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#367: Busong (Palawan Fate)

3 August 2011
Where do I start explaining how it felt like watching this Cinemalaya 2011 entry by Aurelius Solito? Well the film starts off in a freshing by the beach view of Palawan as two half naked locals carrying a woman in a duyan on a stick (its literal english translation is swaying bed..on a stick). But I guess we should move a little backwards, ten minutes before the film starts wherein the announcer asks the film’s director and screenplaywright Aurelius Solito to introduce his film. I’m not familiar of his films except that I’ve seen his name mentioned before in Cinephiles. My friend Chris tells me that his credits include several gay films and some other entries in Cinemalaya which includes his most famous work, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros). As it turns out, Solito’s film was featured in the Cannes 2011 Directors’… As he spoke, he introduced the film as a collection of folk tales he learned from his mother about Palawan. He says he stayed in Palawan for about 5 years hence the translation of the film means Palawan Fate. He even thanked his literary teachers in UP as well as his film teachers, one of his main star Alessandra de Rossi whom he says would be one of the most efficient actors he would like to work with after this film. I looked forward to the promise of a touching, eloquently made story. What I completely felt about the film I would express in a couple more paragraphs..
And so the movie is a collection of three folklores in Palawan. Story 1 is about a man named Tony who works as a lumberjack (magtotroso) who also promises to his wife, Ninita that he will never cut the sacred Amugis tree for as long as they will live. Apparently he dies after cutting one. But an evening before that incident, Tony also promises Ninita that he will metaphorically give her fire that doesn’t leave a mark and dies but one that will blaze forever. So, with the faith that the local Shaman might still be able to bring back her husband back to life, they attempt to relive Tony’s dying body but it’s already too late.
Story number 2 is about a father, a son and the secret name of the stonefish. It shows us how we must respect all kinds of creatures, which is mostly why our parents (I don’t know about yours but mine tell me lots of stories such as this) tell us fables to mainly point out the moral of it. Story number 2 is mainly my favorite because for some reason, the scenes in this film keep jumping out like a jack in a box that I really, really do not want to open. But story number 2 is fluid and subtle, the way good stories are supposed to be told. Plus, the color of the actors skin match perfectly in the bright, sandy tones of the place. The dialogue is even better. There is a part wherein the American who “privately” owns the island played by Chris Haywood bickers at the father and tells him to read the document showing that dynamite fishing is not allowed in “his” land. Perhaps father’s role doesn’t allow him to read, and so Haywood’s character laughs at father and tells him “You are indeed a Palawan.” Almost saying “you know nothing.” But father fights back and says “Oo! Tama, isa nga akong Palawan. Bago pa ipinangalan ang islang ito na Palawan, ako, ang mga magulang ko, at ang mga ninuno ko ay tinawag nang Palawan!” (“Of course! That’s correct. I am a Palawan. Even before this land was named Palawan, me, my parents and my ancestors were already Palawans!”)
Story 3 is about the siblings played by Alessandra de Rossi and Clifford Banagale and a guy who’s character’s name is Aris. Aris who currently lives in Manila is anxious to go back to his hometown. He meets his old friend and thinks that the boy he’s with is his friend’s son who was named after him. He’s surprised to find out that his friend’s wife and son died years before. The part where he begins to talk to the siblings is something that I was unable to follow, and I bet you I haven’t left my seat since the movie started because I wanted so much to have the jumping scenes end. Anyway, Aris told them, like most of the people in the film tell them that the two should visit the local shaman to have Alessandra’s wounds be cured. In the end, he expresses that he wants to be a shaman as well and with the help of the dead shaman’s spirit he cures Alessandra’s wounds.
There are several techniques used in the film to depict some sort of meta message that would apply in real life. The camera angles to show the beauty and secrets of the place were sufficient however what I don’t like about this film was how some non-dialogue shots just seemed hanging. This film looks like it’s made for people with massive creative thoughts but the scenes and the lines didn’t seem enough to evoke anything usefully creative in me. What I mostly thought was that maybe this film could get better. Maybe, just maybe..
Just to redeem this film, it’s not at all a bad film. Although I remained indifferent up until two days ago while I was writing a very lengthy review about this film, I understand the use of flashback to tell the stories. Metaphors are very evident even in the most little details. But the more I thought about the film, the more I thought I kinda like it. The use of the local dialect was just perfect.
I’ve seen two films in this year’s Cinemalaya, and I’m hoping this one’s not the only film that I can call as the best.