What to expect from 1st TOFarm Film Festival; finalists tell stories of trials and triumph

TOFarm festival festival director Maryo J. delos Reyes and founder Dr. Milagros Ong-How (third and fourth from left, respectively) with,finalists (from left) Paulo Villaluna, Jose Johnny Nadela, Maricel Cariaga and Victor Acedillo Jr. Not in photo are Dennis Marasigan and Zig Dulay.

Sometimes what you need to nudge people out of their complacency is a moving film.

That’s why Dr. Milagros Ong-How, executive vice-president of Universal Harvester, Inc.  decided to create and bankroll a film festival that focuses on the trials and triumphs of the humble farmer, he, who, with head bowed, knees bent, and feet on muddy ground, gives the country food to eat while wallowing in poverty.
The film festival, aptly called TOFarm, recently chose six finalist entries to be given to a P1.5-million grant each as seed money for their production.
These finalists, chosen from 67 entries, were announced in a presscon at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel last Saturday, February 6.
They are: drama Free Range directed by Dennis Marasigan, magic realism entry Kakampi (Victor Acedillo Jr.), comedy Pauwi Na (Paulo Villaluna), suspense Pilapil (Jose Johnny Nadela), drama Pitong Kabang Palay (Maricel Cariaga), and love story Pana-Panahon (Zig Dulay).
Villaluna thinks the seed money will help him and fellow finalists look for other sources of funding for their films, a privilege they are all entitled to.
“Malaking bagay ito,” he says. “We can go to investors and tell them the film has seed money.”  
HIGH HOPES. Festival director Maryo J. delos Reyes has high hopes for these films, which he predicts can inspire viewers, especially young people, to look at farming in a whole new light and see it as a way of life.
“The power of film is universal. We want to inspire the audience [and show them] na importante ang magtanim.”
The award-winning director admits feeling disturbed at the fact the average age of farmers is 59 up.  After them, practically no one wants to be a farmer anymore.

“Everybody wants to go abroad, be a caregiver, take up HRM [Hotel and Restaurant Management],” he laments.

That’s why he wants to exhibit the six films in schools all over the Philippines as well as barrio caravans,  town plazas, gyms and other places most people gather to give it maximum exposure.

He has How’s full support.  

“It’s my longtime dream to show other people in the country the plight of farmers. We can bring out awareness to people who don’t understand the farmers’ lives.
“We can make something for government officials. A lot of government people are not really sincere in helping. That’s why we have problems,” How reveals.
The entries of the 1st TOFarm Film Fest will be shown from July 13 to 19 in SM Cinemas and will also be brought to SM theaters in Visayas and Mindanao.
TOFARM SECOND EDITION. But this early, How wants the film festival committee to plan for Year 2 of the nationwide event.
Direk Maryo reveals that the call for entries for the 2017 TOFarm film fest starts on June 1.
This is because the film fest's goals are long-term.

TOFarm project director Rommel Cunanan explains, “We are investing in the  future of Filipinos. We are trying to involve the private sector.”



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