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Issue No. 26                       August 11 -18,  2001                    Quezon City, Philippines

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Rolando B. Tolentino



Introducing 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 (1998-present).

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 nation-building.

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.

PP 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. 

With 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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