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.