Friday, September 14, 2018

TOFARM 2018: Review of KAUYAGAN: Treasuring Talaandig Traditions

September 14, 2018

The Talaandig is an indigenous tribe from Bukidnon province. Piyo was expected to become the datu of their tribe when he came of age, like his father and his ancestors did before him. However, on the day that he was to be formally proclaimed, teenage Piyo bolted from the ceremony and disappeared. After ten years of wrongful incarceration for rebellion, an older Piyo came back to home to see his parents. Piyo was still unwilling to be datu though. All he wanted to do was to ask their permission to leave the tribe for good and try his luck in Manila as a musician.

Within the tribe, all the characters were always shown wearing their colorful red and white traditional garb. Even in his early stages of dementia, Piyo's father adamantly refused to remove his red ceremonial kerchief around his head as a symbol of his being a datu. There a long didactic scene where the tribal leaders were debating about preserving their ancestral domain versus making a commercial profit from their land. This scene alone already set the tone of cultural pride the film espoused from the very start. 

Because Piyo was a musician, these meaningful topics of achieving one's dreams and accepting one's heritage were delivered in the form of stirring songs sung throughout the film. Music, song and dance are very much a driving force in the storytelling as the film goes back and forth from past to present. 

The lead actor playing Piyo is Jefferson Bringas. He is a folk singer for real, so it was really his rich soulful voice we hear singing. He was part of an acoustic duo who won third place in the finals of Pilipinas Got Talent TV show back in 2011. (His brother/partner Kurt had since succumbed to bone cancer in 2012). Bringas actually played the guitar and sang live during the gala premiere of the film this afternoon. He may still be a little self-conscious as an actor in some scenes, but all his emotional scenes with his parents were all very moving. Melardz Sumi-og and Lalaan Saway played the teenage and child Piyo respectively.

Playing the role of Piyo's mother (Inahan) is Bayang Barrios, and of course we all know how exquisitely transcendental her singing vocal quality is. Inahan's duet with her son Piyo was such an emotional highlight of filial love. As an actress, Barrios can really own the screen with her powerful presence. Even that wordless scene where she was just picking up taro roots that fell off a delivery truck felt so heartbreaking. Even if I have not seen most of the other films yet, I already see Barrios winning as Best Supporting Actress of the festival. 

The haunting role of Piyo's prideful father (Datu Ama) is played by Perry Dizon, who also worked behind the scenes as the production designer. Samira, Piyo's abandoned sweetheart, was played by Salima Saway Agra-an, whose talent as a painter was also showcased onscreen. (Cybel Tecson played Samira as a child.) 

Luwan, Samira's older brother and Piyo's best friend with the big black birthmark on his face, was played by Oliver Asinero. (Ian Paca played Luwan as a child.) Apo, the mysterious mystic man Piyo met on the fork of the road, was played by Rodelio "Waway" Saway, who was also responsible for the music in this film along with Datu Alimuwan. 

The title "Kauyagan" is a Talaandig word meaning "way of life." The script was written in both Bisaya and Talaandig tongues. The distinction may not be so obvious for those of us not conversant in these languages, but the script makes the shifts clear as there is another important statement about cultural pride and preservation to be made with Piyo's choice of language. 

Writer-director Julienne Ilagan certainly delivered her advocacy message for indigenous people of Mindanao loud and clear with this meaningful and eye-opening film of hers. Some storytelling and technical aspects may be rough around the edges, but its passionate heart beats proud and strong. 7/10. 

No comments:

Post a Comment