Diego, a fisherman and husband of Pilar, is accused and tortured for being a guerilla. Pilar begs the head of the garrison, Capt. Hiroshi Sugimoto (Kenji Motoki), for the release of her husband. Grateful for the conditional freedom of Diego and desiring to protect further her family, Pilar offers to be a wet nurse to Hiroshi’s newborn son whose birth cost the life of Carmen, his Filipino wife. Diego takes this act suspiciously and resentfully, never understanding the motherly instinct the prompts Pilar to care for the baby and her desire for survival. The conflict in the story arises when Pilar has to choose between patriotism and her motherly instinct to protect innocent children. Further, her heart is now torn between her realistic love for Diego and her romantic love for the benevolent Hiroshi. Where will this lead her? This beautiful film illustrates patriotism and the possible birth of a new race in the midst of war. It is also the story of the most universal feeling: love…for a lover, for a husband, for a child. All these are presented without heavy theatrical drama.
The merits of Gatas lie in the cast’s performance and the competence of Portes as director. Excellent cinematography highlights the bucolic scenes, the artistic lovemaking, and the intimate moments between a mother and her child. The film affirms Mylene Dizon’s good acting. Kenji Motoki, in his first film, sensitively fulfills the requirements of his role as a Japanese officer at war. Jomari Yllana likewise shows his proficiency as an actor. The plight of the Filipinos during the Japanese occupation sets the milieu for the film. But in the middle of this setting is a touching story between two people thrown into a difficult situation during the turbulent times of war. There is an old adage which runs “love knows no barrier” and the relationship that develops between Pilar and Hiroshi proves this. But this is not a justification for an illicit relationship? Even as love “strips off” race, religion, social status and traditions, one can rightfully say that nobody ever wins in a war.