Dear Mama: Mother figures in local cinema

May 7, 2008
Star Cinema's 2000 offering, Anak, gave justice to the worldwide hit of Pinoy folk singer-songwriter Freddie Aguilar. The movie reflected the common situations faced by many Filipino families living in poverty.

The important role played by a mother and/or a child's caregiver is true not only in real life. In the silhouette world, it is one of the vital elements that scriptwriters and directors frequently use to render a plot with more heart. If the common image of a father is the stiff disciplinarian, the mother, on the other hand, is sympathetic and even loving to a fault.

PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) celebrates Mother's Day with this Top Ten List of local movies whose stories were shaped significantly by mother characters. Not all are positive images, as in Lino Brocka's Stardoom (1971) and Pasan Ko Ang Daigdig (1987). Yet the mothers in these two films significantly established their aesthetic and moral values. Brocka reminded us that not all mothers, though strong women they may all be, are alike.

INANG YAYA (2006). "Honestly, I didn't realize how important the role of a yaya is until I did this movie," gushed Maricel Soriano in an interview with entertainment columnist and talent manager Ethel Ramos.

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Unitel Productions' Inang Yaya (2006) was directed by neophyte directors Pablo Biglang-awa and Veronica, who did justice to one of the most pervasive occupations of Filipino women, both here and abroad—caring for the child/children of working parents.

In this movie, the Diamond Star plays the role of Norma who is employed as nanny to a 7-year-old girl named Louise (Ericka Oreta). Norma dutifully carries out her job and in the process learns to love Louise. Back home, Norma's mother dies and Norma has no choice but to bring her own daughter Ruby (Tala Santos) to Manila. Fortunately, Norma's employers Noel (Zoren Legaspi) and May (Sunshine Cruz) allow the mother and her daughter to live with them. Norma faces the difficult task of dividing her attention between the two children. But a major dilemma for the yaya arises when Louise's parents decide to migrate abroad. They ask Norma to come with them but that means leaving her daughter behind for greener pastures.

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After doing the movie, Maricel reflected on the importance of the yaya. "She's practically more of a mother to the child."

Inang Yaya gained good reviews among critics, who hailed it as a "finely crafted film with sincere performances." The Catholic Initiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation applauded the film: "...isang parangal sa mga dakilang yaya ang pelikulang ito."

The movie also went on to reap various awards from the Gawad Urian, Golden Screen Awards, and the Young Critics Circle.

ANG TANGING INA (2003). Ai-Ai delas Alas at her comic best! For Star Cinema, it was Ai-Ai delas Alas at her commercial best.

Perhaps one of the most successful local comedy films ever produced, Ang Tanging Ina bolstered Ai-Ai's reputation as a bankable comedian and even spawned a television series. A sequel is also reportedly on the way.

In the movie, Ai-Ai portrays the role of Ina Montecillo, a single mother with a huge family to feed. Trying more than a handful of odd jobs, Ina tries her best not to show her struggles to the children.

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This film by director Wenn Deramas had Pinoy humor written all over it. But what made Ang Tanging Ina stand out was the fact that behind all the wisecracks and pranks, its central message of motherly sacrifice and love for her children was never lost. Various wacky situations, like Ina scampering to earn extra money so that she could throw a debut party for her daughter, hit the hearts of the viewers with comedic timing, punch lines, and chemistry among its stars. Ang Tanging Ina represented the Filipino ability to laugh in the face of hardship and poverty.

ABAKADA... INA (2001).
This film by director Eddie Garcia dramatized the conflict between Estella (Lorna Tolentino) and her mother-in-law Miling (Nida Blanca) whose son, Estella's husband, is the luckless Daniel (Albert Martinez).

Estella tries to make ends meet as a market vendor. Miling, a school teacher, looks down on her daughter-in-law's lack of formal education, and blames the family's misfortunes on her. Estella finds her role in the family and her self-respect dwindling.

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Drawing a line between an educated yet heartless school teacher and an illiterate market vendor with a pure heart, Abakada... Ina clearly imparted the message that one's background is not enough to gauge a person's true worth.

Film critics' opinions were divided when they reviewed Abakada... Ina. Some said that Nida Blanca upstaged Lorna Tolentino in their performances. Others saw the film's storyline as good but not really on par. However, many applauded the film's message and even recommended that the film be exhibited in schools.

Abakada... Ina earned Lorna Tolentino a FAP Best Actress trophy; Eddie Garcia bagged the FAMAS Best Director plum in 2002.

TANGING YAMAN (2000). Asked if Tanging Yaman (2000)was autobiographical, director Laurice Guillen said no. "It's my way of sharing with my audience what God has done in our lives in all these years that I haven't been making movies."

A modern gem in Philippine Cinema's colorful catalogue, Tanging Yaman is a moving story about a family that's torn apart. Reuniting after long years of bitter feud, the three-way sibling rivalry between Danny (Johnny Delgado), Art (Edu Manzano) and Grace (Dina Bonnevie) intensifies even more as they are locked in a land dispute. Their sick mother Dolores (Gloria Romero) can only watch as her children are consumed by greed and anger.

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Filipinos are known for being family-oriented and the film attacked that core to tug at the heartstrings of moviegoers. The Catholic Initiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation couldn't have been more accurate:

"Tanging Yaman proves indeed to be a rare treasure as it dramatizes a contemporary Filipino version of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It portrays reality as it is, with its painful ugliness and cancers, and the abiding love and faith that lie deep in the Filipino heart."

ANAK (2000).
When Star Cinema adapted Freddie Aguilar's original hit song "Anak," the creative minds behind the film outfit had to come up with an equally moving story. The song, as written and interpreted by Ka Freddie, is a straightforward take on a prodigal son and his realization, with much regret, of his mother's sorrow.

In the movie, the Star for all Seasons Vilma Santos portrayed Josie, a mother of three who reluctantly left her family to work as a domestic helper in Hong Kong. On returning home and hoping to start anew, Josie found that her children misinterpreted her long absence to earn a living as abandonment. Of the three children, Claudine Barretto's character (Carla) harbored the most anger, flaunting her rebelliousness before her balikbayan mother.

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Critics cited the movie as a "very well made commercial film with a heart." Movie columnist Butch Francisco lauded the performance of the lead actress: "Vilma goes through a wide range of emotions, from a spoiler of a mother to one who has had it with her ingrate of a daughter, and from a fun-loving barkada [to fellow domestic helpers Amy Austria and Cherry Pie Picache] who knows how to appreciate the simple joys of life to that of a breadwinner willing to slave it out for the sake of her children."

But the overall message of Anak, just like in the song, triumphs—parents, mothers in particular, willingly go the extra mile for the sake of their children.

MADRASTA (1996).
Filling the space left behind by the first wife entails a gamut of challenges and heartaches. Sharon Cuneta's 1996 blockbuster film Madrasta paid tribute to those branded by society as wicked stepmothers.

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Sharon's character, Mariel, was the exact opposite of that stereotype. She tried her best to win the hearts of her stepchildren while fulfilling her obligations as a wife. In the end, it dawned on Mariel that gaining the love and acceptance of others meant learning to love herself first.

Madrasta became one of Sharon Cuneta's most memorable movies. So impressive was Sharon's portrayal that, the following year, all the major award-giving bodies—The Star Awards for Movies, People's Choice Awards, The Film Academy of the Philippines, Gawad Urian of the Manunuri Ng Pelikulang Pilipino, and FAMAS—were one in giving the Megastar the Best Actress award.

Least we forget, Madrasta also became famous for a line that gained a life of its own among moviegoers: "I was never your partner. I'm just your wife. Kaya hindi mo ko nirerespeto."

Absolute classic.

WANTED: PERFECT MOTHER (1996). A widower with three bouncy kids to look after is no enviable task. For Dante (Christopher de Leon), the reality of loneliness and singlehood hits him much harder when he notices that his youngest child badly needs a counselor in the mold of a mother figure to help her cope in school.

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The handsome young widower hires Sam (Regine Velasquez)—a carefree music teacher with a knack for spontaneity—to fill the void. Sam's bubbly character proves contagious as she soon fills the entire household with fun and laughter, things that they surely missed since the passing of Dante's wife. Dante falls in love with Sam, of course.

Wanted: Perfect Mother was a refreshing change for Christopher de Leon who's usually associated with heavy drama. For Regine Velasquez, the feel-good romantic film was familiar territory and she proved her mastery of the genre.

(A Lea Productions movie with the same title was Lino Brocka's first-ever dramatic film in 1971, which he wrote and directed. The box-office hit starred Boots Anson-Roa, Dante Rivero, Eddie Mercado, and Gina Alajar.)

PASAN KO ANG DAIGDIG (1987). Mothers are usually the ones who nurture and protect their children. But what if it's the other way around?

In this film, Sharon plays the role of Lupe, a young girl born poor who dreams of a better life. Lupe cares for her crippled mother Metring, who despite her sorry condition remains her daughter's harshest critic. The lasting image of the film in popular Filipino pop culture is that of Lupe carrying her mother on her back while walking around the Payatas garbage dump.

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The movie's famous line was directed toward Lupe's crippled mother: "Harap-harapan na kayong niloloko, Inay! Gutay-gutay na ang katawan n'yo, ang kaluluwa n'yo gutay-gutay na rin."

Lino Brocka's Miguelito, Ang Batang Rebelde was about a mother's cry for justice and her quest to be reunited with her son. After 10 years of languishing in jail for a crime she did not commit, Auring (Nida Blanca) courageously set out to confront her oppressors, led by the town mayor who was also the father of her son Miguelito (Aga Muhlach). As in his other films, Brocka tackled poverty and social injustice.

Miguelito, Ang Batang Rebelde
was a breakthrough film for Aga Muhlach as he moved away from teenybopper roles. The movie was the first directorial project of Lino Brocka after he was detained in 1985 for political reasons.

STARDOOM (1971). Maverick director Lino Brocka took ambition and fame as a subject and turned it upside down to expose the dark side.

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Stardoom tackled a stage-mother's nagging desire to see her son as a movie star, believing that his becoming a celebrity was the only way for them to get out of poverty. Doing everything just to get that elusive ticket to fame, the main protagonist Joey (Walter Navarro) allowed himself to be led by his mother, Toyang (Lolita Rodriguez) as she pulled all stops for him to achieve fame. Mother and son developed murky relationships along the way until Joey paid the hefty prize on the eve of his launching movie titled Stardoom.

Sitting inside the cinema together with his adoring fans, Joey was gunned down by a former actress-friend who became resentful after the budding actor disregarded (at the behest of Joey's mother) all her help when he was still struggling to make a name.

The movie ended bitterly when Toyang and her eldest son Emong dropped by the cinema where Joey was shot. Emong sarcastically congratulated his over-ambitious mother for finally achieving her dream.

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Known for tackling socio-political issues even in his earliest films, Brocka touched on people's desperation to rise above their poverty. Even during the ‘70s, many families were drawn to the world of the silver screen and regarded the industry as a promised land. Stardoom pushed the message that parents' ambition for their children, no matter how noble, if pushed too far, could also lead to their downfall.

Nevertheless, the image of a strong mother came across in Brocka's films. And, whether treated as comedy or drama, the Filipino mother figure always makes an impact on our cultural life.

PEP's Mother's Day Promo

Have you told your mom you love her?

Say the words with roses, delivered to your doorstep.

PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) joins the whole world in celebrating Mother's Day this Sunday, May 11! Just answer this simple question, "What do you want to tell your mom?" in the Comments Column of this article, and get the chance to win an Island Rose
for your mom.

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This is brought to you in partnership with Island Rose.

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Star Cinema's 2000 offering, Anak, gave justice to the worldwide hit of Pinoy folk singer-songwriter Freddie Aguilar. The movie reflected the common situations faced by many Filipino families living in poverty.
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