I spent Saturday night to Monday at home in Bulacan, enjoying the rare times when I get to enjoy my own bed and just vegetate around the house. A main preoccupation, of course, was the tv. Curiously, over those two days I came across three Filipino references in various films:
- Grosse Pointe Blank, starring John Cusack and Minnie Driver. John Cusack plays an assassin-for-hire (or, as he put in, “professional killer”). Fellow hitman Dan Aykroyd tries to recruit him to an association of killers, through which all “contracts” will be channeled, to avoid, um, overlaps, and possible drive up the contract price. John Cusack asks who the members are, and Dan Aykroyd mentions, among others, the “butch Filipino lady” (though I forgot whether he said “Filipino” or “Filipina”). John Cusack recognizes her, apparently her technique is to pose as a chambermaid and stab her victims to death.
- The Path to 9/11, starring Harvey Keitel. I didn’t watch the whole thing, but apparently it’s an ABC TV documentary about the intelligence screw-ups – er – developments – leading up to the 9/11 terrorist attack. Years before 9/11, one of the terrorists did a practice bomb run on a Manila-Cebu-Japan flight, smuggling explosives on the plane, disembarking at Cebu and setting up the explosives to go off when the plane is en route to Japan. Much later, back in Manila, an accidental fire in the terrorists’ apartment led to the discovery of a laptop containing evidence of terrorist plans which were later on identified to have led to the World Trade Center attacks. The Filipino police, led by a female captain, rummage through the apartment. “O, laptop. Buksan mo yan, tingnan natin ang laman.” “Hindi ba natin kailangan ng warrant dyan?” asks an underling. “Kukuha tayo,” the captain assures him. “Sige, buksan mo na.” The female captain’s efforts, which led to the disbanding of the Manila terrorist cell, impress the hell out of Harvey Keitel. Somebody points out that if it had happened in the US, the evidence in the laptop would not have been admissible.
- Let’s Go to Prison, starring the screwed-up brother from “Arrested Development” (hilarious film, really, in a there’s-nothing-else-to-do-so-we-might-as-well-watch-it kind of way). In the beginning of the film, the lead actor suffers an asthma attack, discovers that his inhaler has mysteriously run out (long story), runs wildly into a drugstore and rummages through the shelves in panic. The elderly couple who own the place mistake him for a burglar. “Honey, kunin mo yung baril!” “Putangina!” “This location sucks!” Lead actor ends up, where else, in prison.
Unlike “Desperate Housewives” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” these films were not hounded by controversy and accused of insulting Filipinos or whatever. Not that the Filipino portrayal in these films were very flattering, either, but I guess it can go either way. In the context of Grosse Pointe Blank, the “butch Filipino lady” was very cool and was up there in the ranks of professional assassins; on the other hand, does she have to play a chambermaid, and therefore perpetuate the stereotype of Pinay domestic helpers? The female police captain in The Path to 9/11 (which I’m assuming is a real person) was quite gutsy, if albeit a little unmindful of legal procedures. The drugstore owners in Let’s Go to Prison were very excitable and apparently did not have sense enough to recognize a man having a medical emergency (and anyway they looked Korean, ha ha), but you have to admit they’re quite gutsy too, brandishing that rifle and all, and besides, in the course of their rantings one will gather that there have been a lot of robberies in the area and they’re just putting their foot (feet?) down.
Ultimately, in spite of this pseudo-analytical rundown, I just ended up being amused by the sudden “Filipino” appearance in those films. And anyway, as they say in Avenue Q, everyone’s a little bit racist – sometimes, and you’ll be exhausted if you get all riled up by every little slur, imagined or otherwise. You just have to know how to recognize when something is really offensive, and when you’re just nitpicking. What’s the point of this post, then? Nothing, really. Just wanted to post some trivia. Watch out for those scenes in case you come across it. I saw Let’s Go to Prison in HBO, Grosse Pointe Blank in StarWorld (I think), and The Path to 9/11 in M-net.
All together now:
“Everyone’s a little bit racist
But everyone is just about
As racist as you!
If we all could just admit
That we are racist a little bit,
And everyone stopped being
Maybe we could live in –