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Movie Bold Stars of the 80s

Bold stars of the cinema – we’ve seen them come and go. There are Stella, Claudia, Brandy and a host of others, but the names of some have stuck firmly in the minds of our menfolk. These are the women who have gone where other bold stars dared not tread, as Sharon Cuneta in her show introduced them, “Silang mga matatapang nating kabaro (Our fearless women).”
Joy Sumilang, Vida Verde and Cristina Crisol, who graced Sharon’s talk show about bold stars in the 80s, are just three of the women who did more than just go nude to titillate viewers of the mainstream cinema.
All of them are called ‘pene stars’ because they were supposed to have engaged in real sex on the wide screen. They did this with their leading men in the movies they starred in in the 80s when they were all very young and alluring.
Still recognizable in their 50s, these women now recount how they were given the argot ‘pene stars’ and how this stigma has remained until now. Joy, Vida and Cristina were all drawn to Tinsel Town’s promise of fame and fortune due to economic circumstances. Coming from a poor background, they were not thinking of becoming pene or mainstream porn stars at all, but simply sexy stars our to put themselves forward in the showbiz world. Perhaps they thought the roles would land them more substantial ones eventually.
Naturally all of them knew that some baring of flesh was part of the deal. Being novices in the industry though, their resistance to going a lot further was easily overcome.
Some were slyly influenced by their unscrupulous managers, others were forced to the coital act while the camera was rolling. They were easily manipulated because they were naive at that time. According to Joy, she was too timid to antagonise her director. “Magagalit po sa akin ang direktor dahil masasayang ang tape nang dahil lang sa akin”. (I would earn the ire of the director if I wouldn’t agree because the tape would be wasted.) So when she heard the director say, “Go all the way”, she just blindly went along with it. The two others who were interviewed, Vida and Cristina, denied ever going all the way.
But judging from the stills in some of their movies, this is hard to swallow. Joy Sumilang, however, is admirable for confirming that there was sexual penetration in her movies. Dealing with the past is not to deny it but to accept it as part of one’s history.
She honestly puts it this way: “May mga pagkakataon po na nakalusot. Nahihiya naman po ako pero hindi ko rin po maipaliwanag.” (There were instances when it happened. I am embarrassed that it happened, but I have no way of explaining why I did it.)
The explanation could only be that young women are vulnerable to exploitation in the male-dominated world of movie-making, so no one can really make a judgement on these women’s character based on the decisions they made at a very young age.
But the moral precepts of society do not usually make that kind of allowance. Instead these women’s past continues to find its way to haunt their present.
“Hindi ko naman po alam na magiging ina ako noon. Sarili ko lang ang iniisip ko.” (I did not foresee the pitfalls for my decision. I only considered myself then.) Her words and her tears suggest that not only she, but her children also suffer the repercussions of her past actions.
Come to think of it, her career move was made a long time ago, yet twenty years later she and her children still bear the brunt of humiliation. Society’s disapprobation has continued because there is something that constantly reminds them of Joy’s youthful delinquencies .
It is similar to the scarlet letter in the book with the same title written by Nathaniel Hawthorn. The female character was made to carry a letter ‘A’ (adulterer) as a punishment for what the 19th century townsfolk considered her moral transgression.
This badge dangled on her neck for everyone to see wherever she went. The modern-day scarlet letter for Joy Sumilang is found in the copies of films she starred in which are being sold in Quiapo and downloadable free on the internet.
These porn films have a way of shaming Joy publicly on a daily basis. They cause more pain now because her children are affected. Her children’s defence against society’s taunts is to dissociate themselves from society. “Hindi kami nakikinig sa sinasabi ng iba kasi kami-kami lang naman ang nagkakaintindihan talaga.” (“We don’t listen to what society says. No one else can understand us except ourselves.”)
While there are those like Joy who regret the past, there also those who have gained renewed strength from similar ex-periences. Myra Manibog, another pene star interviewed by Sharon in a later episode, has moved beyond society’s moral compass.
Instead she worked hard to reconfigure her identity in accordance to what she assessed as economically viable in the many stages of her life.
From being a pene star, she went on to make a career in the sex entertainment industry in Japan. When work in that industry took a downturn, she returned to the Philippines to embrace a Christian life. She reintegrated herself once more in her community by transforming her image.
She then pursued a degree and now works in a call centre as a team leader. Like the rest of the pene stars, Myra was also exploited early in her career, but she managed to eventually take the reins and determine her own life.
She knows that the stigma cannot easily be forgotten so she has learned to live with it. Without denying her past, she has reasserted herself successfully in society.