Sunday, February 05, 2012

Tunay na Ina (1939)

Tunay na Ina (Octavio Silos, 1939)
English Title: True Mother

History has not been kind to Philippine cinema. Due to a climate that has made film preservation a daunting endeavor and an unfortunate culture of neglect for culture, films have actual life spans of a few years before they disintegrate or be recycled into home-made trumpets. Luck, more than anything, is the primary driving force for films to last longer than they logically should. One of only a handful of extremely lucky films to survive the war and several decades of neglect is Octavio Silos’ Tunay na Ina (True Mother), a tender melodrama about Magdalena (Rosario Moreno), a mother who is in search for the daughter that was taken away from her.

A product of rape, the baby was given up by Magdalena’s father (Precioso Palma) in the hopes that she can have another chance at getting happily married with a decent man. After a few years since the baby was given to a kind woman (Naty Bernardo) who has raised her like her true daughter, Magdalena has fallen in love with Roberto (Rudy Concepcion) but is worried that the truth about her past and her missing daughter will taint their blossoming relationship. Magdalena finally decides to tell Roberto everything, confessing about the past she and her family tried so hard to hide in a letter, which Magdalena’s aunt (Nati Rubi) intercepted, thinking that the letter will only result in further heartaches.

Roberto and Magdalena eventually marry. Magdalena’s aunt reveals to Magdalena that she never gave Roberto the letter, which leads Antonio (Exequiel Segovia), Magdalena’s rapist, to extort money from Magdalena with the promise not to ruin her marriage with Roberto by revealing about their daughter. Pining for her missing daughter (Tita Duran), Magdalena, with the help of her aunt, starts to search for her and discovers that she has been blessed with a beautiful voice which she uses to beg for alms to support her ailing foster mother. Magdalena suddenly finds herself caught between her desire to be reunited with her daughter and her fear of being separated from her beloved husband.

Tunay na Ina, like many of the other Filipino films during its period wherein the popularity of the zarzuela was under the mercy of the motion picture, has its characters suddenly bursting into song to enunciate the extreme joy or sadness that they are experiencing. In one scene, Magdalena’s daughter belts out a sad tune, detailing the hardships she has to face because of her poverty. In another scene, Magdalena expresses her grief towards her father’s death through a mournful song that aptly depicts the tragedies that have befallen her ever since her daughter was given away.

Buhat (Since), perhaps one of the most famous songs from the film which was remade by Rico J. Puno in the 70’s, is sung four times in the film. The first time is during Magdalena’s first dance with Roberto, followed by their engagement. Composed by Miguel Velarde, Jr., with lyrics by Dominador Santiago, the song is an immaculate love theme, expressing the intense adoration one suddenly has upon the first time one lays his or her eyes on her lover.

The third time the theme is sung transforms the song completely. Magdalena is in the bank of a stream where her daughter’s foster mother is washing clothes. She sings the song to her daughter, and her daughter reciprocates the melodically rendered affection by going close to her, revealing what seems to be a repressed longing for her real mother through quick glances set in such beautiful melody. The delicate scene is heartbreaking, utilizing the notes and words of a romantic chorus to direct the same feeling one usually reserves for love between two people swept into ecstasy by passion towards the immense emotion a mother has for a daughter she only had the opportunity to be with at that exact moment.

The fourth time the song is sung, everything has been resolved, and everybody is happy. At that joyous moment, after all the sordid struggles the characters have to face because of the conspiracy of twisted fate and human judgment, seem to be just distant memories. In that flurry of song, happy faces, and pleasant gestures, love, whether it be between husband and wife or mother and daughter, is the only thing that matters.

Tunay na Ina may have sensibilities that are extremely outdated. The words spoken by its characters are too ornate, too flowery to be believable. The scenes are too visually unsophisticated to arouse awe. The acting is too overstated, too unsubtle to be intelligent. The plot is too simple and undemanding. However, beyond these inconsequential complaints that are only results of the technological and cultural gaps between now and then, Tunay na Ina bears something that all the complicated narratives and showy spectacles of today lacks, and that is the fluency in communicating genuine emotions.

(Cross-published in Lagarista.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pakiusap(1940) is a lot better than this film though they have different genres, Tunay na Ina is a melodrama while Pakiusap is a love story.