Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kape Barako - That Special Condiment in Your Latte

Warning: The following dissertation has an adult theme. If you’re a minor or are easily offended by topics of sexual nature, please leave this post NOW!

In the process of researching for this blog post (yes, I research for perspective), I’ve come across several items that have been bothering me while watching Monti Parungao’sKape Barako”. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.


Rico (Johnron Tanada) is operating a losing coffee shop with bank arrears worth P120,000. He is given 2 weeks to make the payment or his establishment closes shop. Furthermore, his girlfriend Joyce is migrating to Canada and their only regular customer is a blimp who spends her 8 hours in front of her laptop, consuming nothing but cold tap water! Rico ends up selling his beat up car, fetching a measly P20,000. This leaves him with a hundred grand balance.

One day, barista Virgilio (Afi Africa) inadvertently blends a milky liquid to the coffee brew, unaware that his workmate Jeck (Mico Pasamonte), who during one of his idle pleasures, has ejaculated in the cup. This gastronomic additive soon turns their Baraco varietal into a special brew that has gay men flocking into the café, like the proverbial moth to a flame. The women, on the other hand, find the taste repulsive: “Ano ba ‘to, lasang Clorox!” But finally, hope is rubbernecking its head at the door, what with customers fighting for a seat. Poor Jeck is suddenly thrown for a loop. He ends up getting overworked (and eventually tapped out) to “extract” the magic ingredient.

With a few days left before the deadline of foreclosure, Rico had to hire more workers: Eboy and Badong (Allan Stevens and Marcus Aboga, respectively) who bolster the marketability of the restaurant; the waiters parade around the shop half naked, while the bouncer allows their customers to frisk him with extra access where it matters (yep, in this fantastic world, it’s the customers who do the frisking). However, there’s not enough cups that would guarantee them P100,000. On their final night, Rico and his staff turn their café into a gay bar, staging a one-night only all-men revue. Will they succeed in raising enough money to save the shop? Guess.

Director Monti Puno Parungao once again showcases the vulgarity of his (and Lex Bonife’s) ideas by cashing in on a sundry of full frontal exposures and the revolting concept of making semen an ingredient in your café latte. I'm aware that this is meant as a comedy, but there has to be a discernable line between common decency and humor the same way that people are not supposed to patronize pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia and coprophagia!

Johnron Tanada, a veteran of a dozen Pink Films, appears comfortable and fit, but fails to register distress or concern from his impending foreclosure. In fact, his character (an ex-seminarian and HRM graduate) looked utterly clueless on how the coffee business should be run. He spends his time reading letters and moping, and he isn't even good doing just that!

When a rich customer named Sir Giorgio (Frederick Peralta) offers P150,000 in exchange of dinner with “extra service”, Rico balks simply because he doesn’t know what it is! Later in the story, he would ask Eboy, a former “macho dancer”, what exactly is an “extra service” and even ropes him in for an actual tutorial session. (Yes, they have a one-on-one session) I almost fell off my seat laughing. For a café owner, Rico has the intellectual quotient of a turnip. He would rather sleep with his barista, dance and cavort with his staff in front of a salivating audience, and offer himself to his effete barista Virgilio (as gratitude for the latter’s loyalty) than endure one night with a well meaning customer who’s offering more than what he needs? The mathematics here doesn’t add up!

During the café’s “Big Night”, Rico and his boys perform a musical number sung by Virgie dressed in drag. The song (with Lex Bonife's cringe-worthy vocals) started with a pitch that’s too low, you can hardly hear the words until the rousing chorus. Now that should have been remedied because if the cafe's existence depended on a horrible musical number, they'd have been blown into smithereens right there! While Virgie makes a fool of himself on stage (made up like a horror show drag queen), the guys rollick, romp and swerve their booty on a makeshift stage. This really reflects the mediocre mindset of its makers; peddle those muscles until they’re blue. And not much else.

With Bonife and Parungao on board, you can bet your bubble butt that there’s a parade of phalluses on display (Pasamonte appears in half a dozen scenes pleasuring himself; Stevens (who’s a real life exotic dancer at a bar in QC) and Aboga wave their genitalia in a couple more. It’s Tanada who’s the shrinking violet, which is a mystery considering he's been in several, and this is his first lead role in a while. And a slicked back hair doesn’t flatter his looks either. Moreover, he should be careful enunciating as he’s prone to saying “Jake” instead of “Jeck”. It’s a good thing most of his lines were in Tagalog because the few ones in English were awkward. Yuppy owners are supposed to articulate better.

Pasamonte’s delivery reminds me of Jason Francisco (of the Melason duo), and this brave young man should be lauded for his fortitude and audacity to flash his wrinkly baton in several scenes. He plays the virgin guy who needs money to have his sick mother taken to a hospital (ho-hum, don’t they all have sick mothers, gramps, brothers and aunts?) During his break time, he habitually rushes to the loo for quick wanks. In one hilarious scene, he even talks to his little pecker: “Gusto mo na naman? Katatapos mo lang ah!

Rico, the boss, gets hands-on tutorial from his bouncer Eboy. And since when does a coffee shop require a bouncer?

"Ligo lang naman ang katapat nun, boss."

Now let’s get to the heart of the more befuddling narrative strain: semen in the coffee! I have to admit it took me a couple of days to decide on posting this piece or not, but for the sake of discourse, I've decided to get on with it.

Does semen make a tastier coffee? It's possible. Let’s be adult about it and have a didactic discussion!

What comprises a man’s ejaculate? It turns out that only 1-2% makes up the “sperm”. Otherwise, I could swear that an ejaculate and sperm are a similar entity. In short, “semen” is the appropriate term for an ejaculate, and “sperm” is a component of the former. The rest of that gooey stuff is composed of various proteins, vitamins, sugars, salts, cholesterol, and water. These extras are what protects, feeds, and fuels the sperm in its journey (towards fertilization). With vitamins and sugar in its component, they serve a purpose and none of which includes as a “nutritional supplement” like when gingko biloba, lecithin, inositol, taurine or L-carnitine are being commercially advertised.


There are 3 parts of the male anatomy that contribute to this secretion: A) the seminal vesicles produce that thick white secretion rich in sugars, mostly “fructose” (our table sugar is of the “sucrose” variety). Fructose is a “fruit sugar” thus we find them in many plants, like the sugarcane. Pure, dry fructose is a very sweet, white, odorless, crystalline solid. Fructose fuels the sperm cells on their journey to the egg. This thick white secretion comprises 50 to 80% of semen, i.e. the bulk of it. B) the prostate gland secretes the alkaline solution that combats the acidic fluid inside the female genitalia. This accounts for 1/3 of the volume of the seminal fluid. C) the Cowper’s glands secrete mucus lubrication needed during sexual activity, found in both sexes. This is what others refer to as the “pre-cum”.

But you see, inspite of its components, semen is a body fluid or excreta much like urine, ear wax, a nose’s booger, tears, sweat, and feces. They are excreted out of the body for a good reason! They’re not meant for human consumption the way locusts, beetles, and cockroaches are eaten in Cambodia. Simply put, semen isn’t meant as a condiment for anything, not even for coffee. Ingestion of body secretion is as hideous as eating feces is revolting. It's just not a hygienic entity. This isn't even a case of being conservative or obstinate. It just isn't right, and anyone who offers a premise as such, putting it out like it's vaguely acceptable is "not thinking straight" (no pun intended). Those who consume it may end up puking babies.

Johnron Tanada is Rico, the cash-strapped coffee house's boss. Do you know how he shows his gratitude to a loyal employee who has the hots for him?

Miko Pasamonte provides the special condiment for their coffee. He even err... "handpicks" the brew.

Allan Stevens offers more delicacies to customers.

Marcus Aboga, the accommodating bouncer.


TBR said...

i can't believe your assessment of the movie hinges on a health concern!

Cathy Pena said...


That's what bothered me the most so that's what's highlighted here. I actually thought "what if the donor had spirochetes and other diseases", then they'd be selling coffee spiked with medical condition.

jelai said...

Hahaha..this movie is just like any other-same plots, same stories..but what makes the story of this movie unique from the others is the way they raise funds for their dying business. I already saw several movies where they accidentally mixed weird ingredients in their recipes and ended up selling like hotcakes, but I have never seen and can't imagine ejaculation as a part of making coffee. I can't imagine semen being the magic ingredient!

What will it taste like?? Hahahaha.. Gosh, I'm really really really curious. I think the girls were right it might taste like Clorox, it might even get them pregnant.

I find this movie funny.I should watch this! :)

Cathy Pena said...

It is,in a way, funny. It's the very same thought that ran through my mind while watching - the taste of it! Thus I had to read about its chemical make-up; how it is produced.

I just don't want people getting the idea that there's truth in its being a good condiment for your cuppa. There are impressionable minds out there who might try to spike their morning brew with semen, and I don't want them to refer to this blog post as reference. It is irresponsible.

But you see, with "fructose" as an ingredient, it's possible it could add a little sweetness. Thing is, it also provides an environment (and as carrier) for Chlamydia, maybe even Entamoeba histolytica, and other bacteria.

Extraction of semen maybe a fun endeavor, but "ingestion" is a different matter altogether. I would sue anyone who spikes my food with bodily fluids. That isn't mere civil suit, but a criminal case.

TBR said...

but many works ask of the viewer some degree of imagination. we'd never get past the first chapter of "alice in wonderland" upon an (moral) insistence that rabbits aren't supposed to talk. regardless of what real semen can do to our real bodies in the real world, i accepted the magic cum fantasy-sitcom premise and followed its naughty implications with some enjoyment. i think it's unfortunate that you got stuck by your biases on etiquette.

Cathy Pena said...

A degree of imagination is asked from ideas that do not cross over what’s tolerable! Maybe I have a low threshold of tolerability (though I’m sure all my 300 posts here would paint me as “liberal” than otherwise). I make no apologies for that. I do not represent nor have plans of representing all levels of acceptability in our society. Maybe I got stuck on etiquette. I don’t find anything wrong with codes of behavior that respect conventional norms. Neither do I find it unfortunate when I see the reality of semen being a loathsome concoction in something that people UNKNOWINGLY ingest!

Rabbits in Alice’s Wonderland reflect a different level of universality too far removed from the works of Lex Bonife and Monti Parungao (not to mention the fact that talking rabbits are never a moral dilemma; semen in the coffee of unknowing, paying customers is). It’s a misplaced concept in this discussion. I shiver at the mere mention of Lewis Carroll’s work to compare it to a narrative such as “Kape Barako”. The comparison is atrocious! What earth-shattering artistry is being conferred in that movie? It’s clear to me the merits are not within the standard that I hold as excellent craftsmanship.

Right before I delved into the subject of “semen in the coffee”, there were several paragraphs underlining salient points on performance, narrative detail, film making acumen and production values; heck’s there’s even one on Bonife’s vocals! I’d like to think that SIX paragraphs should suffice for a thorough discussion on the film’s artistic merits. THEY were what made the “assessment”! Or did you skip to the last part? What is unfortunate is how you singled out my scruples about “semen ingestion”, which is a valid concern in my own opinion. Blogs like mine are, after all, opinion based.

Are we really in a contemporary society that finds peddling “semen-spiked food” humorous? I find the concept irresponsible. Lest I’d be laughing at the next guy who contracted HIV because his afflicted lover found it a harmless joke to pass on his retrovirus to his oblivious lover! We should find enjoyment in that, right? Shouldn’t we, because it isn’t a movie?

Congratulations on finding magic in something I find execrable as “Kape Barako”. I did not. And that’s that!

jelai said...

Hehehe, though I'm really really curious of the taste, I'm not that crazy to ask my boy friend or somebody to produce semen and add it with my coffee. That's totally disgusting! Intelligent post! :)

Cathy Pena said...

Thanks, Jelai. Me too. Call it etiquette, call it scruples, call it Kim Chiu or any other name. It doesn't change the fact that the mind-blowing humor in the movie did not readily make it a masterpiece.

Derek Williams said...

I thought it was funny, bold and sexy. Perhaps an 'acquired taste' for some!

Cathy Pena said...

@ Derek:

Hmmm. It's interesting the film actually got your attention.

Whether it's an acquired taste or not, there's one thing sure (and I always say this): Film watching is a subjective experience. There are several factors why people like or dislike what they watch at a particular time. The important thing is, they are open to discussions about their choices. That's good enough for me. :)

Alem Bess said...

Many people might find the semen-spiked coffee as funny. I think it was meant to be shown that way. But it is totally irresponsible. In the advent of safe sex advocacy, portraying a non-sex activity, like ingesting a drink (coffee or otherwise) spiked with a potentially harmful ingredient, such as the HIV-virus or other STDs is just irresponsible. Besides, the story is so bad and the acting terrible, I am once again ashamed of similarly produced indie movies.

Cathy Pena said...

@ Alem:

My sentiments exactly. Serving coffee spiked with semen is like sexually imposing yourself on someone then calling it a "joke". It oversteps ethical and social boundaries. In a time where HIV cases have grown in alarming number - exponentially, it is just wrong, tasteless (no pun intended) and, as you said, irresponsible.