Wednesday, March 29th, 2023

Every cliché from the gay-Filipino-movie playbook

Heavenly Touch

Directed by Joel Lamangan

Written by Manny Valera and Joel Lamangan

Premiered July 19, 2009, at the Philippine Independent Film Festival
Drama (foreign)
97 min.


Review by Stephen O. Murray

December 1, 2017.

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 is also providing them.

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 under lit 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.

©2017 by Stephen O. Murray


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.