Set in a remote rural town during the reign (specifically after the declaration of Martial Law) of former President Ferdinand Marcos, Mga Kuwentong Barbero (Barber’s Tales), directed by Jun Robles Lana told different stories beautifully embroidered into a simple delicate handkerchief.
WARNING: SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP
It focused on various faces of a Filipina at that time (or maybe until now) and how each fulfill their purpose in life and in their community. Each had their own levels of power to nurture, to influence and to change.
Tess (Sharmaine Beuncamino), the spinster aunt who chose to live a life of solitude to take care of her beloved nephew. She sacrificed having a husband and a family to give his nephew Edmond (Nicco Manalo) the education she always dreamed for him. Being a spinster at that time was tantamount to being a housemaid. However, more than the education Tess provided Edmond, she paved way to the young mind’s enlightenment.
Susan (Gladys Reyes), the mother whose duties included satisfying her husband sexually and to be pregnant almost every Fiesta. She was just a normal housewife and mother that lived to serve his loving family. Notably pregnant throughout the movie, she used this to save the people she cared for in a desperate moment.
Rosa (Sue Prado), the prostitute that served as fantasy to bring men joy to the men all over town. She had the lowest status in society but ironically, she had one of the highest levels of power. Being in her field, she had the capability to control men in a different way.
Cecilia (Iza Calzado), the politician’s wife who was haunted by her husband’s infidelity and abuse. Her social status was the highest, being the wife of the mayor. This same social status held her captive and slowly took away her voice. This was until she met Malou and found her freedom.
Lastly, Malou, exceptionally played by Eugene Domingo, the widow who was lost after her husband’s death. I would like to believe that the role was inspired by Bona, one of the notable films of Nora Aunor. Initially, like Bona Malou was a submissive wife blindly following her husband’s orders. After his death, she was like an ant that got lost in its trail. She even considered applying to be a housemaid until the parish priest made her realize that she could do more as a barber.
This transition as expected was not easy. Men being men were skeptical to have their hair cut by a woman even after they knew she was good. Even if she was the only competent barber in town. All just because she was a woman. Have you ever seen a female barber? Personally, I haven’t. This could be the strongest representation of women empowerment. Being a barber, she had the power to make a man look good. She cut the hair of the priest, a rebel and the mayor. She had the power to make the ugly, handsome or beautiful. Most of all, Malou had the power to make a change.
Barber’s Tales like in most reviews I read, more than the political aspect, was a tribute to women. I agree. It was a celebration of how women could influence change, a revolution or just petty decisions of men like where to get a haircut.
If you failed to watch Barber’s Tales, that’s just too bad because it was one of the films where the audience (including me) clapped their hands especially after realizing that the movie was a tribute to Marilou Diaz-Abaya.