The Philippines, 1982, 120’, English, Filipino
Directed by: Eddie Garcia
Script: Orlando Nadres
Story: Gilda Olvidado
Photography (color): Romeo Vitug
Editing: Ike Jarlego
Production Design: Manny B. Morfe
Music: George Canseco
Producers: Vic Del Rosario Jr., Ramon Salvador
Cast: Vilma Santos (Divina), Christopher De Leon (Jerry), Phillip Salvador (Oscar), Lorna Tolentino (Nora), Ramil Rodriguez (Alex), Irene Celebre (Ivy), Eddie Garcia (Don Jose Ferrer, uncredited)
Date of First Release in Territory: August 19th, 1982
A dying father (Eddie Garcia) asks his daughter Divina (Vilma Santos) to look for and take care of his estranged mistress and her half sister, explaining that he cannot be at peace if his request is rejected. A month after his passing, she finds her half-sister Nora (Lorna Tolentino) and adopts her.
Bringing her into her home, Divina finds Nora intolerable and she constantly mistreats her. Nora idolizes her sister, constantly making efforts to be more like her. Things are further complicated by the arrival of their lovers: the persistent Oscar (Phillip Salvador) refuses to leave Nora alone after a lengthy courtship, while Jerry (Christopher De Leon) uses Divina to become closer to her half-sister.
Sinasamba Kita is the stuff of Filipino telenovelas, creating the formula even before there was one. Written by Orlando Nadres from Gilda Olvidado’s story, it explores how love can be confused with ownership and idolatry; how love emancipates and how idolatry and ownership shackle us into place. Production designer Manny B. Morfe and cinematographer Romeo Vitug ensure that this spatial dimension to the narrative is communicated. Man-made architecture and natural sceneries are turned from homes to prisons, sanctuaries into hellscapes when the characters revisit them.
At the helm, director Eddie Garcia isn’t afraid to lean into melodrama and narrative conventions. There are fight scenes, witty banter, dramatic confrontations, and even a car crash. All of these seem incredulous at first, but are tempered by committed naturalistic acting performances. In particular, the tension between Santos and Tolentino is an undeniable force and they cannot fit into a frame for too long.
Ike Jarlego’s editing successfully creates parallels of the sisters’ lives: Divina is successful but left undesired by everyone except her sister, while Nora seeks some form of independence but is the center of almost every discussion and argument. They aspire for what the other has. This is none more apparent than when they go on vacation and the story juxtaposes their time in Bicol and Baguio. Divina makes advances towards Jerry despite knowing that he loves her sister, while Nora continues to resist Oscar’s advances. Even in their physical distance, the sisters’ presence lingers in each other’s lives like spectres. The music by George Canseco punctuates the moments of desire and loneliness; as if playing each person’s inner life for the audience to hear and connect to.
We know the resolution of these stories, but Garcia manages to create an emotional journey that still excites with every turn. The characters are mesmerizing enigmas: you want to figure out why they walk the earth the way they do and if they are aware of it. By the end, nothing really changes about them. But rather, their struggles inform you of the acceptance of their situations and personhood; that competition only yields a life of dissatisfaction and envy. You hope they recognize that loneliness, emptiness, is also part of being human; of being whole. Once they do, it is glorious.
Widely regarded as the “greatest Filipino actor of all time,” Eddie Garcia (1929-2019) was a multi-awarded director, actor, and producer with almost 700 roles in the screen arts. He is the only individual to have been inducted into the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) Hall of Fame for his contributions in both lead and supporting acting categories, as well as in directing.
1978 – Atsay
1982 – Sinasamba Kita
1983 – Paano ba ang mangarap?
1986 – Magdusa ka!
1987 – Saan nagtatago ang pag-ibig
1988 – Huwag mong itanong kung bakit