Notes from a really long weekend: Muli.

It will be a while before I will get over Adolf Alix Jr’s Muli.

Sid Lucero played a gay former seminarian-turned-revolutionary who inherited an inn from his late mother. Cogie Domingo was student, and later a lawyer, who became a frquent guest in that inn. Eventually, the two were drawn into an affair which lasted several decades.

Various archival recordings pepper the story to place it against the backdrop of Philippine history. Some of these tend to call too much attention to themselves, as if the movie was a history trivia game. The aging of the actors through make-up could have been done better, too, as well as the fireworks shown near the end of the movie. For someone who became a big-shot lawyer, Cogie Domingo fequently slurs and mumbles his lines; but that’s Cogie Domingo for you.

I could nitpick at all the tropes and gimmicks the movie used and it would merely be a way of making it appear that I was not really affected by its story. And that would be lie.

Muli (The Affair) screenshot

The affair the two men had lasted more than four decades and the lives of their respective spouses (the lawyer married his girlfriend, the innkeeper got himself a long-term boyfriend). Did the affair weigh more than their legitimate partners? Did they love their respective spouses less? Was it a different kind of love that they reserve for each other? Should they choose the affair over the legitimate relationship?

No, the movie did not wish to answer that.

In most Filipino movies, the main characters must choose whether to go with the legitimate spouse or the mistress (usually with the legal wife winning). The deliberate moral ambiguity on how the movie presented the affair was both intriguing and frustrating. Long after the movie, Juna, Lanchie and I were still arguing about the main characters’ decision to keep the affair going for so long.

For many closeted gay men, a part of their lives will always remain a secret for many people. In the innkeeper’s case, he was a walking cabinet of secrets: a professor and member of the secretive (and illegal) Communist Party, very few people know of his political leanings, his sexuality, his boyfriend, his other boyfriend. It blows one’s mind wrapping around the layers upon layers of secrets and double lives.

Which might be the reason why his relationship with the lawyer transcended a mere affair: they shared each other’s secrets. That will not work for a normal relationship. I suspect that, if they entered a normal relationship, it will end quickly and bitterly for both of them.

Blah blah blah. In other words, the Pride March after-party.

The post-march program was already halfway done when I arrived in Nakpil. Exhausted, I accompanied Bern to a food stall. At least I already got to eat; Bern hadn’t eaten anything all day.

It was sad seeing so few people in the program. Most of them were probably the same people who attend Pride March every year, enjoying the photo ops. A perimeter was built around the Nakpil-Orosa area; the event charged an entrance fee when the actual program highlights started.

Shortly after I arrived, our group went into one of the bars for karaoke and beer. Later on, I was told that many of the people who were already in the party area were asked to pay the entrance fee outside the gates. We missed that because we were already inside a bar which was conveniently inside the venue.

So the Pride March boiled down to simply another means of making money. That was not unexpected. But the attempt at exclusivity to the area tasted of gross commercialism, I could feel it clogging my cynical gay arteries. Ironically, the bars probably would have had more people coming in if the organizers did not put up a stupid wall around the venue.

I was watching go-go boys doing poi while they danced on elevated platforms and thinking: What would Maoi warriors feel watching their fire-dance performed by go-go boys? It’s that side of gay culture I am not comfortable with: the gaudy sexuality, the trashy hedonism, the garish excess. Not that I think it should be part of gay culture. If other people like it, that’s their thing.

Maybe I just don’t like the idea of sugar-coating it with labels of advocacy.

After we left the venue with Lanchie, Juna and Alex, we were talking of what we felt about the Pride March parties. We felt like the organizers may be missing a point in gay advocacy. Most people attending parties are just there for the parties; they don’t care if it was for a cause. They won’t even remember what the cause was. I won’t dwell too much into it because if I was asked, so how should it go, then? I won’t know the answer either. Only that I think if you wanted to support an advocacy, you do it because you believe in the cause. Not because you’ll have friends joining you. Not because you’ll have people taking your photos. And not because there will be a party later with half-naked go-go boys dancing with their crotch at eye-level.