Director: Auraeus Solito
Running time: 100 minutes
Synopsis and Evaluation
In a world where different forms of discrimination are prevalent, it’s no wonder that conflicts are an inevitable part of our society. Gender, social and racial discrepancies are all part of life’s endless cycle. Some people have the tendency to look down to others, airing an aura of superiority for their supposedly normality, attractiveness or wealth.
In the Philippines, we like to make fun of homosexuals especially gays. We derive sources of cackles from their seemingly unique antics, modified quality of voice and outrageous outfits. We treat them as disdainful, an unworthy piece that takes up space in this packed archipelago; a disgrace to our patriarchal and machismo-laden society. We characterize them with stereotypical comments such as loud, talkative, frisky and cocksuckers (despicable, yes, but they are sometimes labeled as such).
Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, written by Michiko Yamamoto (of Magnifico fame) and directed by Auraeus Solito, is the story of the eponymous 12-year old gay (Nathan Lopez) who is thrown in the middle of a world where the “real” boys have the playing field to themselves. His brothers (Bogs (Ping Medina) and Boy (Neil Ryan Sese)) and father Paco (Soliman Cruz) are crooks, stealing mobile phones from innocent people to fund their survival. He assumed the duties of a surrogate mother after his mother died a few years back. He cooks food, washes dishes and clothes, cleans the house and repairs damaged clothes for his tough, gritty and macho family. Save for the few instances of harassment and potshot by some, Maxi is relatively well-received in his community, including his war freak father and brothers.
On his way home one night, he was rudely made fun by two bystanders. Fortunately, there was a policeman by the name Victor (J.R. Valentin) who came to his rescue and brought him home. He fell in love with Victor, attracted by his charms and principled rendering of his duty as an honest-to-goodness policeman. This gave birth to a maze-like, complicated situation where Maximo is in the middle of a violent struggle; torn in a moral dilemma not just because of his feelings for Victor but also the fact that he is now learning the repercussions of his family’s way of life, a coming-of-age realization that made him run away from all the apathy and carefree attitude of an innocent youth. But his discombobulating stance is only fraction of the perplexities shrouding the minds of the supposedly more mature, experienced and “macho” boys surrounding him.
Paco is often startled by how Maxi blurts out the truth about their way of life. He is well-aware of such fact but he is dazed in a state of self-denial, poisoned by his lifelong activity that blurs his mind and eyes preventing him to see better alternatives. Boy, who committed a heinous act of homicide, decides that hiding is the only option available, not bothering to consider other possible courses of action to take. Bogs, not knowing what to do with his life, still stuck in a limbo — an idle, monotonous state of life where direction is hard to come by. Finally there’s Victor, confused on whether he can uphold his code of conduct if presented by a set of circumstances which will give him several options — not necessarily all good.
Maxi, who has seen fewer places and tenured in the world for a far shorter duration, appears to know more about life than them. He values and respects his family more than anybody but he also knows how to utter resistance, how to raise arguments when he knows himself that he is right. “Wala na bang ibang paraan Itay?” he murmured to Paco, asking if this violent kind of life is all there is, if this will be the kind of life they will be having for the rest of their lives. He urges them to explore better alternative, correct the mistakes they have committed and change their way of life. He has a tiny, effeminate voice that resonates louder than the baritone of the machos.
For all his maturity, he still cries like a little child… a little girl you can say, like when Victor dumped him. But he knows how to accept such catastrophe in life because he knows better. He knows that he can’t force Victor’s feelings. He knows that inflicting pain to Victor is not the proper way of redemption, unlike his brother Bogs. He wants a peaceful life, far from the world he is currently in. He belongs to their world only physically, but his mind and heart is in a different spectrum. He is pulled by this unwanted environment but he willfully pushes back himself to a place, to a state of mind of peace and serenity where he can do what he desires and would not be subjected to public scrutiny; where he is not submerged in a world of violence; where killing and stealing are not options; where there is always a better alternative; where he can achieve growth without running away.
He was able to teach these supposedly macho and matured guys more than they are normally expected to teach a pre-teen boy like him. They learned from him the ways of the world they are in. Maxi has a fragile and effeminate emotion that has more strength than the machos’ combined. He is a supposedly dependent boy but thinks and lives with an independent mind. And yet, he has a youthful exuberance that resonates to the wind; charming everybody like a Miss Philippines beauty contest candidate; like leading ladies in romantic films; like actresses doing mall tours and gracing the pages of magazines. He is a princess in the world dominated by heterosexual males.
The Final Word
Is this a coming-of-age film? Yes, but not for Maxi alone. He is not the only who grew up mentally and emotionally. He became a source of motivation for change and commitment to people who somehow forgot the proper way of living their ephemeral lives. This is a recommended viewing.