ANALYSIS: Minsan lang kitang iibigin (1994)
Minsan lang kitang iibigin is a 1994 film directed by Chito S. Roño and written by Ricky Lee. It stars Maricel Soriano as Terry, who is a jealous wife to Dave, played by Gabby Concepcion. She is envious of her friend, Monique, played by ZsaZsa Padilla, because she and her husband seem to have everything they could ever possibly want in life. The plot thickens when Monique’s husband is murdered, and Dave begins to fall for Monique behind Terry’s back.
In examining the feminist aspects of the film, I would like to highlight the following that are evident in the film’s portrayal of the violent female:
- Women’s innate capacity for violence
From the beginning of the film, Terry was shown as already scheming and overly envious. She hates her husband because he is unable to meet her expectations in terms of career. She is very close friends with Monique, but she secretly hates that Monique always bests her in terms of luck. She hates that Monique’s husband is always one step ahead of her own husband, and she torments Dave because of this. There was not a single moment wherein she does not reprimand Dave for not being more ambitious in his career. She also refuses to give him any children because, according to her, he is not advanced enough in his career to give her and their future children luxurious lives. She also tries to advance her career through her connections with his boss without Dave knowing. This makes Dave all the more insecure because he knows that any favor he will be receiving is because of connections and not because of his talent at his job.
A form of violence not usually talked about is psychological violence. Terry psychologically manipulates her husband into feeling guilty and incompetent everyday. She makes sure to let him know that he is never enough. This does not, however, justify any form of infidelity from Dave, but it greatly contributed to Dave falling out of love with Terry and seeking comfort and love from Monique, who has always been kind to their family and is recently vulnerable because of the death of her husband. The film showed Terry as a psychologically abusive wife without reason apart from the fact that it is in her nature to be jealous and manipulative.
- Femininity associated with mystery is the root of women’s violence
The film kept its audience in the dark regarding the root of Terry’s behavior and attitude towards life. It simply showed her nature as a mystery that may or may not be unravelled later on in the plot. The only clue it gave about Terry was a scar she had on her thighs, which Monique accidentally saw. Other than that, the film never talked about why she was troubled or envious in the first place.
When Terry found out about Dave and Monique’s affair, she fell into darkness as she paid Monique a visit. The film’s iconic line rests in Monique and Terry’s encounter when Monique tried to get her to calm down and Terry said,
“Huwag mo ‘kong ma-Terry-Terry! Iyong tanong ko ang sagutin mo! Are you fucking my husband?”
Monique admitted to the affair and also disclosed that she is pregnant with Dave’s child. Upon hearing this, Terry grabbed a knife and stabbed Monique multiple times until she bled on the floor. After the attempted murder, she dragged Monique’s bleeding body and hid it. Afterwards, she cleaned up all evidence of blood. However, since there were witnesses to her visit, Terry was arrested. She told Dave that she only did what she had done because she loved him. Monique, guilty after she survived, denied that Terry stabbed her and, instead, claimed it was a thief. She, however, cut Terry out of her life.
Up until this point, and nearing the end of the film, the filmmakers kept the cause of Terry’s violence a mystery. It was only when Terry was released from prison and Dave tried to leave her that the film decided to finally address Terry’s nature. The writer chose to frame Terry’s possessiveness and jealousy to codependency. Terry uttered the line “Wala akong ibang mapupuntahan. Si Dave nalang ang lahat-lahat sa akin.” Here, she establishes that she was completely dependent on him for her survival and sanity, which is why she clung on to him so hard and tried to manipulate his life, because his life, she felt, was also hers. As to the reason for this codependency, it turns out that Terry was raped and physically abused as a teen.
This is where the film crosses the line. It chose to dive into such a sensitive issue, only to handle it recklessly. This past of Terry’s was not explored deeply at all. It was only mentioned in one or two scenes, thereby making her mental illness as a convenient excuse for the film to have any sort of “depth”. Therefore, the character of the violent female was not explored, rather, it was only used as a plot motivator.
- The “femme fatale” as a symbol of fears about absolute female power, not a representation of complex female experience
According to the film, Dave cheated because Terry was possessive and manipulative. This is partly true, but the reason for the infidelity mostly lies in the fact that the woman in the relationship held the most power as compared to the male. Terry had all the power over Dave, and Dave felt like a weakling. As previously mentioned, the majority of the scenes showed Terry as the absolute female power. The film chose to keep highlighting this power so as to conveniently make it the tipping point of Dave’s character, who is driven to extreme insecurity. When he confesses and makes out with Monique, it was at the time wherein she was extremely devastated and lonely because of her husband’s murder. Dave hit her at her weakest moment, because that is how low of a character he is. In this case, the male, rendered absolutely powerless, and afraid of the dominance of the female, tried to exert any power he could to another female at her weakest. This guarantees that the female cannot fight back because she is more likely to allow herself to be dominated. This is as true with Monique as it is with Terry because after Terry committed the crime, she allowed herself to fall into Dave’s arms, desperately asking for his love and forgiveness and even offering to give him children and do anything for him. The male, striking with the little power he had left, chose to hurt the powerful female, and the film chooses to let the female fall into her stereotype of submissiveness instead of being constant with the strength of her character. To put a metaphor into the picture, it is extremely hard to accept that a lioness is easily brought down by the bite of a cub.
- The violent female as a critique of male power
The film narrative also only highlights Terry’s dependency, but never tackles the faults of Dave, who is easily the most gullible and weakest character in the film. Dave is a much more sensitive person, and he recognizes all his conflicts, but he never addresses them. He just keeps all these inner emotions until he eventually lets himself break loose by cheating with the easiest and most vulnerable character at that moment. Dave was never held accountable for his actions, most especially for his infidelity. Being the main male character, he was victimized by the film, instead of also tackling why his character triggers Terry’s character to act the way she does. The film further avoids tackling the weakness of the male by attempting to humanize those involved in the infidelity. This happens at the scene wherein he supposedly “feels responsible” for Terry towards the end of the film. Here, the male was, once again, the protagonist, because he rose above all the torments thrown at him and chose to go back to his abusive wife because he feels that it is the right thing to do. Being humanized and atoned for his sins, the film absolved the male from any form of accountability and even puts him back on the pedestal of righteousness.
Overall, the film recklessly portrayed a violent female without diving into the root of her violence. She was used as a plot motivator, and even an element of the film’s thriller genre. The only attempt to humanize her was to briefly mention her trauma from a past sexual abuse. Other than that, all throughout the film, she was a monstrous feminine filled with a terrorizing absolute power that threatened the existence of the male. Even though she was as much a victim as she was an oppressor, the film never victimized her. Instead, she was held accountable for her past, her present, and even the lives of those who hurt her. According to the film, she was driven into darkness because of her innate violent nature, and it is her fault that she is unable to recover from her “insanity”. At the end of the day, her salvation only came in the arms of the same man who triggered her violence because he willingly chose to be with her to “help her” change for the better. The monstrous female was, once again, shown as hopeless in her misery and evil amidst everything, except at the face of a man—the only being who can make her “human” again.