Pátok (The Mountain Carvers): Documentary Film as Necessary, Urgent Intervention
PÁTOK (The Mountain Carvers) is the 2019 documentary film of Emmanuel “Emman” Lerona of Iloilo. It features the community of farmers, the mountain-barangay of General Fullon in San Remegio, Antique in Panay Island, identified as Indigenous People (IP)and named Irayon Bukidnon by the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP). Lerona co-produced it with the Division of Humanities – University of the Philippines Visayas in Miag-ao, Iloilo, with funding from the National Commission for Culture & the Arts (NCCA) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
It opens with a note of “rediscovery” of this community in 2015, a narrative trope reminiscent of colonial, early anthropological and travel writings. (This led to the brand/ing “Antique Rice Terraces” upon landing in a national television show, and since then, as tourism destination in the province).We then hear the incantation of the surwano (healer), also called maaram, the wise one chosen and blessed by the ancestors, mga saragudon (spirit guides) and mga taglugar (resident spirits). He is Jun Bayog, bearer of tradition, leader in keeping balance and harmony between the physical and the spiritual worlds. Thus this ritual involving a pig, gesture of respect and care for these spirits residing in the different corners (i.e. river, old tree, hill). In close up, long, and full shots, Lerona and Team allowed breathing spaces for the landscape to speak. The rice terraces: character, setting, theme, and tone.
What I appreciate most is the perspective adopted by Lerona. It is not about him or his “rediscovery.” The documentary unfolds as a gathering. A polyphony. At the heart, the elders in their verbal eloquence of remembered poetry and songs, traditional farming rituals and practices, and retelling of lived-experiences. The young ones are in conversation, expressing continuity for the needed survival. To clarify and elaborate on issues such as the business of naming and its importance, we get to listen to local historians, scholars, community leaders, cultural and development workers. The documentary educates without being prescriptive. There’s ambivalence and openness in transition and progression. And how do you end something as grand and complex as this? Lerona utilized intertextuality. I must say a perfect choice of OKM (Original Kinaray-a Music) in Dante Beriong’s original and popular “Mauli Gid Ako sa Antique.” Here, rearranged and sung by Neil Cortez. Beyond visuals, the documentary is an aural experience.
I am glad it is not sentimental. At least for me. Even with the prevalence of “katu”, a reference to the good, old days. Affective, yes – which is good. Because generative: of remembering, meaning-making, dreaming of possibilities. Lines and dialogues are organic – they are memorable and convincing. But I don’t want to be a spoiler: go, catch this on May 1, 10 a.m. at Robinson’s, Antique.
Lerona and Team are competent, sincere, sensitive. I am glad, too, that UPV-Division of Humanities leads the documentation and dissemmination of our rich resources in the region.