This entry is for Manay, Gigi, and Sherad at Ang Huling Balyan ng Buhi. (Sorry. Murag nagkamali ko ganiha)


‘Lumad’ folk star in multi-awarded film by young Dabawenyo
By Jeffrey M. Tupas
Last updated 05:13am (Mla time) 02/11/2007

JELIETA Mariveles-Ruca beamed as she clutched a bouquet of fresh calla lilies handed to her by a friend during the premier of the film “Ang Huling Balyan” at the Gaisano Mall in Davao City on Feb. 2.

She later giggled and said she refused to lead the prayer because “red fighters don’t pray.”

Ruca is not a rebel in real life but she played the part in the film. Perhaps her refusal indicated that she has not totally detached herself from the character that she played.

That was also the main reason Ruca later said that generally, rural areas in Mindanao are still very much like the village of Buhi,which means life, alive, or free.

Sitting quietly behind her was the lumad (indigenous people) diva, Maaranay “Manay” Dumacon, a Manobo-Matigsalog from the village of Napalico in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato.

At least 30 other characters, all of them non-actors from Arakan and Marilog District in Davao City, could not help but chuckle every time they saw themselves on the screen.


The Matigsalog tribe is one of the lumad groups in southeastern and central Mindanao regions, particularly in the provinces of Bukidnon and North Cotabato.

Manay, a Matigsalog tagbawian or balyan (priestess), said she was happy about the outcome of the film, which was written and directed by Davao-born filmmaker Sherad Anthony Sanchez.

“I cannot say anything bad about the film… I am very happy with what I saw,” said Manay.

Before the film was shown, the 20-year-old Sanchez had to stand before his fellow Dabawenyos to warn them about his piece’s language and subject.

“I have to warn you that this film doesn’t tell stories the usual way. This is not a film where in the end you will fall in love with the leading character… you will not also get scared here like you did with Kris Aquino,” Sanchez said.


“This is something different and I hope you will like it. I just have to warn you that this film contains a new line of cinematic language. I hope it will touch you,” added Sanchez who admitted of having told some of his friends to bring along with them a kumot (blanket).

But Sanchez might have underestimated the Davao audience, who for more than two hours, stayed and endured the long wait just to get near the lead star, Manay.

Sanchez later said he was worried about how people would receive his film.

“I am skeptical about how Dabawenyos would take ‘Huling Balyan.’ The film is not Maximo Oliveros, which is charming and pleasant. It doesn’t contain materials, which the commercial audience demands and it is not a normal film,” Sanchez said.

This apprehension, he admitted, is apparently rooted in the fact that the Philippines
has not progressed when it comes to filmmaking compared to other counties like Vietnam and Thailand.

“We haven’t progressed in our cinematic language. Experimenting and conception of new cinematic language remains to be a big problem for some filmmakers because of the demand of the audience, which can be blamed on the audience’s consciousness and appreciation,” he said.

The “Huling Balyan,” Sanchez said, is a product of a study and explorations of “new sensation,” which is far from what is demanded by the audience.


The story, he said, is something very exotic and Filipino.

The film’s messages and their subtexts were presented in various ways so the audience could appreciate what it is all about.

“The film appeals to different kinds of sensitivities. You could be tired or reduced by watching it because of the untapped emotions, which were presented here. And the effect could be very addictive, Sanchez said.

Ang Huling Balyan ng Buhi tells about the intertwining lives of people living in Buhi, the most prominent of whom is Manay, the balyan strangely afflicted with stigmata.

Manay, who is supposed to be a powerful figure in the community, was often stalked by a teenager and the object of the military’s lack of grasp and sensitivity to culture and gender.

Manay abhorred the presence of the military in the area and expressed this through her songs and soliloquy. She said the military only espoused conflict in the village and should be sent out of their place.

Another significant character was Gigi (played by Ruca), a ranking communist guerrilla, who while fighting the communist revolution, was also a witness to the sexual tension between two of her young male comrades and the tragedy that befell the lovers.


Manay’s and Gigi’s lives evolved around a vortex of realities thickened by the surreal presence of significant characters that created a baffling effect.

Both Manay and Gigi gave convincing performances. In the case of Manay, how can she not be convincing when she’s playing herself?

Rated PG 13 by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), the film, produced by ABS-CBN, has won for Sanchez the Best Director Award in the Cinema One Originals 2006. The body judged the film as best picture, best screenplay and the special jury citation for ensemble acting.

The Academes of Metro Manila’s Gawad Tanglaw also named Sanchez best director and the movie, best picture to tie with “Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo” and “Kubrador.”

Shot with an HD-camera and “do-it-yourself” equipment, the film was also named by the San Francisco Daily Guardian as the “single most important Filipino Film of 2006.”


Miki said...

sometimes i just hate the arrogance of the artsy-fartsy crowd in the way they look down on the masses as a bunch of ignoramus and they're the only ones who have seen the light