Kampanerang Kuba started with Andang (Vilma Santos), a hunch back bell-ringer running away from the people in the market. She was accuse of stealing. When she got back from the church (where she lives and work), she was confronted and physically assaulted by Tateng (Celia Rodriguez) for no justifiable reason. Thankfully, Father Damian, the old sick priest intervened. He has long been her protector. Andang felt sad when she found out that Father Damian is leaving. On his absence, a young priest, Father Agaton (Edgar Mortiz) will take over. Aside from ringing the bell, Andang clean and feed the piglets (owned by Ellen and Tateng, they are the church’s caretakers). She normally eats with her bare hands while talking to her patron saint, Saint Martin. She talks and treats the idol along side the church’s bell towers like they are humans. Meanwhile, Tateng, the daughter of the head caretaker, Ellen (Patria Plata), is a sex maniac who loves to abuse Andang. She also seduce men in exchange of material things like jewelry.
One time Andang caught Tateng having sex with Crispin (Dindo Fernando) inside the church, when Tateng found out that she was around, she physically abuse her. Then the following day, while feeding the piglets, Tateng verbally abuse her. Andang retaliate and the two had mud-wrestling inside pig pen. Tateng’s mother Ellen was about to join the fight when Father Agaton arrived and intervened. The next day, a group of women arrived and accused Tateng of accepting gifts from their husband that they own. When Tateng overheard the loud complaints, she quickly went to Andang and pretended she wanted to make amends and gave her a necklace. When the group of women finally faced Tateng, she lied and told them to look for the jewelry at Andang.
The women then went to Andang and accused her of stealing. Afraid of her safety, Andang went to the church’s roof telling them that if they will not stop, she will jump. Tateng convinced Andang not to jump and that she is her friend. The trusting Andang came back and was welcome by the women with physical assaults. They tied her down with a long rope and dragged her on the ground until Crispin, who riding the horse (where Andang was tied down) reached the town’s mountain hill where he threw Andang’s lifeless body. When Andang miraculously regained consciousness, she was seen talking to her patron saint, Saint Martin. He blessed her and was able to bring her back to the church. There, she was blessed by the Virgin Mary. A holy miracle happened, flower petals falls down from the sky and holy lights beams Andang. She slowly changed from the ugly hunch back girl into a beautiful woman. As turned out she became Sandra Belmonte. A woman long gone and who were once the topic of town gossips. Sandra’s two sister found her into the church the next day. Surprised and very thankful, they brought her back to their big home. Andang now assumed the identity of Sandra. Sandra as it turned out has suitor, Roel (Ernie Garcia) who she didn’t like. She also discovered that she missed her life as Andang and now sure that she is in love with Father Agaton.
Can’t control her feelings anymore, she went to the church for the Catholic ritual of confession. And with Father Agaton, she confess her love for him. Tateng overheard this, and coerced the priest to have sex with her in exchange for her silence but failed. In retaliation, she spread this information to the town’s people. Headed by Tateng’s admirer, Max Alvarado, the priest was confronted by the angry people. The priest denied the affair. The town’s people decided to tied the priest into a post and burn him. This is because the priest doesn’t want leave the church. When Sandra who was with Roel, discovered what was happening, she luckily escape madness and went inside the church to pray to Saint Martin. Her pray were answered by the sudden ringing of the church’s bells followed by a loud thunder. It started to rain killing the fire and saving the poor priest. It was a miracle. Tateng’s sinful mind cleared and she ask Father Agaton’s forgiveness, who gladly obliged. Father Agaton then search for Sandra when her suitor Roel appeared. They both went to the church tower and saw Andang instead. The end.
Kampanerang Kuba’s convoluted long story maybe attributed to the original comics material written by Pablo Gomez. A good director should iron out all the unbelievable plots specially all the one-dimensional characters. For example, Celia Rodriguez character, Tateng. She is so masochistic that viewer might wonder why she is so mean. Also, with her tower-nesque beauty, why she decided to remained in a town where everything seems to be so trivial and everyone seems loves to gossip, even the men. Nilo Saez (with Jose Flores Sibal wrote the script) failed miserably in this regard. Shot in Nagcarlan Laguna, Kampanerang Kuba showcased the old Filipino beliefs in patron saints, religious rituals and miracles. It also demonstrates that people can be so cruel, can passed judgement, and can asked for forgiveness that quick when confronted with truth. All will be forgiving without taking into account all the harm that they have done. In the real world, these people will be punished. Celia Rodriguez seems to be wooden in so many scenes but equally infuriating when she started to do her verbal and physical abuse of Andang. With limited dialogue, a young Dindo Fernando portrayed Tateng’s lover convincingly. All the other supporting roles including Perla Bautista, Ernie Garcia and others gave forgettable performances. About the two main lead, Edgar Mortiz and Vilma Santos, both did what they can to portrayed their respective roles. Edgar Mortiz seems to be trying very hard to be effective as the priest but acting is clearly not his forte. Would this be different if Jay Ilagan did this role? Vilma Santos succeed more with her solo scenes, talking to the patron saints and the bell tower, eating with her bare hands and trying to beautify her ugly face. She appeared to be gearing up for more versatile roles that requires her not to sing but to act. – RV