In the desert-like landscape left by lahar from Mount Pinatubo, young teenage boys dig out big rocks and carry them to common piles for sale to greedy traders. This livelihood they call "boulders" is back-breaking work under a scorching sun. But it is just one element that knits together this close group of friends, each of whom has a heart-breaking tale.
John Paul, the mature and stoic leader named after a pope, just dropped out of school to work full time to help his large family. His father is a drunk, his older brother a special child. Ariel is the lone Ayta, who has found a barkada that accepts him and will defend him from other teens who look down on natives. Alvin was victimized by polio and can barely lift any rocks, but he weaves his bike daily among the speeding quarrying trucks to collect food from their families and deliver the group's lunch. Raymart is the fighter, made sullen by his father's recent abandonment. They call themselves 3 Stars, after the three barangays from which they hail.
I-Witness shadows this motley crew in the barren river valley nicknamed Pasig where they spend speechless hours straining their young bodies for a pittance. But the cameras are present as well when they shed their grimness and jump happily into a local watering hole, gel their hair and attend a Valentine's Day dance, and exhibit their love for basketball.
In the end it's still the rocks that bind them. The camera trails them back to the valley where they wait patiently for the tardy truck that will haul away the weighty fruits of their labor. When the truck finally comes, they engage in yet another common, back-breaking ritual: loading. This is when John Paul notices something amiss, a dreadful realization after all their hard work. Like nearly everything in their hard-luck lives, they face this misfortune with an admirable acceptance.
This touching tale of friendship amidst poverty and hard labor airs this Monday midnight on Howie Severino's I-Witness.