The Film Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng liwanag is the story of a young teenage boy who is finds himself in poverty, Julio Madiaga, a 21-year old traveling on a journey to find his long lost love, Ligaya who is in the city of Manila. While he searches for Ligaya he encounters several barriers. He loses the hope of ever finding her and even loses all of his money. He soon finds himself trying to find a job and hops from one job to another. As a construction worker he is succumbed to unfair labor practices and is forced to work with distrustful and impractical workers. When he loses his job he is forced to resort to gay prostitution. Throughout his search for his love he is transformed from a naïve boy to an angry man who aims for justice. Finally, he is able to find his love who confides in him her struggles in the hands of an illegal recruiter who set her up for white slavery. Ligaya, however, has a common-law husband, Ah-Tek. Ah-Tek is a rich Chinese-Filipino who owns his own brothel and keeps Ligaya as hostage. Julio and Ligaya plan an escape but Ah-Tek stops Ligaya by killing her. Julio then stabs Ah-Tek to death and then runs only to be hunted down and killed himself. In the end, Julio envisions himself in an afterlife where Ligaya is waiting for him.
[This film was consecutively given positive reviews. The local audiences raved that it was possibly one of the greatest Filipino films ever created and it was constantly placed in the top 100 films of all time.]
The origin of the film was based on the story by Edgardo Reyes and serialized in Liwayway Magazine from 1966-1967. In the episodes provided in the magazine Reyes provides enough information or incidents that allow for a reasonable conclusion that will entice the readers the read more.
This film contains many symbolisms. For instance, the character that Julio portrays relates to many Filipino men who struggle with the everyday living conditions that encompass the hard situations and suffering that is encountered continuously in the city. Moreover, in Julio we see an important virtue that shines “patience”. He demonstrates patience as he looks for his love all throughout the movie and even until the end when he sees himself in the afterlife. Even the protagonist serves as an example, Ah-Tek. His name derives from the Filipino word atik which means “money”. He demonstrates the greed and selfishness that is often found in the city.
– Dora Alicia Gomez