Monday, November 23, 2009

Pinoy Classics Review: Kampanerang Kuba (1973)

The loooong lines at Glorietta for “New Moon” discouraged me from even trying. So I ended up channel-surfing at home and found an even better alternative: a cable TV showing of the Vilma Santos starrer “Kampanerang Kuba”.

I’m not a big fan of TV so I have no idea how the serialized version turned out but the 1973 original is a work of awe and some and ness. It’s Pablo S. Gomez in his golden age of terrible shit. Here's an example of a retro film that truly celebrates the shtick, "it's so bad, it's gone past good and back to bad again"

Vilma Santos plays Andang, a female Quasimodo with a heart of gold who lives in the church bell tower. She is also sort of an idiot-savant who talks to the statue of St. Martin de Porres and calls it “Mang Martin”. She also speaks to the church bells and asks them: “Bakit malungkot na kayo? Wala na ang inyong saya at awit.”

Despite of (or perhaps because of) her hideous appearance, she is held dear by the parish priest Padre Damaso but abhorred by the church caretaker, Edeng who maltreats her at every opportunity. Andang is ugly, ugly, ugly and deserves all the pain she can get.

Padre Damaso tries to bring sense to Edeng and talks to her outside the church.

Padre Damaso: “Edeng, ilang ulit ko ba namang sasabihin sa iyo na wag mo nang pagmalupitan si Andang? Napakabait na bata nya. Malambot ang puso.”
Edeng:  “Tama ka, padre. Para siyang tupa sa kabanalan. Pag kaharap kayo. Pero pagtalikod nyo, sutil. Ubod ng tapang, naninibasib!”

Naninibasib. This is just a sample taste of the knee-slapping goodness of Pablo S. Gomez and Nilo Saez’s script.

Enter Celia Rodriguez as Tateng, Edeng’s devilish daughter who is practically ten times meaner than her mother and hangs around the church wearing skimpy red outfits. Celia Rodriguez is at her most versatile here as she is also the town nymphomaniac who preys on married men starting with the character of the late great Dindo Fernando.

One night, Celia and Dindo exchange smooches outside the church. Celia can’t take the heat anymore and invites Dindo inside. In the crudest Pablo S. Gomez joke, Dindo’s character is named Crispin.

Crispin (Dindo): O, bakit dito?
Tateng (Celia): Wag kang mag-alala. Sariling- sarili natin ang simbahan.

Vilma catches them kissing while scratching each other’s back on the church pew. Tateng panics and slaps Andang. She threatens to kill Andang if she squeals.

Now, Tateng may be the town “Malena” but she’s also choosy. She only goes out with hunks like Dindo Fernando and she’s not about to play hide-the-salami with Max Alvarado. Max plays Diego, the town’s classic baddie who has the hots for Tateng but has been rejected many times over. Tateng is not just into him.

One afternoon, a pissed-off Diego bumps into Andang who was on her way to the river.

Diego (Max): Ano ba?! Tatanga-tanga ka kasi.
Andang (Vilma): Bakit ang init ng ulo mo? Siguro tumalbog ka na naman kay Tateng ano?
Diego (Max): Anong tumalbog? Ako ang pinipilit nya. Ako lang ang may ayaw.
Andang (Vilma): Ayaw nya sa iyo—ampangit mo kasi!
Diego (Max): Ha?! Sinong pangit?!
Andang (Vilma): Sino pa. Eh di tayong dalawa.

Ngok. Ngok. Ngok. Ngok.

The Tateng-Andang conflict reached its pinnacle with a girlfight at the pigsty after Tateng said, “Bagay ka diyan. Mukha ka na ring baboy!” Tateng is the more robust chick and quickly overpowers the hunchback. Thankfully, the parish’s hot new priest Father Agaton (Bobot Mortiz) stops the fight and brings Andang back to the church to tend her wounds. Celia Rodriquez seethes.

Andang’s misery hasn’t ended yet. In a sick twist of fate craftily arranged by Tateng, she was accused of stealing jewelry from about 70% of the female population in the barrio. Andang was chased up the bell tower and attempted to end her life by jumping from the top of the church. But no, the women wanted blood in their hands! They coaxed Andang to come down and they beat her to a pulp. Then she was tied to a horse and dragged behind like Eric Bana in “Troy” before leaving her for dead in the bushes.

The very weak Andang crawls back to the church and throws herself at the foot of the Virgin statue. Cue the apparition scene of “Mang Martin. It rained petals and Andang miraculously transforms to a ravishing beauty.

Now at this point in the film, things play out like scenes in a David Lynch movie. While praying inside the church, Andang was suddenly approached by two hysterical spinsters (Perla Bautista and Rossana Marquez) who both swear she is Sandra, their long-lost jewel of a sister. There is no explanation what happened to this real Sandra character whom Andang replaces. We just take it hook, line and sinker that she IIIS Sandra and she now lives the high life – with a huge mansion, some servants and polka-dotted blouses with shoulder pads.

Andang, este, Sandra  gets flocked by suitors but noo, she only has eyes for Father Agaton. Sandra goes to confession and declares her love for the priest.

Sandra (Vilma): Patawarin mo ako, Padre. Ang lalaking iniibig ko ay IKAW.

Padre Agaton rejects her and Sandra leaves the church heartbroken. As if the poor priest’s faith hasn’t been tested enough, Celia Rodriguez appears in a red outfit and runs her hand across his chest.

Tateng (Celia): Ako’y nauuhaw. Painumin mo ako. (she turns around) Babae ako. Ikaw ay lalaki. Malulunasan mo ang aking kagutuman.

Padre Agaton turns down two girls in one night! But the worst is yet to come. Because hell hath no fury than Celia Rodriguez scorned!

Soon enough, rumors spread like wildfire that Sandra and Padre Agaton are having an affair. The town gets livid and storms the church, crying for blood. It appears that the most livid are Dindo Fernando and Max Alvarado. Like a Salem witch, they tie Padre Agaton to a tree and start to burn him at the stake. Max and Dindo cackle like the resident baddies that they are.

By a stroke of faith, Sandra happens at the burning and tries to stop it. Max Alvarado slaps her for even trying. Desperate, she runs to the church and implores the help of "Mang Martin". She climbs the tower and rings the bell. A miracle! The rain begins to pour and stokes the fire!

The very wet Celia Rodriguez suddenly achieves clarity and tearfully announces, "Padre, mula ngayon ay iuukol ko ang nalalabi ko pang buhay sa paglilingkod sa Diyos." Behind her, Celia's mother beams, "Salamat sa Diyos at naliwanagan ang kanyang isipan!"

But don't think Mang Martin will give the miracle for free. Vilma emerges as the ugly hunchback Andeng! Sandra is gone! Death to fantasy! Up yours, "New Moon"!

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen this one but this review is a hoot. I think I might have cracked a rib trying not to laugh too loud. Although the ending is a downer, she should have stayed hot and married Father Agaton (yes, as a previous Seminarian fancier, I'm okay for priests to marry).


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