Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Noli Salvador's Kapalit ng Ligaya - Elementary Exercises

Mico (Rocco Mateo) is an unemployed loafer who lives with his friend Jerry (Jeremy Ian). He’s also oblivious of his friend’s growing affection for him mostly because he spends his time pursuing shy, but hardworking student Gina (Sidra Lorenzo). Gina only wants to finish her studies so she could provide a better life for her impoverished family in the province. But Mico persists, even promising the moon, the sun and the nearest galaxy of Ursa Minor (though I would suggest he should start by looking for a job first). She initially brushes him off until the inevitable happens. She falls for the gentleman’s eccentric swagger (he walks like a newly circumcised guy, I kid you not). Besides, what girl wouldn’t gravitate towards a guy who, on their first meeting – while she walks home from school – asks her, “Kailan mo ba ako sasagutin?”  He isn’t in a hurry, is he? J

Meanwhile, their neighborhood is besieged by a drug peddling syndicate. Cocky and self-assured Eric (Charles Delgado), one of Mico’s friends, is running around, selling drugs. The local police have been alerted and they’re itching for a sting that would entrap the pusher. One day, during a calculated operation, Eric throws his stash to Mico during a hot pursuit. This throws our indolent protagonist to jail. With no hope in sight for helpless Mico, Gina intervenes by offering herself to the drug enforcement head honcho Col. Henry Marcelino (former sexy stud Lucas Leonardo), one of Gina’s ardent suitors. Broken hearted by her own decision, she quits school altogether, comes home, then marries the pudgy gentleman in exchange of Mico’s freedom, thus “Kapalit ng Ligaya”.

While Henry is a loving husband and a good provider, we learn about the colonel’s illness: Prostatic Cancer, stage 4. Not only is it a terminal condition, but (the more immediate concern, if we were to believe the film) this disallows him to father a child. Poor Gina, debah? No Mico na nga, no “ligaya” and no “child” pa! Tsk tsk tsk! Little did Gina know that her friend and classmate Lara (Mia Henares) has already informed the authorities of his boyfriend Eric’s guilt, and subsequently, Mico’s innocence. Mico is eventually released. But what is his freedom for if he lost Gina in the process? Sniff!

Sidra Lorenzo plays Gina, the main protagonist. Unfortunately for Sidra, they forgot to put her on the theatrical poster.

Director Noli Salvador (“Haliparot: Mana sa Ina”) is back with narrative sketches that seem too rudimentary to be believable. His characters mirror nothing close to how people converse, move, reciprocate or behave in real life. I am aware that “fallibility of character” is an element in tragedy, but people in this story don’t seem to employ logic where a natural course of conversation is supposed to run its course. When does a guy court a girl and ask for her commitment on their very first meeting? And let’s not even forget that this occurred on the street. Classy, right? Moreover, Mateo isn’t even in the league of, say Derek Ramsay, Matteo Guidicelli or Rocco Nacino whose mere appearance can inspire a “yes” even before they ask! If someone does that to me, I’d have accommodated him with my gonad-cracking high kick! Remember, I may be wearing heels during such time – so imagine the consequences.

Rocco Mateo’s constant presence (he’s the guy in the center of the poster) in Pink Films is an enigma. He isn’t exactly God’s gift to women in the looks department. He isn’t gym-fit or possessing a six pack. Some guys get their allure when they smile. Mateo clearly doesn’t have the Close-Up grin either. He walks like he’d rather sleep because something’s too heavy between the legs. That must be it? His cinematic magic? J More importantly, he delivers his lines like he is munching on an apricot (para sosyal, debah). Sidra Lorenzo, the female lead, who didn’t even make it in the theatrical poster (isn’t that hilarious?), complements Mateo’s blandness, she does a wee better in Jigz Recto’sKasalo”. Jeremy Ian is forgettable in this flick. Heck, he isn’t even given a 3-seconder to flash his considerable “possessions”. His narrative strain is cut short like a premature ejac -  errr… I mean, he’s prematurely ejected from the story!

Jeremy Ian plays Jerry who's in love with his roommate Mico.


Lucas Leonardo, looking a little too heavy for a former sexy stud, is satisfactory with his lines. In fact, he is one of the few earnest characters in a mediocre story. Then again, he was mentored by a good director during his prime, Maryo J. de los Reyes. In fact, he was in several flicks like “Tumakas Ka Sa Mundong Makasalanan” (with Yda Manzano), “Pahiram Kahit Sandali” (with Ara Mina and Alice Dixson), “Saplot” (with Monica Midler, Paolo Rivero and Kriselda Kristel) and the heart-warming “Huwag Po, Huwag Po” (with Hazel Espinosa, Allen Dizon, Zoltan Amore and John Apacible). Charles Delgado also turns in a good performance as the drug peddling Eric though his part was unceremoniously clipped. Delgado is comfortable with his lines and he seems to understand his motivations, despite an execrable script. This is probably because he’s been in the business for quite some time now, even disrobing and flashing his pecker when he was just 16 or 17 years old (for “Booking”, “Boylets” and “S.R.O.”) That was just 5 or 6 years ago. Wasn’t child pornography a law then? I wonder.


Like many indie flicks and queer cinema this year, “Kapalit ng Ligaya” came and went without people noticing it. It didn’t have the social media publicity blitzkrieg of those vomit-worthy G.A. Villafuerte flicks so almost no one knew about it. It had its commercial release last March 21 (2012), but suffered the fate of other 2012 flicks like Paul Singh Cudail’sMaligalig” (April 18), GA Villafuerte’sAng Lihim ng mga Nympha” (May 23), Darry dela Cruz’sExtra Serbis” (February 29) and Cleo Paglinawan’sItlog na Pula” (April 4). What fate again? No one knew they existed when they were on commercial release. If you ask me, this is good development because these are some of the worst films to come out since Jose Nepomuceno screened his “Dalagang Bukid” (Country Maiden) in 1919 – the first film produced by a Filipino. 93 years later, some cinemas exhibit films like “Id’nal (Mapusok)” and “Kapalit ng Ligaya”. Where has evolution gone? Why have we basically reverted back to the intellectual capacity of the Cro Magnons?

Mia Henares with then boyfriend Charles Delgado

Charles Delgado, a screen veteran at 22/23.

Charles Delgado displays his wares. This photo is courtesy of

Mia Henares plays Lara, a student in "Kapalit ng Ligaya"

MIa Henares
Lucas Leonardo in his heyday.

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Anonymous said...

hi just wondering why you watch the gay soft porn movies when you know they're so bad. you know that they're for people who just want to see skin. hindi ka ba nasasayangan sa pera at oras mo? unless trabaho mo talaga manood ng mga yun? mtrcb ka ba or cbcp reviewer?
-curious G.

Cathy Pena said...

@ Curious G:

One of the purposes of this blog is to document ALL commercially shown Filipino movies (read: people fork out hard earned money to watch them in cinemas - instead of patronizing pirated copies).

Some three years ago, I started this goal of doing this because people needed to know about the films that get shown in our movie houses. All FILIPINO commercial films - commercial, legit indies, queer flicks - get written here!

This was an ambitious undertaking to say the least. I also feel that these "gay soft porn" film makers need to get "report cards".

I am not too fond of sweeping principium, generalized observations and inferences from people who won't even set foot inside a cinema to watch a Pinoy film, mainstream or otherwise. The only way to judge a particular film is to go out and watch it. That, to me, is the most objective point of view.

Aside from documentation, people can learn that there should be a standard in the making of such films. Blush is designed as a repository of ALL PINOY COMMERCIAL FILMS. Unfortunately, queer flicks seem to be outnumbering the mainstream releases. That isn't my fault.

This blog has (almost)ALL PINOY RELEASES since 2010. I think it's a good thing. Discourse is healthy.

To be quite honest, there isn't a day that I think of ending this blogging thing. In fact, last night, I've already considered placing a sign that says "IN HIBERNATION" in my next post. But I'm fickle. I changed my mind - as of this morning. But this might happen soon. Who knows? I just hate advertising it here. It's better to just do it instead of announcing it. It's like committing suicide, but not before announcing it to the whole world. I'd prefer that if and when I stop doing this, Blush just fades into the night without much fanfare.

But since you asked... :)

Anonymous said...

oh no, pls don't stop blogging. i realize that it's good to have someone critique queer films that most newspaper reviewers don't even watch. naawa lang ako sa iyo pag nanonood ka ng films from your least fave directors. parang self-inflicted torture lang. :D
tsaka tama ka nga, gays are said to be more creative lalo na sa arts, pero bakit nga pagdating sa movies na ganito nawawala? maybe they have more in common with males in this regard in that all the blood that should go to the brain goes elsewhere pag skin flicks.

so pls. don't stop writing. keep watching stuff so we can be forewarned. thanks!
-curious G.

Cathy Pena said...

@ Curious G:

Thanks for the heads up. No worries. I am not easily taken by suggestions of others.

You are right in many aspect: watching these Pink Films are like moments of self flagellation - almost every single time, and I am no masochist.

I just feel that these "Pink" directors should be held accountable for their bad artistry.

I would love to see a period in Pinoy Cinema when Gay-themed flicks are considerable works of art. It is important then to put these mediocre directors to task.

If they are bad, I will explain why. I'm sure many of them consider me the "scourge" of their existence, but a paying audience deserves film makers who actually take time to think and study their work before having people pay to watch them. It straddles consumer rights.

And yeah, this blog has so far succeeded in "documenting" - archiving - ALL Pinoy films screened in commercial cinemas.

Unfortunately, there are so much bad queer flicks being released recently, many of them are found here. But then - ALL other commercial Pinoy films (with no exception) are found here as well.

Blush will eventually stop sometime, that's for sure. It is hard to maintain but I am very much aware that this blog has so many readers and friends already. This is one of the reasons why it is hard to stop. But as of now, it is alive, kicking, cursing, rejoicing, and all other emotions associated with the magic of the cinema - good and bad! That's that. :)