The unwitting moviegoer might find “Maid in Malacañang” as just another Filipino film melodrama, top-billed by relatively popular have-been and never-were actors, both old and new. Even the title—which seems to be a play on the early 2000s romcom, “Maid in Manhattan”—is innocuous enough. But don’t be fooled by the wolf in sheep’s clothing; this film is nothing more than a pro-Marcos propaganda piece disguised as a boilerplate family soap opera.

A close examination of Maid in Malacañang’s production credits reveals Sen. Imee Marcos’ name under the role of “creative producer.” And her “creative hand” is certainly felt throughout the film: in the movie she’s played jarringly enough by the pretty Cristine Reyes, hardly Imee’s deadringer, chin and all, and her character predictably enough boasts the most screen time so that she bookends this vapid two-hour spectacle. In one telltale scene, Cesar Montano’s Ferdinand Marcos Sr. calls Imee “my darling genius girl” and the “best maid” in the Palace because of her stalwart support to the family amid their dire circumstances. Obviously, Imee performs to the hilt her role as “creative producer”; the movie may as well have been titled “Imee in Malacañang.” She’s very creative in twisting history to malign the masses and deodorize the bloody and corrupt legacy of the Marcoses.

Normally, high-profile personalities don’t meddle in dramatic adaptations of their lives for they run the risk of public scrutiny for their involvement (unless they are the ones funding the project, which is a whole different story). And ultimately, it should be the director’s vision cast onto the film, which makes “Maid in Malacañang” an anomalous case: here you have Imee Marcos—the very subject of the film—conspiring with an obnoxious content creator (Darryl Yap) to tell the shallowest PG-friendly narrative of her family’s dark and violent history.

And “Maid in Malacañang” is obsessed with history: revising it, distorting it, twisting it. There is no mention of the kleptocracy of the Marcoses and their cronies, the atrocities of martial law, particularly the staggering human rights abuses under Marcos Sr. while the EDSA protesters were inaccurately depicted as savages, storming the Palace with flaming torches, which did not happen (or else Imee and her avaricious family would have been impaled like witches and vampires and not lived to tell her tale, and a fake one at that, too)

And despite being touted as an insider’s account, the film offers neither real illumination nor groundbreaking information about the Marcoses other than they were really devastated to leave behind the life of opulence and power. There is even a bittersweet montage of Imelda Marcos (played by Ruffa Gutierrez) and her Goliath shoe collection, which the film tries to downplay but nonetheless the thought is already implied.

“Maid in Malacañang” also betrays its own lack of sound storytelling through its (over)reliance on title cards, which elucidates to viewers what was happening after each “chapter” in the film and what the Marcoses were feeling at that point. It’s contrived and borderline spoon-feeding; technique prevents the viewer from intelligently interacting with the film to come up with their own conclusions. Just sit back and listen to our side of history, is what Yap, Imee, and everyone involved in this film are apparently trying to say.

But that’s not how history works. It’s not exclusive to the experience of one person or one family, and its authority is not dictated by those who have the resources to tell it and revise it as they like. Just a few days before Maid in Malacañang’s theatrical release, a scene from the film went viral online for erroneously depicting the late Corazon Aquino playing mahjong with nuns. But despite being debunked by the Carmelite nuns of Cebu and the American journalist that covered Aquino during the 80’s, Yap still insists on his “interpretation” of history. 

Near the end of the film, Marcos Sr. tells his daughter, Irene (played by Ella Cruz of “chismis” fame), that “kasaysayan na ang huhusga sa atin (history will be the one to judge us).” Indeed, history has already rendered its judgment 36 years ago along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue. The only purpose of films like Maid in Malacañang is to revise; to shake the foundations of our national history and to dishonor the horrific experiences of our people.

Maid in Malacañang ends with a cover of the song “Nosi Balasi,” which also opens the film. An ironically apt theme because it demands responsibility from the viewer to ask: sino ba sila? Who are the Marcoses? And if you really want to know, then it’s best you hit the history books and martial law archives instead of watching this reprehensible piece of vainglorious propaganda.

But the song is really a potshot taken at the victims and critics of the Marcoses, who are no less than the Filipino people, who continue to pay for the billions of dollars in loans contracted by the Marcos regime that fed the corruption and mismanagement of the Marcoses and their cronies and cohorts. “Nosi ba lasi,” Imee with heavily reengineered visage seems to inveigh before the Filipino nation—“Sino ba sila!” or “Who are they to criticize us!” “Huwag mong pansinin ang naninira sa ‘yo,” a line in the song says. It’s the perfect song, yes, but because it rids the Marcoses of responsibility for what they have done to this country—from being the Pearl of the Orient to the Bad Joke of the Pacific. It’s a statement that says, “We don’t care,” but also somewhat admitting they were wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.