Friday, February 08, 2013

The Obscured Histories and Silent Longings of Daguluan's Children (Gutierrez Mangansakan II, Cinemanila 2012 Best Picture)

This film is the first ever project of Mindanao-based filmmaker Teng Mangansakan. It must have been so special and important to Mangansakan that it took him three long years to finish it. At least three other feature films of Mangansakan were released before we ever got a glimpse of the film titled The Obscured Histories and Silent Longings of Daguluan’s Children.

The film’s initial scene has a prostrated girl by the sewers. From that grim image alone, I sensed the influence of Sherad Anthony Sanchez. Sure enough, other scenes and segments seem to have been culled from Sanchez’s experimental epic Imburnal. A trio of gossiping girls by the river recalls the exchange of rated-R stories of juveniles by the mangroves. The non-narrative style is similar to that of Sanchez’s Imburnal film. The credits listed him as producer although he must have also acted as creative consultant, even though indirectly.

There’s a memorable, gripping image of a male child riding a bent trunk of a coconut tree. Towering nearly five meters over his playmates, he clings precariously on to the elephantine trunk without a care for the world. Meanwhile, his playmates seriously vow to attend his funeral in case he falls to his death. That image of the reckless child struck me as representative of people risking their lives in order to leave the southern island.

The war in Mindanao may not have been shown directly but its effects are there alright. Scores of people are leaving for greener pastures. Socioeconomic services do not reach people in war-torn areas. Human trafficking is rampant. Young girls nonchalantly talk about cherry popping. Water and electric utilities are scarce. The woven stories and tapestry of images portray Mindanao as a lost paradise.

While Imburnal showed dead-end, cockroach-laden paths for the doomed juvenile delinquents, Mangansakan’s film shows glimpses of hope in shots of wide-open fields and verdant mountains. The seeds of peace and progress are waiting to bloom. 

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