Farmers take center stage in filmfest

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    CABANATUAN CITY – Devoid of electricity – without a bit of luxurious things that people in the plains enjoy – the Dela Cruz family lives a simple life in the rice fields of Isabela. Making both ends meet by planting rice and whatever the season off ers, grade schooler Balong has this naked dream of fi nishing school to help the family even as he and his sibling witness the daily struggles of their parents, Deling and Jaime.

    As his dream intensifies, Balong would count the sacks of rice, the money they need, and the little moments that led to an inevitable departure that will leave them all affected.

    The life of the Dela Cruzes depicts the frugal life of agricultural workers in northern Luzon province of Isabela in the 102-minute fi lm Pitong Kabang Palay, directed by Maricel C. Cariaga, one of the six films on the farming folk that compete in the week-long TOFARM Film Festival that formally opened at SM City Cabanatuan cinemas on Wednesday (Aug. 24).

    Taking the theme “The Plight of the Farmer: His Trials and Triumphs,” TOFARM filmfest is seen as a venue wherein farmers could be appreciated, recognized and respected, said Dr. Milagros How, executive vice president of Universal Harvester, Inc. that laid down the green field for the festival.

    Besides the Arnold Reyes-starrer Pitong Kabang Palay, the other entries are Free Range, the story of a boy who used to help his parents run a lodge in Coron, Palawan venturing into a an organically grown free-range chicken; Kakampi, the true story of a cab driver who got a new life upon returning to his home province Camiguin and tried indigenous farming; Paglipay (Crossing), a fi lm that focused on Atan, an Aeta from Baytan village in Zambales who makes a living from traditional kaingin and animal hunting on the foothills of Mt. Pinatubo; Pauwi Na, which tackles a family’s exodus from Manila to the home province – riding on their two pedicabs , which, according to its director Paolo Villanuna, was inspired “by the journey of a family featured in a Philippine Daily Inquirer news article on Sept. 7, 2003; and Pilapil, a story of a man who wanted to escape the farm life to seek greener pastures and a young boy who considers the farm a paradise.

    “They are the reason kung bakit mayroon tayong pinagsasaluhan sa ating mga hapag kainan araw-araw,” How said, citing farmers as the most hard-working people in the land.

    “As I got to know more our farmers over the years, na-inspire ako sa mga kwento ng buhay nila. Mga kuwento ng lungkot at ligaya, mga pagsubok at tagumpay,” How added as she opens the festival in front of farmers from various places of Nueva Ecija, the acknowledged rice granary of the country.

    Through TOFARM fi lm festival, kami po ay umaasa na ang ating mga minamahal na magsasaka ay magkakaroon ng tinig at mabibigyan ng pagkakataon na maikuwento ang kani-kanilang mga buhay to inspire, yan ho ang aming naging misyon,” she said.

    Actor Romnick Sarmenta, who hails from this city, joined the opening even as he had no fi lm featured in the fi lm fest. “Tuwing bakasyon ay pinauuwi ako dito ng lolo ko at tinuturuan ako ng mga gawain sa pagsasaka,” he recalls as he mingled with farmers at the mall.

    He expressed hope that the government would once and for all stop importing agricultural products that are produced in the country.

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