By Menchu Aquino Sarmiento
Directed by Eduardo W. Roy, Jr.
AMONG TODAY’s young filmmakers, it is perhaps Eduardo W. Roy, Jr. who most closely approximates the sensibility and legacy of Lino Brocka’s passion projects, particularly in his sympathetic portrayals of the oppression and exploitation of the desperately poor and marginalized in Philippine society. He considers himself a protégé of the “Found Story” School of Filmmaking as codified by his mentor Armando “Bing” Lao. This is an attempt to better express certain inherently Filipino realities. Found Films co-produced this movie.
Roy’s 2013 Cinemalaya entry Quick Change, which dealt with the domestic situation of an aging transsexual who supports her boyfriend and his small son as a cosmetologist to other trannies, evokes Brocka’s Ang Tatay Kong Nanay (1978) which starred Dolphy and Niño Muhlach. In F#*@BOIS, the domesticity and homosexuality are not so down-home and cozy, but dark and depraved.
The upbeat beginning of F#*@BOIS shows Mico Ramos (Kokoy de Santos), angelically wide-eyed and not quite legal being only 17, livestreaming. His older best friend, the sultry, ripped 23-year-old Ace Policarpio joins him. Even innocuous videos of them munching on chips immediately draw thousands of likes. They are cocky and self-assured, confident that their popularity on social media counts as real power and that the world is at their feet.
Their mama-san Mother Dan brings her stable of young studs to Mankind, a gay bar, which is the venue for the Mr. Galaxy pageant. During the van ride to the competition, a TV producer calls with the good news that young Mico passed his audition for a supporting role in a popular teleserye (the director Roy was a teleserye writer for many years). The future looks bright indeed for the little provinciano who dreams of becoming another Coco Martin.
The high point of the pageant is the bikini contest. Each contestant struts his stuff (body paint is judiciously used to strategically enhance abs) while delivering groan-worthy pick-up lines to the audience, such as: “You must be ketchup because I just want to dip my hotdog in you.” Ace’s sugar mommy (Yayo Aguila) drops by to deliver his and Mico’s new passports. They are a B1T1 (Buy One Take One) deal it seems, and she has promised to take both of them on a pleasure trip abroad. It’s another happy prospect to look forward to.
A former mayor and provincial warlord whom the boys creepily call “Daddy” (Ricky Davao) is the fly in their ointment. “Daddy” can’t let go of Ace, his current main squeeze. He threatens to publicly release a phone video he took of Ace and Mico fellating each other. Mico, whom Daddy calls “Bunso” (Baby Boy), in keeping with their sick pretense at being a family, pitifully pleads him to delete the video, fearing that once uploaded, it will go viral and his mother might see it.
Sparing their families is a recurring refrain. It’s why good-looking young men (and women) might choose the flesh trade over minimum wage contractual labor which might otherwise suffice for their own personal needs. Our societal mores deem it the duty of those who are better endowed (whether physically or intellectually), or who have more lucrative opportunities, to suck it in and sacrifice for the sake of their families back in the barrios.
Ricky Davao gives an over-the-top, tour de force performance as Daddy, the closeted head of a political dynasty, who can only cut loose in private. In the privacy of his boudoir with his two boytoys, he is giggly, jiggly, and girlish. His cellphone alias is Brithany Gaile, a name worthy of a Southern belle. Daddy’s perversion of patriarchy raises disturbing issues of Filipino familial and political power dynamics. As “Daddy,” he demands absolute obedience from the two feckless young men.
In the manner that a doting mother kisses her infant’s feet, Daddy greedily gorges on Ace’s and Mico’s tootsies — but only after he orders them to first scrub themselves clean (mag-kuskos kayo). The boys are always reminded that they are lesser beings who must serve and perform at his pleasure. In response to their pleas that he delete the new sex videos he has taken of them, Daddy snaps back: “Anong ipinagmamalaki ninyo — ’yang mga titi ninyo?” (What do you have to be proud of — your pathetic dicks?) It is this ultimate insult to and degradation of their very personhood which drives Ace over the edge.
As it was in several Brocka films about warlord politicians (as most notably played by the late Eddie Garcia), the weaker party loses out in the end. It’s like the Filipino proverb about the clay pot going up against the iron skillet (Walang laban ang palayok sa kawaling bakal.) Centuries ago, our ancestors already got that right. It was just as true then as it is now. In F#*@BOIS a cruel twist has a witness live-streaming Ace and Mico’s sorry fate. Small consolation if any though, for them to know that they would go viral till the very end.