Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tu Pug Imatuy (Arbi Barbarona, Sinag Maynila Film Festival 2017 Best Picture)

Mere months after the lumad film Baboy Halas won a major award at the Cinema One Originals Film Festival, another film on peaceful lumads, Tu Pug Imatuy, won the top prize at the 2017 Sinag Maynila Film Festival.

Tu Pug Imatuy (Right to Kill) benefits from Arnel Mardoquio's story of a lumad couple abducted and used by the military to serve as trackers. The husband is gentle and mild. He stands helplessly in the middle of a river as the soldiers leeringly strip off the blouse of his wife. The shivering husband meekly accepts the situation as his naked wife resolutely clamps down her emotions.

After a humiliating parade through the jungle, the wife grabs a rare opportunity to escape. Assigned to cook dinner, she puts in some sleep-inducing herbs in the meals that she is preparing. The soldiers order the unknowing husband to take a bite size portion of the meal as a precaution against poisoning. The meal isn't poisoned but mixed with a potion. Soon, the soldiers are dozing off along with the husband.

The wife silently motions the other abductees to escape. She then drags her mildly-sedated husband away from the camp. The heavy load puts a dent on the wife's escape plan. It didn't take long before the enraged soldiers, roused from stupor, caught up with the couple. The husband is killed while the wife continues to elude the soldiers.

The two films, Baboy Halas and Tu Pug Imatuy, highlight the peaceful and pacifist nature of lumads. The wife in Tu Pug Imatuy didn't kill the soldiers even when she has the chance to do it at the camp. Not a single one of the fleeing abductees took hold of a firearm. They could have at least disarm the unconscious soldiers but even holding such weapons seems to be a big No-No for them. It is as if lumads are averse to weapons of violence and destruction.

Now that she is being pursued, the wife has no choice but to use her guile and lures the soldiers to their deaths inside a large camouflaged animal trap. The lumads' jungle skills and ability to use herbal potions help them survive natural or man-made hazards. In Baboy Halas, lumads implore the help of spirits in their endeavors. Maybe the spirit of the trap helped the wife eradicate evil persons in her midst.

A powerful image from Tu Pug Imatuy is that of a yellow construction vehicle abandoned in a muddy road. It is an ominous sign of violence to come. Ever since the incident of Maguindanao Massacre, yellow bulldozers or trucks of similar ilk have been associated with violence. This time, the violence is not political in nature but mining-related. Mining companies are using military soldiers to harass anti-mining lumads.

Children are the worst-hit victims of militarization in Mindanao. They are deprived of education and sometimes, their permanent homes. The children and their parents endure countless evacuations because of conflicts. Some children even lose a parent or two.

A heartbreaking scene from the film shows two children waiting overnight for their parents to fetch them. The rain failed to budge them from their position in the mountains. What future awaits them if both parents fail to come? 

Stories about lumads will have to be told as long as violent, greedy people intrude into their peaceful, serene communities in Mindanao.

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