A River Worth More than a Thousand Films
Review of the film,
Panaghoy sa Suba
CM Films Inc.
Director: Cesar Montano
The strength of the movie is in its
cinematic shots of the river and how the peoples' lives are intertwined
with this natural beauty. The local flavor is worth more than a thousand
By Julie Po
The Loboc River featured
in Panaghoy sa Suba
Panaghoy sa Suba
(Call of the River), a film told mainly in Cebuano, is set in a village
beside the Loboc
River in Bohol during the Japanese Occupation. The lead character, Duroy
(Cesar Montano), is a boatman, ferrying passengers for a fee. He is in
love with Iset (Juliana Palermo), a beautiful village lass who is also the
love interest of Duroy's younger brother Ibo (Reiven Bulado), an American
businessman, and, later, Fumio Okohara (Jackie Woo), commander of Japanese
The story revolved
around this quadrangle, although it brushed through the tranquil lives of
people in the barrio, the relations of natives with a foreign capitalist,
and the resistance of Filipinos to the Japanese occupation forces.
The strength of the
movie is in its cinematic shots of the river and how the peoples' lives
are intertwined with this natural beauty. The market scenes showed how
nature nurture the people as the camera panned through the bountiful farm
and sea harvests. The barrio scenes were quaint and realistically rustic.
It gave a glimpse into the spirit of simple but happy barrio folks.
However, the strength
of the movie is also its weakness. The story was lost amidst the beauty
of the cinematography. The actors played their parts well, but their
characters did not develop or, if at all, not definitive enough for the
audience to empathize with or despise their person and emotion.
There were attempts
to bring in depth - nationalist messages in symbolic and historical
context. The confusion starts and ends here.
The Japanese forcibly
occupied our country from 1942 to 1945. The Japanese forces were
ruthless, as all invading forces are. About one million Filipinos were
killed during this period.
In the movie, history
was empirical. Not all Japanese forces assigned to the
were bad, so Fumio Okohara, the commander, was portrayed as just and
benevolent. The soldiers were rude, but not brutal. (This kind treatment
of the Japanese must have been due to the Japanese-sounding name in the
list of executive producers.)
When the Japanese
arrived at the barrio, the villagers organized a resistance group and made
camp in the mountains. Duroy joined them. When the leader (Joel Torre)
died of malaria, Duroy took over. Three years later, the group was still
in the mountains and still dying of malaria. Finally, toward the end,
they attack the Japanese.
At one point, while
in the mountains, an American offered arms to help them fight the
Japanese. Duroy rejected the aid, and said that (close-up, with piercing
eyes, conjoined brows and tense lips) the Filipinos can fight their own
battles and will fight to death with whoever occupies their native land!
He forgot. The
Philippines was an American colony before the Japanese came. There was no
allusion whatsoever in the movie of Filipino resistance to American
occupation - a historical fact.
Iset could have been
meant as a symbolism for Motherland. She tantalized the locals and the
rich and powerful foreigners through her beauty and charm. She lacked
strength of character, though, making her, at some points, just like a
poster model of WOW Philippines.
businessman and the Japanese officer could have symbolized the foreign
countries attracted to the beauty and richness of our country and, thus,
would want to control and exploit it. Duroy's father who left his family
to live with an American woman could be the symbol of Filipinos who prefer
imported rather than local products. (A bit too literal, but it is
logical.) Iset's opportunistic aunt and collaborator father could
symbolize Filipinos whose loyalties are to foreign rather than national
Unfortunately, too deeply hidden in the metaphor.
In another light, the
characters could have been meant as just themselves. The only way to find
out is by watching the movie yourself. The local flavor is worth more than
a thousand Hollywood films. Bulatlat
Julie L. Po is the
Secretary General of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines.
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