Of Filmmaking and Translations: Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank

Okay, I swear I will never watch another comedy film at the cinemas.  Particularly a local film.  My fellow moviegoers just have this tendency to feel extremely at home:  commenting loudly at just about whatever, putting up their feet wherever and laughing out loud whenever.  The concept of hiya seems to get left at the entrance, to be picked up again only after the movie.  I particularly hate the laughing out loud behavior since it is quite disruptive as it blocks out some of the lines. And most of the time, the main punchline is altogether drowned out by that untimely guffaw.

Good thing about this Cinemalaya film, Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank, is that there were subtitles (I wasn’t as lucky with Kimi Dora) so what I missed to hear, I just read.  Since the film was intended for the international audience, there was no escaping the distraction brought about by these English subtitles flashing at the bottom of the screen.  And as part of being a foreign language learner, I have grown accustomed to watching foreign films.  I practice my listening comprehension skills by focusing first on what the characters are saying, then checking to see if the subtitles confirm my understanding.  Through this, I have established this habit of checking out if the subtitles match the lines being spoken, and most importantly, if the translation does justice to the script.

A disclaimer though:  I do not claim to be an expert.  I just like doing this exercise and not one subtitled film has escaped my scrutiny.  And this is why I could not help commenting on some of the translations that I discovered:

Ewan ko sa ‘yo!  =  Screw you!  (note to self:  must be more careful now in using this expression, hahaha!)

Matubig (na sopas)  =  Flimsy (soup)  (I’ve always thought it’s a flimsy dress and a watery or runny soup, hahaha!)

Anyway, the whole film had been a satire of filmmaking.  We were given the ambitious director, the practical producer, the no-say production assistant, and the famous and demanding actor.  We were presented with great visions of international-film-fest domination, the ever-present socially-relevant issues and the very-Filipino compulsion to criticize the grammar errors of others.  It was a roller coaster ride of having the same scenes played repeatedly – twice sordid, once musical, and the typical commercial – with a three-way tug-of-war on who is the best actress to play the lead.  It was fascinating!  And much like most Indie films I’ve seen, there was this buildup towards the justification of the mysterious title.  The keywords weren’t even mentioned until about the last 10 or 15 minutes of the movie.  And then bam!  There it was.

The movie got everyone laughing.  The actors were few but delivered their parts well, including the 100 y.o. pedophile.  *shudder*  The sad thing though was that, absolutely no one won in the end.  The movie showed us that we were all ultimately losers:  Mila would lose her son, Ranier/Direk would compromise and give in to the actress’s demands, Bingbong/Exec would lose his car, Jocelyn/P.A. would only be heard through wails, and despite various negotiations and preparations, Eugene would still fall into the septic tank.


Jayce Cairo

Jayce is a linguaphile who speaks four languages and currently works as a translator to finance her various interests. Scoring very high on “Openness to Experience” on the Big Five Personality Test, she is an avid globetrotter who aspires to retire at 35 and travel for the rest of her life.

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