Billed as a horror thriller film, Jose Javier Reyes’s Malikmata is more than meets the eye. At the heart of movie is the search for justice. Justice is supposed to be blind. However, in Malikmata, the poor and marginalized look for justice elsewhere. It is found in the visions of a reluctant heroine.
Sarah (Rica Peralejo) is a young woman with the gift of seeing and hearing things before they happen. As a child, she sees her father’s death before it happens. A gift she inherited from her grandmother, Sarah is reluctant to use her gift (she gets a nosebleed every time she has visions) as her mother and her auntie Felicitas Joaquin (Madeleine Nicolas) tell her not to use it since it a curse and “mala-demonyo.” She perceives the gift as “labag sa Bible” and denies herself to use it.
Two women, a rich and prominent civic leader Mrs. Ellen Saavedra (played by Barbara Perez) and house helper Ditas (played by Ana Capri) are murdered. Sarah has visions of the murder but is told by her auntie to keep quiet and not to interfere with the investigation. Mrs. Saavedra’s family deals with the police in their search for the murderer so that justice can be done. However, the police investigation is focused only on the murder of the rich socialite. It is as if Ditas was not murdered or her murder did not matter. Who is seeking justice for Ditas? Justice, in Malikmata, is not for all.
To add insult to Ditas’s fatal injury, her carpenter boyfriend Rodolfo Magsilang (played by Wowie De Guzman) is accused for her and her employer’s murder. The police investigators assume that Magsilang, a poor young man trying to seek a better life abroad, was trying to steal from the rich Saavedra. In reality, Magsilang was the one robbed of the love of his life. As Saavedra’s family grieves for her in an opulent air-conditioned Funeraria Paz, Magsilang grieves alone and silently for his lost Ditas in a small decrepit rain drenched funeral parlor.
Is justice done? As a young man is accused of murder, the real murderer appears to have one-upped the inutile and one-track mind of the police investigators. Who helps the house helper seek justice? Ditas haunts Sarah to hunt for her murderer. Ditas turns to Sarah whose conscience cannot accept that an innocent young man will go to jail for a crime he did not commit, a great injustice. As Sarah is transformed, she realizes that she can use her gift to help other people. She uses her gift to help find the elusive justice for Ditas. She goes to the police to tell her about her visions but is dismissed as a “sira-ulo.” She turns to Patrick (Marvin Agustin), grandson of Mrs. Saavedra, and a group of fellow clairvoyants (the film digresses into some sort of a Spirit Questors cum Voltes V at this point) to find the real murderer.
More than a horror detective thriller, Malikmata also offers a searing commentary on the justice system in the Philippines. Narding Mojica (Ricky Davao), an estranged relative of Saavedra, criticizes the police investigators as “imbestigador na pulpol at nagdudunong-dungungan.” As he is also suspected of murder, Narding insinuates to Patrick that his grandmother’s lawyer is suspicious and that all lawyers are untrustworthy.
In Malikmata, justice is not for all. Where does the poor marginalized sector of society search for their justice? In Malikmata, they turn to the visions of a young clairvoyant. It is Ditas who continues her search for justice through Sarah. Ditas cannot rest peacefully until her real murderer is brought to justice. It is notable that it is not Mrs. Saavedra who “shows” herself to Sarah. It is Ditas, the one who feels the injustice. Malikmata is Ditas’s search for justice that eludes her. Justice for Ditas is found through the gift of Sarah’s vision. Justice is served and Sarah is transformed. A gift once reluctantly perceived now gracefully received.
(Appeared in Young Critics Circle Film Desk’s Sine-Sipat: Recasting Roles and Images-Stars, Awards and Criticism for 2003, March 2004)