Fields of Cane, Fields of Struggle

Sa Ngalan ng Tubo is action-packed and is never dragging. The music is at one time stirring and at another, solemn. Truly, the film portrays a history unfolding – and the strikers as the makers of history.

Review of Sa Ngalan ng Tubo
Video Documentary Feature
Tudla Multimedia Network
Produced January 2005


Sa Ngalan ng Tubo, a 30-minute video documentary feature, shows in vivid detail how and why the Nov. 16 Hacienda Luisita massacre happened. The documentary feature deals on a very sensitive and socially-explosive issue that only independent and bold filmmakers in this country dare touch – the dialectics of class contradiction between sugar farm workers and the landlord clan. The struggle heightens when the plantation workers are forced to use the only weapon they know in defending their right to life – strike – and the despotic landlords react expectedly with brute force.

The documentary was filmed after negotiations between Luisita – owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino clan – and plantation workers who were demanding a wage increase, more mandays and land redistribution ended in a deadlock. Hundreds of union leaders and members were laid off, the labor secretary – Patricia Sto. Tomas – issued an assumption of jurisdiction (AJ) order to preempt the strike and the deployment of police and soldiers began. The strike had to end by any means.

The documentary tries to focus on the main question: Why do masses dare to struggle, what unites them, what makes them fight. The thousands of plantation farmers and milling workers and their families are simply provoked by all myriads of violence thrown against them: they wallow in enslavement and unspeakable poverty while the landlords live lavishly on a sprawling, tightly-guarded estate inside the 6,000-ha hacienda complete with a golf course and other amenities; they are refused decent wage and cannot till the vast idle lands and fish in the river despite decades of toil that gave the landlords an economic empire; they are retrenched when they begin to fight for their rights; they are dispersed with water cannons, tear gas, truncheons and bullets.

Like in other meaningful and progressive feature documentaries, Sa Ngalan ng Tubo (literally, in the name of sugarcane) allows the plantation farmers and milling workers to stand out as the main characters. It also depicts how a just struggle draws solidarity from all walks of life. Snatches of interviews with agitated women farmers and workers reveal decades of exploitation and oppression under the Cojuangco-Aquino clan; fearless words are heard from union leaders as they summon the strikers, their families and supporters to maintain the picketline; the union lawyer reminds them that a strike is never won in court – it is won through struggle. (Tandaan ninyo: ang welga ay hindi ipinapanalo sa korte, ito ay ipinapanalo sa lakas ng pakikibaka!)


The film climaxes with the massacre itself. Although the filmmakers were not able to show actual footage of the firing by the soldiers and policemen who were holed up inside the Luisita compound, they succeeded in dramatizing it. The camera catches flocks of shocked strikers retreating in the hail of bullets and dashing for cover and it also shows them massing up again back to the picketline despite the danger. Others pick up the wounded, some of whom would eventually die in the hospital. The strikers master the art of an organized fight.

In the end, the strikers win despite the loss of lives – seven of them were killed. The gates to the hacienda remain closed and the sugar mill stills. The message is clear; the villains earn the wrath of the audience.

The narrator supplies the historical backdrop to the story but stays clear from stealing the show or supplying a load of information that would otherwise make a film dull. The film speaks for itself.

Sa Ngalan ng Tubo is action-packed and is never dragging. The music is at one time stirring and at another, solemn.

Truly, the film portrays a history unfolding – and the strikers as the makers of history. Tudla – the video team – has come of age.

(Sa Ngalan ng Tubo was filmed by Tudla Media Network in cooperation with the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson, Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita, POKUS Gitnang Luson Multimedia Group and Mayday Productions.) (

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