Chito Roño’s Dekada ’70 (Star Cinema, 2002) is the story of a middle-class mother raising a brood of five boys amid the turbulent Martial Law era. Being a housewife and caring mother was everything Amanda Bartolome (Vilma Santos) surrendered herself to doing all along, primarily because her bourgeois husband (Christopher de Leon) dominated the family. This was until her eldest (Piolo Pascual) became a full-pledged New People’s Army member and her consciousness was inevitably dragged into the turmoil of her son’s rebel living and of her time’s dictatorial mode. From an apolitical woman, she turned into a socially engaged individual. An aspect of the highly intricate feminist theory is the empowerment of women just as Amanda was empowered in the novel and, later, in its cinematic adaptation. The patriarchal hegemony views the planet as “a man’s world,” thereby the illusion of male dominance over women proliferates just because women are weaker in terms of physiology or physical strength. Over time, the assigned roles to both sexes—while just socially constructed—were made somewhat permanent, limiting the opportunities of women to spring out of the box. This is the case in question for feminists: the accordance of equality and equity for both sexes as well as for all genders. The film represents women as capable of getting empowered upon realization that it’s a woman’s world, too. The husband-submissive Amanda learns and applies to life that she can win a case against Julian Sr. (or any man for that matter) as did her career-driven daughter-in-law (Dimples Romana) and that women have responsibility to the country as was exemplified by her other daughter-in-law, the rebel Mara (Ana Capri). Women like Amanda lived and have been living as domestic slaves to their husbands, having made to believe that they best settle for homebound careers like babysitting and cooking. The film leads women to imagine a possibility of breaking the custom-built chain of home and partake an active role in nation-building like excelling in politics, business, science or letters. In the beginning, the film comments on the conventional household roles women assume in the society, but as Amanda awakens from complacency to support, for instance, Jules’ rebel cause, Dekada ’70 already subverts the idea that Amanda (or any other woman) should embrace inferiority as opposed to man’s pronounced superiority. The novel was written in the early ‘80s and its screenplay, in the early part of the millennium. While the two texts materialized with twenty years of distance between them, the expressed cultural views about women in general hardly changed. Women then and now are seen in stereotypes: the cause of man’s downfall, the she-devil, the second sex, the bimbo, the Maria Clara, goddess personified, ad infinitum. In the case of our heroine, Amanda is the Blessed Virgin Mary ever attendant to her Messianic son Jules and a devout follower of the Father, Jules Sr. Master-slave is the best description of the relationship between the men and women of the film. However, the turning of the table through the insight of Amanda’s initiation to social life is a telling fact that women cannot stay in the stuffy, coffin-like box because they deserve to take a significant part in revolutionizing the society. Women only tolerate their submissiveness to men because of patriarchal ideology, but the film’s enlightening moral should let them know their bodies and roles better than the usual and imagined. Time for the social constructs to be radicalized by women themselves.
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