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Lino Brocka (1940-1991)
Lino Brocka: Legendary Filmmaker, First LDS Convert in the Philippines

by Hugo Salinas

Many know Lino Brocka (1939-1991) as the most renowned filmmaker to come from the Philippines. Less known is the fact that he was gay. And even less known is the fact that he was LDS. In fact, Brocka was one of the first two LDS converts in the Philippines. After his baptism, Brocka served a mission in Hawaii and studied for one semester at BYU-Hawaii.

After leaving the Mormon faith, Lino Brocka became the most productive, renowned, and controversial filmmaker of the Philippines. He fought tirelessly against the censorship imposed by dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Tubog sa Ginto ("Dipped in Gold," 1971) and Macho Dancer (1988) are two of Brocka's controversial movies with homosexual themes.

Brocka died on May 22, 1991, in a car accident. His nephew Q. Allan Brocka, ia a gay filmmaker living in L. A.

Link to entry about Lino Brocka at LDSFilm.com

The following excerpt has been taken from Mario A. Hernando's Lino Brocka: The Artist and His Times (Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1993), pp. 10-12:

It was [Brocka's friend Behn] Cervantes who introduced Brocka to a team of young Mormon missionaries in 1961, largely to rid himself of them. Brocka listened, first out of politeness, recognizing that whatever the missionaries were preaching, their beliefs were deeply sincere. Slowly, he seemed to hear echoes of his father teaching him about honesty, about commitment, about living what you believe. He responded to the Mormon concept that God has created the world for us and that we should feel good about ourselves, in contrast to what he saw as the Roman Catholic concern with guilt. And he liked the emphasis on simplicity in Mormonism, in contrast to the pomp and ceremony he associated with the Catholic faith into which he had been born.

Brocka became the team's first Filipino convert and agreed to go to Hawaii on the two-year mission required of all male Mormons--in part to get away from the Philippines and the pointless life he felt himself to be living.

He was not a successful missionary, but in the mission field, he learned a lot about himself. He did not mind working as a two-man team but refused to report on his partner to their superior. He found that he was older than the average missionary, with more life experience and more views of his own. The idealism with which he entered the church soon became tempered by the realization that the Mormon church was not different from other large organizations, and that Mormons were like other people--some believed and lived the credo, some did not; some did their work humbly, while others curried favor with their superiors; some supervisors gave their teams leeway and others insisted on absolute obedience.

Brocka was transferred from Oahu to Hawaii to Kauai to Maui to Lanai, and finally to Molokai island, in less than 12 months. During this period, along with routine missionary activities, he taught part of a course in World Religion at the University of Hawaii; contributed to fund raising by staging plays and shows for tourists; worked with third generation Filipinos who were ashamed of their ancestry; and discovered that manual labor--construction work and pineapple picking--was not for him. A series of unsatisfactory reports followed him from place to place which asserted that he was a bad influence on other missionaries because he raised questions about orders, did not unwaveringly obey superiors, and seemed to get sidetracked from the main task of gaining converts.

His last assignment, Molokai, was apparently the church's post of last resort. If he had any religious experience during his two years as a missionary, it was here during his year at the Kalaupapa leper colony. Very slowly, "to keep from dying of boredom," he began to get involved in the lives of the lepers and the multi-denominational staff. They worked together on projects, put on performances, went fishing in the early morning and talked about what was important and what was not. On infrequent trips to Honolulu, the young man listened to friends moaning about their problems and how difficult their lives were. In contrast, the lepers on Molokai were positive, facing life with cheerful, good humor. Even their funerals were happy because they believed that after death, they would be made whole again.

Brocka had a lot of time to think and he began to put his own life into some kind of perspective. He had gone from being a prize-winning high school graduate with the world ahead of him, to a university dropout whose mother compared him unflatteringly to his former classmates, and his search for meaning in life through the Mormon faith was unfulfilled. Gradually, he formed his own credo for living: to be grateful for what he had, not to clutter his life with non-essentials; to reject the excuse that something is futile and therefore not worth doing; and finally resolving that life will never put me down, I shall prove stronger than life."

After completing his missionary commitment Brocka attended the Mormon Church College of Hawaii for one semester in a last attempt to complete his education. He paid his own way, working as a grounds man, but found the Hawaiian climate so conducive to sleeping under coconut trees that he failed to attend classes. Thus, still without a degree, Brocka decided to visit the U.S. mainland. His arrival in San Francisco with $50 in his pocket ended his membership in the Mormon church. He lived for a few weeks in the city's "tenderloin district," learning from hoboes how to survive. At last, he got a job as a busboy in a restaurant at Fisherman's Wharf where he ate his first solid meal in a month. Two months later, he took a job in a hospital for the elderly where the administrator offered him a permanent position and help in getting American citizenship if he would stay, but he refused.

In Manila, before his mission, Brocka had experienced a feeling of choking, drowning in his own life. After five months in San Francisco, he felt an overwhelming homesickness for the Philippines, a feeling which attacked him every time he traveled. Therefore he returned to Manila in 1968.