Ang Tatay Kong Nanay (Lino Brocka, 1978)
English Title: My Father, My Mother
Lino Brocka's Ang Tatay Kong Nanay (My Father, My Mother) is such a delightful film. Sure, it engrosses itself with several melodramatic turns and its representation of homosexuality is limited to the loud transvestite types. However, there's something about the film that strikes you as adamantly sincere (as compared to popcorn fare like Mrs. Doubtfire (Chris Columbus, 1993) or other gender-bender tearjerkers released lately).
During its closing sequences wherein Coring (played with a pitch-perfect sense of both comedy and drama by Dolphy), dressed as Ms. Spain in a low-budget gay-version of an international beauty pageant (again, a testament to Philippine ingenuity), answers a question by the pageant host. Brocka's camera then lingers to Dolphy's exaggeratedly painted face; and Dolphy owns the close-up, delivering his lines with subtle emotionality and tender grace. His manner of answering felt like his character bore the aches of the entire Philippine gay community on his shoulders, and you can easily feel for him. Just when you are drawn to his character's poignant soliloquy, Dolphy snaps out of the mood with a joke, and you laugh, although still teary-eyed.
The plot itself is nothing special. Coring, a gay beautician, is left with a baby by his former ward, Dennis (Philip Salvador). The baby grows up (the boy is played by a very young Niño Muhlach) thinking that Coring is his real father. Everything seems to be smooth until the kid's mother (Marissa Delgado) suddenly shows up to claim her son.
What's special is how Brocka and writer Orlando Nadres pumped up the story with themes dealing with the difficulty and sensitivity in the rearing of a boy by a gay parent. There's a detailed attention on how Coring tries to shield the boy from his homosexuality. A touching sequence shows the boy using Coring's lipstick on himself so he looks like the Indian from a picture book. When Coring sees the boy using lipstick on himself, he scolds the boy out of fear of him turning into a homosexual. When the boy explains that he was only trying to emulate the Indian from the picture book, Coring's fears are waived and he lovingly hugs the boy.
It is that underlying theme that ultimately unites the film, more than the tearjerking story. There are two scenes in the film that adequately resolves the issue of identity. The first one is when the boy catches his father donning a dress in a fashion show. He point-blank asks Coring whether or not he is ashamed of the way he looks. Coring, before answering, wipes the make-up from his face and removes the wig from his head, and gives a reliable excuse. The ending of the film offers a similar scenario. The boy again catches Coring, who just got home from a beauty contest. There were no more questions asked and Coring didn't even bother removing the make-up from his face or the wig from his head; they just hugged. The bonds of fatherhood withstood the demands of society or Coring's own shame of showing himself as a homosexual in front of his adopted son.
This makes the film, with all its stereotypes and conventional narrative arcs, as timely now, as it was decades ago when it was released. It is a gay-themed film that is ultimately rewarding beyond its genre. It preaches acceptance, not mere tolerance. It proposes homosexuality as a non-issue in parental love and affection. Straight or gay, there's something to be gained from watching the film --- a handful of chuckles, a cupful of tears, and most importantly, a whole lot of heart.