ICYMI: It’s Cinemalaya season and we have roughly 12 days left to catch the 13 short films in competition.
“Beauty Queen” (dir. Myra Aquino) is an 18-minute short film on the life of Remedios Gomez, a.k.a. Commander Liwayway, a beauty queen who became one of the known commanders of the Hukbalahap resistance.
What’s striking about the film is the depiction of Remedios’ story—how she is established as a classic woman, a town beauty, and how the war threw her life off a different course. Her dialogue (all in Kapampangan) and her conversations with her brother and other Huk leaders show just exactly why she was—and should remain—a figure to be emulated.
Who was Commander Liwayway?
Remedios Gomez was born and raised in Pampanga in 1919. She became a beauty queen and was crowned Miss Anao of the municipality of Mexico, Pampanga.
Her father was the vice mayor of Mexico town. When he was arrested, tortured, and murdered by the Japanese in 1942, Remedios and her brother Oscar fled to join the Hukbalahap. Initially, she was tasked to join the other women in the medical team, but she wanted to fight on the front lines.
In the film, it was shown that she took a rifle and learned how to use it, first on her own, then with the help of her brother. When their troops had to change locations, she snuck away from the medics and joined her brother’s unit, where she proved vital in saving them from an ambush attack by the Japanese.
She was initially met with criticism when she expressed her desire to lead a squadron. Other members of the Huk looked down on her because she was a woman and a beauty queen, saying she had no experience leading a troop in battle. In the film, she rebutted with a strong statement: “I have little experience, but neither do these men.”
Her courage, mettle, and skill earned her the position of commander of Squadron 3-V. She became leader of a 200-man troop at the age of 22, and was known to dress up before heading out to battle—often putting on a dress, doing her nails, and putting on red lipstick.
In a story by the Inquirer, she was quoted to have said: “Filipino women played an important role during the war. Like their male counterparts, they held responsible positions in fighting the enemies… They dedicated their lives to a noble cause not only to drive away the Japanese invaders but [also] to pursue the struggle for genuine freedom, true justice, and democracy… I hope that someday, the role of these unsung heroines will find a place in history.”
She passed away in 2014 at the age of 95.
Watch “Beauty Queen” from Cinemalaya 2021 (Shorts B) on KTX.ph.