The noise is all over the place. Nadine Lustre and Kathryn Bernardo have been fancasted as this generation’s Sylvia and Isabel, and the internet has an insatiable appetite for the possibility. Even Vilma Santos, who played Isabel, greenlit this tandem.
Lustre herself recently approved of the fancast, albeit mentioning that it would be challenging for her. Both Lustre and Bernardo have been affiliated with each other since their names went up the screens; aside from being half of the two most popular love teams in the Philippines, I thoroughly remember a time when Lustre was gaining more traction and a lot of people pointed out how similar she looks to Bernardo.
Both the actresses recently broke up with their respective other halves in their love teams, and fans just couldn’t wait for the girls to take on new projects that are distinct from their previous ones, given the marketability of KathNiel and JaDine. Bernardo has recently received her flowers after a stellar performance in A Very Good Girl, and truly, a lot of anticipators and I know that something will shift if T-Bird at Ako gets a remake starring the two actresses.
T-Bird at Ako (1982) was written by Portia Ilagan, an openly gay activist, and directed by Danny Zialcita. It was one of the earliest portrayals of queerness in Philippine cinema, and being starred by two of the biggest actresses at the time, it shook the entire nation. So why, pray tell, do we need a remake of this iconic piece of media?
The 1982 film was made at a time when censorship was at an all-time high and conservative spaces were highly protected, preventing the LGBTQ+ from having anything for themselves – may it be films or even walking with their lovers in the streets without turning heads with a matching scowl. Given the time of the film’s making, we can only imagine the state of being of the country decades before the queer community has even seen the light of one of the slowest-moving bills, the SOGIE Bill. With that, it is apparent in the 1982 film how careful they had to be, ending with the two protagonists finally being in straight relationships.
Many people question why there has been a loud call for a remake, given its homophobic undertones. However, this is something the remake could alter to bring forward an inclusive narrative – the very reason why Portia Ilagan wrote the screenplay in the first place.
It’s easily understood why the 1982 version had to be like that. It was the bleak reality of queers in earlier times. Even so, Zialcita’s T-Bird at Ako paved the way for more queer narratives to exist in media, and gave queers at the time the ability to see themselves on screen. I truly give my respect to the film. But moving forward, a 2020s remake could give the gays the canonical romance between the two women, and an ending that they deserve. At a relatively better time when a lot of people have opened themselves up to the idea of acceptance of our community, along with the rise and success of same-sex romantic films, the remake could potentially bring justice to the story of Sylvia and Isabel.
Aside from bringing restorative justice to the LGBTQ+ community, this being starred by Kathryn Bernardo and Nadine Lustre mirrors the casting of Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor in the 80s. Similarly, Santos and Aunor were the centerpieces of fan wars and misogynistic comments pitting them against each other, just as Bernardo and Lustre are in this generation. Santos and Aunor’s pairing was both a shock and a power move, and so will Bernardo and Lustre’s if we get their version of T-Bird at Ako.
At 14, during the release of Baka Bukas (2017), it was nothing short of being my Roman Empire. The lack of queer representation in local media has been so glaring, especially narratives that tell stories about the LGBTQ+ community and how queer romance happens as naturally as anything else. We need this remake to happen.