Kapag Langit Ang Humatol (1990)
At first glance, the story may look inane and stale. No question about women moviegoers and fans who eagerly lap up most soap operas indiscriminately. But the movie hasn't been very popular with a lot of film buffs, intellectuals and the movie press. The most criticized part of the movie is when the oppressed heroine, a housemaid (Vilma Santos), is locked up and chained in a barn when the mean, witch-like mistress of the hacienda (Gloria Romero at her wicked best) hears about her pregnancy, with no other than the dona's son (Richard Gomez) as the father-to-be.
Absurd! Incredible! Too lowbrow! These were the common complaints hurled against the movie, as though recent real-life incidents reported in the front pages about supposedly civilized masters in southern Philippines torturing their servants never happened.
That the script is filled with knots and tangles, compounded by intense, passionate and exag¬gerated situations, would seem to lend credence to the criticisms.
Fortunately, director Laurice Guillen has more faith in her material, more respect. For she has not only come up with a beautifully-photographed, well-edited and generally superbly-acted melodrama. She has also held up to us a mirror of the dreams and aspirations, the frustrations, suffer¬ing and uncomplicated lifestyle of the so-called masa.
Moments of the heroine's unmitigated oppres¬sion in the hands of her evil mistress is age-old reality in Philippine life and, quite logically, litera¬ture. Her soul nearly scarred by her excruciating, degrading experience, she somehow manages not only to survive but also to rise from her humble, bleak origins, when she leaves the hellhole and finds hope and rewards in the city.
In true melodramatic fashion, she plots out her revenge, but alas, even in carrying it out, she must pay dearly, nearly tragically.
Feminist observers may easily notice that in this picture - as in, they would say, Philippine society -it is the women who run things. They domineer and dominate, manipulating the men, even the men they love. True enough, from the very beginning, it is the mistress and her poor servant who move things, decide, and tell men what to do. It is they who plot out schemes and plan their destiny.
The same is true even with the minor characters, those played by Kristine Garcia (who virtually drags the farm stud into a stormy affair and pushes him to run away with her), Eula Valdez (who pulls the trigger that ends a chapter in the drama), Charo Santos (the single mother and self-made tycoon) and Carmina Villarroel (the young woman who tries to extricate herself from the mess which her quarreling mother and grandmother have created).
For their part, the men are pushed around, fooled and overtaken by events: the weakling lover (Gomez), the perpetually horny stablehand (Wil¬liam Lorenzo) and the young and rich heir (Jeffrey Santos).
All in all, it is a glossy and well-crafted movie, with marvelous performances by Ms. Santos and Ms. Romero. — Mario A. Hernando, from "Kibitzer," Malaya