Gawad Urian nominee Baboy Halas captures to save Mindanao tribal ways

By Lorie Ann Cascaro

It is more than perfecting the crisp sounds of trodden grasses and dead leaves, burbling water on river rocks and the wailings of a wild boar concealed in the remaining rainforest of Maharlika in Marilog District of Davao City.

A Gawad Urian nominee for Best Picture, Baboy Halas (Wailings of the forest) 2016 furthers its deep commitment to eternalize the cultures and tales of the Lumads or indigenous people in Mindanao. For the Davao filmmakers, it is an opportunity to reach a wider audience to help them retell the story.

It is also nominated for Best Sound (Willie Apa & Charlie Daclan), Best Production Design (Joel Geolamen), Best Cinematography (Raphael Meting and Mark Limbaga), and Best Director (Bagane Fiola).

The first Matigsalug film that was critically acclaimed by the most prestigious award-giving body of the country, Baboy Halas is the fruit of teamwork, especially with special participation of the tribe members themselves.

Bagane Fiola, who conceptualized the story, says his team was very lucky that the community adopted them and embraced the project with all their hearts. “They understand our advocacy to preserve their traditional practices and spirituality. We might not see them anymore in the next five years.”

The Lumad actors are the best representation of the film, Fiola says. He cites the protagonist Mampog, acted by the last hunter in Maharlika, who worries that his hunting skills may no longer be passed on to the young, as agriculture is gradually claiming the forest.

The filmmakers value their experience and moments shared with the community as already a form of award. They had lived with the tribe that is still very close to nature, performing rituals and prayers before they began a shoot.

It was a give-and-take. Fiola recalls a screening in the city cinema last December, when the Lumads were so happy and amazed to watch a movie in a theater which might be their first time. Let alone see themselves as the cast on a big screen.

Gathering stories from their immersions in Lumad communities for documentary video projects, Fiola and his team have committed to capture their traditions and translate their dreams and aspirations in feature films. He gained confidence to pitch the story for the QCinema International Festival grant last year from their growing relationship with the Lumads.

The team had two datu or tribe leaders as consultants.

“When we arrived in the community, we are not filmmakers but cultural workers, as we listen to them and learn their ways,” says Fiola. #

This article is published on the Mindanao Times. 

Local short films gain interests 

Locally produced short films have gradually permeated the interest of cinephiles, as the Davao Ngilngig Films (DNF) showcased products of its last years’ festival in a school tour dubbed Pasalidahay around the region.

“As long as there are people who commit themselves to make local films, there is always an option to see them,” said Edwin Oscar Gutierrez, Jr., teacher and school paper adviser of The Mover at Tagum City National High School.

“People will watch them, if they are of a quality worth their time, effort and perhaps, money,” he added.

The DNF, established in 2010 by young and aspiring Davao filmmakers, invites students to join its film workshops and submit their outputs for the festivals.

It aims to preserve and portray “gruesome or awesome” tales and urban legends in the country. It is presented by Malagos Garden Resort and supported by Morning Light Art Gallery and Shop, JCI Kadayawan, and Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity as Minor Sponsors.

Using Bisaya in films helps preserve the dialect and culture, LazaroSuello, Jr., Media Arts facilitator/adviser at Tagum City National Comprehensive High School, said during a film screening at the school’s mini library last Friday.

He encourages his students to make films in Bisaya or Cebuano, citing that such are widely spoken in Visayas and Mindanao.

This article is published on Sunstar Davao. 

‘Mga Buhay na Apoy’ smolders hearts and minds

by Lorie Ann Cascaro

“Mga Buhay na Apoy” (Breath of Fire), not only moved the viewers on its opening night on Oct. 2 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila, but also triggered a philosophical discourse, as they sympathized with the characters’ struggles.

It explores the intersection between love and hatred; faith and religion; cultural preservation and modernization; and, past and present.

The play also portrays the prevailing colonial mentality among Filipinos, such that fluency in English corresponds with a higher social status. For some people, being familiar or well-adapted to American culture helps to ensure a more promising future in the United States or Canada.

Written and directed by Kanakan Balintagos, formerly known as Auraeus Solito, and first prize winner of the 2015 Palanca Awards for full-length play, Mga Buhay na Apoy tells about the reunion of a broken family in Manila.

Born in Palawan, Soledad Santos, the matriarch acted by Irma Adlawan, reconciles with her two children, Aurora Alba and Aran, performed by Karen Gaerlan and Russell Legaspi. They have been indifferent after Soledad broke up with their father and became violent to them.

Calm and reserved, Soledad first appeared waiting for Aurora, who left several years ago to escape the negative atmosphere enveloping the household.

The maids, Yaya and Gusing, acted by Peewee O’hara and Doray Dayao, are preparing a sumptous dinner for Aurora’s homecoming. Soledad’s two sisters, Lili and Selmah, played by Carol Bello and Malou Crisologo, and their families joined the celebration.

Aran spends most of his time painting inside the greenhouse, where nobody dares to enter. Nonchalant to his mother, he is talkative and bubbly with Aurora.

The dinner was lively as they shared mythical stories and collective memories of Palaw’ans, the family’s tribe in Palawan.

But at bedtime, their family secrets are revealed, and Aran, who was the last to know, will eventually accept them.

Suddenly, Soledad appears in a black night dress, sleepwalking, and tells her nightmare while in a trance.

Irma Adlawan as Soledad Santos acts superbly when she was in a trance, while her family tried to calm her down. PHOTO BY Trixie Dauz
Irma Adlawan as Soledad Santos acts superbly when she was in a trance, while her family tried to calm her down. PHOTO BY Trixie Dauz

Struggles

Soledad’s struggles highlights the issue of violence against women, as she was raped first by a governor in Palawan, and then by her husband. As a result, she turned physically abusive towards her children and servants.

Their abundant lifestyle shattered after he left, alongside her relationship to their children.

But her active participation in a charismatic movement “saved her” from madness, according to Yaya, who invited her to the group.

Clearly stated in the whole duration of the play, their Christian beliefs are being challenged by the family’s cultural tradition. For instance, Aran says that humans came from the sun or fire, while Soledad insists from Adam and Eve in the Bible.

For Lili’s husband, intoxicated Kuya Benj, played by Jonathan Tadioan, wherever humans originated, what matters is that he’s alive.

Aran calls himself, “nakikibakang buhay na apoy,” a struggling breath of fire, when asked by Aurora about his condition.

Russell Legaspi as Aran climbs on the mango tree that has only one fruit. PHOTO BY Trixie Dauz
Russell Legaspi as Aran climbs on the mango tree that has only one fruit. PHOTO BY Trixie Dauz

Superb acting

The cast members performed superbly, especially Adlawan during the trance scene by showing contrasting characters.

Her character was the most that developed, followed by Aran, finally showing his utmost concern for her mother when she was in a frenzy.

Although he does not need to be strongly emotional in the story, Aran excelled in portraying his role that seems to mirror the young Balintagos.

It’s not only because of the character’s costume, wearing shirts of ethnic patterns and accessories, but also his energy and enthusiasm, especially when explaining how painting is similar to giving birth.

Formerly a baliyan or healer of the tribe, Lili is chanting in Palaw’an dialect that sets the general mood of the play. Bello’s powerful voice in accapella reverbrated in the whole theater.

She also performs a ritual during Soledad’s trance. Such ritual is similar to the one that was shown in Balintagos’ second movie of a Palawan trilogy, “Busong.”

As the curtains opened, the chanting began, while Lhorvie Nuevo appeared as a woman with long hair that touches the ground, while Aran was asleep. She was his recurring vision, as if calling him to discover his roots.

Kanakan’s home

With a big mango tree in the middle, the stage, designed by Paolo Alcazaren, almost resembles the backyard of the director’s abode in Sampaloc. The set captured a feeling of being in a mini forest or garden amid the bustling metropolis, which I also experienced when I visited there.

Changing the set in the second half of the play gives a different perspective of the house with the front being inside the greenhouse.

It was crucial towards the end, as Soledad, Aurora, Selmah, Lili and Topaz, Selmah’s daughter played by Kyrie Samodio, look at the audience while describing Aran’s imaginary painting on the wall.

Aran eventually goes to Palawan to follow his destiny.

Balintagos, the director of the movie “Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros,” considered the play as very personal.

It’s not only because it tells about the mythical stories that he has deeply known and grew up with, but also explains why he changed his name, which literally means “hunter of truth” for Palaw’ans.

This article was first published on NewsDesk Asia.

Burning inner fire of creativity: Juong Nguyen

Juong Nguyen creates a toy prototype PHOTO COURTESY OF Juong Nguyen

by Lorie Ann Cascaro

HONG KONG—Strolling around Kowloon neighborhood, Jordan, after work, Juong Nguyen was randomly taking in the sights. Billboards. Buildings. Neon signs. Window displays. Posters. People. Clothes. Cars.

He was silent, but his mind was not.

If he were thinking aloud, he would say something like: “The design on this one’s a bit off. That one is nice. The lines are skewed. The hues are perfectly matched. That man and that woman in the picture are the same person.”

His survey continues like this until he falls asleep, he said over dinner in autumn. “Look, these vegetables embellished the steamed fish,” he added in jest.

Nguyen’s job does not stop as he steps out of his office at Tsim Sha Tsui unlike most professions. A creative designer at Dickie Toys, subsidiary of German-based Simba Dickie Group, he continuously examines every detail of designs as far as his sight can reach every single moment.

“It’s part of my life,” he said candidly.

Juong Nguyen PHOTO BY Patrick Massman
Juong Nguyen designs toys using an electronic drawing pad for Dickie Toys, a subsidiary of German-based Simba Dickie Group that provides one-stop service from designing toys to their actual production. (PHOTO BY PATRICK MASSMAN)

In the beginning, the 28-year-old man first thought he could not earn money by following his passion for art and design, but later found otherwise.

“The piece of art is the emotional part of the creativity, while the design is the part that you get the salary for,” Nguyen said.

Before realizing this, he had gone through years of boredom, working menial factory jobs in Germany.

Finally, he decided to rekindle the “inner fire” that he always had since childhood.

“I was drawing a lot when I was younger and I wanted to try to make it as a profession,” he said.

Raised in his early years by his mother, Noc Trinh, Nguyen unfolded his artistic flair back in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. His father, Than Nhan, fled the country on a boat with other soldiers after the fall of South Vietnamese government and ended up in Germany. After a few years, Nguyen, his mother and brother, Anhkhoa, now 29, were reunited with their father in Germany.

Nguyen was 3.5 years old when he arrived in Germany with his mother and brother.

As a child, Nguyen recalled that he always had such “small fire in me like a designer.”

Juong Nguyen creates a toy prototype PHOTO COURTESY OF Juong Nguyen
Juong Nguyen creates a toy prototype out of paper in his office in Tsim Sha Tsui. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JUONG NGUYEN)

To add fuel to the fire, Nguyen focused on his creative side by taking a yearlong informal course on design after leaving the factory.

The course made him realize that it was time to get serious with his two hobbies, sketching and photo editing. Consequently, he enrolled at the University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück to earn his bachelor’s degree in industrial design.

Some professors and classmates considered him as one of the best and diligent students, said Patrick Massman, who came to the university during Nguyen’s fifth semester in 2013.

Before the two schoolmates had a chance to become friends, Nguyen left for a six-month internship with the Dickie Toys here.

The German managers at Dickie Toys needed interns from Germany to communicate effectively with their teams, said Florian Blau, a product manager.

“For me, it was a perfect chance,” Nguyen said.

His creative juices found an outlet through designing global toys for Simba Dickie Group and under private labels of their clients, mostly in France, the United States and Germany.

He was the first German design intern of the company since its inception here in 1984.

The company’s services are a package, he explained, from generating ideas to designing the toys up to their actual production.

Among the 30 offices of Simba Dickie Group worldwide, its Hong Kong site has been important for shipping products as 90 percent of its suppliers and manufacturers are in China, Blau said.

As “one of the world’s leading exporters” of consumer goods, including toys, Hong Kong has been built up into a creative hub of the region, according to CreateHK.

Such trends have attracted designers like Nguyen to work here, but the city was not his main reason for accepting the company’s offer after graduating this year. “I could work anywhere in the world,” he said, as long as he wanted the job.

After taking the job, Nguyen once again met Massman, who became the second German design intern.

In the office, Nguyen always looks like he has the situation under control, said Massman.

When it comes to using design software such as Photoshop or Rhino, he said, Nguyen has more experience and diligence. “He’s a very clever person, even outside the office just like in the university,” Massman added.

Being able to do what he loves to do and manage to feel at home in a new city, Nguyen desired more to life than a stable job.

His ultimate goal is to build an art school that not only teaches children about art, but also allows them to be creative by designing things. He envisions it as a venue to lead them to innovate designs and transform tools for new purposes.

“It’s a new generation of creativity,” he said and smiled.

Inspired by Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist,” Nguyen said people should not give up on their dreams. “It’s about your happiness,” he said.

Most kids do not know what they want to become, Nguyen said, but he will find a way to teach them how to question themselves what they really would like to be.

“When they put more fuel to their inner fire, the fire becomes big, and in the end, they’re burning for this,” he said.

In the midst of his untiring creative survey, Nguyen thought of an old man, sitting on a couch and asking, “Why didn’t I do it?”

Some people are afraid of change because they think it is too late, he said with narrow eyes.

“The saddest thing is to die without trying.”

Cooking hot to keep the climate cool

By Lorie Ann Cascaro on October 16 2013 4:00 pm

VIENTIANE, Laos (MindaNews / 16 Oct) – Buying a new cookstove is not easy. Sellers offer heaps of different models that look alike and as a buyer, how do you know how it performs at home? Not to mention that the human brain does not like to make decisions. The problem is apparent in Dongmakind market, along Road Number 10 to Thangon. All outlets offer a wide array of models.

But, if you believe the saleswoman, Ms Sai, 35, choosing has now become easy. She sells something that the others don’t have yet – the improved tao payat (fuel-saving cookstove). A prominent, blue sticker distinguishes the stoves and a tarpaulin poster states that these stoves are “quality-tested and more efficient” than traditional stoves.

“They are better,” Ms Sai, who had sold two out of a first batch of five cookstoves a week after she began displaying them, tells Vientiane Times on a Friday afternoon. She promotes the stoves to customers, saying they are fuel-saving, long lasting, and friendly to health and the environment.

She is among Vientiane’s first five retailers of a new, improved tao payat model, which resulted from a project of SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and the local Non-Profit Association Normai. It was paid for by the European Union, Oxfam and the Blue Moon Fund.

The project started in Savannakhet in 2011, where in 2012 about 1,500 stoves already have been sold. Sales will reach 5,000 in 2013 and go up to 20,000 in 2014. Now, the first stoves are being sold in Vientiane. They are also going to be promoted at a special booth during the upcoming boat racing festival.

Mr Bastiaan Teune, Sector Leader of Renewable Energy of SNV in Laos, says the project tries to connect the private and the public sector and to improve the lives of the people as its main purpose. It focuses on making the traditional stove more efficient and durable. By replacing the old tao dam with the improved tao payat, a household can save about 20 percent of fuel, which is equal to 300 grams of charcoal per day. It also boils water faster.

This might not look like much, but quickly becomes so when scaled-up. In total, Laos can save at least 30,000 kilograms of charcoal per day with the 100,000 improved cook stoves that the project aims to produce by 2016. About 50,000 cookstoves of them will be distributed in Vientiane capital and province, 25,000 each in the provinces of Savannakhet and Champasak.

Mr Teune explains that the roughly 100kg charcoal that one new cookstove saves per year results in greenhouse gases equal of one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2). The total greenhouse gas emissions reduced by the project during the period of 2014-2016 will be 150,000 tons, he says. “This is equal to the emissions of 20,000 passengers flying from Vientiane to Amsterdam and back,” Mr Teune explains.

The reduced greenhouse gas emissions could theoretically also be sold on the international carbon market in the future. Unfortunately, they’re not worth that much nowadays. “The ‘market price’ to sell one ton used to be US$10, but is now at an all-time low at US$1 only due to the low international commitment to the Kyoto Protocol,” adds Mr Teune. The greenhouse gases saved by the improved cookstoves would have a total market value of about US$150,000.

While it is true that the use of the improved tao payat reduces carbon emissions from cooking, it does not stop suppliers of charcoal to cut trees and char wood. But wood and charcoal can be considered as renewable sources of energy only if another tree is planted after cutting one, says Mr Teune. This is beyond the scope of this particular project, and he has made steps to do so.

The producer of the first cookstoves in Vientiane is Mr Loth, 35, whose workshop lies in Oudomphone village. On the ground, hundreds of grey tao payat stoves wait to be baked in the kiln. While his employees are crafting stove after stove in the back, he says that he doesn’t expect to earn much more from supplying the new-designed stoves instead of the old ones, due to the longer durability. “But after using three of these stoves at home, I knew then that they would quickly sell out in the market”, says Mr Loth. An improved cookstove costs 10,000 kip more than a traditional cookstove but it lasts a year and a half longer, he adds.

Around the world, 1.6 billion people depend on charcoal and wood for cooking. In Laos, over 80 percent of the households still use traditional stoves for cooking, at least twice a day. Cookstoves are “detrimental to the livelihood of people,” according to Mr Teune, and their use also brings certain risks. Firewood takes time to collect, for example, and smoke creates a lot of health problems. Worldwide, about four million people die per year from smoke-induced diseases. Increasing the efficiency of the cookstoves lessens all these troubles.

Another long-term impact of the project, Mr Teune says, is the introduction of quality standards: “Let producers agree on quality standards with retailers. Consumers will distinguish a good stove from a traditional one by the blue label. The government can take part in quality assurance, using better methods to check the efficiency of stoves.”

Testing is done by the Institute of Renewable Energy and New Materials of the Ministry of Science and Technology, where staff tests the efficiency and characteristics of different models. For the first time ever a quality standard is introduced to the cookstove market in Lao PDR.

The second outlet that features the tao payat in Dongmakind market is the one of Ms Khek, 29. The new model is lined up together with old ones like the tao dam (black stove) or stoves made of cement. She points to a small wood-fired stove when asked which one sells best. Why? “It’s the cheapest and costs only 20,000 kip each. But it can only last for seven to eight months.” She notes that although the improved tao payat costs 45,000 kip, it can last up to two years. On her shelf, a quite special one, the first ever produced cookstove with the serial number 001, produced by Mr Loth, waits for his new owner.

[Lorie Ann Cascaro of MindaNews is one of the fellows of the FK Norway (Fredskorpset) exchange program in partnership with the Vietnam Forum of Environmental Journalists. She’s currently in Laos and hosted by the Vientiane Times.]

Read more http://www.mindanews.com/feature/2013/10/16/cooking-hot-to-keep-the-climate-cool/

Laos kids express hope for the future through images

By Lorie Ann Cascaro on September 7 2013 3:59 pm

Through drawings, photos and role play, children from different provinces met in Vientiane to express their vision for their villages by the time they reach 20.

VIENTIANE, Laos (MindaNews / 7 Sept) – Luxon Keodavonh from Donkhoun village in Khammuan province’s Xebangfay district wants to be a soldier when he grows up. He will be 20 years old in 2020.

“My two siblings and I are living with my mother in Khammuan. Our father left us for reasons I don’t know. But, when I become a soldier, I will earn a lot of money and will give it to my mother to support us,” he told Vientiane Times.

He is one of 12 children picked by World Vision Lao PDR (WVL) to join the “Hearing the hopes of children for Laos in 2020” forum in Vientiane last Tuesday.

Coming from 12 provinces, they were selected as children’s council members to tell government partners about life in their communities and what they wanted to achieve by the time they were 20.

Using crayons and coloured pencils, the children used drawing to express how they envisioned their villages in the year 2020.

“The school in my village is very old; I want it to be fixed. My village also needs a hospital to treat sick people,” Luxon said, showing his own picture to participants.

Khamphay Vilayvong, National Leading Committee for Rural Development and Poverty Eradication Foreign Relations Department senior official, attended the forum along with representatives from government and non-government organisations and agencies.

Children also presented photographs they had taken in their villages.

Twelve-year-old Chansy showed a padlocked toilet in her school in Seanmeaung village in Champassak province’s Soukhuman district.

“We cannot use it because there is no water and we cannot keep it clean,” she said.

Vongphachanh, 13 and from the same village, showed a picture of a water pump.

“It’s very difficult for us to use this,” he said. “We need a sustainable water supply.”

Lattana from Pakbok village, Ngoy district in Luang Prabang province, showed a photo of farmers in cabbage farm.

“In the past, we grew a few vegetables only for us to eat but now we are growing vegetables in a very big field to eat and sell as well,” she said.

Photos taken by Phengkham from Samyaek village in Phoukoun district, Luang Prabang province show a market in her village and farmers climbing a steep hill while carrying huge baskets of vegetables.

She said the stalls in the market didn’t have strong roofs, the place was not clean and her family needed a vehicle to transport their goods.

One photograph from Khamla, from Vangxieng village in Phonthong district, Luang Prabang province, was of two men riding a bamboo raft along a river. One man is holding on to his motorbike, while the other is maneuvering the raft.

“The villagers need to build a bridge to cross the river more easily and safely,” Khamla said.

The group dramatised scenes of two families to show how parents can violate their children’s rights by not sending them to school or by depriving their daughters of an education.

WVL National Director Amelia Merrick said she had felt discouraged hearing children’s stories last year and had realised World Vision was not working fast enough to help the children in its 24 target districts.

She said it was around then her friend Sombath Somphone, a well-regarded Lao community worker who has been reportedly missing since December, told her stories of change.

“He told me, ‘I have seen it different in Laos, Amelia’,” she said.

“Mr Sombath said our greatest hope is listening to the youth and listening to the children. He said the children in Laos are very smart and they have great ideas and want to be a part of the change in Laos.

“Today I believe that it is true because I have been inspired that it can be different.”

More than 46,000 children are enrolled in WVL’s child sponsorship programme, which is run in rural communities in five provinces – Luang Prabang, Borikhamxay, Khammuan, Savannakhet and Champassak.

Unlike Luxon’s dream of becoming a soldier, Seua, who led the group singing, wants to become a policeman.

“But, I can also be a singer,” he said, showing his teeth in a shy grin.

The small boy sang along with the other children in a song honoring soldiers who fought for the country’s freedom, while Vongphachan, 13, played a wooden beat box like a true professional. (Lorie Ann Cascaro / MindaNews with Patithin of Vientiane Times)

[Lorie Ann Cascaro of MindaNews is one of the fellows of the FK Norway (Fredskorpset) exchange program in partnership with the Vietnam Forum of Environmental Journalists. She’s currently in Laos and hosted by the Vientiane Times.]

Read more http://www.mindanews.com/around-mindanao/children/2013/09/07/laos-kids-express-hope-for-the-future-through-images/