Arts & Leisure



By Noel Orosa


Portrait of a threesome as a Socialist manifesto




OPINION

Posted on February 24, 2016


IN THE late Ishmael Bernal’s 1978 masterpiece Ikaw Ay Akin, Teresita Valdez, the horticulturist played by Nora Aunor, unwittingly foreshadows the love triangle that she will soon be a part of as she explains to her long-time companion Rex Aguilar (Christopher de Leon), a sky diving jeepney factory owner, how to create her idea of the perfect orchid hybrid: “Gusto ko ang ganda ng orchid na ito. Pero gusto ko kasing laki ng orchid na ito.” (I like the beauty of this orchid. But I want it to be as big as that other orchid.)

VILMA SANTOS (L) and Nora Aunor play two sides of a love triangle in the classic Ishmael Bernal film Ikay Ay Akin.
Soon it is Rex trying to create the perfect hybrid relationship as he alternates his time between Tere and his new business partner -- the neurotic, pill-popping Sandra Aragon (Vilma Santos).

In spite of her material wealth, Sandra feels like a beggar in love. Her father, a doctor who is always on his way to his “emergency calls,” which Sandra assumes to be appointments with numerous mistresses, never has time for her. Her only girlfriend shows little regard for Sandra as she embarks on an affair with Sandra’s father. Her suitor is a bore for whom she feels nothing.

Tere, on the other hand, is a millionaire in love. She has a father figure, Ramon, who genuinely cares for her. She has a lot of friends who are loyal to her. And she has Rex who keeps coming back to her even though he isn’t entirely faithful.

Rex, whom one assumes to be the typical chauvinist with an ego that can only be satisfied by a loyal harem, ironically turns out to be the female side of this triangle. He is the object of desire, a thing to be shared, the movie’s most passive character. He even reveals his feminine motivation for wanting to sustain this uncomfortable ménage à trois; he wants to combine the neediness of Sarah with the stoic strength of Tere because only then can he feel whole.

The movie comes to a head when the two women discover each other’s identities. Rex realizes that the thrill he gets when he’s skydiving, a feeling that he belongs to everyone and to no one, is what he has been seeking by indulging in both affairs at the same time.

Ultimately, the movie asks: Is love a form of wealth that should be equitably distributed? When Rex finally confesses to both of his female lovers that he cannot live without either one of them, he tells them: “Sino ba’ng makapagsasabing: ‘Ito ay akin.’ ‘Siya ay akin.’ ‘Ikaw ay akin.’” (Who can truly say: ‘This is mine.’ ‘She is mine.’ ‘You are mine.’) Echoes of this same question resonate in one protracted scene right after Tere and Rex have made love. As they shift in bed, when a lover’s arm is on top of the beloved’s body, who is owning whom?

The other question begging to be answered is “Who wins the acting contest?” Nora or Vilma? Nora plays Tere as an immovable object, quiet in her practicality. Vilma plays Sandra as an irresistible force, flamboyant in her vulnerability. But the real winner here is the director Bernal who deftly channels his two actresses’ unique gifts into the kinds of characters that each of them can perfectly inhabit.

Mr. Bernal layers his scenes with his film’s main theme. When Rex shoots darts, he only plays with three -- a red one and two in black. When Rex visits Sandra in the hospital, he lends her three books. It is a deceptively simple movie that is rich with many meanings.

If only subtext were a form of wealth that can be equitably distributed across all of Philippine cinema.

Ikaw Ay Akin is the latest classic films to be digitally remastered by ABS-CBN. So far over 80 Pinoy classics from the film archive have recieved this treatment including Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon, Himala, and Oro, Plata, Mata.