Related Movie: Ang Leon at ang Daga 1975
Manila in the Claws of Light 1975
Manila in the Claws of Light 1975: Firstly, Julio Madiaga, a simple fisherman from the province, travels to Manila to find Ligaya, the woman he loves, after she went away with a mysterious woman promising a better future in the City. When he arrives, he becomes immersed in the city lifestyle and gets involved with its inhabitants experiencing extreme poverty, hard luck, and the overbearing need to grind for daily sustention. While Julio relentlessly searches for Ligaya, the city changes him little by little, becoming like an animal doomed to live only for survival in a wild jungle with no way out.
Manila in the Claws of Light (Filipino: Maynila, sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag) is a 1975 Filipino drama film directed by Lino Brocka based on the novel In the Claws of Brightness by Edgardo M. Reyes. It is considered by many as one of the greatest films of Filipino cinema.
It stars Hilda Koronel, Lou Salvador, Jr., Tommy Abuel, and in his film debut, Bembol Roco (credited as Rafael Roco, Jr.). The cinematography is by Miguel de Leon.
Júlio Madiaga is a probinciano, a young rustic from the island of Marinduque, who arrives in Manila. From time to time, Júlio would pass by the corner of Ongpin and Misericordia, as he stares at a peculiar building from a distance. While pursuing his quest, he has to work in order to survive the conditions of the urban jungle.
At first, Júlio lands a job as a construction worker. Not used to such labour, he falls unconscious due to fatigue and hunger. In the site, he befriends Atong, a fellow construction worker who was hired some five weeks before. Another co-worker advises Júlio that city life is quite difficult unless one has the income to enjoy urban comforts. Júlio begins to slowly observe the harsh reality of society, even witnessing the accidental death of one of the workers.
One day, while Júlio and Atong are shopping for clothes in the marketplace, a woman dressed in black and wearing sunglasses catches Júlio’s attention. The woman reminds him of Mrs Cruz—the woman who brought his childhood sweetheart, Ligaya, to Manila for schooling. Júlio immediately runs through the crowd to follow the woman, and locates her. He tries to approach her, but before he could even say anything, the lady shrieks in distress. Júlio flees in order to prevent making a scene, running back to Atong and leaving the marketplace with him.
This was followed by other chance encounters with Mrs Cruz, leading him to discover that Ligaya was, in fact, brought to the capital for prostitution. Ligaya explains everything to Julio upon their reunion. Julio plots with Ligaya of their return to Marinduque. Both agree to meet at Arranque. However, Ligaya fails to appear at the appointed time.
Júlio returns to the house of a friend, Pol, who informs him the next day that Ligaya had died in the night; having fallen down a flight of stairs during a struggle with Ah-Tek, the brothel owner. Enraged, Júlio stalks Ah-Tek, who he saw at Ligaya’s funeral, and successfully dispatches his target. Seeing Julio’s crime, a mob pursues and eventually corners him; the film ends with a slow motion close-up of Júlio’s terrified mouth, just as his assailants are about to strike.
Lino Brocka’s masterful study of a man’s loss of innocence is a centerpiece of great Filipino cinema. The tale of young innocents traveling to the infamous city of Manila, and losing their way, has been told countless times, but “Manila: In the Claws of Neon” was the first, and this unflinching look at urban decay must have shocked people at the time. Bembol Roco is heartbreaking in his role as the small-town laborer who travels to Manila in search of his beautiful girlfriend, who has vanished without a word. With his baby face and puppy dog eyes, he conveys the image of the ultimate naive youth, and Hilda Koronel possesses the same pure quality, as his lost love, Ligaya.
Once in the clutches of the decadent metropolis, Julio is forced to either let go of his innocence, or be swallowed up by the ruthless, hardened characters around him. This same theme returns in Brocka’s equally powerful “Insiyag.” ‘Maynila’ is more than a study of lost innocence, of course.
It is also an honest look at third World poverty, and the desperation that causes people to do things that they might not do otherwise, in order to survive. One of the film’s most harrowing scenes features a scared and sickened Julio, lured into working at a sleazy male whorehouse.
The character is obviously not homosexual, and being forced into having sex with men is the beginning of his own personal demise. The bloody, shocking climax of this film is one of the most memorable disturbing set pieces in film, and was borrowed from heavily, by Martin Scorsese a year later for his classic “Taxi Driver.” Viewed back to back it becomes evident as the scenes in the hallway of the dark apartment tenement are virtually identical. Brocka’s vision came first, too bad so few people are not aware of this beautiful film.
Thought to be lost, due to improper storage of the film, this has surfaced on the internet, which is where i was able to finally see it. This one, and some other Filipino films are long overdue for restored DVD releases. If you can find it, see it.
In all the long, hit-and-miss years of Philippine cinema, no other movie made an impact as much as “Maynila”. This movie is proof that low-budgeted movies can truly be maximized by a beautiful, thought-provoking story. `Maynila’ is the tragic story of Julio (Bembol Roco), a small-town fisherman who went to the big city to search for Ligaya, his sweetheart (Hilda Koronel), losing his innocence and humanity in the process.
The acting was not superb, but the plot and storyline carried the cast all the way, making each character as memorable as the next. Julio’s journey through the streets of Manila is real. The direction was extraordinary. The climax and ending of the story is as surprising as ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Seven’, but will leave you thinking and utterly breathless, applause in seat. Never has a tragedy been as beautiful as this.
Also, never will the Philippines experience a movie as beautiful as this. Never again.
The linchpin of Filipino cinema, Lino Brocka’s pièce de résistance has been received a well- deserved BluRay treatment, MANILA IN THE CLAWS OF LIGHT is a searing social critique told through the jeremiad of a young fishmonger from a provincial island, Julio Madiaga (the newcomer Roco purveys a deeply affecting performance as a new-in-town tenderfoot) arrives in the big city to search for his childhood sweetheart Ligaya (Koronel), who has been roped into shady prostitute ring from their hometown.
Only to be overcome by a society infested with moral turpitude and unspeakable vice, belonging to the lowest of the social rung, Julio is inexorably driven to a breaking point when he can only resort to the most radical method to express his fury and desperation, and his ultimate denouement is ominously preordained through the accretion of his violent impulse.
Brocka hones a critical eye in presenting the film’s urban jungle milieu, shot in actual loci: the harsh conditions of those construction workers, one of them, Atong (Salvador, Jr.) with whom Julio befriends, lives in the squalid shanty with his younger sister (Mendoza) and their bed-ridden father (a landowner expelled out of his own property by wealthy foreigners), adjacent to polluted water, believe it or not, he is in a well-off situation (before the sorry fate catches on with his family); a chock-a-block local market where bargains for goods soon sour into personal attacks and that particular building where Julio suspects Ligaya is interned by a Chinese Filipino Ah-Tek (Yap), the rare seen ringleader, and its neon-lit signboard.
His pittance is shortchanged by the sleazy honcho and dangled by the intrusive oldest profession, sacked mercilessly when he is no longer needed, Julio witnesses accidental death befalls on the construction site, the indignant fate befalls on Atong and his family, still, he is too wet behind the ears, succumbs to the skulduggery of a policeman imposer on the street.
The crescendo of injustice is which lends this film its cachet and its undimmed relevance, the whole drama probes an unyielding peer into the miasma of unrelieved depravity (just to plumb how pandemic this kind of pathology can reach with a deplorable cri-de-coeur), mirrored through Julio’s nostalgic erstwhile memories (ultra-snappy edited), which we all but realize there is no way back.
An unexpected sortie in the rough trade virtually becomes the most benevolent segment among a concatenation of threnodies, where Julio reluctantly dips his toes with an epicene punter, which imbues a purely libidinous concern without any creeping malevolence, that is prevalent elsewhere. But, not everyone can find his feet in that line of business, the bar is quite high, actually. An non- judgmental take on the often pejoratively depicted subculture does flag up Brocka’s unflinching resolution to spark more social commentary than he would be allowed.
Eventually, a chance meeting (a rather oddly conceived occasion wanting more context) reunites the star-crossed lovers, and Hilda Koronel recounts Ligaya’s ordeal with palpable poignancy in the lengthy close-ups, only to be tritely weighed down by her inextricable maternal attachment, and spoils their final chance of a happier finale.
Upholstered with a perturbing score from Jocson, MANILA IN THE CLAWS OF LIGHT is as harrowing a story as one could envision, but under Brocka’s stylish execution, it brims with an urgency to provoke, to shock, to jolt viewers into condemnation, only if he could have curtailed his exasperating anti-China slant, viewed 40-odd years later.
Lino Brocka’s 1975 film The Nail of Brightness (aka Manila in the Claws of Neon) is first and foremost a showcase for the social ills of the Philippines, particularly in the urban center of Manila. The film’s main character Julio is only recently arrived to the city having left behind his impoverished but relatively dignified and happy life as a fisherman in a small village to find his girlfriend Ligaya who had herself gone to the city at the promise of a job and some educational opportunities only to disappear completely a short time later.
Julio’s episodic experiences in the city give Brocka a chance to exhibit all sorts of social issues as Julio is robbed of his savings before the film even begins and is forced to seek employment at an unsafe construction site where he agrees to work for a low wage and fails to even receive the meager pay he bargained for; the construction company can get away with this because of a lazy, inefficient government that apparently does nothing for its working class people. As the film continues Julio’s misery grows greater; more than one character is forced to turn to prostitution to make ends meet and several major characters are the victims of violent crime.
In spite of the didactic nature of the material, Brocka’s film is a success because he builds sympathy for Julio through the use of subjective camera techniques. The narrative is peppered with brief, precisely edited flashback shots from Julio’s point of view: the result is an unusually powerful evocation of memory. Brocka’s subjective cinema transcends the established techniques of social realism and allows him create one of the greatest doomed characters in film history.
Manila in the Claws of Light 1975 full movie
I’m not a fan of our local films here in the Philippines. I’ve seen so many cheesy Filipino films such as “Dyesebel”, “Batang X” etc. But after I have seen “Maynila”, everything changed.
The film is simply amazing. It really blows me away. This is very original concept of story I have seen in my entire life. Although some moments are like “Midnight Cowboy” inspired, the whole story is very original.
The characters are very memorable, though some acting needs some improvement. Thanks to the late Director, Lino Brocka for making this unforgettable, total human experience. Brocka is the greatest Filipino director, and I’m sure everyone will agree on me.
As always with a film like Manila in thr Claws of Light, context counts above all. This is a story that has a setting in the Phillipenes of poverty and a crushing sense of ‘got to get by on the skin of my teeth’, not to mention the exploitation of… Everyone, whether it be through work by day, by night, human and sex trafficking, the works (only drugs seem to be absent here, but im sure where were on the margins if not out in the open).
The sense of repression in this society makes Italian neo-realist cinema seen quaint, and that is a strength of Brocka’s film because he is putting up a lens through how he sees it: this is horrible, this is punishing, and the only thing that can be a light is if people care about one another.
Though the thrust of the story is if Julio will find his beloved Ligaya in Manila, we dont get to that resolution until two thirds of the way into the film. Primarily this is about how someone who is an outsider to the city as Julio is from a seaside village (though still very much of the culture and time and place), and so we are also those outsiders. This is not meant to be a subtle trip – the horrible boss of the construction workers, being paid 2.50 a day but on paper it’s 4, often is munching on a cigar and has the boss ethic of any given sweatshop in history – but thats not really a detriment.
We believe this setting because we believe the people. I assume most of these players are not professionals, and they do well under Brocak’s direction and tight budget. So when Julio is out in the streets, or outside the building where hes mostly certain Ligaya is being stowed away, it doesn’t feel like we are seeing something so set apart from a reality we can see. On the contrary, this is poverty and thr decimation of working class people everywhere.
Though criticism of the Marcos regime is not explicitly stated, it doesnt have to be. It’s implicit in how so many of the people Julio comes across are mistreated (and of course some corrupt cops here and there who make no bones about stealing money and walking away help along the struggles), and of course for the women exploitation in the world of prostitution is exploitation of workers (just happens to be sex).
Julio is as close as we can get to a moral compass – while his coworkers go one by one with a Booker he refuses, despite the pressure from the pump, for example – and his visions of the past are what he clings to. He doesnt see any life for himself without her, which makes for a good goal for the story, but is also his weakness – he loves this woman so much that nothing else can change for himself.
If I had a nit to pick some of the flashbacks, while effective when done in sorr of subliminal ways, become frequent to the point of repetition because what else would there be to put in this cut or scene (or it may be the flashbacks themselves don’t vary, it’s just the same image of Ligaya in the beach).
And yet my one criticism is addressed in a way by the time the movie gets to her and the two are reunited. So many scenes, in scene after scene, almost it feels like a pattern deliberately where the idea is, “THIS is what is happening to this overworked/underpaid/tragic person being exploited by the ruling classes,” and while it could easily dip into propaganda I dont see this as some negative in that Brocka’s passion and intensity as a filmmaker, the commitment to realism, takes away a feeling of “this is an *agenda* as it”s about these people who exist.
But all these scenes are really leading up to Ligaya, who was exploitated just about the worst of all – in one long take that seems to last for about seven or eight minutes, she tells her story to Julio in a bedroom, and it’s wise to not cut away. We are here listening to her story, and unlike at other points there is no cutting away; we have to picture this for ourselves.
This is a sad and depressing story, but I didn’t feel like it is a giant let down to watch because of the anthropological nature of how it’s presented and how the melodrama escalates so believably. As Scorsese says in the intro on the criterion disc, this is a movie made for the people.
ABOUT: Julio Madiaga, a simple fisherman from the province (as played by Rafael “Bembol” Roco, Jr. in his first leading role) goes on a journey to find Ligaya (Hilda Koronel), the woman he loves, after she went away with a mysterious woman promising a better future in Manila. When he arrives, he becomes immersed in the city lifestyle and gets involved with its inhabitants experiencing extreme poverty, hard luck, and the daily pressure to grind for sustainment. While Julio relentlessly searches on for Ligaya, the city changes him little by little, becoming like an animal in a wild jungle that lives only for survival.
REVIEW: Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila: In the Claws of Light), a film by the late great national artist, Lino Brocka, from the screenplay of Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr. (adapted from the serialized novel of Edgardo M. Reyes), is an examination of the dark side of urban life in Manila, Philippines. Brocka tackles the social issue of extreme poverty and its effects on the people experiencing it at the time.
The movie speaks about the harsh truth about Manila especially for the underprivileged that life in the city is pleasurable but only if you meet the high cost and that sometime you even have to pay more because what you can give is not enough. In end you may have to lose so much only to gain so little in value. Such is the fate of Julio Madiaga (main character) and basically every character in the story. He goes on a nightmarish journey to find his love one, Ligaya only to experience things go from bad to worse.
A ton of credit should be given to the casting and the performance of Rocco as Julio Madiaga. We go with him and we see everything happening through his eyes and we feel the same way that he does. He was able to portray convincingly a character that changes from being pure to being tainted as the film progresses. The screenplay also gave hand in establishing a strong connection between the viewer and the main character specifically with the use of key monologues that made us aware of his intentions.
Other characters aside from Julio Madiaga are well written and cast also, such as Julio’s missing love one, Ligaya, a perfect example of Filipina beauty, Pol, as played by Tommy Abuel, his ever reliable friend, and the elusive Mrs. Cruz, as played by Juling Bagabaldo, whom he has a growing hatred for taking away Ligaya. Every character proves to be integral to the events presented in the film. No one seems out of place, not for a second.
Apart from the commendable writing, acting and casting, it is the direction by Lino Brocka that brought these aspects together film. His signature realism paired with his undeniable artistic talent behind the camera is what the material needed to produce an exceptionally well made film.
Though it has been over 40 years since the movie premiered, the social commentary it contains continues to be relevant up to know. This is coming from a citizen living in the said city. The underprivileged people in city at present are still affected by poverty among other social illness as it was then. Sure, it will make a fine exhibit for retrospection when discussing the era when Philippines was in martial law but more than that, because of what the film achieves both in art and social significance, it will continue to be watched by future generations.
FINAL WORD: With an flinching portrayal of what is wrong in the society at same time being able to showcase it in cinematic fashion, -Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila- In the Claws of Light) proves its triumph in film making. Only a few films and even less in Philippine Cinema have put together social significance together with art and produce a very satisfying experience as this film. With the recent restoration, the film can be seen in its grandest form and hopefully it will continue to be influential in the years to come.
The film is highly recommended. Go see it. You can likely catch it in cinemas in the Philippines or as I have read, the Criterion Collection is planning to release the film in DVD/ Blu-ray within this year, so grab a copy when it becomes available.
Manila in the Claws of Light 1975 full movie free online
Original Title: Manila in the Claws of Light 1975, Maynila sa mga kuko ng liwanag 1975
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Also Known As: manila in the claws of light criterion,manila in the claws of light letterboxd,manila in the claws of light imdb,maynila sa kuko ng liwanag cinematography,maynila sa kuko ng liwanag script,ang maynila sa kuko ng liwanag reaction paper,manila in the claws of light reflection,maynila sa kuko ng liwanag reflection paper
Directed by Lino Brocka
Edgardo Reyes … (novel)
Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr. … (screenplay)
Produced by Miguel de Leon, Severino Manotok
Screenplay by Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr.
Based on In the Claws of Brightness by Edgardo M. Reyes
Starring Bembol Roco, Hilda Koronel, Lou Salvador, Jr. , Juling Bagabaldo, Tommy Abuel
Music by Max Jocson
Cinematography Miguel de Leon
Edited by Edgardo Jarlego, Ike Jarlego
Distributed by Cinema Artists Philippines
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Language: Filipino, Tagalog
Length: 125 min
Release Date in Philippines: 16 July 1975
Publish Date: 2019-09-16
Hilda Koronel … Ligaya Paraiso
Bembol Roco … Julio Madiaga (as Rafael Roco Jr.)
Lou Salvador Jr. … Atong
Joonee Gamboa … Omeng
Pio De Castro III … Imo
Danilo Posadas … Benny
Joe Jardi … Frank (as Joseph Jardinazo)
Spanky Manikan … Gido
Edipolo Erosido … Eddie
Pancho Pelagio … Mr. Balajadia
Purita Yap … Nanay
Josephine Gutierrez … Kapatid ni Ligaya
Gina Zegui … Kapatid ni Ligaya
Ronnie Magalong … Kapatid ni Ligaya
Anna Marie Nicolas … Batang Ligaya
Victor Diendo … Batang Julio
Lily Gamboa Mendoza … Perla (as Lily Gamboa-Mendoza)
Abelardo Reyes … Tatay
Joe Gruta … Lalaki
Julie De Guzman … Asawa (as Julie Guzman)
Nina Lorenzo … Haliparot
Brenda Fajardo … Babae
Mely Mallari … Tindera
Cita Javellana … Bumibili (as Citas Javellana)
Tommy Yap … Ah Tek
Juling Bagabaldo … Misis Cruz
Ellen Cacho … Utusan
Fred Capulong … Pulis
Jojo Abella … Bobby
Chiqui Xerxes-Burgos … Cesar (as Chiqui Xeres Burgos)
Rikki Jimenez … Rikki
Sabrina … Sabrina
Pitay … Pitay
Veronica … Veronica
Jun Macapinlac … Bakla
Jerry O’Hara … Call Boy
Bobby Roldan … Call Boy
Rudy Hermano … Call Boy
Orlando Nadres … May-ari ng Discotheque
Ricardo De Guzman … Kostumer ng Discotheque
Socrates B. Jose … Kostumer ng Discotheque (as Soc Jose)
Greg Llenado … Kostumer ng Discotheque
Tommy Abuel … Pol
Estrella Kuenzler … Nanay
Edwin O’Hara … Mang Kadyo
Lorli Villanueva … Babae sa Rizal Park
Arturo Soquerata … Isnatser (as Boy Soquerata)
Mario O’Hara … Lider Aktibista
Sibyl Santiago … Girl in the Plaza (uncredited)
Mike De Leon … producer (as Miguel De Leon)
Severino Manotok Jr. … producer
Mike De Leon … (as Miguel De Leon)
Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr.
Film Editing by
Ike Jarlego Jr.
Edgardo Jarlego Set Decoration by
Alfonso Socito … (setting)
Len Santos … makeup artist
Marietta Sta. Juana … assistant makeup artist
Ricardo De Guzman … production manager
Socrates B. Jose … assistant production manager (as Soc Jose)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Arturo Soquerata … assistant director (as Boy Soquerata)
Lito Nicdao … props
Francisco Rabara … boom operator
Luis S. Reyes … sound (as Luis Reyes)
Ramon Reyes … sound
Visual Effects by
Rody Lacap … titles and opticals
Vic Penetrante … titles and opticals
Camera and Electrical Department
Tikoy Aguiluz … still photographer
Ding Austria … camera operator
Angel Baliares … assistant camera
Arturo Capulong … assistant camera
Fred Capulong … grip
Emy De Guzman … leg man
Jose Maniquis … grip
Rey Paclibar … electrician
Ernesto Saludes … grip
Sonny Yabao … still photographer
Cinegate (1981) (UK) (theatrical) (subtitled)
Cinema Artists (2013) (Philippines) (theatrical) (restored version) (as Cinema Artists Philippines)
NEF Diffusion (1982) (France) (theatrical)
BFI Video (2017) (UK) (DVD)
NHK (1994) (Japan) (TV)
LVN Pictures (color) (as LVN)
World Cinema Foundation (restoration) (2013)
Also Known As (AKA)
original title) Maynila sa mga kuko ng liwanag 1975
Brazil Manila nas Garras de Néon 1975
Brazil (festival title) Manila nas Garras da Luz 1975
France Manille 1975
Italy Manila – Negli artigli della luce 1975
Philippines (English title) Manila in the Claws of Neon 1975
Philippines (English title) (literal English title) Manila in the Claws of Light 1975
Soviet Union (Russian title) Манила в объятиях ночи 1975
UK Manila in the Claws of Light 1975
USA (alternative title) The Nail of Brightness 1975
USA Manila in the Claws of Light 1975
West Germany Manila 1975
World-wide (English title) Manila in the Claws of Light 1975
World-wide Manila in the Claws of Light 1975
Romy Dollero … utility
Jeremias Tecson … production coordinator
Bembol Roco as Julio Madiaga – The 21-year-old protagonist who hails from Marinduque, wandering Manila in search of his lover, Ligaya. He starts the narrative as a patient, if naive, character; only to gradually transform into a weary and vengeful person.
Hilda Koronel as Ligaya Paraiso – The betrothed of Julio. She was brought away to Manila with the thought of getting proper education, only to wind up getting entrapped in sexual slavery. Her name literally translates to “joyful paradise”.
Lou Salvador, Jr. as Atong – A construction worker Julio befriends. Atong serves as Julio’s guide to the plight of the working class; and in effect Manila, helping him cope with the unpleasantness of the city . He later gets wrongfully arrested and meets his demise at the hands of fellow inmates.
Tommy Abuel as Pol – A friend of Julio who also acts as his confidant. He serves as Julio’s guide to the impoverished districts of Manila. Steadfast and loyal, Pol also offers his help and gives advice to Julio whenever needed.
Jojo Abella as Bobby – A call boy Julio befriends. He serves as Julio’s guide to the world of male prostitution. An attraction towards Julio is implied.
Pio de Castro as Imo – A colleague of Julio from the construction site. He was initially poor at the start of the narrative, but has later improved his lifestyle.
Joonee Gamboa as Omeng – Another colleague of Julio from the construction site.
Pancho Pelagio as Mr. Balajadia – One of the antagonists of the story. He is the foreman of the construction site Julio worked in. Arrogant and selfish, he often treated his subordinates unfairly.
Juling Bagabaldo as Mrs. Cruz – One of the antagonists of the story. An unsavory character who recruits unsuspecting, young provincial women to her prostitution ring. It was speculated by Julio that “Mrs. Cruz” may not even be her real name, but rather an alias.
Tommy Yap as Ah-Tek – One of the antagonists of the story. He is an unscrupulous mestizo de sangley who bought Ligaya from Mrs. Cruz’s prostitution ring and made her his kept woman.
The film is based on a story, Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (lit. “In the Claws of Brightness'”), written by Edgardo Reyes. It was originally serialized in Liwayway magazine from 1966 to 1967, and was later published into a novel.
The adaptation in to film originally started out life as a writing exercise. In 1970, Ateneo de Manila graduate Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. re-enrolled in his alma mater to take a short course in film writing. There, he wrote Pepot Artista (a screenplay he would later revisit in the 2000s).
Del Mundo finished his script for Pepot Artista, which was supposed to be a major assignment, by the middle of the semester; earlier than what was expected. His professor, Nestor Torre, requested him to make another screenplay as way of filling in the extra time. Because he had just written an original screenplay, Del Mundo tried his hand at adapting a literary source for a change. He chose Reyes’ story, already a novel by then, as the subject for his next assignment. After turning in the spec script, Del Mundo completed his course and relocated to the United States to continue his studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.
Mike de Leon, grandson to Narcisa de Leon of LVN Pictures, has directed one short film and intended to expand his role in the film industry, namely as a producer. De Leon had just put up a new production company, Cinema Artists, and was in the process of seeking out projects. Eventually, De Leon remembered of Del Mundo’s trial adaptation. Having been friends since their days at Ateneo de Manila, De Leon contacted Del Mundo with the idea of producing the latter’s spec script. Del Mundo, who just returned from his four-year course in Kansas, gave De Leon his blessing and agreed to further polish the screenplay. “It was the right time,” Del Mundo recalls.
Lino Brocka, who had just received acclaim for his previous work, The Human Imperfections, was approached by De Leon to direct the adaptation. Brocka took this as an opportunity to create a scathing commentary about the urban poverty amidst the Marcos administration, and never hesitated to include his trademark homosexual theme in to the story.
Brocka (a homosexual man himself) requested Del Mundo to rework on a few scenes to accommodate such approaches, which were never present in the original source. Other significant revisions were made, such as condensing the structure and adding more dramatic weight to the narrative. “Brocka understood the popular audience well,” Del Mundo says. “He suggested additions to the screenplay [of The Claws of Light] to make it more commercial. It was fun working with him, although he was quite emotional.”
The production title was eventually changed from Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag to Maynila, sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (lit. translation: Manila in the Claws of Light) to emphasize on the setting of the story.
An independent production, The Claws of Light was produced with a modest budget. Principal photography occurred in 1974. The film was shot on actual locations around the vicinity of Manila, to better capture the authenticity of the city.
Jay Ilagan, who had previously acted in Brocka’s films, initially played the lead role of Julio Madiaga. Having already participated in several days of shooting, Ilagan was asked to drop out of the production when Brocka became dissatisfied with the performance. Upon viewing the dailies, Brocka was convinced that Ilagan, who had a very healthy appearance, did not meet his vision of Julio—a pitiful vagrant that wades in and around the urban gutters. The role was re-cast with newcomer Bembol Roco in the part.
Prior to this film, Roco’s only foray in to acting was a relatively small role in Brocka’s previous film, Three, Two, One. For this film, he was credited under his real name of Rafael Roco, Jr. The Claws of Light marked what would become the first lead role for Roco.
To play the love of Julio’s life, Brocka did not have to look too far. The role of Ligaya Paraiso was a natural choice for his protégé, Hilda Koronel. Lou Salvador, Jr., a former matinee idol famous for playing angst-ridden romantic leads in LVN’s teen rebel pictures, was cast against type as the wise and sympathetic Atong.
Character actor Tommy Yap nabbed the role of the rarely-seen antagonist, Ah-Tek. Yap would later appear—albeit less significantly—in Brocka’s Insiang, alongside Koronel. Majority of the actors that round out the film, such as Tommy Abuel and Joonee Gamboa, were veterans of both the stage and radio.
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Many who have seen The Claws of Light have speculated on the symbolism of the characters, which is hinted at in their names. For example, some comment that Ligaya Paraiso represents Inang Bayan, the Filipino concept of the motherland. Her name, which literally reads “joy[ful] paradise”, is a reference to how Julio viewed his lover as an ideal paradise, and her given name is a nod to her newfound yet unwelcome occupation as a “lady of pleasure”.
Julio Madiaga himself is regarded as a symbol of the provincial Filipino everyman, eking out a living in the hard conditions of the city. His surname is an archaic variant of matiyagâ (“patience”), a trait obvious in his hope-filled and persistent search for Ligaya.
Mrs. Cruz’s surname simply means “cross”, pointing to the heavy burden she places on the shoulders of the young girls she lures into prostitution. Since the character’s name is later revealed to be an alias, it could also mean that the name was chosen, as Cruz is a common surname in the Philippines, representing how easily she could walk around the streets of Manila without detection. The name of the antagonist Ah Tek, meanwhile, is a play on the colloquial term atík, (“cash”; a transposition of kità, or income) representing the greed and selfishness of the character.
The city itself is sometimes considered to be the main character instead of Julio and the others, while the film is also construed as a portrait of one man’s corruption and eventual downfall.
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 100% of five surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 8.4/10. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times made it a “NYT Critics’ Pick” and wrote, “The movie’s palpable, deeply lived-in realism is among its great attractions, largely because the film isn’t just a story about a young Filipino Everyman, but because it’s also a de facto record of Manila in the 1970s.”Inkoo Kang of The Village Voice wrote, “The intimate proletarian melodrama The Claws of Light succeeds where so many political allegories fail: With ethical and emotional sophistication, it dramatizes the suffering of the disadvantaged with characters that feel individual yet archetypal.”
Keith Uhlich of Time Out New York rated it 4/5 stars and wrote that it is “widely (and understandably) considered one of the pinnacles of Filipino cinema”.Alan Jones of Slant Magazine rated it 4.5/5 stars and called the film a precursor to A Touch of Sin.
Awards and recognition
The film won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor at the 1976 FAMAS awards.
The Claws of Light is one of the few Filipino films that has been consistently placed among the world’s top 100 films of all time. It is the only film from the Philippines that entered in the list of the book, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
It was shown as part of the Cannes Classics section of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
In 2013, The Claws of Light was restored in 4K resolution. The restoration is done by World Cinema Foundation and the Film Development Council of the Philippines at Cineteca di Bologna/ L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in association with LVN, Cinema Artists Philippines and Mike de Leon. The restored film first premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival as part of the Cinema Classics section and was released in the Philippines on August 7, 2013. The restored film was released on DVD and Blu-Ray as part of The Criterion Collection on June 12, 2018.