By Herman M. Lagon
“MGA KUWENTONG Barbero” (Barber’s Tales), directed by Jun Robles Lana, has recently garnered significant attention after its inclusion in Netflix’s roster, swiftly climbing to the number third spot as of January 18. This 2013 film, led by the talented Eugene Domingo, is not merely a story; it reflects a tumultuous era–the Martial Law period, one of the darkest eras in the country. The movie I just watched on Sunday night artfully intertwines the themes of love, loss, and rebellion, set against a society grappling with oppressive norms.
The movie unfolds in a remote village during the early 1970s, a time marked by the stringent control of the Marcos dictatorship. The narrative revolves around the life of Marilou, a widow who inherits her husband’s barbershop, a traditionally male-dominated profession. Her struggle to maintain the business amid societal skepticism symbolizes a broader resistance against the established gender norms of the era. Domingo’s excellent portrayal of Marilou is both nuanced and powerful, capturing the essence of a woman rediscovering her purpose and strength in a patriarchal society.
The film delves deep into the harsh realities of Martial Law, shedding light on the deceptive tranquility that belied the underlying turmoil. Through its characters—Tess, Susan, Rosa, Cecilia, and the central figure, Marilou—the movie presents a tapestry of female experiences, each reflecting different facets of life under authoritarian rule. These women, despite their disparate social standings, find common ground in their silent rebellion against the constraints imposed upon them, be it in the form of societal expectations, domestic abuse, or political oppression.
At its core, “Mga Kuwentiong Barbero” is a poignant testament to the resilience and solidarity of women. It transcends the boundaries of a mere historical recount, echoing the enduring struggles against social injustices. The film resonates with viewers even today, as it mirrors ongoing battles against gender inequality, historical distortion, and political despotism. It serves as a reminder of the power of unity and the indomitable spirit of women in the face of adversity. The film becomes more than a story; it reflects the human spirit’s capacity for courage and compassion in times of darkness.
The relevance of the film to contemporary Filipino society cannot be overstated. It offers a mirror to the past and a lens to view present challenges, reminding viewers of the cyclical nature of history and the importance of vigilance against the repetition of past mistakes. This film is not just an artistic endeavor but a scholarly discourse on the resilience of the human spirit against political turmoil.
“Mga Kuwentiong Barbero” is a masterful blend of storytelling and historical narrative. It is a film that does not just recount events but urges the audience to reflect, question, and, most importantly, remember. As it reaches a broader audience through Netflix, its message becomes even more pertinent, highlighting the need to acknowledge and learn from the echoes of history.
Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.