Manila in the claws of light (Maynila: Sa mga kuko ng liwanag)

manila-posterFilipino Tagalog language mystery from 1975.
Starring: Hilda Koronel, Bembol Roco, Lou Salvador Jr.
Director: Lino Brocka
Writers: Edgardo Reyes, Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr.
Bechdel test: Fail


Julio travels from the countryside to Manila to search for his girlfriend who has moved there but has not written home for quite some time.


The main part of the movie takes part in Manila where Julio tries to make a living and find time to look for his girlfriend. Julio is among the poorest in society and in order to survive he takes on a variety of jobs. We meet his friends and colleagues and see how they all try to get enough to eat and pay rent. The movie is about poverty and the lowest rungs of Manila society.

“Manila in the claws of light” is just as important as yesterday’s “A river called Titas“, but not equally good. It feels like Julio’s story is staged to have him travel through a variety of different disenfranchised groups and then have some character he meets explain how this or that particular group suffers and what laws could be amended or enforced in order to fix the problem.

“Manila in the claws of light” was not tested on the Bechdel test site, but I could not find any scenes where two named women talked to one another, so I put the movie on the fail test list. For more about the Bechdel test, read my post about women in movies.


The visual and audio of “Manila in the claws of light” is unimpressive, but that might be a consequence of a very low budget, and if that is the case, the movie is much more impressive. There are no problems with the audio or visuals of the movie that in any way disrupts the storytelling, unlike “A river called Titas” witch might be a natural movie to compare this one with. They both appear to be stories about poverty in the developing world told by people from these two poor regions. However, “A river called Titas” had much more impressive and professional footage, although in black and white, while “Manila in the claws of light” lacked the strange and overly long focus on an actors eyes during dramatic developments.

The story in “Manila in the claws of light” seems staged and a tad naive, but still important and it does reveal a several surprising difficulties in Filipino society. I was quite outraged by several injustices after watching the movie.


I don’t regret watching “Manila in the claws of light”, and I hope at least some of the injustices the movie portrays were left behind in the 70’s. I will not watch the movie again.


I think it would be valuable for most adults to see this movie once in order to learn more about developing nations difficulties.

Over to you

If you’ve recently seen “Manila in the claws of light” or you’re watching along with my year of movies, please leave a comment below with your thoughts on the movie or note down your opinion somewhere else.

45 movies down. 320 to go.

If you want to get “Manila in the claws of light” from Amazon, here is a link for that. They probably have the movie other places too.

Tomorrow’s movie is “Waiting for Guffman”. Get some more information about this movie and the other movies on my watch list this week on the upcoming movies page. If you’re new to this site and are wondering why I’m watching a movie every day for a year, read more about my experiment.

Until next time; live long and prosper.