Kabadingan and kalaswaan in Philippine cinema

Roughly translated in English and taken out outside of the context of homosexuality that it is commonly associated with, the Tagalog colloquial word kabadingan in a cultural sense is a contemporary concept that describes a spectacle of loud contrived crassness or obnoxiousness in both behaviour, design, and aesthetic sensibilities that is indulged in for its entertainment (attention-grabbing) value. The Tagalog word kalaswaan, for its part, goes back in history a bit longer and refers to a spectrum of unsavory sensibilities ranging from unwholesome at its better end, to smuttiness at its worst end.

Why do I use the two words in the same phrase as Philippine cinema? To answer that I defer to two pieces of insight that I cite in my book:

Isagani Cruz on the state of the Philippine entertainment industry in an Inquirer.net editorial dated 16 June 2006:

Benjamin Franklin said that if the people misuse their suffrages, the remedy is not to withdraw the precious privilege from them but to teach them in its proper use. The entertainment industry, which has the most available access to the [Filipino] people through the movies, television, radio and the tabloids, is instead purposely miseducating them.

The Philippine entertainment industry is not only a vast wasteland, as television has been described in America, but a vicious instrument for the abatement of the nation’s intelligence. The shows it offers for the supposed recreation of the people are generally vulgar and smutty, usually with some little moral lesson inserted to make them look respectable, but offensive nonetheless. On the whole, they are obnoxious and unwholesome and deserve to be trashed.

[The above snippet is also quoted in a Film Academy of the Philippines website article here.]

University of the Philippines sociology professor Michael Tan commenting on the occasion of the Sixth International congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific held in Melbourne, Australia from the 5th to the 10th October 2001 cited by Diana Mendoza in her article “Between Sensationalism and Censure” (Philippine Journalism Review, April 2002, pages 35-37):

Commenting if the Philippines could be at the forefront of education on sex and sexuality Tan said no, because “media have very sensational coverage but they still have this patina of moralism which is strange.” He said this brims over to the film industry that churns out movies carrying the “crime and punishment” theme — for instance, movies with pots of adultery that run steamy sex scenes but which towards the end, mandate that the adulterer, who is always the female, gets shot or imprisoned.

“With these endings, movies become a morality play after two hours of titillation,” he said.

[…]

Tan said Filipino movies also carry the “crime and redemption” theme, in which a sex worker eventually realizes there is a better life outside prostitution, but only after the audience [have] been treated to several sexual episodes.

So are Messrs Tan and Cruz being fair in their assessment of the Philippines’ entertainment industry — in particular its film industry? Am I, myself, justified in making a generalisation that the collective products of the Philippine film industry are, in fact, malaswa and filled with the kabadingan that many point out has come to be the signature character of the industry?

Harsh questions perhaps, but the obvious answer happens to be a subjective take on the matter that I happen to agree with. A friend of mine quipped, “Why can’t indie film focus on good story telling?”. To me, it seems that in the subset of Philippine cinema that tries to pass off as serious artistic stuff, the race is not for the telling of the best story but for who encroaches the furthest into the rapidly shrinking let-not-go-there zone. Over the last several decades, that zone lost territory to the race first with its coverage of nudity, then on-screen copulation, then gay sex scenes. Pretty soon, the indie film industry, perhaps under the banner of it being indie and, being considered so, licensed to be “artistic” will breach a milestone that will make it qualified for the distinction of being compliant with Rule Number 34.

If you gotta make a movie with sexual themes, why does it have to be malaswa? Sex is obviously no longer taboo in Philippine society and one can weave a story around sex that does not have the trademark morality dose and peeling-of-the-taboo-onion thematic structure that consumes precious minutes in many Filipino movies. I have yet to see a Filipino movie containing sexual themes where the sexual themes are merely incidental to (rather than the main point of) the message or its value proposition to the audience.

If it isn’t sex that these film producers are trying to use to appeal to our sensibilities with, it is “social relevance”. Another friend of mine made what I thought was a very insightful observation that “local indie film makers are superficially focused on having something socially relevant to say. It takes effort to watch their movies. It’s like you are watching a symposium”. Ouch! As such, I beg to differ with Ilda’s viewpoint slightly. Perhaps Filipino films do make me think — of things that really entertain me. And the minority that at least try to make me think of serious — less really entertaining stuff — do so in a way that makes the experience just a notch above a visit to the dentist. Last I heard, it is possible to be both socially relevant and tell a good story while you are at it. But then that takes creativity.

Mainstream Philippine cinema obviously reflects the character of the greater part of the society that forms its audience base — an audience that gleefully laps up kabadingan and kalaswaan. The market that supposedly “serious” film makers are gunning for, on the other hand, is a sophisticated one with well-rounded tastes. As such social relevance or sex alone will not necessarily be a strong enough come-on for these folk — there is already enough of that baked into good story-telling in the global library of content — both mainstream and eclectic — that they draw upon for their viewing pleasure. This means that serious Filipino film makers will have to compete at that level — at world-class levels — to reach their target audience. Being “better” than mainstream Filipino movies is not good enough. You have to be good in absolute terms.

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76 Comments on “Kabadingan and kalaswaan in Philippine cinema”

  1. I just want some clarification on what you mean by

    Pretty soon, the indie film industry, perhaps under the banner of it being indie and, being considered so, licensed to be “artistic” will breach a milestone that will make it qualified for the distinction of being compliant with Rule Number 34.

    Since Rule 34 states that “if it exists, there’s porn of it” then do you expect the indie films to eventually make porn of existing Filipino cultural icons, traditional or popular? Or do you mean the indie films reach a level of “existence” such that the more perverted fans would make porn derived from these films?

    Actually, I do think you merely mean to say that indie films would reach lower levels of perversion or smuttiness; nothing to do with Rule 34 as I know it unless you are really comparing the level of depravity to that of Rule 34’s rape of your childhood.

    Was just providing some possibilities.

    1. Yup, I highlighted Rule 34 as an analogy to the Philippine indie film industry, which does not mean it will be pornographic in nature but rather bolder in exploring taboo topics. This is not necessarily bad. I’m just saying that shock value over good story telling seems to be a consistent focus.

      1. isa pang nakakatawang naisip ko lang.

        yung sinulat ay base sa mga sabi ng kaibigan niya, galing sa libro niya at mga quotations ng mga sikat na tao.

        yung nagsulat ni-hindi makanuod ng Indie Films.

        most likely di pa niya napapanuod Busong, Patikul, Donor, Halaw, prolly pati Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank.

        hmm, mukha ngang maganda yung pinagbasehan ng sinulat niya. Aprubadong dapat paniwalaan.

        HAHA 🙂

  2. A Filipino movie story, never has the ingridient of: a wholesome, educational and entertaining story. If the actors are not laughing. They are crying and bawling, for some stupid reasons. There are shoutings…Obsene languages, sexual encounters: man to man, woman and man, woman with woman. I have never seen it yet: man with beast….maybe that will be day. The movie industry has already deteriorated to the sewer level…It has no foreign competition…so the movie producers can just make trash movies. And you are forced, to go to see it. They take your money, without a sweat. It’s like highway robbery…

        1. The choice is NOT to see a movie. Forced to watch a movie? Unless drags you to the cinema and someone straps you on to the seats, no one can be forced.

  3. Also noticeable to Philippine movies are their craptastic cinematography and poor production work, even in the so-called award-winning ones.

  4. No matter how much trolling you do, benignO, you will never reach the heights of what my dear Ilda’s article achieved. Not with your incessant quoting & plugging of your miserable book. Preace bo!

    1. Why do you think so? Any bozo can make the sort of assertion you make above. But what separates the men from the boys is the ability to articulate in precise terms the bases of their assertions.

      1. Try researching what separates real writers from unoriginal self-publishing dilettantes. I have been reading the other articles here, and my dear Ilda’s have always been really precise and original, while yours always wander all over the place. Take some writing lessons from her, and drop that unmistakable needy tone of “read me, read me, I’m so great.”

        1. @grovey

          Try researching what separates real writers from unoriginal self-publishing dilettantes.

          You’re making an apples-to-oranges comparison as they tend to target groups of people with different persuasions and aptitudes while there may be some overlapping between them. They rather complement each other, nicely, in fact.

          I agree that Ilda’s articles are good to great.

          I’ve been following benign0’s articles for quite sometime and I strongly recommend you do the researching yourself. You could not even cite specifics to support your opinion…lol.

          His articles are filled with insights not always found in those that merely cater to the bandwagon or to the mediocre-minded. It goes against the grain as it is original. The feelings of envy or jealousy raging inside you, which you hope to equally elicit in them, and which your sick mind or ill will attempts to stir up some kind animosity out of, simply made it apparent that the delivery of his message was effective, pointed, concise—and precise.

        2. @grovey

          Thanks for the compliment but Benign0 is the father of Get Realism. He has been writing about Pinoy dysfunction for a decade now. He can quote himself quoting himself because no matter how many times he has highlighted the problems, most Filipinos can’t seem to get it.

        1. “He has been writing about Pinoy dysfunction for a decade now.”

          rephrase, “all I ever did was complain.” LOL

          ako po ay si Victor VIllanueva,isa akong award winning na special mention na filmmaker

        2. wag na, I’m sure panget ka sa real life, gusto lang kita pukpokin sa mga trophies at awards ko. yun lang.

        3. This guy is somebody who was separated by birth with the other troll with similar name here…

          He he he…

          Why do they enjoy trolling?

          Ang babaw ng kaligayahan.

  5. philippine movies are written to showcase an actor’s ability to look good onscreen. there’s no talent requirement for the actors, and neither is there an IQ requirement for the audience. even those with abysmal intellect can grasp what the film is all about!

    is a philippine movie worth wasting your hard-earned cash on? HARDLY. i wouldn’t support that industry as all it does is churn out mediocre actors and lousy politicians. it’s bad for the nation’s health.

    1. I’m just sick of all the gays in Philippine Cinema. and people wonder why every other man is turning gay. It’s because it all boils down to Psychologys Nature Vs. Nurture issue. If the enviroment consists of all shallow,homosexual influences, primarily in Philippine television and cinema. (talk shows,game shows,teleseryes, etc.) Have we ever seen a gay News Reporter, or a gay crossdresser doing hard hitting journalism?? I don’t think so, and why you may ask? Well, I think we all know the answer. All they are good for is cheap jokes and cheap laughs.

    2. So true! Filipino movies are crap! I was invited once to a premiere and I was sitting right beside the director (i can’t even recall the title) and the first 10 minutes had already put me to sleep. I guess the director got the meaning.
      Its mere movie trailers and titles alone are already a turn off.
      Our movie world and politics go hand in hand in the land of going nowhere! So so sad!

  6. The date of the quoted article is crucial. Mr. Tan wrote it in 2002, poised between the ruckus caused by the banning of the film “Live Show” (2000) and the release of Cris Pablo’s “Duda” (2003), the seminal gay film that paved the way for making digital movies accessible. So Mr. Tan was likely referring to the sex movies of the period (called TF or Titillating Films) that were produced most famously by outfits like Seiko, Viva, and Regal — all considered mainstream studios at the time. They were almost always heterosexual in nature, with the odd lesbian or gay subtheme. “Gay indies” as we know it didn’t proliferate until the latter half of the 00’s. To more usefully assess “kabadingan” and “kalaswaan” in Philippine movies today, a new set of references is in order.

    1. Perhaps, indeed, the references during the time Tan had written the above article are a baseline upon which the industry had further gained ground into the rapidly shrinking taboo zones of popular sensibilities. I do recall some of these new references being discussed in the comment threads of Ilda’s article.

    2. Grabe! ang dami na palang Gay Films…
      pwede po bang gumawa naman kayo ng ibang movies na walang kabaklaan 🙂
      Peace!

    1. I love that film. I love Colin Firth. I wonder when our filmmakers going to do a movie about the Philippine oligarchs and their influence in politics?

      1. Politics like among any other fields, is both art and science. People that are into politics should have influences (be it someone or an event), basis why they are doing it, and not the “because money is good” crap answer. Politicians aren’t born to be crooks and to be in politics, they definitely have thought of changing the world in a very positive way especially when they were young. Since we Filipinos like talking about lives of popular people, why not the media talk about their political influences, their real life-changing experience that made them pursue to change the world through politics. I got tired of people talking about what they do on their past time, what’s their favorite food, and basically anything irrelevant to their jobs.

        Regarding the topic, putting homosexuality in a context of an artwork, in this case, movies, sometimes is way overused to the point that they are putting it generate audience since to most people, homosexuals are funny, therefore has the potential to gain more moolah, which more often than not tends to be annoying. And it’s like they are promoting men to be gay, in some way, it’s advantageous to my kind (straight dudes) since i’m not that good-looking to win the ladies, hehe! Honest observation, maraming gwaping ang bading, kaya minsan mapapaisip ka nalang, kung yung iba, excuse ang pagiging bading dahil alam nilang panget sila. Kidding aside, i just hope someone would get my point 🙂 I’m sorry for some politically incorrect words that would hurt some people’s pride.

  7. nakakatawa naman yung mga insights mo. lahat ng mga nakikita mong Philippine movies puro kabadingan at kalaswaan hindi mo nakukuha yung mensahe.

    nakakapagtaka din na simula nung lumabas at kumuha ng attensiyon ng mga movie enthusiasts, critics, film makers yung isa pang artikulo dito e biglang nilabas mo yung “Filipino Indie Film Makers need to stop whining and step up” at ngayon ito. nakakapagtaka lang :))

    1. Ang papangit naman talaga ng mga philippine movies.. Mula sa mga entries ng MMFF hangang sa mga so called indie films… most of the time walang ka kwenta kwenta ang tema.. san kaya grumaduate ang mga script writers nila.. Duhhhh

  8. can someone tell me why the mouths don’t move with the voices in filipino movies? and why the sound is so muffled, why is there no echo when people are talking and walking down a hallway?

    Are they too cheap to use microphones, so they decide to just dubb the voices over?

    1. ADR, or dubbing, is the norm. Even in Hollywood, a certain (usually large) percentage of an entire movie is dubbed. But yes, microphones are used for live recording during shoots, and that’s also standard practice. In the final product, a Filipino movie can have a mix of both live and ADR, but many studio films are dubbed 100%. If the quality of sound in Filipino films you saw is not satisfactory, that’s usually because of rushed audio post-production — not because we don’t have the equipment or the talent — which is a result of studios always rushing (not alotting enough time) to meet a playdate they already booked in advance.

    1. Please show us proof na most of the people here ay binabayaran.

      Yellow Zombie ka kasi kaya mo nasasabi iyan. Baka IKAW ang mababaw? 🙂

    1. Mas grabe ang crab mentality ng mga nagususulat sa Get Real Philippines. At ng mga sumusuporta sa website na ito. Hindi ba?

      1. Ay nasaktan ang crab na si Yappie (natamaan siya ng artikulo, aminin…) Hamo, iluluto ka namin mamaya kasama taba mo para may silbi naman ang buhay mo. Sarap yata ng chili crab.

  9. Hopefully the gays understand that we’re not condemning them. It’s the flamboyant and ridiculous representation of gay culture in the movies that perhaps needs to be condemned. Thanks to this kind of over-exposure, some foreigners may believe that half the Filipino male population is gay, and competent male culture may be on the decline.

  10. oh well…you do not just see kalaswaan and kabadingan in films. you get to experience them too in classrooms. so they do not just show kabadingan and kalaswaan in films, they teach them too. that’s why its scary to be with filipino men nowadays; if they are not tamad and mama’s boy, they are bakla eeew…

  11. I might be OT but this one is interesting –

    Snippet:

    “The depravity of our popular culture and our eagerness to shred traditional values manifests itself every day. Lady Gaga, the top-earning woman in the music business and deemed by ABCs Barbara Walters to be one of the “most fascinating people,” has a new vocation in mind. She’s announced she wants to become an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church so she can marry two gay male friends.”

    http://townhall.com/columnists/brentbozell/2011/12/23/cultural_winners_and_losers_2011

    1. What a travesty! In my opinion,2 gay males or females should in no circumstance be allowed to be married. (Under religious circumstances)As harsh as it may sound to those attempting to lead or live in a more “modern” lifestyle. Have we forgotten our old values and tradition in marrying because of love and the intent to reproduce children? Lady Gaga is aiming a little too high there.

      1. Only on the secular liberal world – those politically correct blokes!

        It’s not farfetched that eventually, they will also fight for the right of a brother to sister or sister to sister or brother to brother or son to mother etc. marriages!

        Or man with a beast!

        1. One example of how their minds work –

          http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/massachusetts-passes-bill-making-transgenderism-crossdressers-a-protected-c

          Snippet –

          “BOSTON, November 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Massachusetts legislature has passed a bill that elevates cross-dressing or transgendered individuals to a protected class, and grants universal access to sex-segregated areas such as bathrooms based on personal “gender identity or expression.”

          The measure, known as the “Transgender Equal Rights Bill” (H. 502 in the House and S. 764 in the Senate) passed the upper chamber on Wednesday in a voice vote. It’s unclear when the bill will receive final approval votes and be signed into law by Democrat Gov. Deval Patrick, a strong gay rights supporter.”

          A lot of perverts in our country would like that law – they can access the opposite sex toilets for one.

        2. Manong nakakatakot ka. Parang ang daming galit ang laman ng dibdib mo. Nakakalungkot na marami pa ring mga taong tulad mong mag-isip sa mundo. Rasista!

  12. What is “kabadingan” and what is “kalaswaan”? And why I think the author of this article has some “kakulangan?”

    The problem with this article is that the writer failed to explain that “kabadingan,” as a cultural concept, is not the same as homosexuality per se. (Or at least I would like to assume that he knows that already). While he explains that “kabadingan” describes a spectacle of loud contrived crassness or obnoxiousness in both behaviour, design, and aesthetic sensibilities that is indulged in for its entertainment (attention-grabbing) value, he failed to point out that not all homosexuals are loud and obnoxious and that in Filipino movies, “kabadingan” is not exclusively exuded by homosexuals. There are Filipina actresses in the movies (and in the entertainment industry as a whole) that ooze with “kabadingan.” I am wondering if the writer is under the impression that “kabadingan” is tantamount to homosexuality. The writer’s failure to clarify his position on this matter weakens his ability to articulate what he means. I also find his take on “kalaswaan” to be very subjective and conservative. I mean, what is so wrong about sex and sex scenes? The article also cites quotes that make very glittering generalizations. For instance, in trying to expand on a supposed statement made by a UP Sociology Professor Michael Tan (and I used the term “supposed” simply because I have not personally confirmed whether this was his actual statement or not), he writes that “movies with p[l]ots of adultery that run steamy sex scenes … mandate that the adulterer, who is always the female, gets shot or imprisoned.” Are the adulterers always females in Filipino movies? Really? What is this writer smoking? You do not need a cinema scholar to disprove this statement. There are more flaws to be pointed out in this article. I’ll pause at this point.

    1. Dude, you just wrote a whole block of text highlighting that you failed to comprehend a key aspect of my first sentence which I highlighted in bold here:

      Roughly translated in English and taken out of the context of homosexuality that it is commonly associated with, the Tagalog colloquial word kabadingan in a cultural sense is a contemporary concept that describes a spectacle of loud contrived crassness or obnoxiousness in both behaviour, design, and aesthetic sensibilities that is indulged in for its entertainment (attention-grabbing) value.

      So even your first statement “The problem with this article is that the writer failed to explain that “kabadingan,” as a cultural concept, is not the same as homosexuality per se…” alone is already an epic fail.

      Tough luck.

      1. What I wrote was that you FAILED TO EXPLAIN IT. You mentioned it in passing BUT you failed to explain it. And there is more point to my response than what you pointed out.

        1. I read it again as you have suggested. The one in bold is a POORLY CONSTRUCTED sentence. Do you even understand what you wrote? I think that you were trying to say something different but because of your poor command of the English language, you ended up writing something else. Do you know what TAKEN OUT OF THE CONTEXT OF HOMOSEXUALITY means? That means that the idea was DRAWN FROM THE CONTEXT OF HOMOSEXUALITY. Or perhaps you meant to write that it was TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT instead of TAKEN OUT OF THE CONTEXT OF something? The insertion of the article “the” made a big difference in what you were trying to express. I suggest that you hire an editor to proof your sentence constructions.

      2. If I may butt in, RReyes is showing us that he is a politically correct bloke. A classy politically correct dude who hates incorrect English grammar but will redefine a word to buttress an argument.

        The phrase “moral relativism” comes into my mind.

  13. nag-iinit ulo ko kakabasa ng mga sulatin nagmamatalinong-know it all pseudo intelligent whiners, este writers. gusto ko naman yung mga ibang sinusulat nila tungkol sa bansa pero pagdating sa philippine cinema, hindi ko mapilit ang sarili kong umagr…ee sa kanila. ayaw talaga magpatalo kahit pinapakita na nga na hindi tama yung pinagsasasabi nila. NAKAKAIRITA. hindi na ako magbabasa ng post tungkol sa subject na ito mula sa site na ito.

    MGA PINAGSASASABI MO DITO BENIGNO = FALLACY OF COMPOSITION.

    1. Ano ba ang aya mo? Di mo naman sinasabi. Ano ba ang nakairita sa iyo? Kamot-ulo kaming mga comment readers dito kung ano talaga ang problema mo sa post.

      Politically correct ka rin ba?

        1. @ grovey

          Ito ba yung naka bold na sinasabi mo:

          “MGA PINAGSASASABI MO DITO BENIGNO = FALLACY OF COMPOSITION.”

          Are you hallucinating or you’re just a plain stupid dude or both. What is the fallacy or what are the fallacies?

  14. There is no longer – more or less – anything creative or imaginative or innovative in the entertainment industry. The road less traveled has ceased to exist. The easy way to make a buck or piso is what is chosen more often than not, which is just a fancier way of saying always.
    Kabadingan and kalaswaan sells. Kabadingan for comedy, most of the time, and kalaswaan just because nowhere in this forsaken planet can be found a place where sex does not sell.

  15. How about evaluating what causes these quality of work we have now? Won’t you say it’s because we have audiences that are easily pleased? That they would patronize the lamest movies just to see their favorite actors? Improve the standards of these people and you will get the results you want.

  16. First and foremost, I think this article is full of shit… Hypocritical, insecure, and homophobic… Please lang po, be careful in using the word “kabadingan” cause it doesn’t make you in any way more “macho” in this patriarchal society… I painstakingly read your article hoping for a miracle but it turned out to be as what I have expected full of nonsense…
    The issue on sex, isn’t it a fact that people are doing it? Unless madre o pari ka, cguro pwede pa, pero lahat, in one way or another, experience lust and all kinds of sin, and only hypocrites would not like to see it in movies or TV. Sinong tao ba ang walang bahid dungis para husgahan ang mga writers and directors na’to, bading man o hindi, para pigilan sila gumawa ng movies like that?
    It is a part of life so there is absolutely no reason para itago o ipagbawal panoorin as long as you are adult enough to watch it…
    Finally, hindi kasalanan ng mga bading na talented sila, creative, and dominant sa indie films… Kailan pa ba sila mapapanood sa mainstream media at live television? Their stories need to be told. Marami naman jan films na hindi gay themed kaya wala kang karapatang mag reklamo…
    In this day and age, marami pa rin talaga ang homophobic, bigots, racist, and pure ignorant people like you that sometimes make this world like hell but we in the gay community will never be any less than proud of who we are and what we are born to be. Stop lecturing us about morality, tingnan mo muna sarili mo bago ka mang husga ng kapwa mo. You have no right to judge other people cause you are not perfect…
    Hindi ka si Superman…

    1. I’d paraphrase your comment as “don’t judge people, gays have a right to be proud” Proudly gay, proudly showbiz!

  17. I strongly agree, but that is just half of what wrong with the Phil. media. Most of the media are bias to the point of brainwashing. Despite of the alleged corruptions and deceptions of the politicians, the polls are showing that they are ahead in presidential candidacies. That’s just don’t make sense to me. I hope the Pope will emphasize these immoralities to the Filipino people.

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