The mistress through the ages

The Inbox

By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

Star Cinema's "The Mistress" is making a killing in the box office and it is  an indication the subject is no longer taboo in Philippine media and in the social hierarchy.

The film has an unusual story because the young mistress (sensitively played by Bea Alonzo) is shared by father and son ( Ronaldo Valdez and John Lloyd Cruz). The triangle is completed by Hilda Koronel who plays The Wife and here you see the admirable trait of a silently suffering wife accepting his philandering husband for what he is.

The subject of sexual prowess as a basic component of this relationship is openly discussed in the film and it is liberating to know they come from the mouths of matinee idols previously associated with wholesome cinematic image. Olivia Lamasan does a good job in this film by highlighting the love angle more than the extra income factor that goes with the illicit relationship. But the hard part is that father and son can't possible share  the mistress and she can't possibly be re-invented as future wife of the son after  the break-up.

At the end, the lovers share a lovely memory of that love that can exist only in fantasy films but not in real life. Lamasan made sure the movie ends with this message. The story is discreetly handled and confirms once more that fact that The Mistress is an unavoidable figure in any society.

Before "The Mistress," another film called "The Other Woman"   also made money for its producers.

The mistress as a symbol of moral decay of politicians was also touched by Lino Brocka in his landmark film, "Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak" which has highlights reminiscent of scenes from a marriage of the former first couple driven to Hawaii by People Power.

Dina Bonevie plays the mistress and Charo Santos plays the scheming wife perennially garbed like the former first lady. The Brocka film even has an assassination attempt on The Wife who does everything to make The Mistress disappear at whatever cost.

At the height of the disenchantment for the chief engineer of martial law, the media was full of account of an alleged mistress who happens to be a Grade B actress .  Recordings of her conversation with the former president (including their trysts) were replayed in a university station.

Indeed, being a mistress is still associated with moral jeopardy for the one known as such but it is a fact that through the ages, she is an eternal presence and a status symbol in any society here or abroad.

Except for the country's first woman president and the last woman president, the highest position of the land has not been spared from talks of some kept mistress lurking behind the country's presidency. And this goes down to the congressmen, governors, mayors and barangay captains.

At least one president also driven out by another People Power was open about his mistresses and one of them took over as chief executive of the town where he started as a colorful, if, controversial political life.

But in the preview edition of Kit Tatad's first novel, "The Forbidden Life of Amargo Raz" we got hold of in 2009, there is a woman ruler in the Pacifica Islands who keeps a harem of able-bodied men. Tatad's author's note read thus: "Although some incidents and characters in this book may closely resemble actual events and persons living or dead, this is strictly work of fiction. It is the author's hope that what happens to the people of Admana Arc (formerly Pacifica Islands) remains fiction forever."

As it is, the mistress in any society here and abroad has gone a long way.

The figure is common knowledge among European monarchs the most famous of whom during the time of Louis XV was Madam de Pompadour.

There is a Eugene  Delacroix 1825 painting entitled, Louis d'Orléans Showing His Mistress."

Fact or fiction, some so-called mistresses in Philippine society reportedly wielded so much power.

Their omnipresence in this predominantly Roman Catholic country resulted in a book called ""Etiquette for Mistresses" penned by newsmen Julie Yap Daza.

Among some Emily Post-like tips and pieces of advice:

-- Remind The Husband to pay for everything in cash — dinner, flowers, perfume, champagne, pearls, diamonds, a microwave oven, etc….

-- Mistresses should be ready to give up Valentine's Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Holy Week and his birthday (that's why mistresses are also called "holiday orphans" because of this).

-- When the husband breaks a date, charge it to fate, not his fecklessness (Men will be boys. They will forget to call. They will break a date at the last minute. They will stand you up. They won't explain and they won't ask for forgiveness. But don't cry nor throw a tantrum. Don't break down because a mistress is supposed to understand a man more than his wife does).

With the box office result of Lamasan's "The Mistress", a sequel is not unlikely. Perhaps a common mistress for grandpa and grandson?

The tale of  The Mistress lives on.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")