ICU for the Soul

Efren Alverio II

By: Efren Alverio II | Squeeze Opinion | Published September 2, 2017 | Updated September 3, 2017


This then is the source of our desire to love each other. Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together, it tries to make one out of the two and heal the wound of human nature.   – Plato, Symposium


“Noong nakakakita ka hindi mo ako nakita. Noong nabulag ka, nakita mo ako.” For me, this statement of Tonyo captures the central idea of Kita Kita. Like many love stories, the film is somewhat cheesy and formulaic. However, it is also profound in a special kind of way. For me, it reeks of philosophy, particularly that of ancient Greece’s. Like many cultures, the Greeks spewed out many theories about love. Although some philosophies just reduce it to mere algorithmic patterns of behavior to explain human attraction and reproduction, the ancient Greeks explored its metaphysical nature. For me, Kita Kita, in a very subtle way, explores the essence of the meaning of true love – or our endless search for it. Not learning from our mistakes, we let ourselves repeatedly duped into thinking that things will be better the next time around. Maybe this is the reason why many believe that love – though mysterious and hard to explain – exists. And similar to our existence, in spite of its absurdities and pains, love is also beautiful.

Like in the Semitic story of an Eve being formed out of Adam’s rib, the Greeks also had their fair share of a love story combined with a cosmogony – that is a story that tells about the beginning of all things. In the Symposium, Plato narrated through the character Aristophanes the nature of true love. He gave a fantastic story about how we, in our original state, were different in essence and in form. We were round and had four legs and four arms. Our heads had two faces opposite each other. As such, we could see from all sides, and because of our multiple arms and legs, we were so agile and powerful that the gods became afraid of us for we might invade Olympus and displace them. And because the early Greeks believed that the Olympian gods got their strength and power from the prayers and worship of humans, the gods just couldn’t annihilate us. This was the reason why Plato made use of the poet Aristophanes to give a fantastic account of how Zeus and Apollo contrived a scheme in order to not only weaken us but also to gain more power for their Olympian constituents. To this effect, Zeus ordained:


I have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us.


Implementing this decree, Apollo cut us in half. By doing so, he instantly doubled the amount of praise and worship the gods got, hence making them stronger while making us weaker. Because of this, any idea to invade Olympus was thus permanently averted. Not only because Zeus rendered us to be weak by separating our powerful limbs, he also made us restless – preoccupied to search for something that we lost. Doomed to restlessness, no other desire is possible except finding the right person that would make us complete ala Jerry Maguire. As the tale goes, “…(W)e used to be complete wholes in our original nature, and now ‘Love’ is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete.”

At first, I did not notice such Platonic influences, but when I reviewed the movie, I noticed this apparently unimportant scene with a particular dialogue that just seemed meaningless. This was when Nobu, sneaking behind Lea and covering her eyes, asked her “to be honest with him.” Not being able to look at Nobu directly she said: “How would you know that I’m honest if you can’t see my eyes?” This brought me back to a somewhat minor dialogue of Plato. In the dialogue Alcibiades, Socrates said: “So if an eye is to see itself, it must look at an eye, and at that region of it in which the good activity of an eye actually occurs, and this, I presume, is seeing.” And after Alcibiades agreed, Socrates replied: “Then if the soul, Alcibiades is to know itself, it must look at a soul…”

Paolo Coelho also said something quite similar to this effect: “The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reflect everything that seems to be hidden; and like a mirror, they also reflect the person looking into them.” As such, it is the souls that see each other. This is the context by which I understand what Tonyo said to Lea: “Noong nakakakita ka hindi mo ako nakita.   Noong nabulag ka, nakita mo ako.”

Is the movie just about one pretty face falling for a fugly one? Of course not. The movie goes beyond this. In spite of the clicheic status of the phrase “what matters is what is inside,” when it comes to love, what really matters is what is inside. Because the Greeks believe that only our souls are immortal, no matter how much our bodies change through successive rebirths and deaths, only our souls remain constant. This is the reason why we, although trapped in physical bodies, cannot just base this search for our sliced-half on physical appearances. Actually, the logic is simple. If love is just a matter of looks then the feeling will only be as permanent as how much you can afford a consult with Vicki Belo.

Dito papasok ang hugot line. We know for a fact that building relationships is hard. Most of the time, no matter how hard we try, the other person just feels exactly like that – just another person. But there are relationships that just seem to flow as smooth as butter. Even though the first meet up is just a matter of serendipity, everything that follows from the chance encounter seems perfect. As if the universe conspires for paths to cross. This is similar to the truth in what Lea said to Tonyo: “Ewan ko bakit ang feeling ko ay ang tagal-tagal na nating magkakilala.” It is in this sense that the soul not only sees; it also knows when true love has been found.

I might be just experiencing a philosophical pareidolia where I perceive taints of philosophy even if there is none – like seeing an image of Jesus or the Blessed Mother on leaves or bathroom tiles. However, what I am certain about is this – this is one film about love that does not make me throw up. It highlights something that we just tend to dismiss as cheesy and juvenile – the idea that true love should make us happy by making us well. Aristophanes echoed this as well:


Love does the best that can be done for the time being: he draws us towards what belongs to us. But for the future, Love promises the greatest hope of all: if we treat the gods with due reverence, he will restore us to our original nature, and by healing us, he will make us blessed and happy.


Tonyo becomes better because of Lea’s repolyo. He returns the favor by giving her sinigang and by being her eyes while they travel Sapporo. Despite her blindness, Lea beams with anticipation while waiting for Tonyo’s morning wakeup calls and wanting to make herself beautiful; tries putting on lipstick. It is in this sense that love heals us from our sickness, and no matter what stage of life we are in, it gives us purpose to be better, not just for our own sake but more so for our partner’s. Well it’s true, ang corny talaga. But while sustaining a somewhat metaphysical dimension to how two people find each other amidst a sea of choices, the movie provides a temporary relief from cynicism and makes us reconsider the things that really matter in relationships.

Yes, like romantic love, the movie Kita Kita is juvenile. Parang hayskul. Just like the song, “Hindi makatulog, hindi makakain.” But isn’t this romantic idealism that makes love insanely wonderful? Plato, in the Phaedrus, wrote something about this wonderful madness.


(I)n its madness the lover’s soul cannot sleep at night or stay put by day; it rushes, yearning, wherever it expects to see the person who has that beauty… It forgets mother and brothers and friends entirely and doesn’t care at all if it loses its wealth through neglect. And as for proper and decorous behavior, in which it used to take pride, the soul despises the whole business. Why, it is even willing to sleep like a slave, anywhere, as near to the object of its longing as it is allowed to get!

(A)nd this is how lovers feel.


Maybe, this can explain the objection of many regarding the stalking that Tonyo does to Lea. Of course stalking should be condemned in all of its forms and shapes. But just like the quote from the Phaedrus: “The soul despises the whole business of proper and decorous behavior.” In this case, the soul does not only see and know. The soul also doesn’t care. Tawagin na ninyong stalker si Tonyo, but all that Tonyo’s soul wants is to make itself complete.

Well, just like the myth of Plato’s soulmate, Kita Kita is fictional. However, just like any other fairy tale that we have read when we were young, what matters is its moral. Tonyo and Lea may be a metaphor for all of us. Maybe we have already found our heart’s saging, or maybe just like Lea in the movie, we have already struck twice. We can also be as pathetic as Tonyo for having a can of Sapporo beer as company. But what can be worst than being with someone right now and yet nothing feels right? The lesson of the movie and of Plato’s tale through Aristophanes is unsubtle: as long as we are alive – no matter what age or stature in life – there is always someone that can make us happy.

In the spirit of the early Greeks and Tonyo, I say to you, continue your search and never give up! And when you finally meet someone worthy of your consideration, do not worry. Your soul knows what to do.

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