Tuesday, April 15, 2014


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Release Date:  1966
Production:  VP Pictures
Direction:  Jose de Villa
Stars:  Gloria Romero, Lolita Rodriguez, Luis Gonzales, 
Blanca Gomez, Gina Pareno, Ramil Rodriguez, Edgar Salcedo
(Movie ad courtesy of Simon Santos, Video 48)

by Ophelia San Juan

Film Review:  How Does One Forget Lolita Rodriguez?
(The Weekly Nation Magazine, 1966)

PAANO KITA LILIMUTIN, like a rhetorical question, is asked of no one in particular, and the film remains without a particularly unforgettable narrative point.  When the question of memorableness is asked of Lolita Rodriguez, however, the answer is:  there is no possible way to forget her in movies, since she turns every portrayal into an acting bid for honors that makes all other actresses worthy of the fourth or fifth place to her.

In film after film, this competent and thoroughly professional actress had done more than justice to every kind of roles she has rendered scintillating what are ordinary sentimental parts, and rescued from shameful muddledness the ill-conceived characterizations that had come her fortunate, glittering way.
In Fine Forms

She is once more in fine form in Paano Kita Lilimutin, a melodrama that unabashedly and successfully plays for every tear a moviegoer (and a notoriously sentimental scriptwriter such as Pablo S. Gomez) is good for, and her sterling presence makes for the accompanying box-office names' appearing like decorative gold-plated stars.  The film directed by Jose de Villa is a soap opera (authored by Aning Bagabaldo and aired over DZRH at a time when housewives are most prone to moon over lunch a-cooking) whose suds are wrung from endless bars of domestic deterioration; the cloud of dirt it washes away is one of motherly misunderstanding, and its detergent action is directed largely against unfeeling off-spring.  As the mother snowed under by fate's rubbish heap and her daughter's pile of ambitions, Lolita Rodriguez turns in a performance that is notable chiefly for the character it carries despite its load of tears.

Even her name (Dolor) is at once lachrymosely lovely, and from there on Lolita Rodriguez proceeds to weave a tapestry of screen sorrow that is at once beautiful, beguiling, and believable.  Spurned by the callous cad who had begotten her child, Dolor Mendoza stabs him in righteous rage while still in her pregnant condition, and gives birth to the ogle-worthy Olga (Gina Pareno) while in prison.  She is paroled after years that permanently scar her with justifiable bitterness against man's injustice -- a tender spot in her armor of secretiveness that she carries to her grandfather's barrio home where she has gone with her small daughter to live, hidden from the prying eyes of the sententious, the pretentious, and the plain nosy.

Into this quietly sorrowing life come society's censure and the contrived complications of Paano Kita Lilimutin:  an automobile crash brings a former movie queen, Matilda (Gloria Romero), and her daughter (Blanca Gomez), when grown up), who is about the same age as Olga, into Dolor's sphere of existence with attendant newspaper reporters' curiosity and the recalling of her prison term.  She is invited to live with Matilda in Manila, and the two manless matrons proceed to raise their young daughters together -- with the same maternal devotion but with quite dissimilar methods of exhibiting and engendering affection.

While Matilda runs true to the actress's artificial sweetness and coy charms, Dolor remains faithful to the Filipino mother's deep, abiding concern and Lolita Rodriguez's strong character.  The latter tries her best to inculcate discipline in her daughter while devoting her time and care to her, and exhibits in the process some of the dazzling qualities that have made Lolita a consummately fine actress; the former strives to bring material comfort and gifts to her daughter while neglecting her because of movie work, and displays on the scene several of the glittering gowns and peacock poses that have made Gloria Romero a superbly sumptuous looker.  Gloria, it is to be recalled, is also a FAMAS awardee as best actress (for Dalagang Ilocana), but in this picture she has a role that lives her, not vice versa.  And as the antithesis to Lolita Rodriguez's flavorful portrayal, she has all the scenic sequences but no acting chance.

Younger Ones

The young stars do better.  Gina Pareno as the headstrong Olga has all the younger beauty of Gloria Romero and some of the acting potentialities of Lolita Rodriguez.  She it is who brings about the cataclysmic clinches of Paano Kita Lilimutin:  rebelling against restrictive dressing and diet imposed by their humble condition, she snitches food when her mother's back is turned, borrows Blanca's expensive clothes, shoes, and jewelry whenever she has the need and the chance, and gives wonderful realization to the character of the ambitious but not totally evil young girl born into unfortunate circumstances; disregarding society's class distinctions, she falls in love with a rich boy (Ramil Rodriguez) who has a fastidious grandmother (Etang Discher), and brings upon herself and her mother the tragedy that was predictably to befall them; and, forgetting herself and her innate love for her, she defies her mother passionately and even disowns Dolor completely when the mother's imprisonment becomes known to her, an insurmountable obstacle to her young love.  Extremely pretty, expressive, and susceptible, Gina engenders all the stormy emotionalism and underscored sentimentality of VP Pictures' 4th anniversary and New Year presentation.

And Blanca Gomez, as the rich movie star's daughter who temporarily loses her mother to the opulence and the rat race alleged for the movies by Gloria Romero, is noticeable and sceneworthy in her own way.  She is raised almost to womanhood by Dolor, but she maintains her natural affection and emotional need for Matilda, for whom she waits at their doorstep night after night almost, up to several birthdays.  When she turns to a laundrywoman's son (Edgar Salcedo) for the love and tenderness she has been yearning for, she is majestically slapped by Matilda.

Slapping is not the only traditional melodramatic feature that Paano Kita Lilimutin proudly and purposefully carries, although this standard climax of confrontation scenes is turned into a new and somehow effective dramatic device by Lolita Rodriguez and Gina Pareno -- when she goads her mother into nearly punishing her physically, Gina bravely proffers her classic profile, daring Dolor to strike against truth, and Lolita freezes her action into a towering figure of womanly grief, anger, and frustration arrested at the core of bitterness.  There is prayer, too, done by the family that stays together:  Edgar Salcedo's poverty-haunted one, to which he brings Blanca in obvious contrast to the wealth-bespangled home where her mother is distressingly absent from her birthday celebration.

No Device

It is only Luis Gonzales, among the cast of Paano Kita Lilimutin, who does not resort to any melodramatic device when he performs his most memorable scene in the picture.  A doctor who attends to Matilda during the automobile accident that claims the life of her husband, Ruben Reyes (Luis Gonzales) nurses a lifelong love for her as well, which she ignores in her dedicated drive toward stardom and more money for her daughter's future.  He patiently waits for her to notice him, though this is hardly understandable when one sees the obvious good looks of Gonzales and hears the ripple of adoring admiration from his countless fans inside the theater, and gives lustre and surprising dash to the figure of a constant lover debilitated by an adamant lady and the script's feministic discrimination.  Whe he gets a chance to jolt Matilda to a realization of their mutual love for each other, Ruben rises like any self-respecting lover and worldly doctor would:  taking advantage of the jealousy she fancies of her daughter, he shows Matilda some sample of what a romance with him could be like -- and what she is deliberately denying herself.

A consistent good actor and un-aging idol type, Luis Gonzales carries off the romantic sequence with Blanca Gomez very well, indeed.  In fact, were it the objective of the story of Paano Kita Lilimutin, a colorful match between the experience Luis Gonzales and a fresh, gaily innocent girl (either Gina Pareno or Blanca Gomez) would have been vastly more interesting than pairing him with an actress who has been type-cast for the role because of their approximately corresponding number of years.  One appreciates this fact more when the picture's ending comes, in which Luis Gonzales puts his arms around Gina Pareno to console her in her grief:  this supposedly fatherly gesture generates more electricity than all the polite embraces among the three conventional couples of the film.

Sure, the three pairs of lovers finally find their rightful places beside each other in Paano Kita Lilimutin after the numerous serialized tribulations:  the rich Blanca Gomez with her shy, darkly handsome and devoted poor woman's son Edgar Salcedo; the malleable Gina Pareno with her forgiving Ramil Rodriguez; and the domesticated Gloria Romero with her dependable doctor Luis Gonzales.  Lolita Rodriguez, after seeing her irrepressible daughter Gina Pareno go through a colorful sequence of being a willful woman, a pathetic bride-not-to-be, and aleggy striptease dancer, chooses to die rather than see her offspring's proud loveliness to be transformed into the weeping mask of a belated mourner in imitation of life.

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