By Noel Orosa
in BusinessWorld 23 February 2016
IN THE late Ishmael Bernal’s 1978 masterpiece Ikaw Ay Akin, Teresita Valdez, the horticulturist played by Nora Aunor, unwittingly foreshadows the love triangle that she will soon be a part of as she explains to her long-time companion Rex Aguilar (Christopher de Leon), a sky diving jeepney factory owner, how to create her idea of the perfect orchid hybrid: “Gusto ko ang ganda ng orchid na ito. Pero gusto ko kasing laki ng orchid na ito.” (I like the beauty of this orchid. But I want it to be as big as that other orchid.)
Soon it is Rex trying to create the perfect hybrid relationship as he alternates his time between Tere and his new business partner — the neurotic, pill-popping Sandra Aragon (Vilma Santos).
In spite of her material wealth, Sandra feels like a beggar in love. Her father, a doctor who is always on his way to his “emergency calls,” which Sandra assumes to be appointments with numerous mistresses, never has time for her. Her only girlfriend shows little regard for Sandra as she embarks on an affair with Sandra’s father. Her suitor is a bore for whom she feels nothing.
Tere, on the other hand, is a millionaire in love. She has a father figure, Ramon, who genuinely cares for her. She has a lot of friends who are loyal to her. And she has Rex who keeps coming back to her even though he isn’t entirely faithful.
Rex, whom one assumes to be the typical chauvinist with an ego that can only be satisfied by a loyal harem, ironically turns out to be the female side of this triangle. He is the object of desire, a thing to be shared, the movie’s most passive character. He even reveals his feminine motivation for wanting to sustain this uncomfortable ménage à trois; he wants to combine the neediness of Sarah with the stoic strength of Tere because only then can he feel whole.