Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Issue No. 26 August 11 -18, 2001 Quezon City, Philippines
the PP films
Philippine cinema has a history of
soft-porn genre called the bomba film. From
its beginnings in the late 1960s to its various permutations in recent decades,
the bomba film has evolved, representing the various socio-historical conditions
of the period. The early martial
law years, for example, that enforced rigid censorship rules on the display of
private bodily parts, allowed for the surfacing of the bold film, a subgenre of
the bomba film. The bold film
allowed the display of women’s torsos behind wet white clothing.
Marcos’ reinvention of the Philippines via the New Society echoed
official nationalist ideals. The
female stars of the bold film, such as Gloria Diaz, Elizabeth Oropesa and Daria
Ramirez, epitomized the mature “brown beauty,” a local pride of womanhood.
The Ramos years that echoed economic growth
and take-off in another reinvention of nation in his Philippines 2000 vision
allowed for global competition to take rein of the local economy.
Bomba film provided a dialogue to the era by morphing into the TT
(titillating) film, allowing for more visible and liberal display of formerly
prohibited bodily parts. The
articulate-ness of Ramos eventually found counterparts in the sudden primacy of
the voice of the TT film star. Not
only did Rosanna Roces, Alma Concepcion and Rita Magdalena, TT film stars, had
voluptuous bodies, they also had articulate voices.
Considered loud and improper, they straight-forwardly mouthed what were
considered as repressed values on sexuality and interrogated the place of women
in society. Never before has the
female voice played a crucial role in the bomba film than in the TT film stars
that openly tackled the prohibited spheres of cultural and sexual life.
What is being generated in the Erap Estrada
administration is a hypocritical rhetoric that openly speaks of pro-poor stances
yet refurbishes the traditional ruling class interests.
This administrative hypocrisy is taken up in film through the most recent
morphing of the bomba film, what I will term as the “PP film.”
The PP (private part) film allows for the prolonged display of what used
to be the most prohibited of bodily parts--the crotches.
Female crotches are displayed more liberally than ever before in the
history of Philippine cinema. What is also being seen on screen is the all-time high
display of men’s crotches. These
parts are not just made to be quickly seen, the pleasure of hidden paninilip
(voyeurism), these parts are made to linger lengthily on screen.
This most recent morphing of the bomba film
is the seventh of such change. The
genre can be categorized and periodized as follows: the bomba film (1970-Sept.
1972); bold film, wet look stage (1974-1976); bold film, daring stage
(1976-1982); FF (fighting fish film) films and pene films (1983-1986); ST or
sex-trip film (1986-1992); and the TT films (1992-1998); and the PP films
Each category reveals a dialogue with the
power structures of the period. It
also reveals the official standards of female beauty of the period.
The pre-martial law era allowed for the commercial appropriation of the
sexual revolution of the 1960s, limited, however, in heterosexual focus. The first-generation bomba stars embodied the mestiza
qualities. Merle Fernandez, Stella
Suarez, Yvonne and Rosanna Roces were fair-skinned, had sharp noses and
voluptuous bodies. The early period
of martial law, however, banned such display of bodies and sexual acts to create
a national moral landscape for the Marcos dictatorship.
The bold films came in two stages.
The emblematic “wet” look showed female stars swimming or bathing in
their underwears or camison (white underdress), or being chased and raped
in a body of water. The
“daring” quality showed young women, Lolita-like in exuding sexuality
in young bodies. This was in tune
with the Marcos concern with youth for nation-building--integrating with efforts
such as the Kabataang Baranggay and the lowering of the voting age.
During the years of his downfall, Marcos
allowed for the proliferation of the bomba film via two subgenre: The FF films
were done with government encouragement, pene films were done under its
surveillance. The FF films were
artsy and shown uncensored in the Film Palace.
Its stars included Ana Marie Gutierrez, and Isabel Lopez.
The pene films showed actual sexual penetration sequences inserted or
reinserted for runs in “third-class” movie houses.
Its stars were Amerasian children and labeled under softdrink or elite
beauties. They included Pepsi
Paloma, Coca Nicolas, Sarsi Emmanuel and Claudia Zobel.
With Aquino’s ascent to power, these
kinds of film were considered antithetical to her administration’s reclaiming
of the moral good. What surfaced
was called ST film where young actors, like Gretchen Barreto and Rita Avila,
come from good class backgrounds and have had access to good education.
Not partially exposed, simply laid bare to
linger on screen and into the eyes of audiences, the privatest and most personal
of bodily parts are exposed in PP film. The
PP film stars include Joyce Jimenez (Scorpio Nights 2, Warat),
Patricia Javier (Ang Kabit ni Mrs. Montero, Unfaithful Wife 2),
Ina Raymundo (Burlesk Queen Ngayon), and Klaudia Koronel (Hubad sa
Ilalim ng Buwan). These films are artistic attempts to savor the pleasures of
seeing the female form in sexual action, as these are reworkings of recent
classical films or new artistic endeavors.
The stars themselves embody an umbrella coalition of disparate
backgrounds--Filams, mestiza, local beauties co-dominate.
However, the lean form, showcasing the enormous breast and humpy hips and
buttocks, predominate the body type. This
preference signify a kind of unified no-nonsense approach in Estrada’s
What is also being disseminated in the
Estrada administration, resulting from the implementation of film classification
by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, is the gay and
homoerotic films. Burlesk King
manifests the soft-porn gay film where men and their private parts are displayed
generously on screen. Stars of this other subgenre of the bomba film in the Estrada
administration includes Rodel Velayo (Burlesk King) and Leandro Litton (Talong).
The male PP films emplace men in feminized positions in the local and
global division of labor.
films articulate the Estrada policies on the display of women and men for
nation-building. Considered by
militant groups as the most macho president, Estrada’s allowance of such
display is in dialogue with his own national policies that make women and the
poor bear the brunt of the economic crisis.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s recent assumption to power, the bomba film has yet
to transmute that will echo her economic policies.
However, her slide to Catholic conservatism and politicking as indicated
by the resignation of the censors chief is no guarantee that women and men will
be safeguarded. If at all and by
indication of past permutations of the bomba genre, hypocrisy still reside, one
that both purports to police sexy films in the name of public morals and to
heavily tax and earn from cinema’s titillating yield. Bulatlat.com
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