was done to her.

Makiusap sa Diyos (Lino Brocka, 1991)
Figure 5. Mrs. Aaron (Rosemarie Gil) blames her daughter Dolores (Ruffa Gutierrez) and slaps her. Makiusap sa Diyos (Lino Brocka, 1991)

Following is the conversation between the mother and her daughter, who is now a mother:

Mrs. Aaron:

Anong kahihiyan ‘to? Anong kahihiyan ‘tong dinala mo sa pamilya natin, Dolores? Ano!


Ma, wala akong kasalanan. Pinagsamantalahan ako.

Mrs. Aaron:

Pinagsamantalahan? Kailan? Saan? Sino?


Hindi ko alam.

Mrs. Aaron:

Pinagsamantalahan ka? Hindi mo alam kung sino?


Hindi ko alam, hindi ko alam.

Mrs. Aaron:

Anong kaistupidahan ito! Sumagot ka! Sino?


Hindi ko alam.

Mrs. Aaron:

Bakit hindi mo pinalaglag ang bata


Ma, mali yon. Kasalanan sa Diyos.

Mrs. Aaron:

Mas mali ang bigyan mo ng ganitong iskandalo ang ating pamilya.


Ma, kung nagawa ko man ‘yon, patawarin niya na ako.

Mrs. Aaron:

Ano ang sabi ni Sister Carmen?


Ma, huwag. Huwag n’yo na silang tatawagan. Kukunin nila sa akin ang anak ko.

Makiusap sa Diyos (Lino Brocka, 1991)

(3) The Controlling Matriarch

Toyang (Stardoom, 1971), Atang (Bukas, Madilim Bukas, 1974), Inay (Inay, 1977), Emilia (Ina, Kapatid, Anak, 1979), and Señora Pina (Cain At Abel, 1982) are mothers. As women, they are made helpless by patriarchy all their lives. After their own husbands pass away, their helplessness is intensified as the mothers take on the role of the father. To come to terms with this, the mother therefore strains to gain control of her son or daughter so that using the younger person – essentially the mother’s extension – she can survive with a sense of power, no matter how illusory or volatile it really is.

The matriarch struggles to gain control by living her dreams through her child (frustrated dreamer living her life through her child), objectifying her child through emotional manipulation (emotional manipulator), meddling in her adult children’s personal lives [the “pakialamera” (meddlesome woman)], and constantly guarding her house and the people in it (zealous guardian of the house and the people in it).

Frustrated Dreamer Living Her Life through Her Child

Toyang (Lolita Rodriguez), in Stardoom (1971), obsessively pursues her lifelong effort in mothering her favored son Joey. In this film, the patriarchal image of the mother who uses her child to grapple with her personal frustration comes into play. The mother uses her son to live her own dreams. Toyang’s “unconditional love” involves an element of control. The mother thinks that her actions are out of love, but her underlying personal motivation is actually her personal need to control. Her behavior is an unverbalized expression of her psyche’s underlying fears and anxieties of being a helpless woman. She has internalized and naturalized her own subordination in a patriarchal society that leaves a woman with limited choices in grappling with her personal frustration. The narrative, however, involves a significant amount of flashbacks that exhibit her backstory – her personal history and circumstance – that make the spectators understand her as a person whose behavior must be seen in the context of the society and culture where she struggles as a woman.

Toyang is a woman who is a victim of socioeconomic pressures because of the death of her debt-ridden father and betrayal of men because of the deception of her poor husband. Indeed, the mother, the woman, in this film cannot pursue her own dreams. She can only do so vicariously through her husband and/or children. Thus, as a phallocentric subject – “the other” as an extension of patriarchy – the woman accepts and never questions her role as a mother. Motherhood then becomes her primary function. When she relinquishes this role, she loses her meaning in life; thus, the mother strains to maintain mothering as her lifelong activity. At the same time that patriarchy imposes that the woman raises the children that bear the name of the man, it also negatively judges her if she clings too much to the child, especially the son. Rich (1986) elucidates this patriarchal “value”:

Patriarchy depends on the mother to act as a conservative influence, imprinting future adults with patriarchal values even in those early years when the mother-child relationship might seem most individual and private; it has also assured through ritual and tradition that the mother shall cease, at a certain point, to hold the child – in particular the son – in her orbit. Certainly it has created images of the archetypal Mother, which reinforce the conservatism of motherhood and convert it to an energy for the renewal of male power.

(Rich, 1986, p. 61)

Toyang’s life as a mother revolves around Joey. She neglects her other son Emong. She raises her boys to be pragmatic, not merely law-abiding or God-fearing. She gives Joey everything and defends him at the expense of Emong. It is as if Joey, through her “good mothering” to him, is her last hope for salvation. However, as Joey becomes a rising teen sensation, he thrives in the corrupt system of patronage politics in showbiz, and he disavows his mother for being a “pakialamera” (meddlesome woman). In the world outside the home, her son makes her feel that her mothering is practically obsolete. Indeed, too much mothering, no matter how, from her perspective, good the mother’s intentions are, becomes counter-productive and bad for the child and ultimately for the mother herself. Toyang’s world is shattered when Joey ceases to be her son by refusing to succumb to her control and imposition to what life he should live. She fails to live her dreams vicariously through her only hope. Stripped of her essence as mother, she will be powerless and meaningless; therefore, she does everything, in vain, to keep this from happening.

As a matriarch, Toyang has a significant control over her “object,” her son. As a woman oppressed by the male-dominated society, Toyang attempts to use her son as a tool in rising from poverty (socioeconomic) and dealing with her frustration (personal) in becoming a star. But none of these happen in the film. From the patriarchal point of view, because she refuses to accept the status quo and attempts instead to wield power by controlling her son, the narrative punishes her with the young man’s tragic death. Together with her son’s loss is the loss of her power as the controlling matriarch, which ironically ushers a possible new beginning for herself as a person.

Emotional Manipulator

Aside from being overtly intrusive, the mother can also control the child, even as an adult, by using emotional manipulation. In Bukas, Madilim, Bukas (1974) the spectator empathizes with the daughter who is manipulated by her mother by feigning sickness to keep her daughter from leaving her. Atang further echoes the patriarchal image of the mother who uses emotion (pity and guilt) and culture (filial piety and religiousity) to prolong as much as possible her motherhood. In the process, she deprives her daughter of her own chances at motherhood. This old widow conveniently monopolizes the power in the entire house. She has properties (e.g., Virgin Mary icons, land, house, and furniture) and objects (e.g., her own daughter) that she uses to fulfill her own need for security and desire for domination. Indeed, the “commonsense” notion that it is the daughter – usually the youngest – that is assigned to take care of the old parent reveals itself to be a patriarchal value. This patriarchal value of the daughter’s “sacrifice” for the sake of filial piety is so “commonsense” that questioning it sounds wrong. The dominant, patriarchal point of view, which every element in society has already internalized, is what Atang “naturally” uses to maintain the status quo. Ironically, Atang is completely a subject of patriarchy. When her husband dies, she does not have control and eventually takes on his role as the only way to deal with her “lack” of power. As with all the mothers under patriarchy, Atang does not know how to earn a living; thus, her child should take care of her when she is old. Atang has completely internalized and personified the values of patriarchy.

The daughter is “paralyzed” just like her mother. But when the objectified daughter finally discovers that her mother just feigns her illness just to manipulate her, she achieves consciousness and displaces her hatred by sexually liberating herself and her rage by sadistically letting her selfish and manipulative mother die. The lifelong motherhood to the daughter, after all, is neither futile nor desirable. Rosenda is now free and redeemed. Since the narrative makes the spectator identify with the daughter and not the mother, the audience shares with the child the pleasure of liberation. In this film, the well-deserved death of the mother entails freedom, and the promise of happiness.

The “Pakialamera” (Meddlesome Woman)

In Inay (1977), Inay (Alicia Vergel) faithfully echoes one of the characteristics of the traditional mother. As described by Lourdes Lapuz (1981), the mother zealously watches over her adult children’s affairs. She perceives the world outside the home as full of moral dangers for her offspring, especially the girls. She even wants to know what goes on in her adult children’s minds in order to prevent mistakes. Indeed, Inay’s attempts at meddling in her daughter’s life exemplify her propensity to gain access to the private lives of her adult children.

When Inay goes to the house of her only daughter, Daisy (Chanda Romero), she immediately tells her daughter, “Naku, ‘yang Kuya Romy mong ‘yan, naging lalaki nga, eh, wala namang sariling tuhod.” She continues to refer to Daisy’s siblings, “pangaral na di naman ata tumatak sa mga kapatid mo.” She then starts bombarding her daughter with questions. Inay asks her, “Kailan ka mag-aasawa? May boyfriend ka na ba? Anong problema? Mahirap ang walang trabaho.” The nosey behavior of the mother is acceptable to her children; it can even be argued that it is expected of her who cares so much. Daisy replies, “Mayaman siya.” Her mother quickly responds, “Ano pa inaantay niyo?” Her daughter says, “Nagsasama na ho kami.” Inay says, “Ayoko ng ganyang biro.” Daisy reasons that the man is well-off. Inay retorts, “Punyeta! Ano nagawa kong pagkakasala? Bakit n’yo ko ginaganito?” The mother then asks her daughter to ask the man to go to the house to meet her, so that they can be married. “Magtapat ka sa nanay mo,” says Inay and asks Daisy where they met. Daisy says that they met in a motel. The mother is bowled over and asks her daughter to go to church and pray to “The Blessed Virgin.” The mother cannot break out of the mold of Christian morality. The mother uses religion as a bridge or tool in speaking about morality to her children. In the case of Inay and her ultra-modern daughter, however, it does not work. The daughter reveals, “May asawa na ho siya.” Inay fumes, “Hija de puta ka!” The mother is so overwhelmed by the situation for it is inevitable for her to take accountability for how her child turns out to be. Her daughter says, “Hindi ho ako naniniwala sa pagpapakasal.” This is too much for the mother who has already internalized – from the patriarchal point of view – the “commonsense” primacy of the institution of marriage. Her mother says, “Diyos ko” and then faints.

Inay is bewildered when Daisy persists in wanting to give her lover a child. Later, the mother tells her daughter, “Sa harap ng tao, sa harap ng Diyos, mali ang ginagawa mo!” The mother upholds and asserts morality to her daughter not just because she is afraid of God’s judgment but because she is also wary that her daughter might suffer from the judgment of a society that punishes “loose” women. Inay confronts Daisy’s lover (Fred Montilla), “Hindi ka ba hinahanap dun sa inyo?” Inay confronts the man; she does not limit her power to influencing her daughter’s behavior. The man replies, “Hindi ako batang kailangan pangaralan. [. . .] Di ko alam kung papano nagkaroon si Daisy ng nanay na katulad mo.” Daisy’s lover gets dressed and walks out. Daisy asks him why and he says, “Saka ko na lang sasabihin…pag wala nang ang imbestigasyon sa bahay na ito.” Daisy accuses her mother of insulting her lover. Inay just says, “May asawang tao,” and by the end of their argument, “Di ka makasagot no? Tama ako.” The mother stands for what she believes is right. She implicates culture and society to justify her arguments in the discourse of morality.

As a woman judging another woman – both enmeshed in patriarchal culture – the mother judging her daughter still fights for patriarchy, and not herself as a person. It is notable that the resolution of the mother-daughter subplot of the narrative is that Inay eventually ends her moral crusade and, without having to arouse “sama ng loob,” stops meddling in her daughter’s affairs; the mother respects the choices and lifestyle of her daughter as another adult person. At their Christmas dinner, Inay does not bring up the issue anymore. She looks at her daughter not as an extension of herself as a person but as a “kapwa tao.” The mother and daughter are distinct persons with different lives; both deserve their discretion and the other person’s respect.

Zealous Guardian of the House and the People in It

The mother, as a matriarch who maintains her self-esteem and sense of power, finds safety in objects within her turf. These objects primarily include her child and her house. The matriarch feels insecure when the control of her house is compromised, as in the case of Emilia in Ina, Kapatid, Anak (1979). When her sister Pura makes plans of selling it, the matriarch feels doubly angry when she feels that her child is being taken away from her. Emilia’s daughter, Erlinda, becomes a prize – the crucial object – in the war between the sisters.

Pura gives Erlinda a makeup kit. When the young woman tries putting makeup on, her mother sees her. Emilia tells her daughter, “Ano yan? Saan galing yan?” Erlinda responds, “Ibinigay po ni Tiya Pura.” Emilia retorts, “Binigay? Hiningi mo siguro. Ikaw talaga, batang-bata ka pa, malandi ka na, maarte ka na ano ha?” The mother’s “init ng ulo” is not really about her daughter; it is about Pura who she feels is trying to win her daughter’s love. Emilia also feels worse about herself since she knows she cannot give her daughter “stateside” makeup. She does not want this – from her perspective, scheme of Pura – to compromise (“ipagpalit”) her daughter’s affection for her. The daughter becomes a prize in the war between the sisters: Tiya versus Inay. Emilia tells her daughter, “Anong ibinigay? Hiningi mo yan. Isauli mo yan. Isauli mo!”

Ina, Kapatid, Anak (Lino Brocka, 1979)
Figure 6. Emilia (Charito Solis) tells her daughter Erlinda (Rio Locsin) to return the makeup kit to Pura (Lolita Rodriguez). Ina, Kapatid, Anak (Lino Brocka, 1979)

The triangle formed by the mother, aunt, and daughter intensifies. Pura interrupts and says, “Ibinigay ko sa kanya ‘yan, Emilia. Hindi ko naman kailangan, eh.” The mother cannot afford to lose face in front of her child. Emilia responds, “Kahit na, Pura. Ayokong masanay ang aking anak ng kung anu-anumang kalandian sa katawan. Kung maaari sana, Pura, kung mayroon kang ibibigay sa kanya, sabihin mo muna sa akin, ha?” Emilia asserts her position and control as a mother.

Señora Pina (Mona Lisa), in Cain at Abel (1982) is a matriarch who is governed by the husband who died a long time ago. The father’s “ghost” still possesses the mother who blames her son Loren (Phillip Salvador) for the death of the father and favors her other son Ellis (Christopher de Leon). Señora Pina gives the land – the “object” that the dead father passed down to her – to the spoiled and arrogant Ellis. Her sons face off to death as the mother dies alone. As a caricature of the phallic mother, the narrative punishes her with the tragedy of her loss of control over the land and her children.


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