“I can’t believe that my own father is having an affair with my boyfriend.”
This is a line from the trailer of the 2022 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry “My Father, Myself.” To make it more accurate and to really drive home the shock factor, they could have gone with “boyfriend who’s also my brother.”
The trailer for “My Father, Myself” was released on Nov. 4 then was met with backlash, support, and a lot of confusion. It laid down the entire twisted double incest plot for us: A guy (Sean de Guzman) gets his adoptive sister pregnant and his adoptive mom (Dimples Romana) is forcing them to marry because of it. But the catch is, he’s actually in love with and is having an affair with his gay adoptive dad (Jake Cuenca) who had a previous affair with his biological dad. It’s the type of script that makes you think, “How did they get those actors to accept the part?”
Made for controversy
It’s the kind of movie that was made to be controversial. Because of this and its lower mid-budget feel, I thought that Darryl Yap was behind this, as it fits his MO. But it’s actually a Joel Lamangan movie—one that’ll likely be in the bottom tier of his filmography with the likes of “Menor de Edad” instead of with “The Flor Contemplacion Story.”
While “bash is cash” Yap isn’t the first director to capitalize on controversy, it’s hard to deny that whatever success he’s had in recent years helped show just how big the local market for it is and how many can still be convinced that this is “serious” filmmaking aimed at “shedding light on taboo issues.”
“My Father, Myself,” for example, seems to be trying to reel viewers in with its intimate incest scenes under the BL genre. The thumbnail for the video is a kissing scene. Come on.
You may think it’s camp, but the humor wears off when you remember that this is an official entry for the MMFF. The selection criteria for the film festival dedicates 40 percent for story and overall impact, 40 percent for cinematic attributes and technical excellence, 10 percent for global appeal, and 10 percent for Filipino sensibility. So what does it say about us and our film industry when “My Father, Myself” or 2020’s transphobic, misogynistic, and just plain unfunny “Pak Boys: Takusa” makes the cut?
A story that sets the bar low
The range in the initial comments on social media for “My Father, Myself” is even more interesting than the trailer itself. Lewd. Harmful to the LGBTQIA+. Camp. Inspiring and remarkable. A fearless and relevant gamechanger.
While some are already unironically claiming that Cuenca and Romana deserve acting nominations, others are jokingly saying that they’re going to get Romana out of there.
The differences in opinion may give us an insight into how Filipinos view the rare but not unheard of narratives of gay men falling in love with adoptive sons. Do we see it as a serious real-life issue that affects many Filipinos, a porn site fantasy, an entertaining yet thought-provoking what-if situation, or an enduring myth that has been weaponized against queer parents in a country that doesn’t recognize LGBTQIA+ unions? But even if we consider that maybe there isn’t one right answer, we can’t deny that the movie may negatively influence impressionable minds.
You can’t criticize this type of predatory relationship when you’re selling it as a BL and casting sexy actors to play the leads. And you can’t carelessly shoot as mere family or relationship drama when the narrative, inadvertently or not, makes some form of commentary on legislative issues like abortion, divorce, and LGBTQIA+ unions and adoption.
You don’t have to marry someone just because they got you pregnant. Straight women shouldn’t feel like they’re doing their gay partners a favor when they marry them despite their sexuality just because gay marriage isn’t legal. The LGBTQIA+ community isn’t out to adopt kids to try to be in relationships with them and if there are individuals like that, we’d be the first to want to bring them to justice. But this is a serious issue that isn’t isolated to cases with LGBTQIA+ abusers.
If the movie ends up with these conclusions, that’s the least it could do after trying to make BL money off this narrative. If it doesn’t, we hope we all learn that we deserve better movies than this at the box office.
Photo from screen grabbed from the movie’s trailer