Saturday, December 16th, 2017

Every cliché from the gay-Filipino-movie playbook

There must be a domestic as well as an international audience for Filipino movies with scantily clad young men renting their bodies out to older gay Filipinos, enriching mostly the owners of the facilities (usually boy bar “macho dancers,” but boat-rowers in Monti Puno Parungao’s “Sagwan,” and masseurs in the case of Brillante Mendoza’s 2005 “The Masseur” and writer-director Joel Lamangan’s 2009 “Heavenly Touch) who have police protection, usually from payoffs, but in this instance, as in Lamangan’s “Walang Kawala” (No Way Out) because the owner is a former policeman. Drugs are tempting, especially when the same man, Sir Tong (Jeffrey Santos) who sells the boys for sex also sells the drugs.

As is usual in these movies, in “Heavenly Touch” there is a more experienced boy-man, university student Rodel (Paolo Serrano) who “helps” a friend desperate for money (or something else for his family) by getting him the “easy money” of prostitution. Though Rodel presents himself as straight (and has a generous client who is a woman), it seems that he had a crush on Jonard (Joash Balejado) in high school. Jonard’s father has a second family and has ceased to provide any support for his wife, son, and daughter.

Rodel not only “brings out” Jonard as a very reluctant supplier of “special services” beyond massage, but rather easily brings Jonard around to returning his love and expressing it sexually. Jonard has a regular customer of whom Rodel is jealous, and the prime drug-dealing masseur, Biboy (Marco Morales) badly wants to defile Jonard’s innocence.

In addition to the depressed mother and concerned sister, there is a queeny mother for the boys (Jim Pebanco), jailhouse rape, repeated stabbing (by boys in white briefs with little devil horns). There is some frontal nudity, though in scenes so underlit that the genitalia are more suggested than displayed. Even so, there is a lot of exposed flesh with the boys in white bikini briefs for more than half the movie.

As in the Filipino gay movie filled with young men who deny that they are gay, “Kambyo,” the reciprocation of long-standing (since school daze) love in “Heavenly Touch” will strike sentimental gay viewers as “sweet.” It seemed to me to lack the irony of the torch-carrying in No Way Out,” and to include pretty much every cliché of gay Filipino cinema except for trafficking in sex slaves (that was included in “No Way Out”). Though not as melodramatic as many of the “____ dancer” movies of a few decades ago, there is still a lot of melodrama and some violent deaths for professional boyz desperate for money.

The DVD had no bonus features.

About The Author

Stephen O. Murray grew up in rural southern Minnesota, earned a B.A. from James Madison College (within Michigan State University), an M.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (both in sociology), and was a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley (in anthropology). He is the author of American Gay, Homosexualities, etc. and lives in San Francisco.

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