Uterine Reverie: Critique of “Sayaw sa Butal”

29 Oct

J. Pilapil Jacobo

Bicolano poet and translator Victor Dennis Nierva’s first film is a short feature on the power of female fantasy and the violence of erotic imagination as transacted within capitalist patriarchy.

A middle-aged woman (Eilyn Nidea) earns a living by sitting all day outside the male urinals of the Naga City central terminal, making sure that the amenities of masculine comfort are maintained by fees of five or ten peso coins. Her hours are marked by the sound of metal clinking inside her plastic bowl. These men transiting in and out of the peninsular city do not interest her, until one humid morning, a young man (Floyd Tena) captures her fancy. She keeps his coins, keeps them inside a pouch, sleeps with her charmed money at night, touches herself in the morning with her coins, and takes them to a mountain shaman (Frank Peñones), who assures her “he will be yours, all of him will be yours.”

The shaman’s magic works. Woman leaves her post. She rides the bus that takes the man to wherever he is going. And before we know it, woman and man are engaged in a pas de deux. Then, we hear the strings of a Spanish guitar. The serenade: Nierva’s verses on arrivals and leave-takings.


Or: Is the woman losing her mind? Can the prospect of ravishment enable her to come to terms with indentured labor in the hands of capitalist patriarchy as her body recedes menopausally? Does the thought of sexual redemption drive women on the wane to madness? What gives, in the surrender of the truths of consciousness to the calculating body? Can the lyrical sustain the duress of such premise? What is achieved by this uterine reverie?

“Butal” refers to that aspect of the nexus of cash where a certain value of capital is deemed negligible at the same time that it is accorded a moment of commodity, where value is detachable from the modes of production. The fulfillment of the lack that is nonetheless devalued is almost too precious to the point of forcing subjects of economic exchange to accede to practices of mendicancy, especially when the master is dreamed to become one’s sex object. One begs for spare change in instances of penury; one begs for spare lust in a libidinal economy. In this delineation of the market, the coin is the metonym of the longing that expedites subaltern entrapment; its dissemination fixes a financial propensity with which the woman can never be intimately filiated. If she must accumulate the denomination to sustain her life within local modernity, but refuses to enter the rites of accumulation by charging the metal with an erotic wish, the desirous attachment is at once spellbound and disenchanting. Woman is lack herself. Can her pecuniary disinterest ever deny the fetish?

The desire is nothing but an illusion, and the womanhood that is aspired to be fulfilled through sympathetic magic is reduced to an oneiric impossibility. The reverie is vicious, particularly when the uterus is deemed as always imaginary. What remains significant is urinary relief.

What is Love? It is a purchase without payment. It is non-economic reciprocity. It is the gift without exchange.

As master of charms, Frank Peñones’s incantations are alluring.

Floyd Tena can only be prone to victimage. Finally, a lothario manipulated. Screams could not be muffled whenever his face filled the screen up with gorgeous sexuality.


Eilyn Nidea’s instincts of predation are never imprecise. Her virago’s movements are unpredictably delightful to watch. There is so much carnal knowledge inside that darkly soul that only Madame Nidea’s canvas of a face, ravaged by the years, can unleash. What an actress!

As a young interlocutor, Noella Buscaña sometimes steals the thunder from Nidea, and the latter allows the former’s voluptuous laughter to intensify her amorous lightning.

Ronald Rebutica’s cinematographic design is panoptic, although that intrusion is most felt in scenes utterly private.

Jenn Romano’s sense of visual arrangement can be thoughtful, through ironic detail.

Nierva has crafted a dangerous film. He seems to assure us: nothing can buy love, although a few of us may take some chances. Where it is risky, the handsome and the homely shall share the rapture. All is fair. All is unfair.

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Posted by on 29 October 2016 in Film Review, Philippine Film



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