REVIEW | ‘Maid in Malacañang’: A bid for public sympathy

Ruffa Gutierrez
Ruffa Gutierrez stars as Imelda Marcos in controversial film "Maid in Malacañang."

People often say that there are two sides to a story; one told by the victim and another from the lens of the “villain.”

In this film, the Marcos family seeks to control the narrative as they present their last 72 hours at Malacañan Palace when the historic 1986 People Power Revolution took place.

Maid in Malacañang” is as controversial as its writer and director Darryl Yap, who became known for his Facebook skits “VinCentiments.” With the movie’s creative director Sen. Imee Marcos, the movie promises to tell Marcoses’ so-called version of what happened, depicting countless betrayals, endless hardships, and unjust treatment exacerbated by their quest for power.

The movie follows the story of the Marcos family, primarily from the perspective of Imee Marcos (Cristine Reyes) as they navigate their problems in the palace.

In an attempt to successfully introduce the family as “ordinary citizens,” Yap exercises his creative liberty in making the story melodramatic. Grounded on the goal of painting the Marcoses’ dilemma during the People Power uprising, Yap did a fair job in establishing a solid and consistent messaging.

As the movie is angled solely in the perspective of the family, it challenges a notion of filmmaking, which asserts that a work of art must objectively mirror history. Particularly, it has questionable moments, such as the highly-contested scene that presents the character of then-opposition leader Corazon Aquino (Giselle Sanchez) playing mahjong with nuns.

For the most part, the movie is set in Malacañang. It remains notable, however, that the set only looked like Malacañang whenever it had Marcos’ paintings hung in the background.

Interestingly, during Imelda’s (Ruffa Gutierrez) solo act in her wardrobe, her shoe collection did not appear like there were 3,000 pairs. The room appeared small for her daring shoe collection to fit, a toned-down depiction of the existing reports about her lavish lifestyle.

To further project the movie’s message, Yap pulls off a unique cinematography trick throughout the film: the extreme usage of panning. In the confrontation scene between Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. (Diego Loyzaga) and Ferdinand Marcos Sr. (Cesar Montano), a low-angle camera circled the characters twice while they were shouting at each other and throwing longer dialogue. Technically, it was poorly done as it made the scene nauseating.

Apart from that, the use of chapters fails to contribute to the movie’s supposed cohesion and coherence. Instead of weaving the entire movie together, each chapter seems like a story of its own, with no connection to the next. For most, the awkward jumps between scenes and chapters make the film confusing and difficult to digest.

Still, the movie wittingly and effectively pushes its message through humor. As seen in various scenes, the maids offer comic relief accompanied by a lively cue to offset the mood. It is evident during a gathering scene where Yaya Santa (Karla Estrada) is relaying a message to the rest of the household.

As the movie progresses, Imee is often seen as the decisive head of the family during discussions. However, she also portrays how a child feels after seeing her family through grief, hopelessness, and paranoia. It is evident in a scene where she questions the loyalty of the staff. Ironically, despite not being a maid, she eventually becomes the movie’s highlight.

Among the family members, Imelda’s presence is magnificent. She has the shortest lines, but her appeal makes her stand out. In a scene, the song “Dahil Sa’yo” by Daryl Ong accompanies a pensive Imelda while reminiscing until Yaya Biday appears for another comic relief.

The opening and ending song, Marion Aunor’s haunting version of Sampaguita’s “Nosi Ba Lasi,” sets a chilling atmosphere as it accompanies the audience to focus more on the one-act play of “simplicity.”

Ultimately, the movie imprints the Marcos family’s narrative—no matter how factual or distorted it may be—into the hearts of the audience. As what Imee says to her father in the movie, “Hindi ‘yon ang malalaman nila, sisiguraduhin ko na lalabas mismo ang totoo at kasaysayan mismo magsasabi kung sino ka talaga (That’s not what they will know. I will make sure the truth will come out and history will tell you really are).”

In the end, Maid in Malacañang has its own share of strengths and weaknesses. It is only fair to acknowledge that the movie lacks cinematic style and production values. But the greatest link of the film is its consistency and style in delivering its message until the end.

Perhaps, the movie’s creative direction seems to be the least of the concerns as the primary aim of the film is to gather public sympathy for the Marcoses in a historic event that ousted them from the corridors of power.

This article was first published on The Flame, the official student publication of the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters. The article first appeared on its website You may follow The Flame through its Twitter and Facebook accounts.