Silip (Elwood Perez, 1985)
aka Daughters of Eve
Elwood Perez's Silip has that ball-grabbing opening. It is that sort of opening that immediately catches your attention to either go on with the film with much more curiosity and gusto, or to just leave it be and consider yourself salvaged from further moral damage. The film begins with Simon (Mark Joseph), the village butcher, hitting a live carabao on the head. The carabao collapses as the man keeps on hitting it on the head. It's a savage sequence. Perez makes use of a real live carabao, probably a lot cheaper than an animatronic one (Perez didn't really had to worry about animal rights activists back then) which is later on killed, disemboweled, beheaded and butchered right in front of our eyes. The carabao, supposedly the pet of one of the village boys, is pleaded by the village kids to be spared. Headstrong Simon disagrees and preaches about the practicalities in life: what makes their carabao different from the rest, that the beast will die anyway, and that the village requires that he do the brutal act so that everyone can eat.
Silip (its literal English translation is Peeping) was released outside the Philippines as Daughters of Eve. The film was peddled as bizarre curiosity from an exotic land, a softcore (or described as near-hardcore) pornographic feature; and quite rightly so. The film features an onslaught of sex scenes, both titillating and disturbing, and long stretches of time wherein all we see are naked bodies prancing around the village. Yet there seems to be something else brewing beneath the film's flesh-colored celluloid other than mere titillation. Silip is very rebellious in its themes and even in its production.
Made in 1985 during the decline of Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorship in the Philippines, Silip was one among the many soft-core to hard-core (locally referred to as pene films because it featured actual penetration) that sneaked through the uncharacteristic laxity of the local censors. Unusually though, Silip, unlike other sex-themed features like Peque Gallaga's Scorpio Nights(1985) , did not try to dent governmental institutions or just to make a quick buck out of the nation-wide depression and dissent, but instead sought to arouse questioning of that other important and prominent institution in the Philippines, the Catholic Church.
The film features two sisters, Tonya (Maria Isabel Lopez) and Selda (Sarsi Emmanuelle, one third of the trio of sexy actresses named by their managers after soft drinks). Tonya teaches catechism to the children of the village while the parish priest is recuperating from an illness in another town. However, Tonya has a secret sexual attraction for Simon, who is currently bedding Maria (Myra Manibog, whose surname an obvious pun on the Tagalog word for "horny"), elder sister of the young lad from the opening (now holding a grudge against Simon for killing his carabao, and having sex with his sister).
Selda just came home from the city with an American lover. She's the exact opposite of Tonya as her views on sex is more liberal and less guilt-filled. Amidst the apparent disagreement between the two, a similarity surfaces: that both of them are in a state of heat. Tonya tries to ease the lust by rubbing herself with salt or sand while Selda, on the other hand, beds any man she sees while desperately eying Simon.
Scripted by Ricky Lee, who has achieved revered status as the Philippines' best film scribe, the film features several sequences of remarkable bravura. Perez, who alongside the late Joey Gosiengfiao has ushered in Philippine films with cult exploitative flavor, knows the value of shock. Silip may in fact be regarded as numerous eye-opening and sweat-producing scenes stringed together by drab and lengthy connectors; which is probably why the film feels far too long. The opening scene can only be topped by the film's astounding conclusion: a gang rape that appears to be a sweaty, greasy and undoubtedly un-arousing orgy inside a bamboo shanty. Each big scene is an attack on valued principles and norms of propriety; it's actually quite easier to digest the film as mere exploitation than actual art. Art dictates a semblance of truth while exploitation is for mere sensual pleasuring.
The inclusion of religiosity within the context of the characters' flesh-starved existence complicates matters. It seems to beg the question of that difficult balancing act of rigid faith and the natural call of the flesh. It definitely is not a masterpiece as Perez's filmmaking is quite too elementary to raise the film's level to heaven heights. However, it cannot be considered as mere curiosity, or even definitive of Philippine cinema during that era of governmental turmoil and public discontent. The film is Pasolini-esque in its irreverence and Bunuel-esque in its social absurdity.
This post is my contribution to The Bleeding Tree: The Trashy Movie Celebration Blog-A-Thon.
Mondo Macabro has done an excellent job in restoring this unique film. Previously, one can only view this film, dubbed in English and subtitled in Greek, through the many bootlegs that roam the black market and the internet but with the loving dedication of the guys behind Mondo Macabro, we have with us a 2-DVD set, with the original Tagalog track and a bevy of extra features.