Our favorite movie by Ishmael Bernal is not one of his acknowledged masterpieces like Himala or Manila By Night. They are brilliant, but the opposite of comfort movies: they are disquieting. For comfort we put on a “minor” Bernal work—the comedy Salawahan (Two-Timer) starring Jay Ilagan, Mat Ranillo III, Sandy Andolong, Rita Gomez and Rio Locsin.
It came out in the same year as Ridley Scott’s Alien. We didn’t see it in the cinema. Our parents would happily take us to a movie in which vicious extraterrestrial creatures rip out of their human host’s bodies, but not to a farce about men, women, and their convoluted relationships.
My sister and I finally saw Salawahan in the 90s on Cinema One, along with the camp classics of Joey Gosiengfiao. Is Salawahan camp? If it is camp it is meta-camp: a satire on modern romance, the way movies shape our perception of romance, and the movies themselves.
Whenever we despair at what passes for wit in today’s Tagalog movies, we watch this movie. (Please excuse the quality of the screen grabs; we’re happy a copy exists at all.)
Gerry (Jay Ilagan) and Manny (Mat Ranillo III, today best known as Krista Ranillo’s father) are cousins and best friends who agree on most things except their views on relationships. Monogamous Gerry takes forever to make a move on a girl. Polygamous Manny strikes instantly. The two agree to exchange styles: Manny will try to be the faithful boyfriend while Gerry will be the player.
Gerry is pursued by Sylvia (Sandy Andolong), a fashion designer who has just returned from New York. In Pinoy movies “from New York” is code for “promiscuous and jaded”.
Sylvia: Mas guapo ka pala kaysa sinabi nila sa akin.
(You’re more handsome than I’d heard.)
Gerry: Kaya hindi ako nakikinig sa chismis eh.
(That’s why I don’t listen to gossip.)
Sylvia: Ah yung kamay ko please. Ngayong nasa akin na ang kamay ko, pag-usapan natin kung ano’ng nasa utak ko.
(My hand please. Now that I have my hand back let’s talk about what’s on my mind.)
Gerry: Interesante ba?
(Is it interesting?)
Sylvia: Interesante. May trabaho ako para sa iyo.
(Interesting. I have a job for you.)
Gerry: Hindi pala interesante eh.
(Then it’s not interesting.)
Sylvia: Babayaran kita ng P5,000.
(I will pay you P5,000. It was 1979.)
Gerry: Ah interesante pala.
(Then it is interesting.)
Sylvia: Saan ka nagpapagupit? Ang ganda ng buhok mo ah.
(Where do you have your hair cut? You have nice hair.)
Gerry: Tinatapatan ko lang ng bentilador.
(I just air-dry it with an electric fan.)
The late Rene Requiestas appears as Sylvia’s shop assistant Dimples, a flamboyant gay man who speaks in movie quotes. (It’s a movie about the movies.)
Gerry: Good morning.
Dimples: Ikaw ang naglagay ng good sa morning.
(You put the good in the morning.)
(Sings) You’re not a dream, you’re not an angel, who are you?
Gerry: Gerry Izon.
Dimples: Guapo. Malaki lang ang butas ng ilong.
(Handsome. Large nostrils.)
(Sings) Someday he’ll come along, the man I love.
Ako nga pala si Dimples, pinangalanan ako after Dimples Cooper ang unang artistang nagkaroon ng kissing scene sa Philippine screen, although pinag-awayan ng nanay at tatay ko. Ang tatay ko gusto akong tawaging Atomica dahil sa atomic bomb, malaki daw kasi ang boobs ko.
(I’m Dimples, named after Dimples Cooper the first actress to have a kissing scene in Philippine movies, although my parents fought over it. My father wanted to call me Atomica after the atomic bomb, because they said I had large breasts.)
Sylvia interrupts Dimples’s flirtation with Gerry. Gerry pinches Dimples, who turns around and replies with another quote: “Inaalipusta mo ba ako? Dahil ba ako’y isang hamak na hostess lamang hindi mo na ako itinuring na isang tunay na kapatid? Bakit? Pinagpapawisan din ako, napupudpod din ang aking sapatos. Rosa Rosal in Anak-Dalita.”
(Are you mocking me? Because I am a lowly bargirl you can’t treat me like a real sister? Why? I sweat too, the soles of my shoes are worn out too. Rosa Rosal in Lamberto Avellana’s Anak-Dalita.)
Meanwhile Manny chases the “old-fashioned” Rina (Rio Locsin), a voluptuous ballet dancer. She allows herself to get chased but won’t surrender the goods. Every movie has a kissing scene; Salawahan has a contortionist kissing scene.
Gerry gets into the player lifestyle, carrying on with both Sylvia and the much older Marian (Rita Gomez), a sex anthropologist who claims to be 31. Marian and Gerry have a tryst in Baguio.
Her post-coital speech: “Gusto kong magwala. Gusto kong tumakbo sa Session Road na nakakumot lamang. Gusto kong manghuli ng tutubi. Bumili ng balloon at paputukin ang mga ito sa lobby ng Pines Hotel—pok pok pok pok pok.”
(I want to go nuts. I want to run on Session Road wearing only a blanket. I want to catch dragonflies. To buy balloons and pop them in the lobby of the Pines Hotel (which was destroyed in the big earthquake in the 90s)—pok pok pok pok pok.)
Every Tagalog movie features a confrontation scene in which two women recite pages of dialogue at each other. That’s bitchy? Salawahan has an anti-confrontation scene. Marian and Sylvia run into each other in Baguio.
Marian: Good morning.
Sylvia: Same to you.
Marian: Aren’t you going to wish me well?
Sylvia: I’m going to wish you what you’re going to wish me.
Marian: Foreign twang. Girlfriend ako ni Gerry.
(I’m Gerry’s girlfriend.)
Sylvia: Same to me.
Marian: Ano’ng gagawin natin ngayon?
(What will we do now?)
Marian: Hindi ba tayo magko-confrontation?
(Aren’t we going to have a confrontation?)
Sylvia: Huwag na, nakakatamad eh.
(No, it’s so tiresome.)
Marian: Okay, I’ll see you.
Sylvia: See you.
There’s a big screwball finale in which the two men and three women converge on Gerry’s apartment in Greenhills. Marian has brought a cake because it’s her birthday. When the confusion is cleared up, the three women share the cake.
Rina: Happy Birthday, sis. Komedya, no?
(This is a comedy, no?)
Marian: Okay lang. Kanina pa kita inaawat eh, ayaw mong makinig.
(It’s all right. I kept trying to stop you, you wouldn’t listen.)
Rina: I’m very impulsive, I’m only 18.
Sylvia: I understand. Halos pareho lang tayo, I’m only 20.
(I understand, we’re almost the same age.)
Marian: Ako I’m hungry. . .
Rina: Bakit walang kandila? Ilan ba dapat?
(Why are there no candles? How many should there be?)
Marian: Masarap ang fried chicken, why don’t you try it?
(The fried chicken is delicious.)
Viewers go on about quotable movies—Salawahan should be transcribed and tweeted.