by Pablo A. Tariman

If there is one thing that Direk Chito Roño learned after doing “Etiquette for Mistresses,” it is the fact that he can’t judge people solely on the basis of how society perceives them.

Direk Chito Rono. Mistresses are part of any society here and abroad.

Direk Chito Rono. Mistresses are part of any society here and abroad.

“I avoided moralizing in my film,” says he. “Of course we know what morality is and how it works in our society. I would say my latest film is about living and loving and not about mistresses. It is more about women’s choices and how they cope in a world they don’t exactly relish. No, we are not about to glorify them. But they are just as human as the rest of us and that’s how I treated them. I didn’t treat them like characters in a soap opera. I treated them as strong women capable of deciding for themselves. Because whether we like it or not, they exist. They are part of society and part of a culture that don’t recognize divorce and annulment. But mind you, they exist since time immemorial not just in our country but all over the world.”

Indeed the subject 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 newshen Jullie Yap Daza.

The book in fact inspired the latest Chito Roño film.

Scene from "Etiquette for Mistresses." Film is about living and loving and women's choices.

Scene from “Etiquette for Mistresses.” Film is about living and loving and women’s choices.

Among some Emily Post-like tips and pieces of advice in the Daza book:

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

2. 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).

3. 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).

Direk Chito said he made sure that these so-called ‘other women’ are treated not just as subjects for social scandals but as victims of social circumstance.

He points out: “Almost always, they figure in dramatic moments when they are caught by the wife. But the logic and nature of their existence are so different from others. I want to say in my film that they – being what they are – are still capable of empowering themselves. I refuse to see them as helpless human beings destined to be secretly ostracized by society.”

The members of the cast know exactly what kind of acting Direk Chito wants in this film.

Direk Chito Rono with cast of "Etiquette for Mistresses." No teleserye acting please.

Direk Chito Rono with cast of “Etiquette for Mistresses.” No teleserye acting please.

Iza Calzado says her role is difficult because it is hard to be really strong in real life. “Direk Chito says the character has to be strong and I have to avoid those soft expressions in my eyes that is a trademark of my romantic films. ‘Walang pabebe dito.’ My court scenes demand that I look businesslike. I am supposed to be the most logical thinker in the group so I have to make sure I don’t register unnecessary emotion.”

For Kim Chiu, she realized that she had to get rid of her teleserye school of acting to be the strong character Direk Chito wants her to be. “It is hard of course because I am used to that kind of acting. But Direk Chito allowed me to work on something that is good for cinema. I am glad I did this picture because I realized there are other ways of approaching a role. After doing this film, I developed high respect for my character who happens to be a lounge entertainer. I will always remember Direk Chito for this eye-opener.”

The director likes to think about his film as studies in relationships.

The subject rubs off on Kris who openly told the media she herself went through a lot in some of those relationships and waged a good fight for the men she loved. Sadly, she admitted, those were not meant to be and she has paid for those ill-advised relationships three times over and is still paying for it. She talked of the long and tedious process of annulment and separation and of washing dirty linen in public. “The details of that separation are all part of court records for everyone to see,” she wearily recalled.

Pablo Tariman with Jullie Yap Daza, author of "Etiquette for Mistresses" with common friend, Lara Halili.

Pablo Tariman with Jullie Yap Daza, author of “Etiquette for Mistresses” with common friend, Lara Halili.

With this blunt admission, one saw mild shock registering in the faces of Kim, Claudine and Iza.

As for Direk Chito, he is glad he wrapped up this project. “I would not have treated mistresses the way I perceived them say 15 years ago. I tell you this is a woman’s movie and wives can learn a lot from the characters.”

Agree or not, one left the presscon with the voice of Lani Misalucha reverberating in my mind and enunciating thus:

You don’t own me, I’m not just one of your many toys
You don’t own me, don’t say I can’t go with other boys

“Etiquette for Mistresses” opens in all theaters September 30.

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  1. Sol V. says:

    I like Direk Chito’s film adaptation of the book. That of showing a woman’s agency. But I don’t totally agree with Daza’s book. There are mistresses who are no.1 in the husband’s life. And the reason why they remain married is because the wife refused to let him go. In short, relationships are as diverse as the people who make them. It’s pointless to put them in a box.


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