Last night’s World Premiere goes to show that we still care about our arts, our culture and its legacies. This restoration by ABS CBN makes us remember an age where an unparalleled culture of fandom and rivalry were the real main events. With brilliant direction from Danny Zialcita and an ever-engaging screenplay by Portia Ilagan, T-BIRD AT AKO (1982) is a testament of the beauty and promise we had had during the second Golden Years of Philippine Cinema.
Despite its stance on homosexuality, this film is arguably a manifesto of a time where social norms and morality were still limited and oppressive. Sylvia (Aunor) chose the common path. She, in the end, untied her ponytails, and ran into Jake’s (Abuel) open arms. Had it been made today, T-BIRD AT AKO would likely have had a more unconventional ending. Sylvia might fight for Isabel (Santos), or better yet, let her go. But she’ll continue to happily explore her new-found identity on her own.
From a 20th century perspective, viewing this Zialcita classic made me rejoice and appreciate how we, as a people, a nation and a consciousness, have emerged from such oppressive and limiting norms. As a people, we have embraced the ever-widening spectrum of gender, and have somehow accepted that preference is relative, and love — ever-bending.
It is a happy thought to realize how fiercely and bravely we are changing!
Let’s get one thing straight, though — Looking for relevance in a Zialcita film is like looking and waiting for a supernova in a glance. It is coincidental, if not impossible. His plots are bended, his characters absurd, and his themes on infidelities are usually flawed and laughable. He touched on the issues of domesticity, while experimenting on the complex psychology of romance. Take for example LANGIS AT TUBIG (1980) and GAANO KADALAS ANG MINSAN? (1982). Here, Zialcita brings to us the unfaithful, wanting husband who would sooner or later get the nod from his wife in an implausible agreement. In NAGALIT ANG BUWAN SA HABA NG GABI (1983), who would forget the seemingly endless nights when Delza de Joya (Laurice Guillen), would sleep husbandless in her bed knowing that her other half is with another woman? How could we empathize with her when the morning comes and the husband returns to play the pretentious loving husband and father? The husband (usually played by the great and dashing Dindo Fernando), would continue with his liaisons, while enjoying the permission only a wife in a Zialcita film could give. It is unreal, pathetic, and depressingly anti-woman. These are the sacrifices that we willingly swallow for the sake of melodrama.
But who cares?! These are the stories and characters that make us go to the movies. Filipino entertainment has always embraced the trivial and pathetic, and Zialcita has conquered a great many followers. Also, his approach to filmmaking makes all the difference. His remarkable choreographed blocks, his contemplated edits, and his farcical characters create a repertoire of films that is worth a box set. And did I mention his crispy and staggering lines that set the surreal mood for melodrama? The stichomythias in his films have crossed the borders of wit and sarcasm. His satirical punchlines are already celebrations on their own! Zialcita, by just simply being him, had mastered the art of spectacle. It is in these cinematic forms that made us turn our heads, listen, look and follow.
One director and a screenwriter, today, have attempted to relive one of his works in the 80s. It was a brave attempt, but one can never reshape the work of a genius. His superficiality is his own. None can never parallel with that. The best that we can have, at this age, is to restore its original material and commemorate the glory that was Zialcita.
The remastered version of Danny Zialcita’s T-BIRD AT AKO is clearly something that we can be proud of. At an age of total enlightenment, we no longer need to know who’s better between Aunor and Santos. What matters now is that we have a film we can return to, so we can once again, embrace the magic of cinema and understand why it continually touches our lives. Apart from a salute to a director, who has once graced our taste and tickled our sensitivities as Filipinos, it is also a celebration of two great actresses who will ceaselessly make us smile every time we wonder what magic they have that makes us submit to their bidding.
Mabuhay si Nora Aunor!
Mabuhay si Vilma Santos!
Mabuhay si Danny Zialcita!
Mabuhay ang Pelikulang Pilipino!!!