Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Panudlak (2008, Ray Defante Gibraltar)

VSO Bahaginan has been affecting lives of poor people around the world via its corps of volunteers. These change warriors share their knowledge and skills in order to alleviate poverty in their assigned areas. The inspiring stories of two volunteers are depicted in the docu-fiction Panudlak.

Volunteers are portrayed as sowers of hope. The documentary juxtaposed volunteerism with the Panudlak rituals in the Visayas. Farmers adhere to age-old planting traditions and rites to ensure good harvest. VSO Bahaginan also aspires for fruitful placements of members. The non-governmental organization mobilizes efficient and effective professionals and assigns them to their rightful volunteer positions.

When the group started looking for filmmakers, director Ray Gibraltar volunteered (but, of course!) and was sent to Cambodia to document the experiences of two Filipino professionals, Debbie Santentes and Manuel Reyes. Santentes works as a district education adviser, while Reyes is an organization and project management adviser.

Homesickness and isolation are the major concerns of the two Filipinos. Each of them works alone as sole Filipino volunteer in their respective district. However, their loneliness, doubts, and fears vanish every time they see their projects come to fruition. A well-stocked library, a piggery business, and a water treatment system are just some of the valuable projects that make a big difference in the lives of impoverished people in Cambodia.

The psychological insights of Katrin de Guia serve as a nice overview of why Filipino volunteers adapt so well in other countries. Their sense of kapwa makes them empathetic to the needs of downtrodden people. The feeling of pakiramdam helps the volunteers gauge when to join a group or how to blend in with the community.

Almost an hour in length, the documentary should have been pruned down. There are repetitive scenes dealing with the projects. Then there are the scenes that linger on such as the farewell and last day of Santentes. I don’t know if it is really intended but the erratic editing gives the viewers a detached view of the two volunteers. It is not entirely a bad thing because the focus shifts towards the development projects, which are the fruits of the volunteers’ sacrifices.

The documentary gives a no-frills portrait of how ordinary people can make a big difference. Every development initiative, no matter how small, is a big step toward making the world a little less unfortunate and a little less troubling. To learn more about the VSO Bahaginan, visit http://www.vsobahaginan.org.ph/

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