Bakla, Bakla, Paano Ka Ginawa?
by Don Jaucian
Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington (2011)
D: Jade Castro
S: Martin Escudero, Kerbie Zamora, Lauren Young, John Regala, Eugene Domingo, Janice De Belen, Odette Khan, Roderick Paulate
There is this one scene in Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington where Daniel Fernando’s character harks about the threat homosexuals pose to the future of the country. A Philippine flag is seen just behind him while he continues to rant bitterly about a gay-free society, almost utopian, and just before he further drives the nail into the coffin, a passing marching band, decked in the most vibrant of colors, drowns out his voice, obscuring whatever’s left of his vile intentions and supposed righteousness. It is this scene that the flimsy heap of accusations and nitpicking on Zombadings miss, turning down every argument that Zombadings is an anti-gay film.
Dismissing the film as a medium that reinforces the ridicule and stereotyping of homosexuals proves a rather literal, low-minded viewing of the film, a belaboring approach that is hinged on an even flimsier outlook about the LGBT community and prejudices. Above all else, the curse on Remington (Martin Escudero) isn’t a sentence or “the worst thing that could ever happen to any person.” It is a lesson in empathy, a deserved comeuppance for his ridicule of homosexuals.
Veering off from that close-minded boxing, it’s actually overwhelming to watch Zombadings in a packed theater, a crowd brimming with a large percentage of gay men looking all sharp and dressed-up (if you opened your Grindr app in CCP that night, most guys online would have been within an inch away), all eagerly awaiting a film that took two years to make. Everyone broke into hysterical fits of laughter every time a punch line is delivered or when Remington flails, shrieks, gyrates, or even when he just raises his eyebrows. The UP Cine Adarna screening is of course famed for the recording of the audience’s shrieks during a particular scene in the movie, much like when it was intially screened in Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo in CCP. It is one full minute of screams and cheers, enough to give you a sense of what exactly the film is about. The jokes are delivered so fast, the audience’s response occasionaly drowns out the film’s sound.
Martin Escudero owns Zombadings. When he emerges out of their house wearing an ultra-tight blouse with the words “Hot Girl” on it, he sashays like a newly outed gay dude who just discovered the delights the world has to offer. His fingers flutter like a butterfly carnival, underscored by his deliciously flamboyant delivery of lines in gay lingo, a language that is an astounding proof of gay culture’s impact in our contemporary society.
Considering the issue about “the language of the learned” that’s currently brewing, we may argue that gayspeak may just as well be it. Within the span of two years that Zombadings was written, changes in the gayspeak lines of the movie were also made due to the language’s rapid evolution. Gayspeak assimilates global culture penetrating (no pun intended) each of its aspect. It’s hard not to adopt gayspeak in our everyday language, since every barkada has a beki who is a constant source of information and update on new words in Gayspeak.
It is in this aspect that Zombadings reinforces the role of gay men in our culture. A striking contrast with the ills that Daniel Fernando lists in his tirade, a perspective coming from a patriarchal macho standpoint. Zombadings shows us how our perception of manhood thrives in a macho understanding, with the slightest bent against this spectrum considered un-manly or gay. Remington lives in this kind of community, an environment where men are bums, lazily swigging gin in dusty shacks after work hours. So understandably, his targets are those who fit the mujerista stereotype of homosexuals, something that eventually lands him in the same pink slippers (complete with frilly laces and glittery colors, perhaps) via Roderick Paulate’s curse.
Paulate of course nails his character. Although he only appears in several key scenes in the movie, his status as one of the country’s most brilliant actors known for his gay roles is easily evident. They way he opens his mouth when he says his lines; the way he gropes Remington as if to trace their past sexual history; the way he closes his eyes in a fabulous, slow-mo fashion during a séance scene; the way he put a curse on Remington—these are all trademarks that we can only associate with Paulate.
Zombadings is a tribute to Paulate’s body of work as well as a venue for his fellow veteran co-stars (Janice De Belen, Odette Khan, Eugene Domingo, and John Regala) to make way for a new breed of actors donning iconic roles. And yes, Escudero’s Remington is as iconic as Paulate’s Petrang Kabayo (he still owns it despite Vice Ganda’s alleged bastardization) or Janice de Belen giving birth to an evil offspring.
Zombadings challenges our perceptions of homosexuality, particularly in this era where its definition is as slippery as a julansang fishlabelles. Just because a guy is not interested in manly sports (e.g. basketball and boxing) or hot girls doesn’t make him gay, and just because a guy seems to have spent 90 percent of his time in the gym does not make him straight. Our country’s straitjacketed, Catholicized ideals are slowly opening up to a wider acceptance of homosexuals, but there is definitely a long way to go before the word “bakla” isn’t used in a discriminatory and demeaning way.
Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington opens August 31 nationwide.