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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 24, 2013

Philippino Story- Beautifully Acted And Touching Gay-Themed Story

GAY-THEMED films that feature male hustlers usually portray them as ruthless gold diggers who are just after the money of their homosexual clients. "Philippino Story" is totally different as its lead character, Phillip (Junjun Quintana), a waiter who moonlights as a male prostitute picked up by gay customers at the Elliptical Road, has a heart of gold. He's a provinciano who lives in the big city with his older brother (Nor Domingo) and his wife and daughter. He does his best to help them in their financial needs and also sends assistance to their mother in Samar.

He has a special relationship that is not totally grounded on money with an elderly painter (Mark Gil). He cleans Mark's house, they do exercises together for physical fitness, shower together and make love. But the money he gets from Mark is not enough to sustain the needs of his family so he still offers his sexual services to other gays for extra income. He's not at all exploitative and, in one instance, it's even he who gets mauled by a merciless macho gay who took him home then refused to pay him after they spent the night together.

The story gets a lachrymal melodramatic turn when one of the characters is stricken with a terminal illness. But writer director avoids cheap sentimentality and handles the potentially mawkish scenes with dignity and finesse. The film works mainly because of the restraint in unfolding the narrative, enhanced by the first rate acting of Junjun as the sympathetic sex worker and Mark as his kind friend.

Junjun, who first made a splash in another gay-themed movie as the amorous two-timing lover of a transgender in the Cinemalaya entry "Quick Change", gives a very low key but heartwarming performance in his interpretation of Phillip. He never goes overboard and comes up with a finely nuanced and deeply felt portrayal. Mark Gil also gives a similarly controlled but very effective performance as the magnanimous benefactor. His final scene showing him breaking down in the bathtub is so heart-wrenching.
Honestly, we believe it's Junjun who should have won as best actor and Mark as the best supporting actor in the Cinema One FIlmfest awards night. Technical credits are way above average, particularly the production design and the cinematography. The problem is that this kind of viewer-friendly and easily understandable film is so old school for those who run Cinema One, who prefer movies that bore the audience and test their patience with their so-called post-modern film language.