In an attempt to reflect the lamentable state of education in war-torn areas in Mindanao, director Joel Lamangan presents Patikul, his entry to the Director’s showcase category of this year’s Cinemalaya.
As a result of the long-standing conflict between military forces and the rebel group Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao, public school children become the main victims.
During the film’s gala night at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Direk Joel said of his film, "Isa ito sa mga napapanahong issue, ang edukasyon, lalo na sa South kung saan ang mga bata ay hindi na makapag-aral dahil sa kaguluhan, kailangan na malaman na ito na ang panahon para ipakita natin sa mga manonood ang isyung ito."
Patikul is competing against three other films, namely Bisperas by Jeffrey Jeturian; Busong by Auraeus Solito; and Isda by Adolf Alix Jr. The awards night is scheduled to take place this Sunday, July 24, at the CCP.
But before that, Patikul will be screened at the CCP this Saturday at 3:30 pm. Viewers can also watch the film at Greenbelt 3 in Makati City on July 23 (Saturday) at 3:30 pm and on July 24 (Sunday) at 1:30 pm.
(CLICK HERE to view screening schedules)
It tells the story of Mindanao’s unsung heroes: the dedicated teachers who are willing to sacrifice for their students and parents who push for their children’s right to education.
Direk Joel says that he instructed the stars of the film to use a "non-acting" approach while doing the film. "Gusto ko maging natural ang approach nila sa kanilang performances... ang gusto kong ma-achieve ay hindi dapat makatawag-pansin ang kanilang performance."
In a place where armed clashes and kidnapping incidents are a big possibility, Direk Joel chooses to depict violence while subtly showing the town’s beauty amidst the conflict. "Gusto kong naririnig lamang ang barilan at ibang karahasan sa pelikula, pero nararamdaman. In contrast, gusto kong ipakita ang kagandahan ng lugar in a lyrical way. I don’t want to exploit violence in the film, nasa kuwento na mismo ang karahasan."
ON DANGEROUS GROUND. In a little sitio called Kan-Ague in Patikul, Jolo Sulu, Allen Dizon takes on the character of Amman, an illiterate coffee farmer who wants a better future for his town and his children. "Ako si Amman... ako yung no read no write dito marami kaming no read no write pero ayaw naming iparanas sa aming mga anak ito."
Blessed to have a brilliant and persevering son, Amman finds hope in Fahad (Martin delos Santos), one of Kan-Ague Elementary School’s top students. Together with his best friend Alelie (Angeli Nicole Sanoy), Fahad undergoes rigorous training for the annual regional Quiz Bee under the supervision of the school principal, Michael Balmes (Marvin Agustin).
Based on the true story of Gabriel Canizares, Michael Balmes is only one of the few volunteer teachers who tread a risky route constantly filled with military checkpoints and Abu Sayaff hotspots to reach Kan-Ague.
In an unfortunate encounter with the bandits, Balmes sacrifices himself and is abducted in exchange for the freedom of his co-teachers and students. Since his family is unable to raise the P2 million as ransom money for his release, Balmes is brutally beheaded.
Faced with this dangerous situation, the remaining teachers are compelled to abandon the school in fear of their own safety. And with no support from the local government, Amman decides to take action and convince his fellow parents to offer their services as security escorts for the teachers. Even with the measly income and daily threat, the parents of Kan-Ague Elementary School fight for their children’s education and escort their kids and the teachers to school.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION. Direk Joel emphasizes that the government should do its part to keep students safe while studying in Mindanao. "Patuloy pa ring nangyayari [lack of education] and now that the parents have done something, the government has to do something...dapat nang tignan ang problema ng karahasan sa south at ang kahirapan ng mga tao doon."
With regards to the importance of teachers and education, lead actress Glaiza de Castro points out, "Ang pagtuturo ng mga teachers sa Mindanao ay hindi ganun kadali, if you really want to help people... gagawin mo talaga dahil iba talaga ang knowledge na maipamamahagi mo sa mga bata."
Glaiza plays one of Kan-Ague volunteer teachers. She says of her character, "Isa ako sa mga teachers na magpapatuloy sa naiwan ni Marvin sa Sitio ng Kan-Ague.
Allen Dizon muses, "Global problem ito [lack of education], so sana magkaroon ng solution."
Completing the cast of Patikul are Ciara Sotto, Dimples Romana, Jaime Pebanco, Richard Quan, Rico Barrera, Rubi-Rubi, Sue Prado, Jeon Macatangay, Lui Manansala, May-I Fabros, Filleth Sandico, Ruby Ruiz,, Marile Ilagan, and Benjie Felipe.
Patikul is presented by Cinemalaya Foundation and XITI Productions, in cooperation with Sine Totoo Productions.
After tackling education in Patikul, Direk Joel hopes to direct an advocacy film about OFWs for his next project.