The headline in a tabloid was shocking: 100 RAPE RAPS. The truth is actually much worse, what if it actually wasn’t rape? The accusation in the 90’s was for one American Vietnam veteran residing in Negros Occidental. The charges were whittled down to one count of rape but it was enough for Victor Pearson to be convicted. How Pearson married and acquired several wives and more sexual relationships is the subject of a controversial documentary entitled “Kano: An American and His Harem”. The documentary has been screened at Fully Booked every Tuesday for the month of April including tonight at 7pm. Fully Booked has ‘U View’ a theater that is able to show documentaries and other films not necessarily found in commercial theaters.
Directed by Monster Jimenez for Arkeo Films, she has since won acclaim for the documentary. “Kano..” has won the Best Documentary award from Cinemanila last year and was also cited at the IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam). “Kano..” was produced with the support of the NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the arts) and the PIFF-AND (Pusan International Film fest Asian Network of Documentary Dong Eui Cinema Fund) and the Goteborg Film fund.
When he was arrested, hundreds of photographs and video of naked women and even pictures of politicians in lewd acts were found in his home. By now he is in his senior years, with eye bags, grey hair and a raspy voice but it hasn’t slowed him down sexually.
It’s very easy to vilify Vic Pearson but the documentary was able to deal with the subject very deeply interviewing his family in theU.S. In doing so, it reveals the possibility of him being sexually abused as a child. And it may be a cause for his violent behavior and objectification of women.
The most revealing interviews were that of Pearson himself during visiting hours at the Negros Occidental jail. There are times when he’s completely lucid and there are other times when he sounds like the Marlon Brando character straight out of ‘Apocalypse Now.’ Describing the many women in his house, “It’s every man’s dream. It’s every hetero guy’s fantasy. It’s Christmas and birthdays all rolled into one. I didn’t have to make no promises. It’s quite entertaining.”
The more painful truth is that he is not just a product of his past but also of the environment we have here. His multiple marriages to four wives of last count are all legal. He’s been married six times and separated twice. He converted to Islam in the 80’s. It is a feminist issue but the larger encompassing problem is that of poverty. People are forced into the situation because of a lack of education, employment opportunities. But their hometown is one of many in thePhilippines. It’s not just a rural problem but exists nearly everywhere.
He summarized how and why it happened from the beginning. He arrived at Subic Air Base in 1967 fromVietnamfor a vacation. “On my first day out I went looking for a wife, I found two or three people saying ‘yes’.” He settled on marrying Celia Pido in 1969 and moved to her home province in Negros Occidental. When he got there he found out that the average per capita in come then was $250 a year while he received $ 3,500.00 a month from his pension. On paying for the expenses of his wives he said, “It’s either I take care of all these people or I go to court…Even bad love is better than no love.”
One of his first extramarital relationships was his wife’s cousin who worked as a helper in their household. On his birthday he found out that he could invite women so he held more parties. It became a regular thing and started to pay P350 to women who ‘danced’ in his parties. He insists that he never forced any of the women to go to his house and bragged that they often ‘came back.’ The interviews of the wives today are split between those who say that they ‘love’ him and those who admit to simply relying on his money to raise their children.
Watching “Kano..” is very important because it forces us to think about morality and crosses so many topics such as poverty, education, feminism and even child abuse. Women, out of a lack of education and opportunities are in such dire straits that they are forced to go into this kind of relationship. It doesn’t mean that if you get rid of Victor Pearson all these other problems go away. He poignantly asks, “What’s the difference between a wife, prostitute, querida (mistress)? If the husband stops supporting, what’s the wife? Prostitution existed before money was invented.”