Markova: Comfort Gay (2000)
Director: Gil Portes.
Starring: Dolphy (Walter Dempster Jr. / Walterina Markova), Eric Quizon (Walterina Markova, Middle years), Jeffrey Quizon (Young Markova), Tony Bueno (Japanese Soldier / Rapist).
young Filipino boy suffers as Japanese soldiers use him for sex work
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Markova wakes up from a nightmare inspired by his experiences with Japanese crimes against humanity during WWII. "My name is Walterina Markova, 73 years old. Comfort gay. "This is the story of my life . . . one bad dream."
He says he lives at the Home for the Golden Gays. These gay are all very effeminate in their mannerisms. He goes to work teaching young, pretty girls how to walk like show girls. They are bound-for-Japan girls. After awhile, he has the next batch walking like professional models.
Markova says he loves to visit churches. He prays a lot.
He watches a documentary on television dealing with Japan in the Philippines during World War II. The narrator is a woman reporter who talks about the many victims in the Philippines who suffered terribly in the hands of Japanese soldiers. She talks about the Philippine comfort women, women sexually abused during WWII. A courageous woman named Nana Rosa has come forward to tell her story. Since her days as a comfort woman, her life has lost its meaning. This is so upsetting to Markova that he leaves the room. The manager notices this and goes to ask Markova what is bothering her? He knows that it's connected with that television program on the comfort women. He tells Markova to stop being so sad!
Flashback. Markova wins the Japanese contest of Miss Comfort Gay. She thanks the audience. She throws kisses to them, but then an air raid siren goes off.
Back to the present. Markova awakens from his bad dream. He goes to church. There the manager visits with him. Markova says he feels freer when he's in church. And he wants to feel free because he wants to tell his story of being a comfort gay for the Japanese. The manager tells him to forget the past. Markova says if the comfort women have the courage to tell their story to the world, why can't he tell his story? He also tells the manager that he needs the man's moral support.
The woman journalist who did the story of comfort women now comes to the Home for Golden Gays to hear Markova's story. Her name is Loren Legarda. Markova comes out to see her. The woman is looking for a Mrs. Markova. Markova says he is Markova but he is not Mrs. Markova. The woman asks: "So, there isn't a Mrs. Markova in here?" So, there's no comfort woman here? He says no. But he is a comfort gay. She says she's wasting her time. She is about to leave, but gets a call from the manager JJ who set the meeting up. He tells her on the phone to listen to Markova's story. It will be worth her time. So Loren decides to stay.
Markova tells her that Walter Dempster, Jr. is his given name. Loren tells Markova to start at the beginning. Start at family background. He says his parents lived in the south but he grew up in Manila. His father was a doctor and had an optical company. His mother was a housewife. In all, they had two boys and two girls. He then corrects himself saying that they had one boy and three girls. He says he was a late bloomer and didn't really know he was gay until the age of 16 or 17. He tried to conceal it, but the vamp in him kept coming out. He says his brother Robert was the dark villain in his life. Three times a day Robert used him as his own private punching bag.
Flashback. Markova watches the boys playing basketball. He talks with the girls about boy friends. Markova likes this Antonio fellow, but one of the girls warns him that Guia won't like that if she finds out. He gets a laugh saying let the best girl win. Guia comes out and starts pushing Markova in the swing where he happens to be sitting. She and a friend start pushing him really hard and Markova starts acting scared. Robert stops his car and tells his brother to get over here to his car. Robert is a really big guy and he is brutal with his brother. He hits him in the stomach doubling him over. He puts Markova in a head lock and tells his brother to "be a man!" Then he pushes Markova on the ground in front of all the boys and girls.
After Robert leaves, Markova picks himself up, cleans himself up a bit and then walks like a fashion model over to the girls again.
At night was when the woman in him really would come out. He would dress himself in his sister Arabella's clothes. Robert knocks on the door one day while he is dressed as a woman. Markova tries to wipe his massacred off and puts on a robe to hide the dress, but Robert sees the dress. He throws Markova onto the bed and actually kicks him in the face with his shoe. One of the sisters reports to mother that Robert is hurting Walter again. Walter asks him: "What can I do if I'm really like this way?" Mother comes to the rescue. She asks Robert if he is trying to kill his brother? Robert says he will kill him if he doesn't stop acting like a woman. Robert leaves, Walter cries, asking why is Robert that way? After all, Markova only wants to be who he is. Is that so wrong?
Robert sends Walter on an errand to deliver a bottle of liquor to one of Robert's male friends, Rocco. The guy comes out of the shower in too small of a towel and tells Walter to have a drink with him. He gives Walter a coke with buttered bread. He then has Walter sit on his lap. He starts grabbing at Walter's body. Walter looks like he is not feeling very comfortable. The fellow says he's an actor and he forces Walter into his bedroom to see his camera work. The guy then has his way with Walter who cries.
Back at home it's hard for Walter to sit properly on his chair because of the injuries he acquired in the rape. His mother asks him why doesn't he sit properly in his seat? He has to say he has a boil on his rear-end.
Back to the present. Walter tells Loren that he was angry with his brother. He says he liked and didn't like the rape. He says and it was so big. Loren doesn't appreciate this reference and Markova intimates that she is a little too up-tight.
Flashback. One day Rocco brought home in his car a bleeding Robert. Rocco yells at Walter to get a doctor. Mother comes out and Rocco explains that they were drinking and Robert starting coughing and then vomited blood. Robert spits more blood out -- blood that gets on Walter's clothes. Robert dies.
Markova says he was sad, of course, about Robert, but, on the other hand, he was thrilled to be free of the monster. He dances around in his room. He was just happy.
And now that Walter was free of Robert he would go with his friends sashaying through the town. They loved to parade down Dewey Boulevard. His four friends were Carmen, Sophie, Anita and Minerva.
One day the five friends dressed as women to have a studio portrait taken. A little boy rushes into the room shouting: "The Japs have come!" A little later the Japs parade right through the streets of Manila.
The "girls" would go to the Japanese Tsubaki Club. They would dance for the Japanese dressed in sexy outfits. Many of the men thought the men were women. The Japanese would flirt with the "girls". An officer flirts with Markova. Later Markova is taken to a hotel. In the hotel room the officer gets very aggressive with Markova. But during foreplay the officer finds out that Markova is really a man. He slaps her around several times and then sends for the soldiers. The "girls" are escorted out of the hotel very roughly. The women are driven in the back of a truck to a building out in the boonies. There they are pushed into a warehouse and the door is locked behind them.
In the morning a truckload of soldiers are brought to the warehouse. The Japanese soldiers now proceed to rape the "girls". A soldier with a bayonet at the end of his rifle makes sure that the victim does not resist the rapist too much. It's obviously very painful for the "girls", but the men don't care about that. In fact, they probably enjoy the infliction of pain on the girls.
When a Japanese soldiers comes in with bowls of food, one of the girls attacks him and start hitting him hard in the face. Armed Japanese soldiers come to his rescue. The armed soldiers want to rifle butt the girls, but the attacked fellow won't let them do it. The attacking girls says to their defender: "Pigs! You'll pay for this, bastards!" Their defender leaves.
As the 73 year old, Markova comes into the warehouse to look at the girls, including himself. A soldier was playing a sad son on his flute. Walter says: "I couldn't help thinking how beasts like them could make such sad music."
The war goes on and so too goes the Japanese crimes against humanity. There is the Bataan Death March. There is the beheading of prisoners. The starving of prisoners. And the rapes of the comfort gays continued.
Loren asks how did it end? Markova says the soldiers finally got tired of them and they let the women escape. When the bombing started, the women escaped. The Japanese, however, were still in Manila. And the women had their revenge.
Markova hears dogs barking. Sophie comes back to their living quarters with her hands all bloody. Sophie goes out again and gets another client/victim. As the soldiers starts caressing her, she takes a knife out and stabs the soldier repeatedly. The other four comfort women watch by peaking around the corner.
Markova says the revenge didn't last long for one day, Sophie just disappeared. They heard she was imprisoned and tortured. Carmen was accused of robbery. She was tied to a gate with a sign around her neck. Japanese soldiers would come by to taunt her and to hurt her in different ways. Markova cried over Carmen's fate, but Carmen did survive. Sophie died in prison. When Manila was is such confusion the friends got separated. Markova doesn't know what happened to Minerva, but after the liberation he was still with Anita and Carmen.
Markova was super excited when nylon stockings were back in circulation.
The girls form another act. This time they are a group of six performing at night clubs. And now, instead of Japanese soldiers and sailors, many of the customers are American soldiers and sailors.
One day Markova finds Carmen. They hug each other. Carmen says she went home to her province and tried to forget the past. She asks Markova if the sailor she is with knows that she has man parts? Markova says yes. Carmen comments: "I want the old Carmen gone. You know what all this pretending brought us." Markova replies: "You call this pretending? Or accepting who we are?"
Markova says Carmen's old glory came back. They were together in a gay parade.
Loren asks Markova when he stopped cross-dressing? The answer: "Well, beauty does fade. Even Imelda Marcos grew old." He became a make-up artist in some theaters. He worked also in burlesque theaters. Then he did make-up for the movies. He asks Loren: "Did you know that most actors have gay lovers?" Loren asks for names, but Markova says she won't give her any names.
The AIDS epidemic begins in the Philippines. Markova has a friend that dies from the disease. He goes to the funeral. Then he has himself tested for AIDS. He is so happy when his results are negative.
Markova goes to visit the ailing Carmen. Carmen tells Markova that her doctor says she needs a triple bypass, but she has no money for the operation. Markova has brought her a consolation. He made her favorite dish, sour broth soup.
Loren asks if Markova is the last of his group? Yes. Has Markova forgiven the Japanese? He sometimes was asked if he minded the Japan-bound dancers working in Japan? He answers: "They're not all bad." One of the dancers tells Markova that she finds his story hard to believe. Markova cuts a big clump of her hair off.
Loren asks what if nobody believes Markova's story? Markova asks if Loren believes it? She says she still has to investigate the story details. This upsets Markova somewhat. He grabs the tape out of her recorder and tells her this is his story. She can have the tape back when she finally believes his story.
Markova looks through her scrapbook of photos and cries.
He gets dressed as a woman again. "I am Walterina Markova." She dances around on a stage thinking of her younger days.
"Walter Dempster, Jr. (Markova) still lives in the Home for Golden Gays, a project of Pasay City Councilor Justo C. Justo. His life remains basically the same. He goes to church everyday and trains Japan-bound entertainers."
Good movie. A sad movie to watch because it was terrible how mean people could be toward Walter Dempster, Jr. His brother used to viciously beat him up for his cross-dressing ways. Like Markova said in the movie, he only wants to be the way that he really is. Japan invaded the Philippines and Markova had to become a comfort gay and be constantly abused and used by vicious Japanese soldiers. At that time the Japanese had a Bushido code that sanctioned their vicious and brutal treatment of others. This was also aided by Japanese racists beliefs that they were a superior race to other Asians. When the comfort women of the Philippines started telling their stories, Markova decided to tell her story as a comfort gay. Thank you Walter Dempster, Jr. (Markova). Sad to watch, but it strikes a blow against man's inhumanity to his fellow man. Acceptance and tolerance and not hate is demanded of anyone who strives to be a decent human being.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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