You see, there were these four chicks Joey, Kathy, Sylvia and Maritess—fast friends since their college days at the University of the Philippines. The time was the late 70s. Several years after Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law. And despite the midnight curfew, zero press freedom and the general air of oppression, young Pinoys then had to find ways to strut their stuff and make their lives fly.
Joey, at least in my then flower child’s eyes, was the prettiest of the lot. She was also the feistiest. And being the self-avowed tibak (activist) that she was, had the most bones to pick against the dictator’s regime. You’d see her most hanging around in her boyfriend’s commie cells, as well as passing subversive pamphlets around the then frequent rallies. On the other hand, despite her free-love philosophy and devil-may-care antics, Kathy’s not as liberated as her steel-minded pal. Kathy’s the type of girl who’d be all over you—drowning you in her never-ending whirlpool of talk/talk/talk. Mostly about making it big in the local rock scene like some latter-day Janis Joplin or a female Hendrix.
Now Sylvia… she’s the wise one. Always serene. Inscrutable. But always ready to lend a helping hand or a shoulder to weep on. Too bad her marriage ended up that way. She and her hubby were such an ideal couple. Until the night she discovered he also liked cock. But trust Sylvia to be uber cool about anything. Including her hubby’s secret passion. From what I hear they’re still chummy—even after the veddy civil separation.
The odd gal out has to be Maritess. A victim of the changing times. An unapologetic baby-factory and husband doormat. It’s funny how the more yang qualities of her three bosom buddies never rubbed off on her. But that’s life.
Yeah, THAT was life. Even though these ladies were all denizens of celluloid world. Specifically Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s sublime flick “Moral” (1982). It’s my all-time favourite Diaz-Abaya oeuvre—for a long, laundry-list of reasons. But I guess, most of all, for delivering into my then-fledgling consciousness a totally honest, heaping serving of the “modern Pinay psyche”. Albeit sans pesos/centavos Freudianism nor heavy-handed gender politicizing nor cheap proselytizing. These ladies ARE as real as it gets—you watch their lives unfurl/implode/re-coalesce.
Despite the broadstrokes, Joey and her gang were never cookie-cutter types. Symbols, certainly NOT. To this ancient film fan, they will forever be friends from a lost, nostalgia-evoking era.
That was Direk Marilou’s gift—the ability to tell stories with REAL characters. People that remain stuck almost forever in one’s mind. And it’s the same for my other fave works of hers—“Brutal” (1980), “Karnal” (1983) and “Baby Tsina” (1984). Each of these titles redefined this thing, this ineffable creature called the Filipina. (Despite my obvious fandom, this Philistine veered away from the lady’s latter works for one reason or another.)
Salamat, Direk Marilou Diaz-Abaya for introducing me to these wise/warped/wondrous lasses—and then some more to Lorna Tolentino (Joey), Gina Alajar (Kathy), Sandy Andolong (Sylvia), Anna Marin (Maritess) and the rest of Moral’s excellent ensemble/crew—for giving me SOMETHING definitely more than just a couple of hours escape… for Life!
by Edward Cabagnot Delos Santos