the year of the "bold:" Priscilla Almeda pulled off her top in
a horse's stable ("Sariwa" (Fresh)); Ruffa Gu-tierrez and a host
of wet T-shirts followed ("Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa"
(The Most Beautiful Creature On The Face Of The Earth)); Rosanna
Roces modeled ladies' underwear in "Patikim ng Pina" (Taste My
Pineapple); not to be outdone, co-stripper Natasha Ledesma mashed
her breasts; Amanda Page swallowed the outflow from a phallic
showerhead ("Sobra-Sobra, Labis-Labis" (Too Much Is Just Enough);
co-star Ina Raymundo suffered rape via vibrator.
to the MTRCB, these films are nothing compared to "Segurista"
(Dead Sure); after all, those films made it to the theaters, more
or less intact. This film was given an X rating, effectively banning
it from exhibition.
So - why
"Segurista" and not "Pina?" Good question.
is the story of Karen (Michelle Aldana): top insurance agent by
day, beautiful Guest Relations Officer (GRO) by night. As GRO,
Karen meets wealthy, powerful men; as insurance agent, Karen uses
her body to sell policies and win fat bonuses for every target
is so completely reasonable, so utterly logical it's incredible
no one thought of it before (As a matter of fact, someone did:
the film is based on a true story). Scriptwriters Pete Lacaba
and Amado Lacuesta take the basic premise and fashion a subtly
savage satire on the Ortigas/Makati corporate culture: on the
little ants that infest the innards of Metro Manila's bottle-green
them. They're dressed in collared longsleeves with power ties,
drinking mineral water and discussing stock options over a goat-cheese
salad. They take espresso in little tables outside coffee shops,
pretending to enjoy the refrigerated breeze blowing from giant
vanguard of President Fidel Ramos's burgeoning economy, his sleek
corporate facade, his Great Brown Hope (light brown; many are
well-groomed mestizas). They work long, hard hours, and when they
leave office they want a reward: a Super Dry, perhaps, or a Blue
Ice. But nothing beats the feel of a karaoke mike in one hand
and a pretty young thing in the other, her tightly-wrapped bottom
squirming in his lap while they both mangle the lyrics to "My
is that Karen does more than service these young urban professionals;
she's one of them. She's professional, efficient, immaculately
dressed. She practices the proven techniques of networking, synergy,
and the soft sell (they come to her; if they want her, they have
to buy what she's selling). Even funnier, she's beating them at
their own game; they end up coming back to her, wanting more.
is remarkable enough as a barbed portrait of Metro Manila; its
heart, however, lies further north, in the "lahar" wastelands
of Bacolor, where Karen's husband and daughter live. When she
goes home, "Segurista" becomes another film: the blasted landscape
recalls the wilderness the Israelites wandered in for 40 years;
here, there, rooftops and telephone poles poke through, bizarre
monuments to the community that was.
chose two wicked cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, and razed them to
the ground. With Bacolor, Pampanga, it's as if God had caused
the ground to rise up and swallow the city whole.
In this desolation,
thrown back to times so primeval even dinosaurs are missing, the
people of Bacolor have kept something that Metro Manilans have
lost. It's this something that Karen clings to, that keeps her
going. Suddenly, the title "Segurista" takes on a new meaning:
Karen is taking no chances. She lost everything to the "lahar:"
now she wants it back, and she's using the surest, swiftest method
to get it. Karen is an OCW (Overseas Contract Worker) who immigrates
to a strange land - Manila - to earn a future for her family;
she's a country lass long since corrupted by the urban jungle.
Unlike Flor in "Bagong Bayani" (The Last Wish), or Julio in "Maynila
Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag" (Manila In The Claws Of Neon) however,
she's near the end of her exile, her dreams within reach. Then
she falls in love, and it all turns into ashes.
Tikoy Aguiluz has assembled a cast of wonderful actors, from Eddie
Rodriguez's suave elder executive to Pen Medina's sad little taxi
driver. Albert Martinez shines as a hedonistic dance instructor
with a streak of sadism and Julio Diaz is moving as Karen's loving,
lost-looking husband. Gary Estrada as Sonny has that precise mix
of arrogance and insecurity so distinctive of Generation X. (I
have to say that, having seen - or slept through - "Sobra," "Pinya,"
"Sariwa," "Showgirls" and "Basic Instinct," none of them generated
the kind of sexual heat you felt between Estrada and Aldana. With
hardly any nudity, I might add.)
best friend, Ruby, Ruby Moreno gives the best performance. Her
Ruby is a mix of hard-earned wisdom and foolish romanticism. Unlike
Karen, she has no dream waiting for her in Pampanga: her life
is right here right now, and she wants to enjoy it now. Moreno
takes this silly little character and fashions something warm
and oddly touching. A cineaste who's seen her in the Japanese
"All Under The Moon" (for which she won 13 different awards as
Best Actress) thinks she gives a better performance here.
But as good
as Moreno is, this is basically Aldana's film, and she carries
a difficult role with grace and dignity. Aguiluz uses her ice-queen
persona to good effect, presenting her as a sexy, unreachable
object of desire. When things go wrong, when her life starts falling
apart, the icy facade cracks and crumbles; the pain and loss on
her face is almost unbearable to watch.
So - if the
film is so good, why is it being banned? You have to remember
that even with Jess Sison at the helm, the MTRCB is still using
the same rules that banned "Schindler's List," or "The Piano,"
or "Priest." So many breasts here, so many pumping scenes there:
tally the total and bingo! An "X." It's still the same moronic
system, and only a congressional motion is going to change things
for the better. (Ironically, "All Under the Moon," the award-winning
film for which FVR congratulated Moreno, will be threatened by
the same rules. I can see the Newsweek Asia articles: "Philippine
President congratulates actress for film President's censors will
ban anyway." Nice.)
maybe it's more than just a formulaic law applied idiotically.
Maybe the censors didn't like the sarcastic things that Aguiluz,
Lacuesta and Lacaba have to say about our youthful businessmen,
about our Great Light-Brown Hopes with their cellulars and laptops,
about Philippines 2000. Maybe it's the insistence on dealing with
dark, unpopular subjects that they don't want, the digging up
of dirt they'd rather not see. Maybe it's not the sensuality,
it's the honesty.
right: it IS the dirtiest film of the year.
Chronicle, March 9, 1996