Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sangtuwaryo: A fisherfolks’ tale

We are selling this film.

Sangtuwaryo: A fisherfolks’ tale
By Ma. Bernadette A. Parco
Cebu Daily News First Posted 15:05:00 08/16/2009 Filed Under: Cinema

In three weeks of summer, a cast of fishermen and Bantayan folk who had never acted in their life took direction for a one-of-a-kind movie.

In the premiere of “Sangtuwaryo” (sanctuary) last Friday at SM Cinema 1 in Cebu City, some of the actors went up on stage to receive applause from an audience who rose to their feet, after 80 minutes through a film that invited tears, bursts of laughter, and deep silences with the story of a poor family’s struggle with dynamite fishing in an islet village of Cebu.

“These, ladies and gentlemen,” said environment lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr. “are naturals.”

The actors hope to drive home the message that community effort is needed to revive and nurture the seas that have been long abused by illegal fishing techniques and human neglect.

“I was enthusiastic about the project because of my tatay,” said Archie Modequillo, the director.

“My father (Adelaido) was a fisherman. Using a baroto, Tatay would go out to sea at night and in the morning we would have sud-an (viand) for the whole day,” he told CEBU DAILY NEWS.

Modequillo, who hails from Borbon town in north Cebu, is a film director and a correspondent filmmaker for the National Geographic Channel in Southeast Asia. He finished his Master's degree on Film Making in the United States.

He said his father would have learned more about caring for the environment if a similar film had been made years ago.

“But he would remind us not to destroy the pagatpat (mangrove seedlings),” said Modequillo.

The project set out to be a documentary film on marine resource conservation. It delivers a full-length drama with family love and quarrels, death and second chances.

Copies of the film, a joint production by the Law of Nature Foundation, Visayan Sea Squadron and the School of the SEAs (Sea and Earth Advocates), will be shared with schools and other organizations as a takeoff for discussion about marine sanctuaries and conservation.

The Department of Tourism helped finance the film, produced on a shoestring budget of P300,00. The first P100,000 was donated by Antique Gov. Sally Saldivar–Perez.

Tourism Secretary Ace Durano, who attended the premier with Saldivar-Perez, said he wanted the Cebuano language film dubbed in Tagalog and English so it could be entered in international film fests.

The film revolves around the life of a family living in Duyong, a poor fishing village on an islet.

Lito, a fisherman, doesn't resort to blast fishing despite its rampant practice in the village because his own father died in a blast fishing accident.

He and wife Gaya have two boys and a baby girl.

But one day, Lito’s youngest child, Inday, gets sick with dengue and has to be taken to the hospital in the town.

Cash is a big problem among the people in the village. Lito is torn between holding to his ideals or getting quick cash through blast fishing to buy medicines.

“I asked the producers who was the target audience. I said the people may not be ready for this,” Modequillo recalled.

Fund sources were limited and came in slowly. But this didn’t dampen the the enthusiasm of partners, who included veterans in radio-TV drama and theater who accepted the modest compensation.

Modequillo handled the camerawork.

“If we hired a cameraman that would mean paying him P3,000 per day. We did not have a monitor, which I would need to review the shots because that would cost us at least P2,500 per day,” he said.

The crew and cast ended up having to act and do production work at the same time.

Cora Rosales-Jayma, the script writer, also played the mother of the leading man. She’s a veteran in radio-TV drama in GMA 7. Her daughter, a former teleseries actor now working abroad, played the role of Gaya. A grandson, played the role of the fisherman’s wide-eyed youngest son.

Paolo Mercado, a director of a TV network, was the film’s community organizer. A major role was played by 35-year-old Cloyd Anthony Ribo, whose experiences include playing Jesus Christ at the Holy Week play of Buhing Kalbaryo and was Lapu-Lapu at one production of Kadaugan sa Mactan.

“I was once a fisherman, so I know the kind of life they live,” said Ribo, who essayed the role of “Makoy” the dynamite supplier in Duyong village. He was chosen during auditions in Madridejos town.

Ribo was also the film's props man and assistant director in charge of preparing the small roles or extras.

The leading man, Aljoy Sayson, the tall, deeply tanned, serious fisherman in the film was the project’s biggest discovery.

He was playing basketball when the director pulled him aside and asked him to read some lines of the script.

His “quiet dignity” and even voice convinced Modequillo he had found the right “Lito”.

Melino Potong, described as the “best and bravest” blast fisher in Sta. Fe town on Bantayan Island, had a cameo role.

Potong, together with Adriano Ilustrisimo, Rosendo Rosalejos, and Edgar Desabille are all on probation after they were caught in 2005 by the Bantay Dagat for illegal fishing. The group now works as fish wardens and assist at Oposa’s School of the SEAs.

“Blast fishing disturbs the fish, the people on the island. Today, nobody uses blast fishing. Especially after we got caught,” he said in Cebuano.

The other actors include Sta. Fe native Jessie Batiancila and his wife Nelly; Ligaya Yuliongsio also appeared with her son Vincent – who played the role of a gay and worked as the make up artist and costume assistant.

As director, Modequillo said he wondered about the quality of the film they had finished.

“When we finished editing it I purposely did not watch the film. I watched it again after a few days, and I cried,” he said.

To the movie audience, Modequillo said there is a world begging for our attention and love.

“I hope the film can move us to do our share and respond to that call,” he said. With Eileen Mangubat