Locating the Literature Teacher in the Contemporary Age

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In this postmodern world, we are truly living already in the digital and technological era. Everything seems to be automatic that people would just need to chant a little spell and the work shall be done. Japan, for an instance, has already developed robots and other automated gadgets making the lives of people easier. There are now books read on tablets and smartphones instead of the traditional paperback and hardbound books. The internet almost provides everything—from how to plant a gumamela to the context and historical milieu of the works of Shakespeare. It seems that we just need to type some words and we will already have the answer.

There was a time that the time magazine featured the “you”–which is obviously us who are embraced by the technological era. We live in an era where information seems to expand and expand and connection between litterateurs across the world is easier. Information indeed is already given to us and we are the glad recipients of it. However, do we really maximize the use of this information open-handedly given to us? Or we just accept it but do not even rely on it?

In the Philippine setting, we are now experiencing technological advancements and globalization so fast that most of the time, we can’t almost keep up with it. There is the recent K-12 reformation of education that is detrimental to instructors and professors of general subjects and the humanities. This kind of system may be beneficial because it may help students, especially those who can’t continue until college, have a decent work. But on the other hand, instructors and professors might lose their jobs or they might be delegated to high schools teaching general courses. Of course, this could be a blow to them because they will be working in an environment which is new to them in whatever manner because there is a difference between college and high school education and students.

According to the recent 2012 Alexa rankings, the results presented that is the most visited website in the Philippines, followed by the search engines like and is now the best avenue of virtual socialization to find classmates from high school and elementary, to promote causes and business products, to share thoughts and opinions about current issues, and many more. It is already like a virtual space of its own, catering to the needs of its users by incorporating a lot of features that may hinder a person from not choosing Facebook. It has Notes and Document Uploads that enables people to share documents and information. It also has games that will surely entertain its users and also fan pages grouping people together with same interest(s). Truly, Facebook became an important avenue for people to render it as their own “virtual tambayan”.

With all of these being said, is there still a value for literature teachers in the age of Facebook, K-12, and of virtual and hyper realities? The question cannot be answered in a straightforward one-sentence explanation because all of the concepts present may be connected through the present global advancement but nevertheless, they are different in giving provenance to the teachers of literature in the present.

Literature Teachers in the Facebook Age

Facebook is a great site of information. Through Facebook, we can witness a lot of events that can’t be provided immediately by the media to us. The question is, how important is Facebook in the present age…and what makes Facebook not important or disadvantageous? Firstly, Facebook is important because it promotes “additional” connection. In this technological age, our smartphones enable us to connect with others wherever we are (unless there is no signal reception in the area) but now, it is capable of using the internet and help us to connect to Facebook. Here, students can connect with their professors and ask questions regarding their lessons or ask help from a lesson that they failed to understand properly.

Second, Facebook enables the use of groups. Students using the group system may interact with each other to create a virtual classroom of exchanging set of thoughts about their lessons. This system also enables a faster update when there are announcements regarding academic setting. Also, this system is effective and efficient because when students have additional questions regarding the announcement, everybody in the group can see the question asked and the answer given, avoiding people to ask the same question over and over again, promoting rapid dissemination of information. Because of this group system, students can interact in academic context rapidly and efficiently, maximizing the time outside the academic setting and contributing to time needed in the classroom for discussions. It is also important to note that a teacher can also create a group to upload important texts / hand-outs and for important announcements instantly connecting to almost every student handled with connection to the Facebook and the internet.

Third, the internet in general can provide study guides to students when they can’t understand a certain lesson or text. Especially in literature, some students are having a hard time grasping the theme of a certain story or the story’s event flow itself. There are many analysis guides and summaries provided in the internet that can aid the student in the further understanding of the text, enabling them to come extra prepared in class and promoting their ability to recite voluntarily or when called by the teacher.

Fourth, in connection with the third importance, there are many video sites that perform or enact short stories, poems, plays, or novels that also promote better and easier understanding because of the music and video accompaniment. Students may also use the film/s to promote critical thinking by comparing how events and situations were portrayed to the written text.

The disadvantages of Facebook seems to be obvious, or the internet itself. It primarily promotes laziness that some students won’t read literary texts anymore and rely on the summary or the analysis itself. It promotes reliance too much on technology that students nowadays are letting technology to control their will and mind. As the Philippines is not a reading nation, students would resort to anything that would make their lives easier by not reading much instead, just using the internet as an extension of their automated thinking. Truly, the internet is the information age but students who are embraced by laziness would not resort to reading long pieces of information and instead, just focus on summaries provided and some reviews given.

With these given, how is the literature placed as an important scholar in this technological age? The literature teacher has a very important value. The literature teacher can guide the students into further understanding of the texts by engaging the students into critical thinking, incorporating interesting notions about their environment, and assisting them into the answering of questions. It is enough to ask “what happened” but it is important to note, “why it happened.” Summaries may help the students but summaries are always limited to what the “summarizer” has provided. He may opt to leave important statements and facts that will be very important in the explication of any literary text. By focusing also into the little details in a literary selection, the literature teacher can help make the student understand that reading is also an important aspect because it enriches him more.

The main role of the literature teacher is not to teach literature but to encourage students to be interested in literature and to read literature. What is the point of teaching literature if no one’s interested? With the no-interest of the students expounded, they resort to things that would just make them pass instead of learning. In the “Faculty of Arts and Letters” unofficial fan page, there is a post there that a certain student doesn’t like literature—or even to read literature, until he met this literature professor that made him realize literature is fun and even beyond what he regards as a boring downpour of texts. He was inspired to read selections because the literature professor also relates the text into the everyday life, making him (and other students) realize something affective.

The literature teacher must also serve not only as an inspiration but as guidance. There might be times that students resort to the internet as a guide because they are afraid to go to their literature teachers for questions. Especially in a classroom setting, students are shy to answer whenever a teacher would ask, “Class, are there any questions?” Students would normally say “none” even though there are a lot of students with questions. The value of a literature teacher is to guide the student not only in the understanding of the text but to help him “how” to understand a text better which the internet cannot provide instantaneously. The literature teacher can guide a student by interviewing him how he read the text, how he understood the text, and why did he fail to grasp the main theme of the text. With this interview, the literature teacher can set his standards and way of teaching to the level of the students to further help them in being interested in literature.

Literature Teachers in the Age of K-12

At first, people were wondering what the use of K-12 is. It would be very hard to the students because it extends their pre-college life and many students are excited to experience college life and specialize on the program of their choice. However, DepEd emphasized that this program would be very beneficial to students and parents. It is evident primarily that there is an increasing hardship for parents to enroll their students to college. This results to students only finishing high school education and these students find it hard to seek jobs especially when they are already old. With the K-12 program, this enhances the capability of students learning education and increases their secureness of job even just after graduating high school.

Summarizing the benefits of K-12, it is centered on (1) solving the annual growth of out-of-school youth; (2) addressing the low achievement scores and poor academic performances in the elementary and high school education; (3) opening doors for more jobs for the youth even without college diploma; and (4) promoting the “professional” title of Filipinos even abroad. Given all these benefits, who wouldn’t like this system? This encourages people to study and finish high school and find a decent work afterwards. However, what would happen to the teachers especially in the field of general education and the humanities?

Primarily, there is hardly a literature education in the high school education. When I went to a birthday party of a close friend, a former classmate asked my program. I told her, “literature” and she retorted, “What is that?” I had to explain it thorough and ended up telling her that it is like, “AB English”. I wasn’t able to experience a decent literature education where we are required to read different short stories or numerous amounts of novels that would prepare us for having a literature degree sometime in the future. To be honest, during my stay in high school, I have only read one novel: The Giver by Lois Lowry, which is an important novel for us to read because we were required to write a critique paper for it. In conclusion, I wasn’t prepared for grasping literature in college, or rather; I am not prepared to take on a program on Literature. I have to thank my literature professors here in college that helped me to develop an interest in reading literature and appreciating them as an important form of educating our souls. Because of them, I am graduating soon with such degree.

Obviously, the K-12 program isn’t fully beneficial to literature teachers because they will only be able to teach major courses in literature and there is only one literature program even in the university, and only one section per year level. Generalist literature professors would have to specialize in one literary field to form an expertise rendering them able to teach major courses in literature. Some teachers of course would have to resort in teaching the general courses to high school students but perhaps it would be a competitive environment because of a massive amount of teachers being delegated to the high school. If this is the case, how is the literature teacher valued in this age?

Of course, the literature teacher is a very important element in high school education. As argued before, there is hardly a literature education in high school. With these literature teachers teaching literature in the high school, they can prepare the students in college and helping them to read important works in literature that helps them develop a consciousness of how important literature is and how it is situated in the present. Literature teachers can inspire students to read so that in the future, they will develop an interest in reading. It’s hard to teach students to read in the college because the college education expects them to have a due knowledge in grammar and vocabulary, as well as an extensive reading capability. With literature teachers in high school teaching general courses on literature, students would form an awareness what literature is and how literature is an embodiment of world and Philippine cultures.

Also, the literature teacher can serve as a consultant of literature in terms of what books can be suggested by the teacher according to the student’s interest of genre like romance, science fiction, or fantasy and of subject matter like student life, inspirational changes, and others. The literature teacher while teaching may use references to other literatures that may inspire a student to read such literature. For example, if the teacher is discussing a short story about romance, he or she can use other poems, novels, short stories, or plays with the same topic and give a gist that would entice the readers in reading it. Truly, this aspect of a literature teacher is very important and must not be disregarded.

Lastly, the literature teacher serves as a promoter of liberalism in education. The literature teacher is able influence students studying different matters in literature freely, also promoting consciousness not only in the literary world but also in the current issues of the world. Also, the literature professor helps the student in appreciating art and its variants helping the student on the value of art in the world and how it is a representation of many interpretations in the world.

Literature Teacher in the Age of Virtual and Hyper Realities

Truth be told, people nowadays are incorporating the virtual world as part of their lives. Some people might even say that they cannot live without the internet. Hyper realities distort our image of what is truly a reality and confuses us on how should we view the reality. Primarily, literature is also embedded with themes of hyper reality (close is, the fantasy genre) and people tend to love it because it explores something beyond the reality: beyond what our body and our eyes can handle. However, we are already viewing much of the world with a fantasy—the world is now being controlled by technology that what seemed to be impossible is now possible in the present, and maybe even in the future.

In this virtual world, people are spending more time in being with it rather than reading literature. People just download movies and television shows from the internet and marathon-watch it rather than staying in one corner of the room reading novels of Austen, Flaubert, or Hugo. The virtual world made entertainment more interesting: games now are more interactive like the Wii which uses the physical and present body of a person to play a game. Simply put, people nowadays like to enclose themselves in a physical hyperspace rather than travelling through reading books.

Even until the present time, a lot of libraries still conform to the traditional—that is, the library as a place for studying and reading. The library houses a lot of books categorized as a form of literature that students can freely read. However in the present, libraries seem to be just a place where students who need to accomplish an academic assignment stay to research; and not stay for pleasure reading. Some students also sleep and just use their laptops to browse websites of their liking without really maximizing the use of the library for pleasure reading and desire for information. Again, libraries are already being taken over by a virtual reality.

With many people indulging themselves with the virtual entertainment, what could be the role of literature teachers? How is their value determined in this virtual age where people are already living in a hyperspace immune to literature? Primarily, literature teachers themselves can participate in the virtual lives of the students by incorporating literature and the virtual arena. Simply put, combining the usage of literature and the virtual world. There are many films that are imbued with literary importance and suggesting them to students would prove very useful not only inspiring entertainment but also imparting knowledge. Secondly, create a virtual world for literature itself: encourage students to incorporate themselves in a reality or a fantasy in the virtual world using literary works. For example, why not create a community of lovers of romance novels and help them explicate the themes of romance novels to inspire students? Though this would be hard and perhaps, late already, there is still a chance to reform on how literary educators affect the students in the virtual world. Lastly, the literature teacher can serve as a moral and affective educator: why indulge in something virtual when you can find a greater reality, an imaginative reality reading books? That, through books, you can go beyond the windows of your own room—flying infinitely to the skies of unseen and unheard places, listening to merry music caused by pipes resonating within you—and finding yourself that you are a person and a student of the reality and not of the hyper reality or the virtual world.

Locating the Literature Teacher in the Contemporary Age

With all the fuss of the contemporary age affecting the literature teaching, it all goes down the literature teacher being an inspiration and an aspiration. The literature teacher serves as a beacon of light guiding the students to the path of what is right and what would be beneficial to them. The world without a literature teacher is like a world without anyone to guide you in your travels. It’s hard to travel without a guide or knowledge where you would like to travel and how to travel for an instance. You will be lost and disinterested in continuing the travelling life you would like to pursue.

Is there a need to map the location of a literature teacher in the digital, information, modernized, and technological age? Apparently, there is no need because the literature teacher himself is still present and valued (and needed) despite many hindrances to the students’ learning of literature. The literature teacher himself is the manifestation of the need for literary education. A literature teacher, though however shadowed by the modernity of the contemporary age, still exists and their value is of high importance. They continue to serve the students in educating them with different literary thoughts that would surely help them as they move on with their lives. It is true that literature is of a low unit value compared to the sciences. However, it is undeniable that those students guided by literature and literature teach know how to function more in life: because they had more experience in travelling and in knowing.

Sexing the Nation: Articulating the Female Representation  in Ishmael Bernal’s “Lagi Na Lamang Ba Akong Babae”

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It has become an obvious notion that films were regarded as a window to reality, or that it is a manifestation of reality fed on fantasy. The onset of many waves of directors gave way to multiple ages of film appreciation varying from the heavily censored film to the film that found its way through liberation and emancipation. In actuality, films catered into many aspects that did not center only on the intention of the filmmaker; as films are constantly affected by different contexts that force it to appear as a final commodity ready to be consumed by the people. There was a time in the history of Philippine film that filmmakers only followed what tended to be favored by the people or what is sure to be a “box-office hit” rather than plotting their own way to commercial and aesthetic success (or the non-commercial success, paved the way to the artistic maneuvering of the film as eligible for prestigious filmic awards)2.

Because of the reign of films only being classified as either commercial or non-commercial, films only gained a one-sided appreciation in the form of awards or in the form of monetary basis3. Films that were commercial will win no award possibly, but it catered so much to the public that it was accepted and rendered as a “maganda” or that which has an aesthetic quality because of the effects undergoing a superfluous reception by the mass audience. This is of course, against the formalist trend in the fallacy of affectivity which dictates that the effect of any medium, here in the form of a film, should not be a basis in the appreciation of the film’s quality but it should focus on the content solely4. The non-commercial one, on the other hand, is the film that goals to gather numerous awards but is often not winning any box-office because the audience wasn’t able to either understand it or the appreciate it because it did not fully cater to their expectations or as to what their consciousness wanted the film to appear as. Lacaba stressed that this is due to the onset of commodification and consumerism that he attacks the notion of the non-existence of the bakya5 crowd and articulated that there is actually what is called this type of crowd, that can also be coined as the “mass” crowd that affects the film industry at a great extent6. The ironic notion is that, the “mass” crowd is not filled with the reigning people, or the people of the upper class as a general notion people would think if associated with “popular culture” as articulated by Isagani Cruz’ essay, “Ang Kabastusan ng mga Pilipino.” The bakya crowd is actually a powerful class that did not need to struggle for any class ascension because they controlled the media already, and the power that were construed by them is the quantifiable aspect, not in complete quality. The notion of the non-existence of the bakya crowd according to some producers can be concluded that the power of the bakya crowd makes itself unknown, or to be non-existent7.

As articulated earlier, censorship also became an avenue of the many changes that a film can absorb. Censorship cannot be dismissed as a timeless office, or that which is not susceptible to changes depending on the context and milieu. In fact, historically, films and literature gained different censorships throughout time starting from Rizal’s two novels that were both published by the foreign press8. Censorship changed through time varying from the extreme way of censoring that even limited the display of violence and gore, to the films that paved the way to be an “escapist” trend that featured fantasies of the bakya crowd in the sexual world. Censorship became an intermittent challenge to many filmmakers that most of their works were devoid of its intended meaning, just like Bernal’s “City After Dark” which is originally named as Manila By Night but was renamed through the office of censorship because it went against the conception of Imelda Marcos’ “City of Man.”

Females were subject to different representations in the film history of the Philippines. The surge of bomba9 films undoubtedly objectified women as a commodity that is being catered to many male gazes and perverted minds. Women protruded their breasts as if it is a normal thing to be projected to the people, and spent sexual acts with male on the screen, arousing the audience with its titillating scenes. These type of films, of course, became only an avenue of the imagination that resisted reality, or that wanted reality to appear as such10. The Hispanization of the Philippines also gave way to the locking up of the female persona as the Birheng Maria, revealed through the power of Philippine machismo. In the history, it is portrayed that women served as the initiator of Christianity in the Philippines by the time the wife of Raja Humabon accepted the “Sto Nino” given by Magellan symbolic of the acceptance of the conversion of religion as well. Due to this “progenitor” mentality that was forcefully attached and then equipped by the Filipinos, women were boxed into the representation of the suffering one, or the women who cannot portray herself against the machismo culture, were she her attributes center on Christianity—chastity, perseverance, humility, and the like11. But even in this films, there is a discrimination among women, centering on many aspects of beauty, class struggle, and social relationships. In class struggle, we see the oppressive nature of the society that dictates the pauper as a female that waits her prince to be saved from the misery of poverty12 . Beauty almost prioritizes that which is not exoticized as a Filipino but rather casts women of American origin embodied in the persona of Gloria Romero. But the notion of film-makers should be also taken into consideration that film-makers were exclusively male during the 70s and that most of the crowd to be catered are also male, because of the machismo nature of the Philippines. Thus, it does not merit that a female should be nice or harboring exclusive qualities of being industrious or such, as even mirrored in Ishmael Bernal’s Pagdating sa Dulo (1972), everything is rooted for the fame and money. If the cast of Bernal’s film would appear as a woman deprived of what is culturally constructed as beautiful for the Filipinos during the 70s, no one would watch it (hyperbolically, as some would for unknown reasons) because it does not cater to the desire of the bakya crowd that a woman should embody beauty. The absence of a Caucasian blood deters a star from being casted for a major role, as those who have a native blood are more on the side of being comedians, just like how we make fun of the contemporary comediennes like Kakay, Pokwang, and others. The machismo culture of the Philippines centers completely on the idea of beauty to be of surfacial value, or that regards the value of the body greater than the personality13.

These being said, the paper does not goal, however, to be an in-depth study of the films that attack the femininity of the women during the 70s. This paper goals to form the constructed representation of women and how they are seen as objects of the oppressed, that originated from the many years of colonization by the Spaniards. This will construct as well on how the bakya crowd became the primary constructors of filmic appreciation of a certain film. This paper would focus on Ishmael Bernal’s “Lagi Na Lamang Ba Akong Babae” in which the title itself questions the construction of female identity or that which envelops the stereotype of femaleness. This paper would both analyze the surface value (or what is then projected visually) and then the substance or that which is being presented by actions or scenes in the film.

Man as the Locus of Innocence


Fig. 1

The start of the film portrayed the anger of a wife because of her husband’s pambababae or search for a mistress. The anger of the wife of course intensifies with her words like “papatayin kita” or her desire to kill the mistress. In figure 1, we can see the husband stopping his wife from making any war even it is the man who first came in contact with the female. We can clearly see here how the man is imbued with much innocence that instead of him being the one punished for his wrongdoings, it is the mistress because of the faulty assumption of female seduction clustering into the male’s mind—that, the husband was only tempted by the provocative looks of the female and the anger of the wife intensifies clearly because of jealousy and insecurity that her husband is unable to look at her that way. This is a clear picture of what Virginia Woolf characterizes as female relations not embedded through harmony but always on social conflicts (deterred from lesbianism).

The Rural and Innocent Female


Sexing the Nation: Articulating the Female Representation  in Ishmael Bernal’s “Lagi Na Lamang Ba Akong Babae”

Fig. 2

Even in the present time, it is the rural female we always see as somehow innocent or embodying a “Maria Clara” projection. It is true if we consider its implications that the Filipino women were seen as the acceptors of Christianity that instigated the machismo and Catholic culture of the Philippines. Because of this, we first see the manifestation of rurality which is very pre-colonial in nature as people were devoid of fully civilized life (as compared today) because of their savage nature and preference for the worship of deities and false gods (totems or idols). In Figure 2, we see the protagonist female carrying a batya, which characterizes her as a typical woman who washes clothes in the river. But the irony lies primarily that Alma Moreno here looks partly Caucasian, or that which is the harbinger of beauty. We see this in contemporary films that beautiful women are just turned into ugly being (e.g. Anne Curtis in Kampanerang Kuba) because it still lies with the mass crowd their preference for the lead role despite any ugly rendition made to their favorite star. The figure shows as well the innocence of the protagonist as she watches the rage of the wife from Figure 1 that she looks so innocent and deprived from any sexual perversions which is perhaps only on the surface as the substance is not yet portrayed.

Feminizing Roles

Sexing the Nation: Articulating the Female Representation  in Ishmael Bernal’s “Lagi Na Lamang Ba Akong Babae”

Fig. 3

One of the problems of the Philippines is that Filipinos tend to associate roles based on gender. Again, this is to blame to machismo culture that triumphs into the notion that male should do what is categorized as hard labor, and that the female should do what is associated with house works. Children will be used to the notion that teachers should be female as many teachers are really female, and some male teachers are homosexuals that leads to a construction of notion that what is rendered to be a teaching job should be exclusively female, and that if ever, a male would assume such role, he is reduced to his homosexual sense. In Bino Realuyo’s “The Umbrella Country,” we see the image of the yantok as a “straightener” or that which is the one responsible for transforming soft boys into real men, or how Daddy Groovie (the father in the novel) construes the maleness of a boy. In the Philippine setting, gender roles are constructed based on the roles people assume. Even the same novel constructs Estrella (the mother) as weak, silent, and unresisting because of her role as a wife. Figure 3 presents Alma Moreno as a waitress, which is typical jobs for female. We can even see on websites such as that there are seldom jobs that require “Male Only” or even dormitories and apartments requiring “Male Only” tenants. Some cellphone sellers in the website attaches the label “lady-owned” to gadgets. This is not to fully say that females are empowered or rendered to be fully glorified in a sense. This is to say, sadly, the weakness of female—devoid of any strength or voiced resistance. Alma Moreno’s female gender as a waitress does not empower her, but rather buries her into the notion that she is not a resisting one, that male employers would find their Alma Moreno not resisting or easy to be controlled, that the men who needs to be services would find it easier to command Alma Moreno to get this and that for them. That, in its most absolute sense, females are associated with the house works—a typical maid or muchacha. The female is associated with such that it’s easier to order the woman to do jobs with due obedience. In fact, after this scene in this figure, the manager caresses Alma Moreno’s hand before she hands the change to the customers, and then another set of customers flirt with her but she is unable to resist because as a maid to her employer, it is considered to be “rude” to do any resistance or when you do, you are gonna be unemployed.

The waitresses in the restaurant are as well all thin, not because they are just the sole manifestation of beauty but because thinness equate to weakness, and then equal to obedience14. Obviously, thinness is also a manifestation of slight sexiness which is needed by the employer himself through his wandering gazes, as well as the customers. We can see that the body politics present in a restaurant actually matters, that it is not just a straightforward assumption that they need to be thin because they’ll be able to move properly. It is that the female body is commodified and appears to be a site of sexual pleasure for all males in the restaurant space. The female thinness serves many roles which are often unseen or subliminal in messages because it is only through the fixation of male gazes and perversion that the messages are then unraveled. We cannot, however, opt to force the female to design her own image because it will take courage and independence to do so, and so the female herself is forced to go with the flow of how the society sees her—a sexual meat15.

Bottom Woman

Sexing the Nation: Articulating the Female Representation  in Ishmael Bernal’s “Lagi Na Lamang Ba Akong Babae”

Fig. 4

During sexual intercourse, we can always see that females are receptors of pain—that they accept it by putting herself as the “bottom” which is a sex position in general terms, or that which is being penetrated by the man’s power. In terms of pain however, the female was able to experience many harrowing points of pain come her menstruation (dysmenorrhea) even the unnatural ones like plucking the armpit hairs, wearing high-heeled shoes, and such are manifestations of pain for they are the preparation for the higher types of pain a woman will experience when she will be able to make love and have a family16. It is ironic, of course, as to why women is pleasured less when it is her who experience much pain. The idea is that the roles of females during sex is already fixed, already etched in the history of all histories, that women are the recipient of that manhood, the one being entered, the one receiving the pain greater than all the sets of pain she was able to experience, for it is a horror when the male assume the female role, that it humiliates the male prestige and the female identity17.

In Figure 4, Alma Moreno is being kissed all over by her man, but she is just there unresisting. She idealizes the power of being the bottom, sunk down from the deepest part of the sexual world. She accepts the man knowing that because she is sunk to the bottom, the man becomes her idealization of reaching the top—the climactic point of achieving her prestige as a woman, wanted by the male ones. She does not embody the female aggressiveness, the female who is excited to be penetrated or to receive a blow of man’s love. Alma Moreno here embodies the passive female of embodying a certain weakness. The problem here is that Alma Moreno can resist, can be the one to initiate the sexual intercourse, but she is encaged in the mentality of femaleness, on how culture was able to portray the male subversion of female’s mind towards sex, that she is to accept everything, because sex is not a form of pleasure, but a form of power, of authority, of the masking of the female persona into a weaker woman to accept the colonizer of her very own femaleness18. This is not to say that the female is but a role-player, but this is to emphasize that the female sensibility is so corrupted by the inception of machismo that she is using the past or history as her own way of sealing of feminine fate, which goes against Anzaldua’s notion in her book, “Borderlands/La Frontera” of forgetting the past (which is because of the Aztec conquest of Hernan Cortes to Malinalli or Malinche, that the female identity of the colonized or the female who submitted are rendered as puta, in the case of Malinche, “The Great Puta”)

The Human Mannequin

Sexing the Nation: Articulating the Female Representation  in Ishmael Bernal’s “Lagi Na Lamang Ba Akong Babae”

Fig. 5

In the malls, mannequins are displayed with such sexiness and emphasis on its breast size to entice the female to look like them, to be like these mannequins who are so white and thin, and perfect that they want to be them that they want to replace their bodies with a mannequin one. This mentality is obviously straightforward or garnering critical opinions of high negations, however if the implications of the female dream towards sexiness and perfection is twisted, it is as if they want to venture on being a mannequin. A Korean-Pop Group, “SNSD” or Girls Generation had a music video for their song, Gee. The music video started with them displayed as mannequins then they danced with their music after. Obviously, they were displayed as mannequins because they are the embodiment of beauty and perfection, that they are the supreme idea of sexiness they want to be seen—the mannequin of femaleness. But the mannequin should not always be resorted to the mentality of a female towards her selfish motive, because there is a time that male themselves transform the woman into a mannequin by objectifying them as a form of clothes they wear, a watch they flash, or just basically, a human-size figure they want to boast to the people.

In Figure 5, Alma Moreno is actually dressing up and already combing her hair when her man went to her and told her why is she wearing such thing. Alma Moreno challenges herself and the world of course to truly see her as who she is, an attempt to display her own way on how she wants to be seen by the people which is equated to her own triumphant goal as a woman19. However, when her man went upstairs, he forces her to change what she wears, because this is obviously an idealization of the man’s desire to display Alma Moreno according to his likes, to render her as a mannequin to show to his friends because they are having a drinking session and he wants to exclaim to his friends regarding this “girlfriend” who is controlled and hopelessly manipulated by her man. Alma Moreno, using a simple dress and simple look to project herself to be natural is already beautiful, that she is already superb and breathtaking, but it is not according to her man’s standard as she is lacking, that she needs to go beyond the beauty that she had constructed, or that she have to succumb to the construction of beauty by her man20. The problem lies in the aspect that the woman is always subject to the gaze of the man, that she needs to adhere to beauty as not what she thinks but as to what the men thinks, as afterall, it’s safe to assume that Alma Moreno lives in a men’s world. The female mentality is then subverted to male control that she is truly a mannequin, a plastic, or a Barbie doll being continuously played by men. In this context, how can we problematize then, on how the female mentality is actually working when stripped away from the dehumanizing gaze and culture of machismo21?

Sexing the Nation: Articulating the Female Representation  in Ishmael Bernal’s “Lagi Na Lamang Ba Akong Babae”

Fig. 6

This scene (Figure 6) from the film projects another “mannequinfication” of the female identity where is treated as a show. She projects herself to be beautiful and to be enticing to the men and she does her best to prove that she’s worthy to be brought back home for sexual gratification. She is being debased, however, that she is becoming a puppet or a circus show, a carnival girl that dances like an animal. Her costume even adheres to a leopard print, which is exotic or that can be seen in the wild safaris that constitutes her wild image dancing. She projects numerous images and like photographs, scattering them to the audience to be able to judge what would they see fit as a form of entertainment for them.

In this regard, we can see how the women are exoticized like safari girls or amazons who are hunted. They are animals who cannot even bare fangs but at the certain extent, fully are under the power of these male personae categorized as colonizers who are hunting these women to become their prized possessions, and to finally render them as a collective piece that they can display to people. Though inherent or intrinsic into a machismo power, the authority does not fully exclaim ownership, but it is power, or the ability to emancipate the woman from her savage mentality, or the ability of the man to strip the woman from her wild ways in order to be unresisting, in order to be fully maximized by the man through sex and pleasure—which is yes, very wild.

Hierarchical Classification of Femininity

Sexing the Nation: Articulating the Female Representation  in Ishmael Bernal’s “Lagi Na Lamang Ba Akong Babae”

Fig. 7

In Figure 7, we can see Alma Moreno just staring, absorbing what her man continuously saying about her. In this scene, we actually hear from the man, “Babae ka lang, probinsyana pa. Ano ba ang kaya mong gawin?” (You’re just a woman, and rural girl even. What can you possibly do?). The notion is that the vague message of being “just a woman” is instilling that it is hard to construe what it means to be a woman. In the male psyche, the man has already defined femininity according to his beliefs, or to his sense of constructing the femaleness. Perhaps he constructed it as just a sexual object, a bearer of children and nothing more. She is just a condom that after its usage has been maximized, it is nonetheless thrown away and not reusable. The man inhibits the costume of wearing the uniform of authority—of a police, an army officer, a lieutenant, or a general. He enforces his own consciousness of power, and maximizing it to make a woman bereft of her own sexual consciousness and the only way to liberate herself from this evil is to strip the man his uniform, to remove his machismo thinking, and to strip is patriarchal notoriety away from him, which is deemed to be impossible and like a broken bridge, impassable—to the extent of denial of entry or authority in the first place to do so22. First, we problematize the definition of being a woman, and then we also problematize the definition of being a woman from the rural area. In actuality, both of these terms are neutral and do not actually render one’s identity to be degraded. But it is the man who constructed the notion of degradation and he is incapable of doing so because he has the authority, and authority is associated with the construction of most of the things in our lives like laws from the ancient times bordering from the lands of Hammurabi.

In this sense, we return to the politics of the body that the female is just a basic commodity in which labels are erroneously attached. The female body is just a vessel in which the patriarchal order constructs on how it will become a woman. By default, we see the female as a person, but in this twisted patriarchal ideology, the female body is but an object in which he attaches label such as beautiful, rural, urban, and even “woman.” But in this regard, however problematized even in the recurring centuries of patterned female oppression, there is nothing revolutionary or resistance involved where the female body is under control, because even the countries we have are regarded as mother, as well as nature, people exploit it, control it, colonize it with ideas and oppressive authority as the female body is where the flag of patriarchy is erected in full glory23. Thus, the hierarchy of the female is pinned down to the bottom just like in a sex position, that it is constantly a low class level or authority, or no authority at all, that it’ll always stay at the bottom deprived of any hierarchical power.

Conclusion: Women are Women

Sexing the Nation: Articulating the Female Representation  in Ishmael Bernal’s “Lagi Na Lamang Ba Akong Babae”

Fig. 8

In the certain aspect, women are always women—and that line depends on who views it. Feminists will have a different view, while male will have their other view as well. The film depicts one of the most important parts of the film in which the female will always be subjected to her man, as much as this scene, Figure 8, will always be picturing the weakness of female power. It will always be therefore, that the woman’s sensibility be forged through her own ways, that she needs to wake up and fight for her self—to speak for herself and the greater human goal, as if she suppress her voice even further, she will never be emancipated by the colonizing power of male patriarchy24.

1. This is a paper required for our Literary Theory class in my undergraduate. This paper has been haphazardly done for only an hour and 30 minutes (excluding fully watching the film, reading sources, etc) and it may appear trashy. I will be revising this in the future. 
2. Jose F. Lacaba, “Movies, Critics, and the Bakya Crowd,” in Readings in Philippine Cinema, ed. Rafael Ma. Guerrero, (Manila: Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1987), 176
3. Ibid
4. William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley, “Affective Fallacy,” in Norton Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism, ed. Vincent Leitch, (New York: Norton, 2001), 1232-1261
5. Bakya crowd is also called a mass crowd or the crowd that has a cultural taste and level differing from the crowd that appreciates true aesthetic qualities of a film.
6. Jose F. Lacaba, Movies, Critics, and the Bakya Crowd, 177
7. Guy Debord. Society of the Spectacle, trans. David Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 2006), 129
8. Guillermo De Vega, Film and Freedom: Movie Censorship in the Philippines. (Manila: Self-published, 1975), 6
9. Softcore pornography
10. Petronillo Bn. Daroy, “Social Significance and the Filipino Cinema,” in Readings in Philippine Cinema, ed. Rafael Ma. Guerrero, (Manila: Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1987), 97
11. Rafael Ma. Guerrero, “Tagalog Movies: An Understanding,” in Readings in Philippine Cinema, ed. Rafael Ma. Guerrero, (Manila: Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1987), 114
12. Ibid
13. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 152
14. Ibid, 187
15. Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch (London: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2002), 165
16. Andrea Dworkin, Woman Hating (New York: Penguin Books, 1974), 115
17. Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch, 287
18. Ibid, 293
19. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth, 290
20. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth, 177
21. Ibid, 76
22. Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch, 335
23. Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born (New York: Norton, 1995)
24. Ibid