Three-hankie weeper with Rosa Mia as the self-sacrificing mother of three daughters
One mother, ready to sacrifice everything for her children. Three daughters, one recently arrived from the Americas, discovering to her chagrin that her good intentions for her mother have been thwarted by the selfishness and pretentious ambitions of her two younger sisters. Two husbands with no idea that they have married ladies beneath their station.
Such are the vicissitudes of family life depicted in TATLONG ILAW SA DAMBANA (1958), a three-hankie tearjerker of a movie that, save for the outdated thespic antics of Rosa Mia in some key scenes, boasts of terrific and sincere performances from everyone involved.
Of the three female stars, Lolita Rodriguez as the recently arrived sister who discover her mother has been neglected by the two other siblings, to the point of an abysmal existence, tugs at your heartstrings the most, especially in a country familiar with the "OFW family set-up." (You send money to your siblings at home, especially instructing them to take care of Mom, only to find out they've been doing the opposite when you come home unexpectedly).
Barbara Perez and Daisy Romualdez give sincerely felt performances, as sisters who selfishly squander their elder sister's love (and money, wired home) on the finer things in life, reveling in the glorified existence of rich married life, in the interim relegating their mother to a pitiful existence (practically living as housekeeper for them).
Rod Navarro and Greg Martin lend solid support as unwitting husbands (who finally learn the truth, and willingly accept the mother into their lives), while Rosa Mia, whose character is the fulcrum of the whole dramatic essay, sometimes goes over the top with her characterization. The scenes where the husbands, each in different situations, catch a wife talking to a 'strange woman,' and Rosa Mia is about to speak (and reveal herself), but changes her mind and resigns herself to such denigrations/deprivations, just shouts HAMMY. Her other scenes ring true, resonating with audiences, and on the whole, Rosa Mia runs circles around her costars.
You have to watch the movies of the 2nd Golden Age of Filipino Cinema and appreciate the context they fit in; taken at face value, such cruelty from the two sisters (embarrassment at having a dirt-poor mother) would raise howls of protest from today's generations, what with the success stories of rags-to-riches personalities like 'Manny Pacquiao and Oprah Winfrey, who show that what one needs to do when you become rich and famous IS to take good care of your parent(s).
Otherwise, Jose de Villa has given us a solid family film about hubris and self-sacrifice that will have you shedding copious tears with its happy ending. Kudos to the cast and crew.
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