Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw (Celso Ad. Castillo, 1975) October 17, 2009Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Noypi.
Directed by Celso Ad. Castillo
Written by Mauro Gia Samonte and Celso Ad. Castillo
Cast: Vilma Santos, Christopher de Leon, Eddie Garcia, Lorli Villanueva
Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw is the first onscreen team-up of Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon. That fact alone gives the film a unique importance. This partnership paved the way for a string of memorable films together. They played notable roles, shared celebrated scenes, delivered unforgettable dialogues, and reaped acclaim for their performances. Theirs is the ripest love team in Philippine cinema, transcending cheap romance in exchange for maturity, often appearing as a couple trapped in the most difficult circumstances. In Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw they play cousins who fall in love with each other, and upon realizing that their situation is socially unacceptable, they try to fall out of it. It seems like an awkward story line for a first movie together, but seeing young Vilma and Boyet weep as they fight for their impossible love just shows how both of them get better the harder their roles become.
It is already clear in the beginning that their romance is doomed. Rod and Nanette meet in a beach house owned by her parents. They bring Rod along and ask him stay in their place in Manila to study. When Rod sees her playing with her friends on the beach, it is love at first sight. She runs to get her dog, he approaches her, and they talk. They exchange names, glances, and sweet nothings. At that very moment, they are in love. They walk around the place, hold hands, and share their surprise about how comfortable they easily are with each other. There is nothing really malicious about it. Their affection is nothing but sincere. They have longed for love, and it has finally come. That brief moment when they manage to share that feeling, untainted, without knowing the limits they are crossing, proves how difficult for them to part. In a maudlin scene that characterizes the softness of the film, she asks, heedless of the heavy rain pouring, “Kuya Rod, puwede bang ibulsa ang ulan?” He answers, “Bakit?” and she replies, “Gagawin ko lang souvenir.” Jesus, if only the pouring rain can cringe. It is not just cheese: it is desperation, the impossibility worsened by the idea that they will have to see one another every day after that.
From there it all becomes a matter of control. They are teenagers, both very passionate about the idea of companionship, so control is something new to their senses. At their age being in love is all-powerful. Even if they will themselves to like other people, they cannot ignore the attraction that pulls them together. That’s the law of magnetism, south poles and north poles attract even if they don’t like being south poles and north poles in the first place. And seeing Rez Cortez as Nanette’s suitor, whom every girl in school likes, makes that certain. Their chances are close to nothing, and the film explores that by situating their relationship in the context of family values, of morality and the implications of not observing it. Nanette and Rod, in the middle of everything, their feelings even made stronger by the forbidden, eventually give in to their desires.
All the usual elements needed for a kiss to happen are present. The cold weather is there. The parents have gone out and and they are stuck somewhere else. Rod and Nanette will have more time with each other, and yes, only the two of them are left in the house. The tension rises—the lack of definite solution to their urges, the memory of frolicking on the beach, their sensual and mental conversations, their glances when they meet outside their rooms—they all pile up and consume their anxieties. Rod walks out and cries in the rain. Nanette follows him, looking sexy as the rain soaks her clothes. She goes near him and asks why, then they kiss: but it’s no ordinary kiss. Celso Kid blocks the audience’s view using a tree! The audience hears them lock lips for the first time, breathing heavily, nervously, saying I love you, hesitantly kissing yet enjoying it. A clip of Rod making a speech interrupts the scene. He is declaiming in front of fellow students about morality as a superstructure, saying, “Morality, like art, like politics, is simply a reflex of the real world,” and quoting Napoleon Bonaparte, “Morality is indeed on the side of the heaviest artillery.” Whatever that means, their kiss leads to sex, and the sex leads to the parents beating up the devil out of them.
(*On a side note, in Philippine cinema, getting a woman pregnant is the fastest way to denote the passage of time. And there are no rules about it! Even after the couple had sex, the next scene will show the woman puking in the sink, like in the case of Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw. Someone catching her puking is the likeliest scene to happen, and her mother is the likeliest person to catch her, and the likeliest action is to keep the pregnancy a secret.)
Suffice it to say, chances play against the couple. On the part of Nanette’s parents, knowing that their only daughter is pregnant is bad enough, but knowing that their only daughter is pregnant with immorality (and in this case, literally and figuratively) is totally unacceptable. It is the violation of all violations, the destruction of all their beautiful dreams. The utter disregard of kin deserves absolute contempt. The dinner scene when the exposition happens is notable for its build-up. Since the father is the only person in the family who doesn’t know it yet, he talks like he is the happiest person in the world. The contrast works. He looks like a complete fool amid the silence of his wife and children. And when he notices it he becomes very sensitive and vulnerable. He not only flares up: he blows up. The war of the worlds is coming. All hell will soon break loose.
Interesting is the use of Nanette’s father’s words: “Kasehodang pinsan mo, pinakialaman mo!” “Pinakialaman”in Filipino is often used to refer to objects. When someone says, “Pinakialaman mo na naman ang gamit ko!” it means his things were touched without his permission. Its root word is “pakialam,” which denotes interfering without consent, usually quipped when the person is annoyed by the action of the “nangingialam.” But in Nanette’s father’s usage, the word is more serious. What he meant was her daughter was violated, her innocence abused. She was raped. The use of “pakialam” when referring to a woman turns the idea into something more visual, thus the effective figure of speech.
Furthermore, Nanette uses “Kuya Rod” to call him. She sticks to calling him Kuya because apparently it doesn’t matter to her whether he is her cousin or not. She resorts to how she has known him, as a brother. The fact that they’re hiding the relationship, they need to be discreet. When she calls him Kuya, it sounds very casual and natural, like calling the name of a dog or a piece of furniture. Obviously Nanette’s willingness to hold onto the relationship is stronger than Rod’s. She fights more, and more likely than not pains more. On the bus, she shouts at him and desperately tries to win him back. She screams as he walks away: “Sige tumakbo ka. Baka akala mo hahabulin kita. Sobra ka namang magpa-importante a. Akala mo metrong sinusuyo ka lalo ka namang nagpapakipot. Tingnan natin, balang araw hahanapin mo rin ako baka akala mo! Sobra na ito a! Madapa ka sana! Masagasaan ka sana ng bus! Masagasaan ka sana ng dyip! Ng taxi! Masagasaan ka sana ng karitela! Masipa ka sana ng kabayo! Pagsakay mo sana ng elevator mahulog ka sana! Mahuli ka sana ng pulis! Yung wag ka sanang pumasa sa pag-aaral mo! Lumagpak ka sana! Masagasaan ka sana! Magkasakit ka sana! Huwag ka na sanang gumaling! Yung grabeng-grabeng sakit! Yung grabeng-grabe! Mamatay ka na sana! Mamatay ka na sanaaaa!” The whole dialogue deserves to be transcribed because the eternal use of “sana” drives the point across.
Given the circumstances, does it mean she’s stupid? Or she’s more mature? She’s just in love, that’s all—why should this devil called morality get between them? Her mind follows logic, yet the logic that stops them is far stronger than her will. To be fair with Rod, he is like a glass that is about to break anytime, but his fragility is less obvious. He leans more on the thinking side. Whereas both Nanette’s feet are ready to jump into the all-or-nothing romance, he keeps one of them on the ground. Not that he doubts the love they have but he is also aware of the ugly consequences of their actions once they decide to continue the relationship. He acts rationally, but there comes a point when he also cannot contain his feelings. Prior to Nanette’s outburst, he also had his moment of shouting around the community. He was drunk and rambling. He walked until he got to Ayala Bridge and the police ran after him. The whole dialogue need not be transcribed, but the subtle hint on the political curtain during that time is effective, considering its parallelism.
The problem of love in Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw stems not from the lovers but from their ill fate as cousins. The factors are both socially dictated and morally stringent, situations that they cannot change no matter what they do. Even if they go on living together, they will still be hounded by the truth. Wherever they go, that truth cannot be proven false. Fate did two unpardonable things to them: bring them together and break them up. It is inevitable to question whether it’s their fault or not, if their love is a fault at all, or if it’s actually the society’s fault, for imposing the way things should be. The film makes a point of raising doubts on moral attitudes and obligations, without telling what is right and wrong. In a display of heartbreaking madness, it shows what happens when the doors of people’s minds are closed forever, when refusal to understand ruins happy couples’ lives.
All desperation peaks at the end. Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw‘s brilliant ten-minute chase stands as a powerful statement on what love can do in the harshest of situations. It is a perfectly executed sequence: apart from showing the extent of possibilities that Rod and Nanette are willing to get themselves into just to be together, it also delivers the horror of the couple’s misery, of the inability of their love to win, of losing each other forever. First, we see her being dragged down the stairs by her father and brother as she begs for her child not to be aborted. Rod, coming from the hospital, arrives and screams for mercy. Not to be moved by their plea, the father drives the car out of the house. Rod runs after it, limping, and runs after the car in the middle of the road until he catches up. He hits the car, kicks it, and breaks the window. A lot of bystanders look after them. When he is able to jump into the rear of the car, he struggles to hold onto it, but the father willfully swerves the car to drop him behind. Rod kisses the window. Nanette struggles against her mother and brother holding her. She tries to touch his face in the window. And he falls—he falls hard on the ground. Getting up, he runs again. Levi Celerio’s “”Yan Ba’y Kasalanan” plays in the background. Everything feels so real and timeless, it can only be real and timeless.