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Friday, May 24, 2024

Notes on Pio de Castro III's "Soltero"

The title of Soltero (Tagalog: Bachelor), a 1984 film directed by Pio de Castro III for the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, sounds like solitaire, the card game. 

Although cards have nothing to do with this movie, the titular character Crispin Rodriguez (exquisitely portrayed by the late Jay Ilagan) appears to play numerous games. 

In each game where happiness is at stake, he uses a card that represents a unique aspect of his singlehood. 

Photo Credit: YouTube / Star Cinema

The opening line, penned by screenwriter Bienvenido Noriega Jr., explicitly delineates this quest for happiness: 

"Para sa lahat ng mga nagsisikap lumigaya, bagaman nag-iisa. At sa mga may katambal na, ngunit nagsasarili pa rin."

("For those who seek happiness despite being alone. And for those who may have found it, but still wish to be alone.)"

A card represents Crispin as a lovelorn fellow who hopes to win over again a sweetheart-turned-friend named Christina (Rio Locsin). 

Although Christina had left Crispin for a married man, Crispin unyieldingly clings to the wish that his former flame comes back to him. 

Another card illustrates his attempts to be affectionate to someone else again. This new subject of affection is his immediate supervisor at work. RJ (Chanda Romero)

Some cards elucidate Crispin's relationships to members of his immediate family: his mother, siblings, grandfather, in-laws and nephew. 

There are also cards that show him as a friend to contemporaries, who, like him, strive to find meaning and purpose as they leave the twenties and approach the thirties.

Other cards define Crispin as a young urban professional with a stable job as a banker, enabling him to live relatively comfortably amid the political and social instability of the 1980s. 

Presumably getting ready for a possibility to leave the country, he studies the Japanese language in his spare time. 

The option to go overseas seems to be not financially motivated, but a choice aimed at expanding his horizons.

Whether he wins these games, it is up to viewers to find out.

Although Crispin is quite well-off and appears to be a well-rounded person, there is something missing in his existence. 

He meets the criteria of an eligible bachelor, but he is harboring a void that holds him back. This void continues to resonate with yuppie audiences.

The theme song, titled "Kaluluwang Hapo" (Tagalog: Exhausted Soul) is performed by Basil Valdez in a manner that resonates how Crispin feels about what he perceives as his lonely existence. Do the aforementioned games cause the pain, suffering and emptiness he is feeling?

For audiences struggling about being happy with career and other aspects of life, there is another memorable scene involving Crispin and his drinking buddies, Edwin (Bing Davao) and Teddy (Dick Israel).


Photo Credit: YouTube / Star Cinema

A drunk Edwin is disappointed and angry at his employers for reassigning him to a project in Saudi Arabia. Considering that the playboy Edwin is accustomed to a happy-go-lucky way of life, the new job will potentially deprive him of the freedoms he currently enjoys in the Philippines.  

In an effort to offer a profound advice Teddy, delivers these words of wisdom:

Ako nga, mas masama pa lagay sa iyo eh. (I have it worse than you.)

Ilang taon na akong walang progreso! (I've been like this for years!) 

Pero ganun 'yun eh! (But that's how it is!)

Hindi lahat ng gustuhin mo nakukuha mo! (You can't always get what you want!)

Syempre pagtityagaan natin kung ano ang dumarating at natitira sa atin. (You have to work with what you have.)

Dun tayo sinusukat, kung gaano tayo katiyaga, hindi yung kung ano naabot natin. (We are defined by our struggles, not by our triumphs).

The idea of working with what a person has can be linked with the practice of gratitude. The notion of finding meaning in struggles, rather than triumphs, conforms with the philosophy of finding happiness in the process, and avoiding too much focus on the end results.

Based on how your life goes right now, a viewing of Soltero can spark insights to be pondered upon.

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