Filmography: Pinay, American Style (1979)

“I’m PX, short for Paula Xavier, I’m a Filipina…kyontiii…I can understand Tagalog but I’m having a hard time speaking it…actually, I’m not hungry…but on the second thought, why not?” – PX

“one-fourth Japanese, one-fourth Chinese, one-fourth Indonisian, one-fourth Filipino but I was born in Hongkong…you see my mom was a tourist in Hongkong when she met my Japanese father, my Chinese father, my Indonisian father and my Filipino father!” – PX

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Basic Information: Directed: Elwood Perez; Story, screenplay: Toto Belano; Cast: Vilma Santos, Christopher De Leon, Bembol Roco, Cocoy Laurel, Rosa Mia, Alexandra Dulaney, Nova Villa, Bella Flores, Angge, Filipino Lou, Gloria Gaynor; Executive producer: Lily Monteverde; Original Music: Demetrio Velasquez; Cinematography: Felipe Sacdalan, Johnny Araojo; Editing: Rogelio Salvador; Sound: Luis Reyes, Ramon Reyes; Theme Songs: “Pinay” performed by Florante

Plot Description: PX, short for Paula Xavier (Vilma Santos) was an illegal alien in New York City. She’s broke and waiting for fiancé, Cocoy laurel to fulfill his promise of marriage despite the fact that Cocoy has already married an American to secure a green card. Hiding from the authorities, PX met two men who are willing to take care of her but conflicts arise as the two wanted to maintain a serious relationship with her. Played wonderfully by Christopher Deleon and Bembol Roco, the film resolved the love quadrangle between ex-fiancé, Cocoy Laurel and the two brothers when the jealous Cocoy reported Vilma to the immigration authorities. PX was deported back to the Philippines. But the films didn’t end in a sour note, PX found herself reunited with Christopher Deleon when the later followed her in the Philippines. – RV

Film Achievement: One of eight box office hit films Vilma Santos did in 1979

Film Reviews: Shot in New York City and directed by Elwood Perez, this film seems to be a precursor to Miss X (1980) ’Merika (1984) starring Nora Aunor and Milan (2004), even Anak (2000) and Dubai (2005). Talaga bang masarap ang buhay sa ibang bansa? Bakit nagpapakamatay sa green card ang mga Pinoy? PX, mahal na mahal kita, PX, I love you walang iba. Paula Xavier or PX (Vilma Santos) is a TNT like boyfriend Victor Laurel (what an effective undersated performance) who leaves her as his live-in to be engaged to an American to get a green card who promises Vilma to divorce the White girl and to marry PX so they could live happily forever after. Not. Vilma is pissed that Laurel dropped her for good and he left her with unpaid rent and a broken heart. Enter Boyet De Leon, as Vilma’s next boyfriend who has two jobs who has been around long enough to know what he wants in life – women and the American Dream. Enter Bembol Roco, in a great performance as Boyet’s Kuya who is a bagito green card holder in America. He was in the opening scene of the movie where he owns his business and lives comfortably even have someone to make him coffee. Rosa Mia are Roco and De Leon’s battered mother who suffers from the physically abusive second husband (a geriatric Irishman), and verbalized regrets for leaving the Philippines. She has the best lines in the movie and summarized the movie’s theme: “Kung uuwi ako sa Pilipinas ay kung patay na ako. Ayokong umuwi ng buhay at malaman nila na ang hirap ng buhay dito – kayod ka talaga to survive, at di pinupulot ang dolyar, ubas at mansanas sa daan. Ang dami kong dinaanang hirap para lang magka green card.”

Vilma Santos as PX is most effective in her scenes as a dumped/bitter girlfriend of Laurel, as a conflicted girlfriend of De Leon, and as a grateful soul who thank Roco for saving her from paying her overdue rent to her white landlord. Her PX is a toned down Sandra of Ikaw Ay Akin. She says to Roco: “Dati, sa konting pagkain, I offer myself to be laid. Napakabait mo.” Roco answers back: “Hindi ganoon kababa ang tingin ko sa sarili ko.” You see, Roco falls for the beautiful PX too and was upset to learn that PX is already making it with his brother, which drove him to drink and was depressed for a while. Panoorin na lang ninyo ang movie. The movie’s hopeful view of America begins with Perry Como singing White Christmas as Roco, in a dream scene, cavorts in the snow in slow motion. In his dying scene in the arms of his brother De Leon, Roco whispers “ni hindi ko man lang nakita ang snow”, and the above Winter Wonderland scene was replayed, while Boyet’s cry for help fell on deaf American ears. Vilma was deported after Laurel clandestinely reported her to the INS which arrested her at her birthday party. Her farewell scene with De Leon, handcuffed and all in a train station was one of the best scenes in the movie. The movie has a happy ending, with De Leon finding Santos, a flower picker amidst a field of white daisies with Benguet/Baguio as a backdrop. In a typical Elwood Perez slow mo fashion, amidst the daisy flower plantation, the box office love team of all time hugged and lived happily ever after. As credits rolled, Florante’s song Pinay played on. Pinay, American Style. Ang ganda! Vilma Santos yata iyan! – Mario O. Garces, V Magazine Issue No. 6 2006 (READ MORE)

Vilma was obviously under utilized as PX in these Elwood Perez experiment. Despite this predicament, Vilma was able to give us a splash of her abilities. While Nora was in full bloom as Mila in these quiet Portes film. She gave us a convincing portrayal of lonely woman who realized that she was being used by a man she truly loves. The contrast of style was the main point why I matched these two roles. As PX, Vilma was talkative, hiding her insecurity and vulnerability with her fragile disguise pretending to be a rich New Yorker with almost caricature gestures.

Regal films’ Pinay American Style was as commercial as one can imagine. Regal films producer, Lily Monteverde hired three leading men to support the most bankable actress of 1979, Christopher DeLeon, Bembol Rocco and Victor Cocoy Laurel. It was a period in Vilma’s career where she is doing one commercial films after the other. Two dance/musical hits Swing it Baby and Rock Baby Rock and a string of sexy films like Rubia Servious the previous year, Coed and Magkaribal mostly targeting the mature adult audience established her status as the number one box office superstar of 1978-79. Vilma in 1979 was a picture of self-assured bankable star. She did two movies with Elwood Perez, Magkaribal and Pinay American Style both were box office hits. She also produced an Eddie Rodrigues starrer Halik sa Paa Halik sa Kamay, and teamed-up with comedy king, Dolphy in Buhay Artista. As the year 1979 ends, she battled the drama queen Charito Solis in the local festival entry, Modelong Tanso. The end of the decade marked her stronghold as the box office queen. Clearly, Vilma Santos’ versatility as an actress was the secret weapon of her box office success. And this weapon was in full display in Pinay American Style.

Pinay American Style was the story of PX, an illegal alien or TNT – “tago ng tago.” Her boyfriend played by Victor Laurel abandoned her for a rich American girl mainly to secure a green card. PX met an Americanized Filipino, Christopher DeLeon but found him not serious of having her as a steady girlfriend. It just so happened that PX also met Christopher’s brother, Bembol Rocco, a new immigrant. PX and Bembol fell for each other. And a love triangle surfaced the screen. Adding to the drama was Victor Laurel’s enraged, jealous appearances. Laurel eventually tipped the police ending PX stays in New York. As Bembol Rocco realized that America doesn’t fit his lifestyle, he reconciled with his brother and advised him to follow PX in the Philippines. Christopher and Vilma reconciled in a farm field in the Philippines. The end.

The film was so forgettable that the critics didn’t even bother to write any reviews. The lack of enthusiasm on the part of the critics was compensated with the box office success of the film. Vilma fits the role as the illegal alien, PX. Her attempt to speak fluent English and pretend that she’s rich when she met the boyish looking Christopher was funny and poignant. She was given enough scenes to shine. One was when she was harassed by her landlady, she promised her the rent money the next day and when she’s gone, she opened her refrigerator and found a staled piece of bread. She took bottled water and ate the staled bread, went to the bedroom and found her mom’s letter. Lying down in bed, she started to break down. A quiet scene without dialogue. A contrast from the earlier scenes where she was talkative as she tried to impress Christopher and telling him she’s rich and from a well-known family. It was obvious in 1979, Elwood Perez wasn’t the kind of director you will expect to produce a serious output. He wasn’t a Bernal or Brocka. He’s a commercial director. It was a better effort though, compared to a much more convoluted Magkaribal or their past successful projects like Nakawin natin ang bawat sandali and masakit masarap ang umibig. In Pinay, Toto Belano’s script wasn’t efficient in ironing out the “love quadrangle” plot twists and establishing the characters of four actors. So the blame can’t be put to solely to Perez’ shoulder. There was a scene were Vilma Santos and Christopher were watching a concert which was obviously not part of the script. – RV

“…Pinay, American Style carries such attributes. Shot entirely in America, it depicts the plight of some Filipinos living there – Filipinos who are obsessed with amassing fortunres and landing high-paying jobs and enjoying the dolce vita in the muchballyhooed “land of the brave and home of the free” and the “land of the mighty dollar.” Compared to foreign movies with explicit sex scenes, Pinay… would not even deserve the “For Adults Only” tag or an “X-rated” classification, according to Elwood. Basically, the movie is a relfection of the typical plight of Filipinos living abroad. It is a plight that runs counter to the optimism and false hopes entertained by potential Filipino immigrants. Arriving in the U.S. as tourists, some Filipinos would choose to stay behind in their search for “greener pastures.” Having done so, they have to play hide-and-seek with immigration authorities, accept odd jobs to survive in the asphalt jungle, get married to ward off deportation, and similar evasive maneuvers. These same incidents are what the cast – Vilma Santos, Christopher de Leon, Bembol Roco and Victor “Cocoy” Laurel – portray in Pinay. Pinay is Elwood’s second movie shot abroad after Lollipops…” – Manny B. Fernandez, Expressweek, July 12, 1979 (READ MORE)