Rene (Eddie Garcia) is a very old man looking forward to his death. He’s so grumpy and super eager to die that he boxed up all his nice possessions and bought a casket for himself in anticipation of the big event. He has many unattractive qualities but the worst is his failure to see his life’s beauties. Rene fails to see how lucky he is because there is not a shortage of interesting men in his small town. It is a town populated by Rez Cortez, Allan Paule, and Gardo Versoza. If your town priest looks like Gardo Versoza, will you never think of immersing yourself in a holy, Catholic life? If you live in a town that has tricycle drivers looking like the chunky-lovely Rez Cortez will you not want to go out and explore? If your co-worker is Allan Paule, will you not love going to your office every day? It’s very wise he decides to start living.
That Rene’s life was so closeted he once slummed with Alicia (Armida Siguion-Reyna), the token beard, is not even the saddest thing about him. It is heartbreaking to imagine this man’s admirable restraint at having lived a booking-free life, the kind unimaginable to his less discreet friends, Zaldy (Soxy Topacio) and Tracy (Joey Paras), overlords of the town’s parlor empire. Not that there isn’t more to life than the securing of a booking but there’s very little in Rene to suggest that he even held hands with another man other than his father or Father Gardo. At 70, there’s very little happening in Rene’s small, quiet life, and it was a common observation of the movie that the pace is too slow. But at 70, how fast should life be?
Rene is you and me, in a small town, living a highly closeted life. He is a demonstration of what will eventually become of us should we choose certain major life decisions over other, more satisfying ones, over who or what we really want. At 70, you don’t get to easily retrace your steps and decide, ’Hmm I think I’ll pledge devotion to Madonna instead of Mariah.’ By the time you’re senior, and judging from Rene’s surly demeanor, there’s only so much you can do to go rampaging into the night under the sad delusion that your milkshake can still bring all the boys to your yard. But it is never ever too late; never too late to tint your hair, never too late to redecorate.
Bwakaw has some very morbid, black jokes about dying and various types of heart conditions, but it’s one of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen and I don’t even like dogs very much. Maybe it’s that I like death movies, and I have a soft spot for people who shop for their own coffin.
I talk a lot of smack about Star Cinema when in fact I don’t see that many Star Cinema movies. For instance, I thought that if Bwakaw were a Star Cinema product, it would be called ‘Grow Old With You’ with matching soundtrack. If Bwakaw were Star Cinema, Sol (Rez Cortez) and Rene will be boyfriend-boyfriend in the end. Or they’ll just hug it out as a sign of their being at peace with their complicated relationship. It’s become a hobby, imagining the self under Star Cinema’s payroll doing creativity duties, doing the movie-going Filipinos a great artistic service.
But Jun Lana knows better and so do we. Only a gay guy would understand the soul-crushing frustration of gays’ desire to snatch a straight guy. It takes even a special kind of intellect and sensitivity to figure out just how more frustrating it is to steal the heart of a straight, married tricycle driver. You people in the big studios just don’t know. Or maybe you do but choose not to tell is as it is. So, thank you, Jun Lana, for telling our story, for making one of the least gimmicky, most affecting movies about our lives.