Biyernes, Marso 23, 2012

Sex and the Secret

“Ano ba’ng pakay mo sa buhay na ito?”

Ang Lihim ni Antonio (Antonio’s Secret) was released in 2008 and has since become a prominent part of the rising “gay film” subgenre in the Philippines. Perhaps well-known for its sexually charged M2M scenes and its concept of a confused teenager’s journey, most of the film’s audience miss its presentation of countless hidden messages and sexual oppression - a big issue of the country subtly portrayed in the film. On the surface, it’s a sex drama (who says only sex comedy can be distinguished?) but in essence Ang Lihim ni Antonio is a superb LGBT propaganda movie.


Before going into all the hoopla with what Antonio’s secret is, the big question poised here first and foremost is who Antonio really is. The protagonist of course is teenager Antonio, Tong or Antz_15 (portrayed with naughty innocence by Kenjie Garcia) who’s living in the neat and organized Marikina City - in contrast to the dirty and disoriented boy we follow here. Tong finds joy in computer games, Friendster, caroling and the company of his straight friends, but he questions the purpose of all these to him. His existentialist prologue babbled about significance of names and souls, the Philippines’ prehistory and even the birth of Jesus Christ. In the latter part of the film, he rants his envy of Jesus Christ and how His name and purpose on earth was settled even before Mary was impregnated by an Immaculate Conception.


We’ll never know who this fellow really is, but let’s go to his titular secret. Immediately after we’re introduced to his mother Tere (Shamaine Buencamino) and his circle of friends (a batch of unknowns, except for a post-Magnifico Jiro Manio), we’re brought in to the beginning of his homosexual encounters. In a suspenseful 6-minute scene, we find Antonio and his friend Nathan (Nino Fernandez) both drunk, half-naked and asleep in the same bed. Just when you thought Antonio’s touch would infuriate the homophobic Nathan, he approved of Tong’s sexual advances and let his friend give him a blowjob… all this after Nathan declares in a group conversation that he wants his first fellatio to come from a woman. The straight and ordinary teenager Antonio introduced in the beginning is destroyed by a singular act of lasciviousness, and we know it’s going to happen soon. Thus we delve deeper into his mysterious persona, and most significantly his big secret: he lacks a present father figure and this longing proceeded to same-sex attraction.

Since you’d expect this film to be gay even before you watch it, there’s the scenes of M2M penetration. Though minimal, the energy and choreography of these steamy scenes (more intensified by the fleshtoned atmosphere that comes up whenever there’s sexual activity) are enough for a boner. The sexual charge of the film is brimming that even a simple question about Antonio’s caroling seems like innuendo. The sex is probably what the audience only seem to recognize. But if there’s a lot of masculine eroticism, the same goes for sexual frustration. In one scene, Tere exhibits this in a simple activity such as applying lotion. But with Antonio, his own frustrations were temporarily aided when his hot uncle Jo (Josh Ivan Morales) came in to stay in their home.

While Antonio is left to decide for his identity, the film shouts out loud its support for gay rights. In a couple of gay-friendly scenes, one straight male seems to be supportive of Antonio’s sexuality. It’s his friend Mike (Jiro Manio) who says he won’t leave his friend even if he’s confirmed gay, even doing a research on how a person becomes a homosexual and willingly discussing it with Antonio. In another scene, a pregnant woman consults Tere about her issues with family planning and responsible parenthood. The woman leaves just as soon as a gay couple (with a healthy child) arrive. Tere and her colleagues can’t help but compliment the couple’s responsible parenthood. 


More or less, Ang Lihim ni Antonio is a film about gay and female struggles. Antonio’s confusion may be normal, but it is triggered by his growth without a father to embrace, a dad to look up to. It raises psychological questions but having met gay friends without dads, it became clear to me that these tendencies could happen to any boy. His temporary pleasures in sucking his uncle’s dick ended up with him getting anally raped. On the other hand, the financial problem and sexual frustration of Tere were also caused by Antonio’s father and towards the end, she finally found out that he cheated her and now has another family abroad. Bad straight men cause the troubles of this small family of two, and they must strike back to free themselves from the advances of these men. Whatever happens, Antonio’s search for identity lingers… same with the fight for equality in these islands.

Ang Lihim ni Antonio is a masterful work by Joselito Altarejos. A quiet film as it may seem, his visuals scream out lifelong struggles that would open the eyes of its viewers, if only they would find it in their hearts that not all “gay movies” are all about the sex.

- Gio Potes, October 2011

Cast source: Ang Lihim ni Antonio (2008)
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