Is Released in the Philippines Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Film director and social activist Lino Brocka made gay film history by using Macho Dancer to agitate and shed light on the governments of Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino, whose devastating economic policies forced many poor young Filipino males into prostitution. Despite repeated attempts by the Philippine government to censor his work, Brocka continued to fight for free artistic expression.

Summary of Event

Famed international film director Lino Brocka was the only out, gay, public figure in the conservative Philippines when his film Macho Dancer was released in 1988. The movie made gay history by shedding light on how the inadequate and corrupt conservative regimes of Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino, which continued to support U.S. military bases in the Philippines, forced poor young Filipino males into prostitution. [kw]Macho Dancer Is Released in the Philippines (1988) [kw]Philippines, Macho Dancer Is Released in the (1988) Macho Dancer (film) Filipinos, gay Censorship;of gay film[gay film] Homosexuality;in Filipino film[Filipino film] [c]Arts;1988: Macho Dancer Is Released in the Philippines[1810] [c]Civil rights;1988: Macho Dancer Is Released in the Philippines[1810] [c]Government and politics;1988: Macho Dancer Is Released in the Philippines[1810] [c]Economics;1988: Macho Dancer Is Released in the Philippines[1810] Brocka, Lino Paole, Allan Marcos, Ferdinand Aquino, Corazon

Based on a true story, the confrontational Macho Dancer explores the lives of young men stuck in Manila’s “red-light” world of brothels and sexual slavery. The character Pol (Allan Paole), a young Filipino man barely out of his teens, seeks a better life for his family after his lover, a U.S. Army soldier, the sole support of Pol’s family, abandons him and returns to the United States. Pol soon realizes that he has to support his family, and that he has to resort to prostitution to make money. He leaves his home in the mountainous countryside and moves to the large city of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, where he finds work as a go-go boy and male prostitute. In Manila, Pol meets Noel (Daniel Fernando), whose sister has been abducted to work in a brothel. The two form an intense sexual relationship, and when Noel is violently killed, Pol finds he must avenge his lover’s murder. He moves back to the countryside alone.

Director Brocka’s own background prepared him for presenting films that depict many marginalized sectors of society: the poor, prostitutes, and drug addicts. He, too, grew up in a poor and rural area in the Philippine countryside. Before moving to San Francisco, California, where he worked helping the homeless, he studied to be a Mormon missionary. He also taught in Hawaii and worked in a leper colony before returning to the Philippines, where he wrote scripts for and directed the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA).

From the beginning of his directorial career, Brocka, who is often compared to gay directors Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Pier Paolo Pasolini, won quick international acclaim. In all, he made more than seventy films, addressing social as well as political concerns. For example, there can be little doubt that the American soldier who abandoned Pol, the young Filipino hero in Macho Dancer, represents Brocka’s condemnation of the American military bases in the Philippine Islands and the corrupt Marcos and Aquino governmental regimes, which supported their presence. Brocka became so critical of President Marcos, who declared martial law in 1972 and formed a dictatorship in 1973, that his films had to be smuggled out of the country. Despite imprisonment for sixteen days in 1984, the director heroically continued to fight all forms of censorship by continuing his controversial filmmaking.

His earlier films, including his first, Wanted: Perfect Mother (1970), brought to light the plight of orphans in the Philippines. In Maynila (1975) and Jaguar (1979), Brocka criticizes the corrupt Marcos government by depicting the true economic concerns of the Filipino people. In Angela Markado Bona (1980), he attacks the extravagant lives of movie stars, and his Kontrobersyal (1981) condemns pornography. Bayan Ko (1984), was so critical of the country that the Philippine government disowned it when it earned an entry in the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. Brocka, however, won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts in 1985, awarded to Brocka by a Philippines’ based foundation for “making cinema a vital social commentary, awakening public consciousness to disturbing realities of life among the Filipino poor.”


Lino Brocka’s Macho Dancer inspired an entirely new film genre. To take one example, Filipino Mel Chionglo’s Burlesk King (1999) was critically referred to as a “macho dancer” film, crediting the significance of Brocka’s work to that of Chionglo.

Also, Macho Dancer, in Tagalog with English subtitles, brought international attention to the excellence of Philippine cinema. In can be argued that because of Brocka’s filmmaking and the work it inspired, Manila Manila, Philippines is now acclaimed worldwide as one of the cities that produces the best in Third World cinema. Macho Dancer is considered historically significant in gay film history as well because it was the first film in Third World cinema to address homosexuality. Macho Dancer (film) Filipinos, gay Censorship;of gay film[gay film] Homosexuality;in Filipino film[Filipino film]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dyer, Richard. Now You See It: Studies on Lesbian and Gay Film. New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hadleigh, Boze. The Lavender Screen: The Gay and Lesbian Films—Their Stars, Makers, Characters, and Critics. New York: Citadel Press, 2001.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kalaw-Tirol, Lorna. Above the Crowd (Profiles of Famous Filipinos). Manila, the Philippines: Anvil, 2000.

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Categories: History