THE oddest bedroom talk between newlyweds transpires between Noel Manalansan (acted by Jay Ilagan) and Milagros Carandang (Charo Santos) in Mike de Leon’s 1981 film, “Kisapmata”.
Noel is in bed while Milagros writes in her journal.
Though a warm-blooded male, Noel is interested in another form of intimacy. When will you let me read your diary? he addresses the ceiling.
Milagros demurs that her thoughts are difficult to grasp. Noel retorts that it is precisely why he is interested to read what she writes.
You will have your chance after I am dead, replies Milagros.
Inequalities of power are explored by De Leon in his dramatization of Quijano de Manila’s reportage of the January 1961 crimes that took place in the Zapote, Makati home of a police officer.
In both versions, the patriarch wields power of life and death. Retired cop Diosdado “Tatang” Carandang (Vic Silayan) recreates Pablo Cabading of the Manila Police Department, who shoots dead his daughter and son-in-law, attempts to murder his wife, and commits suicide.
“The Manila Chronicle” and the “Philippines Free Press” (with Nick Joaquin writing as Quijano de Manila) focused on physical violence, alluding only to a father’s “obsession” with a daughter who marries without parental consent and attempts to leave the parental home.
De Leon’s film locks our heads in a vise, forcing us to confront domestic and political taboos. When Tatang rapes and impregnates his daughter, he does not only force his wife to connive, he gets a lesser man like Noel to pay the bride price: dowry and wedding to possess Tatang’s prized stock, next to the worms and pigs he breeds.
Noel is the classic “pendejo”. Among Pinoy machos, the cuckold is the biggest idiot for denying that his woman is fooling him.
Admitting he is one redeems a pendejo. Yet, Noel is denied salvation by the “milagro (miracle)” of his eponymous wife, who confides to her diary rather than reveals to Noel the truth to free him from the dangerous illusion that he is only up against an overstrict father.
Noel and Milagros are victims, their Christian names hinting of the dangers of retreating into religiosity to deny and justify exploitation. While Noel is naïve and her mother Adelina (Charito Solis) is cowed, Milagros, underneath the piety, claws back to survive, seeking to escape from her father-rapist-jailer by using her pendejo of a husband. Postulant predator, she is a true daughter of her father.
In political parlance, “nagmilagro (making a miracle)” cynically expresses the opposite of the Christian miracle: abuse and corruption by those sworn to serve the public, incest and fascism breeding human anomalies: worms, pigs, predators.