Narratives of defiant hope

/ 05:04 AM June 16, 2019

The Istorya ng Pag-asa Film Festival 2019, now only in its second year, showcased an excellent crop of short film entries that did not disappoint. Once again, the festival proved the power of stories, images and moving pictures. Its grand winner was a film entitled “Ka Dodoy.”

“Ka Dodoy” told the story of Ka Dodoy Ballon of Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay, who led his community in a campaign to preserve their livelihood, despite despair and disbelief among many of them. Because of the dwindling number of fish to catch in their area, the residents decided to do something about the dire situation themselves.


Beginning with five individuals, the community began a campaign to educate their neighbors and those whose lives depended on their daily catch. They encouraged people to cooperate and conserve the supply of fish so that the fish would not disappear from their waters. Together with his companions, Ka Dodoy founded a fisherfolk organization (Kapunungan sa mga Gagmay’ng Mangingisda sa Concepcion) that launched an advocacy campaign covering other areas beyond their borders, to make people aware that overfishing could ruin even the most biodiverse waters in the country’s south.

Among the other finalists featured in the festival were stories of citizens with ordinary lives who dared to do extraordinary things and strove to overcome adversity one step at a time, knowing that at some stage, change for the better could take place if people could make common cause with others.


Take the story of public school teacher Ryan Habitan Homan, who was featured in the film “Maestro ng Pag(b)asa.” He launched the “Balsa-Basa” initiative, where he taught youngsters while they rode a raft plying a river in a remote village in Donsol, Sorsogon.  Teacher Ryan believed in the value of reading, in literacy and education, and so took it upon himself to teach the children of his town mates how to read, because he believed it was their best pathway to a better life.

Or, take the story of a child who lived in the streets of Cebu and came into conflict with the law at age 13. After a stint at a youth guidance center, he was given a fresh start, becoming a model policeman. The story of Bill Felisan, SPO4, was featured in the brief film, “Modern Day Hero.” Refusing to give up hope, Kuya Bill gave back by serving his community with respect and pride.

The other short films told similar stories of individuals defying the odds. In “Obra,” a former drug addict turned to art and now teaches young people how to draw and paint in his province of Bataan. Elsewhere, Nanay Fely, an 83-year-old photographer, took photos of a generation of public school students by making them smile and asking them to say “Mais!” before she clicked the camera. Two blind brothers harvest and dehusk coconuts up in the hills of Maasim, Sarangani, in order to survive despite their disabilities. And young Tausug rap artist RK Jun, born in Jolo and raised in Zamboanga, made use of his genius for improvisation to help him rise above the impact of poverty and war in his part of Mindanao.

Stories can provide powerful reminders that people can rise above adversity, that communities can surmount overwhelming circumstances, and societies can transform their fears into “hope that is defiant,” as Vice President Leni Robredo underscored in her closing remarks. The Istorya ng Pag-asa Film Festival has indeed created a welcome space for these singular stories to be told, helping to make sure that “those without a voice find one.”

(The Istorya ng Pag-Asa Film Festival 2019 received 98 entries from all over the Philippines. The Top 3 films will be shown in Ayala Cinemas starting mid-June.)

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Ed Garcia, a framer of the 1987 Constitution, taught political science at the UP and the Ateneo, and is consultant on the formation of scholar-athletes at FEU.


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TAGS: Ed Garcia, Inquirer Commentary, Istorya ng Pag-asa Film Festival, Ka Dodoy
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