Monday, April 19, 2010

amBisyon 2010: Poverty (Lupang Hinarang Sa Sumilao by Ditsi Carolino / Ayos Ka by Brillante Mendoza)

Poverty alleviation and agrarian reform issues figure prominently in the May 2010 presidential race. Manny Villar bombarded the TV airwaves with pro-poor ads. He presented himself as having come from a family so poor that they didn’t have money to treat his brother. Critics came out to disprove his fairy tale.

A New York Times interview with Noynoy Aquino’s cousin Fernando Cojuangco reveal that Aquino’s vow of redistributing Hacienda Luisita to the farmers within 5 years may be sheer posturing. Cojuangco, chief operating officer of the holding company owning the plantation, said the Cojuangco extended family will not give up the 10,000-acre land or get out of the sugar business.

Politicians prey on the hopes and dreams of poor voters. The National Statistical Coordination Board states that there are 27.6 million poor people in the Philippines in 2006. These poor people live on a little less than 42 pesos a day.

Take a peek into some of their stories…

Lupang Hinarang sa Sumilao (2010, Ditsi Carolino)

The short film is gleaned from a segment of the magnificent documentary Lupang Hinarang. It chronicles the 12-year odyssey of Bukidnon-based farmers to gain back their ancestral lands. 155 farmers walk for miles to fight for a 144-hectare land in 2007. The support of a prominent bishop, politicians, and media compels the government to heed the demands of the farmers.

Filmmaker Ditsi Carolino gave an update on the farmers. Their leader Rene Peñas was assassinated in June 2009. Only a third of the land had been redistributed to the farmers. The fight is not yet over for the Sumilao farmers.

If you want to know why the Hacienda Luisita case is a big political issue, then watch this short film or better yet, watch the original documentary.

Ayos Ka (2010, Brillante Mendoza)

Filmmaker Brillante Mendoza had been criticized for allegedly making ‘poverty porn’ films for international film festivals. ‘Poverty porn’ is a type of film that employs shocking images in showing the misery and suffering of people living or working in hellish, abject conditions. Mendoza countered that he is just showing what is really happening in the country.

One of the things I loved most about the Mendoza films is that despite the grim subject there is some humor or trace of hope shimmering in the films. His latest film Ayos Ka is a wickedly ironic music video. The initial set of lyrics depicts the beauty of living in the Philippines. However, the images tell a different story. Third World squalor is shown for all to see. Kids are scavenging for recyclable items. A snatcher is scampering away with his loot.

There is an unforgettable, powerful scene showing a horde of istambays at a street corner. The accompanying lyrics remind the youth to shape up in order to avoid sharing the fate of these scums. The song ends with a shot of a smiling toddler.

The music video has such an infectious melody that I’ve had a bad case of LSS for days. The images are so brutal that it provokes the viewers to ask why these things are happening in their midst. Hopefully, the pondering viewer will make a wise choice in the coming May 10 elections.

Ayos Ka is a dig on politicians who trumpet economic growth of the Philippines. The economic gains are not trickling down to the ones who need it most. As long as millions of Filipinos are poor, there will also be millions of stories/images ripe enough to be filmed.

What happened to the television screening of Part Two of amBisyon 2010 last weekend? The ABS-CBN News Channel 27 should have informed viewers what was the cause of the non-showing. amBisyon 2010 is a great project. I’ve seen majority of the films and I was hoping to see the other films on television. Will there be a screening in the future?


  1. I also waited for the TV screenings but nothing came. I received the notice and explanation about the cancellation of the ANC and Channel 23 screenings of AmBisyon too late. What's your e-mail? I'll forward to you.

    The next screening will be back in UPFI, May 5.

  2. Hi Kiri!

    Please forward the notice to my email address:

    Thanks for the heads-up on the May 5 screening.