An outspoken former television producer has made a film that throws a harsh light on the behavior of American military personnel stationed in the Philippines.
Based on actual events, the film shows such things as American GIs shooting down villagers who were trying to scavenge scrap from a bombing range and a Filipino man being shot by a U.S. sentry who claims he mistook the Filipino for "a wild boar."
It is the first time the Philippines government has allowed production of an anti-American movie here, although many Filipinos are embittered by incidents such as those portrayed and scoff and the contention of U.S. officials that they wer tragic accidents. As one Filopino said after seeing the film: "It's about time someone made a movie like this."
The movie, titled "Once There Was a Moth," tells of a young Filipino nurse living in a village outside a U.S. bombing range, 60 miles north of Manila. Like many Filipinos, especially doctors and nurses, the nurse dreams of emigrating to the United States, envisioning shiny cars, comfortable houses and white Christmases. She and her neighbors are elated when she finally receives a visa.
But in her village, neighbors are occasionally being wounded by planes and base guards while gathering scrap. Another neighbor who deals in black-market goods from the post exchange loses her shop when it is raided illegally by U.S. military agents. Court cases brought by the injured parties fail because the base authorities either send the accused Americans back to the states or claim that they were acting in the line of duty.
The young nurse's disillusionment is complete when her brother is killed by a base guard who claims to have mistaken him for "a wild boar." The nurse changes from being a moth attracted to the alluring light of life in the land of plenty to a moth who attacks the base authorities in court. Her case fails, but as she says: "At least people will know that once there was a moth who dared to challenge the eagle."
All of the incidents portrayed actually has a basis in events, including the sentry mistaking a Filipino for wild boar. The commander of Clark Air Base is presently under indictment in a Philippines court for allegedly, having authorized an off-base raid to recover stolen merchandise.
Just a month ago, another base guard killed Filipino how was alleged to have been stealing. The case is still under investigation. U.S. bases here occupy 170,000 acres and are home to about 50,00 Gls. The United States and the Phillipine government are currently renegotiating a treaty to extend the life of the U.S bases.
The film's director, Lupita Concio, said the government's board of censors threatened to ban the movie because they felt it was too strong. She appeased the board by excising one scene in which Filipino youngsters are accidently killed in a strafing run by U.S. jets.
Concio, who is in her late 30s, has been the contry's leading television producer prior to the declaration of marital law in 1972. Her older brother, Sen. Bengno S. Aquino, Jr., was President Ferdinand Marcos' chief rival for national power but was arrested at the start of martial law and is still jail on subversion charges. Concio has found it difficult to get work in the government-controlled TV industry. So she turned to maning movies.
Concio says she is not anti-American, but she bemoans the "colonial mentality" of her fellow Filipinos who prefer to earn dollars rather than pesos. She says the U.S. bases must be put firmly under Filipino control so that the incidents depicated in her movie will not happen again.
Although the movie seems to be angering local audiences, it is unlikely to affect the Filipino desire to go to the states. There are already 500,000 Filipinos there, including about half of all this country's medical and nursing graduates, and 30,000 more Filipinos emigrate annually.