THE PHILIPPINES, USA / 2012 / Filipino, English / B&W / Blu-ray / 64 min
Director, Script: Gym Lumbera
Photography: Danilo Salas III
Editing: Jet Leyco, Gym Lumbera
Music: Moki McFly, Banda 24
Sound Design: Moki McFly
Executive Producer: Ronald Arguelles
Source: Creative Programs, Inc. (CPI)
An albino Filipino youth who believes he is an American tries to learn the American language with a Tagalog-English dictionary as his guide. A shark circles in the lake, the mountain breathes fire, and the dead come back to life. On the car radio, Nat King Cole sings a love song in Tagalog. This series of mysterious, dreamlike events is also a journey in search of the identity of his country, the Philippines; the fantastical adventure story of a “sun child” who paddled through this black and white film to the other side of the “film.”
[Director’s Statement] The colonial illusion runs deeply in the history of a Filipino and their family. It’s a burden to one’s identity, but at the same time a part of it. This rift is not solely colonial, but also from industrialization and urbanization––where abrupt changes of conditions tear one’s rhythm and experience to a state of duality.
I grew up in a small town. An albino lived among us, and everyone called him Kano (short for American) because of his skin. My father was working in America then, and I remember him coming home with boxes of goodies from the States. I remember the smell of those imported boxes, and this was what we called the smell of America. One time, I saw in one box, a magazine with photos of naked white women.
When I was old enough to go to school, I learned English. I remember on the dinner table with my family, I said, “Please give me the rice.” They understood, and so they gave me rice. Since then, my parents told everyone that their young son was “English speaking.”
That’s not true at all. I grew up not being comfortably fluent with the language. In fact, I needed the help of an English translator so that these Filipino words that I wrote for this statement are now words that you understand.
These memories linger on. And they bother me. Because I am in a place where English is good and white skin is ideal.
I am, in many ways, that Filipino in a state of duality: born in the province of Batangas, now residing in quasi-cosmopolitan Manila. And these are my struggles, too. It’s an affliction that continues to bother me. That constant longing for the pastoral is always tempered by that constant rush of the metropolitan.
Gym Lumbera was born in a quaint town somewhere in Batangas, by a lake that had a volcano right at its heart. He grew up thinking a refrigerator was also a coffin, and a banana tree a beautiful woman. Currently he shuttles between Manila and Batangas, the place of his birth. The depth with which his connection to Batangas runs threads through all his films, from his first short Dahil Sa ’Yo (2010) to his two features, Taglish (2012) and Anak Araw, both shot entirely on film.