DirectorLupita Aquino-Kashiwahara Release date25 December 1976
Minsa'y isang gamu-gamo, Once a Moth is a 1976 Filipino film. It concerns a Filipino nurse, Cora de la Cruz, who dreams of moving to America. When her brother is killed, her ideas change. The film criticises American military presence in the Philippines. It was entered in the 1976 Metro Manila Film Festival and won five awards at the 25th FAMAS Awards, including those for best picture, director and screenplay.
The de la Cruzes and the Santos are two lower-middle-class families who live in Pampanga. Cora de la Cruz is a nurse who dreams of living in the United States. Her papers are ready and she organises employment at an American hospital. She hopes to get a green card allowing her to stay, achieve immigrant status and then bring her family to America for a better life. Cora's mother and younger brother encourage her but her father, Ingkong, disagrees. He believes that moving to America is a betrayal of their country.
Bonifacio Santos is Cora’s fiancee. He intends to join the U.S. Navy so that he can be with Cora in America. His mother and their maid are saving to help him with the expenses. The families make no reference in their plans to instances of crime, including murder, committed by American soldiers in the Philippines who are indemnified against prosecution under laws of extraterritoriality. Bonifacio's mother works at a commissary at an American base. She is mistreated by a Filipino female guard, who strips Santo of her “smuggled” panties and waves them like a flag to the delight the American male guards. Santos takes the matter to court with no success and the guard retaliates by raiding her store. Bonifacio becomes disenchanted with America and abandons his plans.
Cora is appalled at the failure of the Philippine courts to provide justice for Mrs. Santos but continues with her plans to leave for America. On the night of her despedida (farewell party), Cora's brother is shot dead by an American soldier while scavenging in the garbage dump of the American base. Cora stays to seek justice for her brother. She discovers that the case cannot continue as the soldier has been reassigned to another country.
Nora Aunor, Corazon de la Cruz.
Jay Ilagan, Bonifacio Santos.
Gloria Sevilla, Chedeng de la Cruz.
Perla Bautista, Yolanda Santos.
Eddie Villamayor, Carlito.
Paquito Salcedo, Inkong Menciong.
In 1976, criticism of the presence of American military bases in the Philippines was censored by the government. The actress, Nora Aunor, who played Cora, was a friend of the president, Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda Marcos. This may have assisted the release of the film.
Criticism of the film was mixed. Tiongson, a reporter for the Philippines Daily Express, wrote:
"Acting in Gamu-gamo is superb. Once again, Nora Aunor proves herself to be one of the finest actresses today, with an acting style that is both “raw”and “fine,” characterized by a disarming sincerity and force, that can break into an unbelievable number of nuances, shades, and colors of emotion. Outstanding is her court scene where her face registers a gamut of emotions—from anger to confusion to depression and despair—in the space of about ten seconds. Like a mature actress, she does not attack dramatic scenes with histrionics or hysteria. Over her brother’s coffin, she curses the Americans who came to pay her family off by screaming “My brother is not a pig” over and over again with mounting intensity."
Film festivals where Minsa'y isang Gamu-gamo has been shown or has competed.
1986 - Opening Film, Bay Area Asian American International Film Festival
1998 - Filipino Film Retrospective Lincoln Center, New York, July 31-August 20