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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.

Feb 10, 2021




IN October of 2014, Jennifer Laude, a transgender who works as a hooker, was strangled by an American marine, Joseph Scott Pemberton, 19, inside the toilet of a motel room near the Ambyanz Nightclub where she worked. 

There were other cases of Pinays being killed by an American serviceman, but this one became a celebrated international incident.

The 26-year old Laude was nicknamed Ganda by her mother who is originally from Leyte. 

When she was killed, she was already engaged to her German fiance named Marc Suesellbeck and they are about to get married. Marc said they had already bought her wedding gown. 

Obviously, Pemberton didn’t know that Laude was a transgender who gave him oral sex, along with her colleague named Barbie. When he found out that she was also actually a man, he felt he was raped and went mad. 

The killing of Laude  is now shown in the documentary, “Call Her Ganda”,  directed by PJ Raval and will be released locally on Viva Max starting this Friday, February 12. 

It is well intentioned but, after watching it, you get the feeling they could have done more to make it a more satisfying viewing experience.

The docu has no real narrator but most of it is seen from the point of view of two women who are not properly identified on screen and you have to play a guessing game as to who they are. 

First is a lawyer of the Laude family, Virgie Suarez, who has fearless determination to get justice for the Laudes and serves as their spokeswoman who also works with another lawyer, Harry Roque, now the current presidential spokesman. 

The other one is Meredith Talusan, an albino Fil-American, transgender journalist covering the case who makes an effort to present the side of Pemberton. 

A short footage of his background is shown, the hometown by the sea where he grew up in the States, and an interview with his mother who said he is not against gays as he has a lesbian sister. But in contrast, Laude’s mother and sister are given more favorable exposure in several interviews.

The docu becomes political when it shows how the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the USA can be lopsided as it allows more privileges to American soldiers who can be excused from Philippine prosecution and imprisonment if a case against them is not brought to court in a year’s time. 

It touches on the history of the American colonization of the Philippines, but there is no real probe on why the VFA continues to exist even if Pres. Duterte expressed his objection to continued American military presence. 

Ironically, it is Duterte himself who gave absolute pardon to Pemberton last year so he can freely return back to the USA.

The docu borrows news footage heavily from various TV stations and news sources. 

Several remarks made by netizens in social media are quoted and most of them don’t approve of the element of deceit that Laude made when she didn’t reveal that she’s a transgender to Pemberton. 

This makes it some sort of a hate crime and what the marine did is equated to the hate and prejudice against transgenders that often lapse into violent acts. 

But the bigger mystery that remains is: why did Duterte easily pardon Pemberton for his crime?