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Buklad: Of Lossand Love

What to teach on the day when everyone was thinking from their hearts?

Last Wednesday, the Ateneo de Naga University through their Creative Endeavors Council sponsored a series of activities, all in observance of the National Arts Month. The festivities were placed under the overarching theme of “Buklad.” Upon seeing the term, I noted how that word connoted “openness,” “candor,” “transparency.” and even, “vulnerability.”

My privilege was to conduct a film education. For weeks, Prof. Jenn Romano, who heads the Film bureau of the council, and I were working on getting the filmmaker of the moment, Zig Madamba Dulay of the Firefly fame to come over to Naga. To be fair to Zig, he was trying to work around his schedule but it was impossible to have him on days, which were not good for students.

As the festival of the arts approached, we deemed it wise that I, being around on the 14th and the days before and after the said day, should be the one to engage the students and some teachers on the charm and challenge of film studies.

But the Zig-Dulay fever had not yet left me: I thus asked the filmmaker for permission to use his award-winning Missing and, another work of his going viral online, this short film called Dandansoy. With those choices, my talk suggested the theme through this title: “Reading Loss and Love Because the Day is Red.”

The older film, which won the Gawad Urian for Best Short Film was Missing. The title is tricky. It talks of a young man who walks the streets, anxious. But there is another man who comes home looking for his charger and his mother responds to him. And yet, when the mother goes up to his room, we do not see him there. After some more scenes, we realize how Zig is telling the story. He looks back and shows us the missing young man but on the same time plane, we are given this other character, another young man looking for that man.

The word “missing” becomes a description of what happened to a young man and it is also the state of emotions the friend of the missing man feels. There is romance but there is also the politics of romance and the romance of politics.

The topic on desaparecido becomes in the sweet and astute hands of Zig Dulay a discourse on how young activists fighting validly for the causes of the collective are punished not by silencing them but by making their disappearance silently torture those they love and, who, in return love them.

The newer film, produced by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, uses a popularly known Hiligaynon song Dandansoy (it appears all throughout the Panay Island and versions have crossed to the Samar and Cebu islands) as a take-off point for the discourse on departure and, inevitably, disappearance.

The short film opens with an old woman - Perla Bautista magisterial both in her sorrow and strength - seemingly in search of someone, or something. She walks through the light on the meadows, the bright grasses like mist and light around her. The old woman reaches a dirt road and, as she looks across, she sees the figure of a man wearing a hat. He is standing with his back to us. The woman calls him and he turns around. She confirms what she senses: this is her son. The son looks back and sees his mother. They approach each other and go into a tight embrace.

Was there a pair of dry eyes in the Alingal Hall?

From that pastoral scene, the screen suddenly shifts to a close-up shot of a man, the eyes half-shut from the battery and the face all gashed and bleeding. The woman is now in the city, and she is looking at the massive crowd of protest. The bloody face comes out again. Once more, the mother and son are out in the field on the perfect day. They seem to be dancing a slow waltz to an imagined music of motherly love. The camera goes to that face again, Perla Bautista’s golden moment, as the mother vows to forever keep looking for him, her son.

All at once, I could not make a joke about “forever”; in fact, I prayed that there’d be forever for the love of a mother, that there’d be an endless wellspring of courage from those who had lost kin to a justice system perpetuating evil and hopelessness.

I dared not look at the third row of seats of weeping students. I myself was a mess behind a long panel. I had to calm myself down because I was to close the session with these words I solicited from Zig Dulay: “...gamitin lang ang sariling sining para magsilbi hindi lamang sa sarili, kundi lalo na sa kapwa” (Use one’s own art in order to serve not only oneself but most especially the others.”)

Thus, I celebrated the day of hearts with other students who, I hoped, saw how the political heart is as good as the spiritual and sensual heart of women and men.


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