Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na, to begin with, hints at being chapters in a historical book. A paratextual instance intercalates “figures” or pictures at the beginning which we often see in illustrated volumes. They occupy small areas of the frame, but we discern a series of smoke clouds billowing within the pictures. They all bear captions of the 1970s, and the smoke appears like the aftermath of volcanic eruptions.
Where there's smoke, there must be fire. This is going to be about a a cataclysm, a catastrophe, but what we suspect it is going to be isn't a natural calamity but something wholly man-made. This is hinted at by the peritext: an epigraph that speaks of solidarity and unity in a continuing struggle. True enough, as the chapters of this quasi-volume unfold, we see the darkness of the socio-politcal climate of the 1970s, the looming large of Martial Law. There are four chapters told asynchronously, in reverse order. They tell stories of death and disorder, where everything sacred gives way to the profane, the civilized to the savage.
At first, when the outlines of a story remain to be established, it appears a miscalculation to sequence the movie in this way. But this strange deferral of ultimate cause and effect, this erasure of narrative sequencing, allows the film a patient pacing to gather momentum, although the opening chapters seemingly have a tenuous synchronic connection. The first chapter is a middle-class wedding gone haywire, with the father of the bride-to-be running amok, possessed with personal and parochial affront, shooting down everybody in his way. The period detail is perfectly established by how it is captured: through the lens of an old video camera, monochromatic and full of technological static, handled by a wedding videographer. The second chapter is about how a father of a guerilla tries to contact his son about a matter that might save him from the military operations in the mountains where the guerillas are hiding out. The chapter ends with the apparent firefight between guerillas and government troops, capped off with archival documentary footage of the New People’s Army.
Closer and closer toward the beginning, redolent of our kind of demented engagement with history that goes in circles or backwards, the third and final chapters are what bring the film to a powerful close. The third chapter is about a priest who performs bestialities upon the dead. He has set up a laboratory in his parish to keep the cadavers fresh and free from necrosis. The fourth chapter reveals a most aggravating circumstance, the possible identity of the dead and their dehumanization, but also perhaps their symbolic resurrection and immortalization.
Paratextually again, the film exits with yet another “figure” -- this time a tiny icon of the infamous mountain face of President Marcos mouthing the titular line in a cartoonish way, in comic contrast to all that preceded it. After its dark portrait of authoritarian, religious and military treacheries, the film stamps this stretch of history with an unexpected watermark -- an affirmation, perhaps, that Leyco may not write history in a literary way, but he may certainly write it cinematically. We know our history, what came after the epoch in question, but Leyco’s film has the hint of a playful rendering of those times that may be construed, in a way, as a staking out of a vantage point, a leaving behind of his signature, and certainly, an irreverent gesture at the brutal Marcosian repression, fueled by the stabbing and penetrating script of the equally irreverent and iconoclastic person of Norman Wilwayco. It is an act of solidarity with revolutionaries and social reformers as well, though Leyco's ways suggest that his contribution to the cause may be to some extent idiosyncratic, since it is personal, since his voice may be a generation removed from the era in question. The utilization of paratextual elements emphasizes this: the parodical 70s-inspired film's poster is impish epitext, as well as the visual presence of video game snippets, the use of artificial, arcade-game-like sound effects to punctuate gunfire -- all tell us that history need not be consigned to books in the intermediality of contemporary times. History must always remain fresh in our memory. As such, it ought to be given expression in all forms of mass media, and perhaps none more artful, none more singular in its perspective, none with greater valency than film itself.