Oro, Plata, Mata is a 1982 multi-awarded Filipino film directed by Peque Gallaga, and is considered his most significant contribution to Philippine cinema. Set in the Philippine province of Negros during World War II, it tells the story of how two haciendero families cope with the changes brought about by the war. In translation, the movie is also known either as "Gold, Silver, Bad Luck" or "Gold, Silver, Death."Oro Plata Mata's restoration is a project of ABS-CBN Corporation as they try to preserve, or better yet resurrect, these movies that have once captivated (or disturbed) every Filipinos.Through their Central Digital Lab, they have provided proper and air-conditioned storage rooms for the film rolls and have them converted to a digital format.
The title refers to an old Filipino architectural superstition saying that design elements in a house (particularly staircases) should not end in a multiple of three, in keeping with a pattern of oro (gold), plata (silver), and mata (bad luck). The film is structured in three parts that depict this pattern played out in the lives of the main characters, from a life of luxury and comfort in the city ("oro/gold"), to a still-luxurious time of refuge in a provincial hacienda ("plata/silver"), and finally to a retreat deeper into the mountains, where they are victimized by bandit guerillas ("mata/bad luck").
The restoration succeed on improving the quality of the movie through color and contrast enhancements. I have to admit that the intersection of its classic vibe and digital format kind of gives an Instagram-like ambiance. However, the auditory aspect of the film needs more improvement to reach its impeccable quality.
The film starts with a birthday celebration showing aristocracy and leisure Filipinos are experiencing under the American regime (Oro=Gold). While they discuss matters about money, money and pretty much more money, young Trining (Cherie Gil) is seen giving Miguel (Joel Torre) her first kiss. However, amidst the merriment, the news about the Japanese occupation can be seen casting shadows through the conversation of the elders. Their doubts have been verified as the information about the great Fall of Corregidor breaks out.
Since both of the families have enough resources to support their needs during the war, they transfer to a provincial townhouse or hacienda (Plata=Silver). In here, young Miguel is exposed to the bombarding reality of carnal pleasures through his peasant friend. While he is trying his very best to know how he shall play with a girl (a lot of literal star-sighting) in their little playhouse (highly paradoxical!) a commotion builds on their mansion as they have seen Japanese soldiers nearing their house. They are left with no choice but to burn the hacienda down and move to the deeper caverns of the forest.
As they move to their isolated (yet still very much unsafe) bungalow at the forest, they are constantly baffled with different disturbances (Mata=Death). A group of wounded guerillas comes to their place in search of a momentary refuge which thoroughly reflects the aggravation Filipinos experienced during the Japanese occupation. Being wealthy and pampered, most of them are in a constant flux of worry over the fast-phased predicaments laying in front of their very eyes.
The film ends with yet another celebration for their freedom from the war and Miguel-Maggie (Trining's older sister) engagement. As they dance with smiles, however, it is implied that all of them are already corrupted because of the war. One man sits while staring blankly because of his shock of what he has experienced during the war; an honorable man in tuxedo clutching his butler's bottom; and Trining declaring her grudge over her sister.
"Ang digmaan na ito, ginawang halimaw ang lahat sa atin."
What has been entirely ironic yet nevertheless brilliant, is that there is only one Japanese soldier shown during the entire film, specifically a weak and wounded one. The terrors experienced by the lead characters are inflicted by the Filipino soldiers which absolutely debunks the idea that the Japanese men have always been the bad guys. Can you just imagine seeing a nation fighting for freedom through killing one another?
I have never seen Cherie Gil as someone worth noting of. I mean, she is nothing but a morena beauty who has strong bone structure that pretty much comes in pre-requisite for kontrabida roles. Even if I have used her ever famous line "You're nothing, but a second grade, trying hard, COPY CAT!" perhaps a hundred times already, I never took fancy of her... not until now though! Her character, Trinidad "Trining" Ojeda, stands as the epitome of the entire Filipino oppression during the Japanese regime. Here we have an innocent girl perhaps of 15s, that is caught in the middle of the war and got no where to run... except for men's bed. At first I was deeply angered on how Trining degrades herself through constantly (and I mean every night) shaking out her dignity to a guerilla, but as the story goes on she reveals that she is doing it out of utter confusion and stress of all the things happening to her. Could you just imagine a young lady demoralizing herself because it's the only thing she got to spare her mind from all the troubles because of the war?
"Sa panahong ito, madali nang mkalimutan ang hiya! Pero ang takot hindi!"
The scene where the four women of the family tries to play Mahjong after the height of the guerilla tortures they got is the heaviest act of all, at least for me. It just shows how Filipinos tried their very best to carry on with their lives in spite of all the corruption they acquired: sexual assault, physical injuries, emotional battering even. I would have loved it if the film ended right then and there...
but it didn't. We have young Miguel showcasing his heroism in saving Trining from a group of guerilla and miraculously killing everyone there only with one man on his side. Deus ex machina!
Perhaps the Filipinos demanded that one during that time. I am still trying my very best to forgive them.
Even though there is a part I wish isn't there, Oro, Plata Mata is trully a brillian film to revel upon. Imagine Filipino filmmakers, we have did it once before! Why can't we now? *insert grudging smiley over romantic comedy films*
Perhaps by luck, someone from ABS-CBN and Star Cinema stumbles upon this blog post, I would just like to thank you at the truest sense for restoring this one epic movie and making me believe that our local movie industry have seen golden ages! Should I expect Maynila Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag this March? :D