Lino Brocka’s Tubog sa Ginto MHL circa 1971
Pablo A. Tariman (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The good thing about YouTube is that you can access old films that you thought have vanished with beepers and telegraph messages.

An example of YouTube goldmine is Lino Brocka’s 1971 film Tubog Sa Ginto starring Eddie Garcia, Lolita Rodriguez, Mario O’Hara and the then teenage loveteam of Jay Ilagan and Hilda Koronel.

The story is a comics original by Mars Ravelo (with illustration by Elpidio Torres)  and it appeared in the comics of one’s youth, Tagalog Klassiks. In the ’70s, talking about homosexuality is still taboo but a few managed to invade the popular medium enough to disturb the mindset of the polite society.

Like it or not, Brocka’s Tubog Sa Ginto in 1971 is what the now popular teleserye My Husband’s Lover (MHL) is in 2013.

Here, the part of Tom Rodriguez was played valiantly by Eddie Garcia with the role of Dennis Trillo going to the much younger Mario O’Hara. The role of the martyr-wife now played by Carla Abellana was played by the distinguished Lolita Rodriguez.

In the Brocka film, Garcia is Don Benito married to Doña Emma played by Rodriguez. As the film opens with a birthday party for his son, Santi (played by Ilagan), you get to see the character profile of the respected patriarch. His eyes keep on  surreptitiously following his son’s friends in swimming trunks. As the story progresses, you see Don Benito’s seduction scenes with the family driver, Diego, then  played by the very much young O’Hara.

The film managed to give moviegoers a chance to see a good family eventually break up as the patriarch’s pursues an unusual dalliance with the family driver.

The son (Ilagan) has a love affair with a lovely teener (Koronel) and later finds out the unusual happenings in the family set-up.

Discovering his husband’s love affair with the family driver, Doña Emma couldn’t help turning to other men for comfort. The young lovers discover Doña Emma’s other man during a movie date. And to make matters worse, poor son  accidentally discovers his father’s liaison with another man.

The 1971 film has a well-thought-out script that allows character studies of other protagonists in the story.

Seduced by his boss and later discovering that he can use his body to improve his income, the family driver turns to blackmail. In one of their supposed secret trysts, a photographer records their intimate moments. The moment of truth shocks the boss.

In one drunken scene as he loses his blackmail money to gambling, the driver turns to the wife and gets caught by the husband-lover. The altercation between the two ends in a tragic end for the main protagonists.

The film was made before his classic Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag  and Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang. But already, Brocka showed his film sensibility in this 1971 film.

His excellent cast is of course a big bonus.

To get Garcia to act as gay macho man in the early ’70s was a coup.

Here he delineates a respectable husband with a stable job and a social status fit for the respectable middle upper class. Garcia’s portrayal as the big boss and  the patriarch and then as the closet gay is indeed commendable as he wrestles with the inner turmoil of his character. Rodriguez turns in a quiet but powerful portrayal of a betrayed wife who must get even with the husband.

The film gives you a rare glimpse of O’Hara as a young actor in a highly challenging role. From the innocent driver introduced to the lure of the flesh from the same sex, he turns cunning in the end realizing he can turn his boss’ obsession with him into cold cash.

The roles of Ilagan and Koronel in this film provide a  beautiful contrast to what the other members of the family are going through in Tubog.  The Ilagan-Koronel love team in this film is pure, young love personified and the two are just perfect for the part. The disintegration of the dutiful son  after discovering his father’s secret  love life provides Ilagan some acting challenge he was able to deliver. As for Koronel in this film, she is the epitome of young love before the trial and tribulations.

In this film, Garcia received the Best Actor trophy while Brocka ran off with the FAMAS Best Director citation.

In an interview with this author, Garcia admitted he had no qualms accepting the part when it was offered to him in 1971.“It was a very unusual role that comes once in an actor’s lifetime. What I particularly liked about the part was the role is not the caricature of the Filipino gay. The parts often played in the movies are the beauty-parlor-type and the town-screaming faggot. In the role, nobody knows I was gay because I was married, I have a teenage son (played by Ilagan) and I have a respectable job. It was when I started looking for pick-up boys that my gayness comes to the fore.”

The actor also intimated he researched quite a lot to prepare for the part. “I asked my gay friends about what gives way to a fag even if he looked macho.”

The actor once played gay in a film called Paru-Parung Buking.

The late film critic Hammy Sotto noted that Tubog was invited to the 1972 Venice Film Festival by Italian festival agent Luciano Marzouli. At that time, Ilagan had problems with Lea Productions and for this reason alone, the Blas sisters — who owned the studio — refused the invitation. According to Sotto, Brocka was so downhearted he left Lea Productions.

One notes that Tubog…“was made some 42 years before Rustom Padilla metamorphosed into BB Gandanghari and before Charice Pempengco made headlines with her admission on her true sexual identity.”

Which means Brocka was ahead of his time and capable of disturbing the status quo when he felt he had to.

One wondered if Brocka could have made a sequel of the same film in these liberated times when same-sex marriage was no longer shocking.

Compared with the Brocka film, the teleserye My Husband’s Lover has very little insight to offer.

Brocka beat everyone to say in his early film that yes, husbands had male lovers as early as 1971 but were only quite coy and secretive about it for obvious reasons.

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