Monday, May 29th, 2023

A homoerotic Filipino road movie


Directed by Joselito Altarejos

Written by Lex Bonife and Joselito Altarejos

Released July 8, 2008
Drama (foreign)
102 min.


Review by Stephen O. Murray

April 8, 2013.

Filipino movies tend to be too melodramatic for North American tastes, with lots of doomed, hopeless romances. Filipino gay movies tend to be heavy in scantily-dressed “macho dancers” who are gay for pay. The 2008 Kambyo (Tagalog for “change”) has a superabundance of attractive young men who have sex with and/or love men but deny that they are gay (usually, the pejorative “bakla”: “faggot”) — two of the four in the green VW road-movie plus the recently married man for whom the driver is carrying a torch. That there are two young men who are gay-identified and not in love with some unobtainable straight man is a relief to me. (The two have tricked with each other, but neither is in love with the other.

The trick, Aldo [Gabz del Rosario], taken along on a weekend trip from Manila to a beach, turns out to be the most caring and compassionate of the characters—and the one who does the literal heavy lifting (not so heavy, but for a long distance).

The man who brought him along. Macky [Ray An Dulay] has a crisis when he learns from a cellphone conversation that someone with whom he had unsafe sex multiple times a few months earlier has tested positive for HIV. This source of tension is not terribly original, of course, but at least differs from mooning over an unobtainable love object.

Speaking of remote love objects, Philip [Johnron Tañada], the former classmate who shared romantic feelings for Manuel [Kenjie Garcia, the Antonio of Joselito Altarejos’s Antonio’s Secret], the driver (who drags the others along on an additional four-hour drive) that he never acted on, turns out not to be unobtainable, at least for the one night of love, which his wife Annette [May-i Fabros] assumes left him too drunk to stagger home. Aldo averts her finding the young men sleeping naked entwined in each other’s limbs, and may be a consolation prize for Manuel.

kambyo2And, perhaps, Manuel’s cousin Xavier [Harold Macasero] will be a consolation prize for Macky…

There are no suicides and no murders, though there is also not much in the way of striking scenery (not something Luzon lacks!) or originality of characterization or plot.

There are a lot of smooth, brown torsos and legs on display. Three of the passengers go surfing in very tame waves that seem unnaturally close to a rocky shore. Showing five guys whose middles are blocked by surfboards on the cover seems false advertising to me.

I was impatient with the un-scenic road movie until they got to Paoay in the Ilocos Norte Province, where there are some colonial ruins and where Annette and Philip provide hospitality to the travelers (and the soft-core one night of love to be treasured for a lifetime…).

Mostly because I liked Aldo and Annette, I felt somewhat rewarded for the time—75 minutes, not the two hours Netflix lists as its running length—I spent on the third collaboration between director Joselito Altarejos and writer Lex Bonife (Ang Lalake Sa Parola (The Man in the Lighthouse) and Ang Lihim Ni Antonio (Antonio’s Secret) are also available on DVD in the U.S.). Way too much of this micro-budget movie takes place inside the VW van.

The comedy is mostly wan, but I guess I was interested enough to be pleased that Manuel managed some closure to his (heretofore) unrequited love.

published by epinions 8 April 2013
©2013, 2017 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.