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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 30, 2017

Paglipay Movie Review: A Touching Story Of Love And Survival Among The Aetas In Zambales

WE DIDN’T get to see “Paglipay” when it was first shown in last year’s ToFarm Filmfest, where it won some awards and later also got several nominations in the Urian Awards. We’re glad it was reshown as part of the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino and we finally got the chance to see it.

The story is set in an Aeta community in Zambales. And lest your forget, Aetas are the aborigines or original inhabitants of our country. A young man, Atan (Gerry Cabalic) bumps into his friend, Ani (Joan de la Cruz), while hunting and they are seen together in the river. For their tribe, this means they have to get married soon or Ani and her family will be disgraced in the eyes of their fellow Aetas.

For Atan to be able to do this, he needs to pay a “bandi” or dowry of P20,000 to the parents of Ani. To raise the amount, he leaves their community called Baytan and goes down to the town in the lowlands to sell the produce he has harvested from their farm. He also plows the ricefields of other people for added income.

While he’s in town, he meets a student from Manila, Rain (Ana Luna), who is conducting research on her thesis about the inter-marriage or mixed relationships between curly hairs (Aetas) and unat or straight hairs (non-Aetas). As Rain interviews him and he accompanies her around with her friend Cai (Marinella Sevidal), a ‘babaeng bakla’ who tries to steal all her scenes, Atan finds himself growing in attraction to Rain.

His feelings for her are something new to him, natural and not engineered or contrived, unlike his arranged marriage with Ani. In a protracted scene showing them drinking beer, Rain gets so drunk and pours her heart out to Atan, crying unabashedly for her unrequited love with a guy whose name starts with J. He comforts her as she throws up and helps put her to sleep.

Soon, it’s time for Rain to return to Manila and Atan chooses to just leave without saying goodbye to her. Back to their place in the mountains, he changes his mind and runs all night back to the plains, ready to reveal to Rain his true feelings for her.

Rain was already at the bus station when he finally catches up with her and introduces to him the guy she’s in love with. And he turns out to be the guy from “100 Tula Para Kay Stella”, JC Santos. It’s a bittersweet ending, with the final shot showing Atan going up a mountain all by his lonesome self and reciting a solitary lament in their dialect about his sad feelings, amidst the silence and vastness of Mother Nature, stunningly captured in all its beauty by cinematographer Albert Banzon.

“Paglipay” (which means crossing) manages to show us how the Aetas manage to survive in their harsh surroundings. Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption has changed their daily existence, with businessmen quarrying black sand that puts their lives in danger. We see trucks going by for a new mining project while the changes in the weather have made their agricultural livelihood harder. This film is certainly vastly different from the usual very commercial formula romcoms we get to watch all the time.

Ana Luna gives an effective portrayal of the outsider who unknowingly steals Atan’s heart. This is as competent as her performance as the jologs girlfriend in “Barboys” and as the young teacher in “Maestra”. Gerry Cabalic is a true blue native and is a natural for the role, unlike other films about ethnic tribes, such as “Banaue” and “Bontoc”, where the male leads are actually fair skinned mestizos. He has an easy charm and doesn’t seem to be acting at all.

The same goes for Joan de la Cruz who gives a very relaxed portrayal of the frizzy-haired Ani. She symbolizes the plight of Aeta women, who don’t even have a say in choosing who they want to marry. We should thank writer-director Zig Dulay for giving us something different and for casting real Aetas in the lead roles for authenticity.