Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Oro Plata Mata is a 1982 film directed by the late Peque Gallaga. It’s a wartime story of survival and conscience where a test of one’s loyalty is clearly conveyed.
The oro (gold) represents the times of plenty which is shown during the opening part of the film where guests in their beautiful clothes attend the 18th birthday of Maggie (Sandy Andolong), one of the señoritas in the Ojeda household. In one scene, Maggie comforts her younger sister Trining (Cherie Gil) when the latter received her first kiss from her childhood sweetheart Miguel (Joel Torre). She tells her that kissing is part of the relationship and admits that her boyfriend Ramon has kissed her, too. Their talk is interrupted by their mother Nena (Liza Ojeda) who tells Maggie to entertain her visitors. At the living room, a close family friend Minggoy (Jaime Fabregas) announced the coming of age of Maggie on behalf of Don Claudio (Manny Ojeda) when the clock hits 12:00 AM. Everyone is having fun until they receive the unfortunate news about the sinking of the SS Corregidor which some of the guests’ sons are into. The party is cut short thereafter.
The plata (silver) represents the changes in their lives, the adjustment period. Used to the luxuries in their mansion, Maggie complains about the dish served at the Lorenzo mansion. Inday Lorenzo (Fides Cuyugan-Asencio) scolds the cook in the typical Filipino trait of always being hospitable towards our guests. Of course, the Ojedas stay in the Lorenzo mansion is not as short as they thought it would be. When they realize that the war will take longer than expected, reality catches up to them. Two more friends Dr. Jo Russell (Maya/Mitch Valdez) and Viring (Lorli Villanueva) take refuge in the Lorenzo mansion.
The start of the mata (death/misfortune) phase is predictable from the point of view of an onlooker. Inday does not trust her foreman Melchor (Abbo dela Cruz) but continues to let him stay anyway because he is competent. Don Claudio continues to support the revolution and reminds them that his hunch about the Japanese invasion was right all along. The Hacienda Lorenzo provides all of them with safety and peace of mind but that is short-lived. When the loyal servant Nana Tating (Mary Walter) fails to come home after looking for Don Claudio in the sugarcane field, they know that something is not right. The burning of the sugarcane field happens later that night prompting Maggie to check the horizon using Miguel’s telescope in the tower. Dr. Jo adjusts the lens and peeps through it and from there, she sees the city with Japanese trucks in tow.
Whoever burned the sugarcane field is not shown in the movie and the disappearance of Nana Tating is not explained as well. I have a feeling that Melchor has something to do about it and maybe Nana Tating discovers his plan.
The group moves to the hidden forest lodge that the Lorenzos own. This is the part of the film where each character’s dark side appears.
-The sibling rivalry between Maggie and Trining for Miguel’s affection.
-Dr. Jo is helpful and logical yet she doesn’t care who to sleep with as long as her sexual needs are met.
-Viring cares about her jewelries more than anything.
-Miguel is a wimp.
-Trining is not loyal to Miguel.
-Melchor has a twisted mind.
-Hermes (Ronnie Lazaro) disrespects Miguel when he had a sexual relation with Trining
The forest lodge is meant to be their sanctuary but the opposite happens. Melchor shows his true colors and justifies his robbing of Viring’s pieces of jewelry as a form of payment for his services. It is for this reason that I thought that he might be the one responsible for the burning of the sugarcane field because of his grievances against the Lorenzos. When Inday fires him, he comes back with a gory vengeance. For some reason, Trining willingly goes with the bandits despite her mother’s pleading.
In retaliation, Hermes and Miguel attack Melchor’s territory. Trining is hesitant to be rescued. The duo kills all the bandits. In one scene, a young Kuh Ledesma who plays the diwata kneels before a bewildered Miguel who does not have qualms about pulling the trigger.
The oro period is shown again during the engagement dinner for Maggie and Miguel. The war is over. The house looks cramped and the walls are untidy. The foods are not as extravagant and overflowing as during Maggie’s debut. Everyone seems to be moving on from the trauma of the war. We see Carlos/Charlie, Don Claudio’s former accountant, now chatting with the elite group. We learn that the adopted Emilio becomes the sole heir to his family’s wealth—and he is now ready to reveal his sexual preference. We feel for Ramon, Maggie’s former boyfriend because fighting for the country leaves him an invalid. We can’t help but sympathize with Don Claudio when signs of advanced aging disallow him from recognizing his granddaughter. Trining’s coping mechanism is forgetting whatever happened during the war yet acknowledging that that period led them to become animals. On the other hand, Nena appears to be ready to fall in love again when she gamely danced with Charlie.