Chopping up Nick Joaquin’s short story (Feature)

June 5, 2013 11:16 pm 

By Aurelio A. Pena

DAVAO CITY, June 5 (PNA Features) — If you're familiar with Nick Joaquin’s short story “Summer Solstice”, you’d wish that someday, some hot-shot movie director would make a movie out of this great classic Philippine literature that highlights the festival of St. John the Baptist and that particularly queer tradition in Obando, Bulacan, of praying to this saint by barren women desperate to have a baby.

Well, several years ago, a new movie director who calls himself Tikoy Aguiluz actually made a movie version of this short story, titled “Tatarin”. But the movie never made it to the regular movie theaters here in Davao, but instead dumped with other X-rated, pornographic movies and shown with a “double-with” in a run-down, smelly, sleazy movie house here at C.M. Recto street that shows nothing else but X-rated Tagalog porno movies. This took place during those early years when there wasn’t a censor body yet in Manila to run after this type of movies and ban their showing in cinema theaters nationwide.

The other week, I took the chance of watching this Tikoy Aguiluz movie version of “Summer Solstice” at the Cinematique Davao along Palma Gil St (former DepEd office). This is a movie theatre run by the government under the Office of the President to promote film development and help in the growth of the film industry by showing film classics from all over the world. Admission is FREE to the public.

I was a bit curious because the director and producer preferred to use the name “Tatarin” instead of the word “Tadtarin” with a “d” which is the correct spelling in Nick Joaquin’s story. I wanted so much to see this movie because I wrote a three-act stage play titled “Tadtarin” sometime in mid-1980’s and anxious to see how faithful the movie director was to the author’s storyline and the obvious message of the story–which was the power and dominance of women over men during that ritual.

I watched every scene very closely to find out the transformation of the woman Lupe as she watched her driver’s wife Amada being possessed by the spirits of the “Tatarin” festival under a big balete tree. I saw how Lupe was seduced by the balikbayan Guido and watched helplessly by Don Pepe(?) who couldn’t stop Lupe from joining the provocative ritual dance of the wriggling, twisting women moaning and groaning for orgasm–which was probably the point being driven by the director.

For such a classic Philippine literature written by a National Artist for Literature, it was thrown to the dogs by the producers, screenplay writer and director with all those oozing (f__ing) scenes by a known “bomba” actress who took the role of Amada. It was a big “For Adults Only” movie with lots of sex everywhere–in the garage, beside the balete tree, during the dance, etc, I don’t even remember reading about them in Nick Joaquin’s story.

Acting by the main actors and actresses who I’d rather not name, was the worst I’d ever seen in Philippine movies. I don’t know who was bored and unmotivated by this literature piece–the actors, actresses or the director himself, whose talent I admired, not greatly, but enough to put him on a level above the rest. I wondered if Nick Joaquin actually saw this movie, because if he did, he’d probably puke all over the theater seats, not from his gobbling up one case of San Miguel beer, but from the mess and ruins of what remained of his great classic story about the Obando ritual dance.

I remember asking him about this in a seafood restaurant along Camus St here in Davao some years ago when we were having dinner and drinks with novelists N.V.M. Gonzales, Aida Rivera Ford and Antonio Enriquez. This great Filipino writer glared at me and blurted out: “ Impertinent !!!!”, spilling some of his beer on my face. (PNA Features)

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