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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Thursday, September 02, 2021

entry arrow3:52 PM | Bingeing Sharon Cuneta

I’ve been bingeing Sharon Cuneta’s slate of early 1980s movies, all the way from Dear Heart [1981] and through Bituing Walang Ningning [1985]. Because I realized I’ve never really “seen” them, and I want to see if I can do a video essay on them, using Rolando Tolentino’s framework of her as the iconic “eternal virgin.” I came of age in the 1990s, but I grew up in the 1980s, so I never really got to know these films well beyond the cursory viewing. [I realized, for example, that I’ve never really seen Bituing Walang Ningning in its entirety, and I’ve only seen snippets of it, particularly the famous “You're nothing but a second rate, trying hard copycat” scene.] It’s difficult to have a complete grasp of your own film culture when most of these titles were inaccessible for so long, or if accessible, could only be seen in grainy, faded copies — which forfeits deeper appreciation. Only now, with current efforts at restoration, can they really be properly assessed and processed, at least to a greater degree.

The films are entertaining as far as mass appeal goes, and really lay bare 1980s mores — but my God, I cannot with the toxic masculinity!

The worse offender has got to be Gabby Concepcion’s Lito Salazar in Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin? (1984), a spoiled, philandering, exasperating brat of a man who is suddenly given an unearned redemption twist in the last ten minutes of the film, with Sharon’s Myrna Sanchez just willingly taking him back just because he fathered her children. My favorite remains Miguel Rodriguez’s Bullet Crisologo in To Love Again (1983), whose just easy-going and self-assured, minus the toxic masculinity we usually find in Danny Zialcita’s movies. Christopher De Leon’s Nico Escobar in Bituing Walang Ningning is nice enough, but why can’t his manhood abide with a successful woman? It’s the same problem that plagues Gabby Concepcion’s Arnold Zaragoza in Sa Hirap at Ginhawa (1984), whose manly pride mandates complete and subservient financial dependence of his new wife, come what may — although as a film, it coheres: probably the best in the Gabby and Sharon tandem of the 1980s. And my God, Eddie Rodriguez’s emasculated Roman Estrella in Bukas Luluhod ang mga Tala (1984) is something else.

Also, crime as a plot device in these films [a kidnapping, a murder, an attempted rape, a drug bust, etc.] is such a stretch — but I wonder what that says about the social condition of the 1980s it reflects?

Christopher de Leon, Cherie Gil, and Sharon Cuneta in Bituing Walang Ningning

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