• EVERY SATURDAY AFTER I CAN SEE YOUR VOICE
  • EVERY SATURDAY AFTER I CAN SEE YOUR VOICE
REVIEW: MMK Beerhouse brings the bitter taste of human trafficking out in the open

Even in trades most detested and reviled, hope springs eternal for change.

What matters is the acceptance of one’s mistake in pursuing that direction, and would undergo the worst just to make amends and finally seek a better life in the right path.

Getting mired in prostitution whilst unwittingly being involved in a graver crime of human trafficking is one sorry predicament for even its most innocent victims as they become perpetrators themselves tragically unaware of the law and its consequences.

Difficult journey

In MMK’s “Beerhouse,” this led to a difficult journey for Julia (Meg Imperial), who herself was a human trafficking victim before she herself unintentionally made it possible for that dreadful crime to further rear its ugly head.

But as she learned about that mistake, she would face the consequences of her actions and hope she would be given a second chance.

What first led her to this maelstrom? Her mere sulking over her mother’s (Maila Gumila) apparent passive stance or treatment towards her. Julia thought she was being ignored and that her brother’s accomplishments in school were more appreciated than her own, particularly those times when she won beauty and talent tilts.

Julia was thus too acceding and gullible to try anything that would lift her spirits up, especially those opportunities that she thinks would make her feel more appreciated. Given that their family had been hard up since the death of her father, Julia assumed that giving in to any proposal from strangers that would make her earn more than she could imagine was the best thing she could do.

“Opportunity”

After winning a local beauty contest, Julia was enraptured and taken by a proposal from a stranger Justin (Jhai Ho) that she would earn a lot from “folk dancing” in Zamboanga City but said she would ask her mother’s permission. Eventually, Julia innocently gave in and went with Justin to Zamboanga only to find out it was a local beerhouse cum sex den she was working for.

Devastated, Julia could only surrender to the wishes of Justin, who was really part of a human trafficking syndicate and a pimp at the beerhouse. It was a pitiful sight to watch Julia being forced to have sex for the first time and emerging from it all traumatized and hurt. As she then found a way to send a text message to her mom, she feigned she was a friend telling her that Julia was already dead.

As she continued her work at the brothel, Julia overheard a fellow prostitute, Roxanne (Debbie Garcia), planning to escape to her home town of Cagayan de Oro. Julia begged if she could also escape and go with her. And, as they succeeded in escaping from Justin’s clutches and end up in Cagayan de Oro, Julia was then surprised to find out that she would work again at a beerhouse, only that the managers were friendlier and that the pay was higher. She didn’t realize she was a human trafficking victim the second time.

Wonderful friendship

Here she met Denise (Valerie Concepcion), who is among the most desired performers in the club. Denise had defended Julia as fellow prostitutes, primarily Roxanne, were incensed that the young newcomer at the club was allegedly seducing clients away from them. Julia had denied this and said she was merely working to earn a living. Denise held off Julia’s growing adversaries and informed her why she was despised: being more beautiful.

Here she met Denise (Valerie Concepcion), who is among the most desired performers in the club. Denise had defended Julia as fellow prostitutes, primarily Roxanne, were incensed that the young newcomer at the club was allegedly seducing clients away from them. Julia had denied this and said she was merely working to earn a living. Denise held off Julia’s growing adversaries and informed her why she was despised: being more beautiful.

Here she met Denise (Valerie Concepcion), who is among the most desired performers in the club. Denise had defended Julia as fellow prostitutes, primarily Roxanne, were incensed that the young newcomer at the club was allegedly seducing clients away from them. Julia had denied this and said she was merely working to earn a living. Denise held off Julia’s growing adversaries and informed her why she was despised: being more beautiful.

They shared an apartment and as they lived a life like sisters, Julia appreciated the fact that she finally found someone who’s like family, sharing meals with and conversations that enrich her. But when Denise asked about her real family, Julia was mum.

Issue with family

Upon Denise’s insistence, Julia revealed her family seemed not to care about her whereabouts as she even feigned her death in a text message to her mother. But Denise was adamant in stressing how sure she was Julia’s mom cared about her and would move mountains just to bring her back.

Upon Denise’s insistence, Julia revealed her family seemed not to care about her whereabouts as she even feigned her death in a text message to her mother. But Denise was adamant in stressing how sure she was Julia’s mom cared about her and would move mountains just to bring her back.

Though she found it unlikely at first, Julia did follow Denise’s advice and knocked at the door of her home. She was then delightfully surprised that her mom greeted and hugged her tightly, tearfully overwhelmed with joy that she returned, realizing that the “news” about her supposed death wasn’t true.

Julia also disclosed that she had been a prostitute since she disappeared to survive, a fact her mom despised but reluctantly accepted as Julia vowed to support them.

Pregnancy

As her issue with her mother seemed resolved, Julia would now turn to Denise to help her solve her own. While she tried her best to evade any serious relationships, Denise got pregnant by a fling Alex (Kaiser Boado), whom Julia introduced to her. And despite knowing that this would seriously affect her job, Denise decided to keep the baby. But the best thing that happened was that Julia did not leave her and stayed by her side as she went through her pregnancy.

Julia then gave her own advice to Denise, who had been experiencing the pains of pregnancy as they worked the stage and entertained guests. She told her to cease working and focus on her baby, a suggestion she wholeheartedly accepted.

After giving birth, Denise had the full support of Julia, who also shouldered some of the expenses while herself taking care of the baby. And, after being swayed by the rewards of motherhood, Denise was thinking twice of continuing in the flesh trade. A sympathizing Julia then told her that they could look at completely ditching the beerhouse after a few years and embark on new journeys.

This she relayed to her mom, who was overjoyed that soon her daughter would stop working as a prostitute and leave a simple life like them.

But as she was preparing to leave with Julia to work at a more lucrative club in Cebu City, Julia was pestered by younger, first-time call girls who asked if they could go with her to Cebu and enjoy bigger earnings. Remembering the time she was helped by Roxanne, Julia agreed and tagged them along. But as they reached the Port of Cebu, authorities apprehended their group and asked why they were in Cebu.

Human trafficking charge

After Julia innocently told them that they would work at a club, the authorities whisked them away to a police station for questioning. Then as they further admitted they were taking those young girls, aged 14-17, to the club for jobs as hostesses, the officer told them they were violating the anti-trafficking law and signed a document that they had perpetrated it. As both told the officer that they did not know they were violating any law and that they were just helping the young girls find a better job, they were told that the law punishes all violators, even those who are unaware of it.

A year after the incident, an officer posing as a customer apprehended Julia at the bar, citing her formally as having violated Republic Act 10364, which is a non-bailable offense with a penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.

A year after the incident, an officer posing as a customer apprehended Julia at the bar, citing her formally as having violated Republic Act 10364, which is a non-bailable offense with a penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.

And, as Christmas time came, and their respective families visit, including Julia and Denise’s own children, they look back at their mistakes and contemplate on what and what not should have been done. They still are hoping to be free soon and reunite with their families and enjoy life as it should be.

But the best they have at this moment is each other.

Comprehensive tale

This definitely was a comprehensive tale of how innocence, unguided perception of reality and unbridled emotion can lead our lives to utter chaos and uncertainty. It brings invaluable lessons to everyone watching about how we must have uninhibited, open communications with every member of the family, despite any situation the family is undergoing.

A huge part of it is assuring all of them the love and confidence we have in them and how we should sincerely appreciate their gifts, talents, and individuality. And of course, guiding them not to talk to strangers unequivocally.

Otherwise, this will lead to this confused son or daughter’s being exposed out in the open, maybe leaving our homes and lead lives unsure where they could hold on in times of trouble. And this could eventually make them end up in far worse conditions we could ever dream of, like serving time in jail.

While the depiction is so vividly positive about friendship goals and forgiveness, it remains as cautionary as it should be in leaving us the lessons we should always bear in mind not only as parents but as siblings or even distant relatives and close friends. We must be involved in each other’s lives, not to the point of intrusion, but by being concerned about the well-being and safety of our loved ones.

Big potential

Meg Imperial has that big potential of being a serious dramatic actress and her intense, deeply internalized portrayal of Julia surely gives us that sign. Valerie Concepcion is certainly that delight to watch in her well-essayed, relatable performance of Denise. But the most admirable thespic show came from Maila Gumila as Julia’s mom, who made an emotionally gripping performance that presented the pains of a mother juggling the pertinence of a family’s survival with the individual needs of its members. And, grieving over her failure to address the concerns of one who went astray was the most tragic.

Thanks to director Garry Fernando, we are treated to this eye-opener of an episode with the needed takeaways loud and clear.