SINE CABOLOAN

The independent cinema of the Pangasinan province, Philippines

Archive for March, 2014

Outline Proposal for Sapa’n Palapar (The Wide River)

Main Idea:

The filmmaker wants to make a personal film that aims to create an evocative autoethnography of the present-day Pangasinan and Ibaloi communities who have been living for centuries in the Agno River basin. Presently, the Agno River basin is one of the largest centers of agriculture and aquaculture in the northern Philippines, it is also a center for large-scale commercial gold mining operations in the Philippines, it is also the location of one of the biggest as well as highly controversial hydroelectric dams built in Southeast Asia over the recent years, and it is also one of most ecologically unstable and vulnerable places in northern Philippines prone to siltation, toxic mine spill, water quality issues, and massive floodings during the rainy monsoon season. The Agno River basin is also the home of two related ethno-linguistic communities in the northern Philippines, the Ibaloi people in the upstream of the Agno River and the Pangasinan people in the downstream of the Agno River. For thousands of years, each of these two communities have evolved a distinct culture that is attuned with the mighty river’s natural cycles. The Agno River is also one of the largest river systems in the northern Philippines.

The filmmaker aims to create a feature-length experimental film and hybrid documentary by combining old newsreel footages of the Agno River and the Great Flood of Luzon in 1972, cinema verite style scenes where actual subjects would reveal their thoughts and emotions for the film, boat shots of the Agno River at present, scenes of everyday life of the subjects, fictional scenes including surreal sequences, and citations of statistics and historical data revealed through a voice narration.

Background:

The Agno River Basin is one of the two major river basins in Central Luzon covering an area of 13,800 km2. The Agno River with its tributaries, drains several provinces, but the major part of its catchment is situated in the Pangasinan province which is mainly a lowland rice-producing area.
The Agno River is about 270 kilometers in length from its source in the Cordillera mountains to its mouth in the Lingayen Gulf. It drains the southeastern half of the Central Cordillera in Benguet province, flows across the broad Pangasinan plain, and enters the Lingayen Gulf emptying into the South China Sea. Stream gradients are steep in the upper reaches and flatten appreciably downstream from San Manuel, from where the river flows south to Tayug, veers off to the southwest through Rosales, and into the Poponto Swamps, (also known as Mangabol Marsh), where it is joined by the Tarlac River. From the Poponto Swamps, the flow becomes northwestward, skirting the eastern slope of the Zambales Mountains and finally discharging into the Lingayen Gulf.

The Cordillera Central, from which the Agno River rises, is geologically a young mountain range with very pronounced erosion phenomena and a morphology characterized by steep slopes and narrow gorges. The lowland plain is filled in by sediments carried by rivers and deposited in fans and bars. This sedimentation process tends to isolate low areas between relatively higher levels so that a large portion of the Pangasinan plain suffers from inadequate drainage and flooding, particularly in the lower part of the Agno River plain.

The river is torrential, high sediment transport capacity in the mountains, and meandering and sharply reduced flow velocity and sediment transport in the plains. The climate of the Agno River Basin is characterized by two seasons: a dry period from November to April, and a wet period during the rest of the year. According to Elvira Baluyot, a private researcher for the Inland Resources Development Corporation:

“The Agno River basin in Luzon in the Philippines has been under considerable stress from development activities. The upper catchment has been exposed to drastic and rapid deforestation and to extensive mining, both leading to heavy erosion, high sediment load in the Agno River, and siltation. In the lower basin, three dams have been constructed for hydropower and irrigation purposes, both of them functioning also as sediment traps.”
Main Subject and Theme:

The filmmaker was born and grew up in the town of Bayambang in the province of Pangasinan in the northern Philippines. Bayambang is one of the big towns in the Pangasinan province that is a part of the floodplains of the lower Agno River basin. His ancestral home is located only one kilometer from the Agno River. He grew up attuned to the natural cycles of the Agno River and has heard countless stories from his elders that show the relationship of the mighty river with the people of his town.

During his adolescent years in the early nineties, he had spent a considerable amount of his free time exploring the river banks by himself closely observing the native flora growing on the site as well as the topography of the river. In 2008, the filmmaker returned to his hometown of Bayambang to make a feature-length experimental film about Pangasinan’s art and culture. The Agno River became one of the film’s location and it also became one of the most important elements in the film’s non-linear narrative which articulated the death and the rebirth of Pangasinan’s art and culture. The film was screened at important film festivals in the Philippines and abroad and has received several awards and citations. The film also became one of the acclaimed independent films of 2009 and 2010 in the Philippines. The film also became the first feature-length film in the native Pangasinan language. Recently for the past few years, the filmmaker has visited the upstream areas of the Agno River at several towns in the province of Benguet as a hiker who is lured into the scenic mountain landscapes of the region.

This documentary film project will become the filmmaker’s small tribute to the Agno River. By gathering the stories of hardships, community history, legends, and collective aspirations of individuals whose lives and destinies were shaped and are continually linked to the Agno River, the filmmaker aims to create a complex portrait of the life and death as well as the history and the future of the Agno River and the two ethnic communities that live along its banks.

Location:

The three locations of the film are the town of San Carlos City, the town of Itogon, and the town of Bayambang, three important communities lying along the downstream and upstream path of the Agno River in the Pangasinan and Benguet provinces. Three subjects are chosen in each of the locations whose personal narratives would become a part of the film.

Time Frame of the Project:

The film would be shot over a course of one year. Post-production would start on the second year.

Sapan'Palapar Still Picture 1

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Synopsis for Sapa’n Palapar (The Wide River)

A new feature-length experimental documentary film
Original Story, Screenplay, & Director: Christopher Gozum
Language: Pangasinan and Ibaloi with English subtitles
Production Company: Sine Caboloan Co.Ltd.
Tentative Producers: National Commission for Culture and the Arts (Philippines), Cinema One Originals (Philippines); Asian Cinema Fund (South Korea)
Projected Running Time: 75 minutes
Shooting Format: Full-HD 24p

An emerging Filipino-American writer returns to the heart of the Agno River basin in Central Pangasinan, her birth place, in search of her long lost mother who was mysteriously swept away by the raging floodwaters of the Agno River during the Great Flood of Luzon in 1972. This acclaimed writer has the extraordinary ability of listening to the minds and hearts of people just by looking at them even from a distance. She levitates at various places in San Carlos City, Itogon, and Bayambang, three important communities lying along the downstream and upstream path of the Agno River in the Pangasinan and Benguet provinces, encountering individuals, listening eagerly to their stories of hardships, community history, legends, and collective aspirations, hoping that from these broken narratives she may pick up a clue as to what has happened to her mother during the Great Flood of Luzon in 1972.

The first location where the exiled writer mounts her search is downstream of the Agno River in San Carlos City (formerly Binalatongan), one of the oldest, largest, and most progressive towns of the Pangasinan province. She encounters real life characters: a surgeon who advocates for heritage conservation in San Carlos, an old farmer in Barangay Salinap, a teenage boy in Barangay San Juan who constantly sees ghosts of people who had lived during the Spanish colonial period near his home in the old town site of Binalatongan, and the mysterious maiden naming Mangatarem who guards the fabled sunken golden bell of old Binalatongan in the depths of the San Juan River, a tributary of the Agno River in San Carlos City.

The second location where the returning writer mounts her search is upstream of the Agno River in its headwaters in the town of Itogon covering the gold mining communities and the controversial San Roque Megadam. She encounters real life characters: an Ibaloi historian teaching at a university in Baguio City who articulates the shared history and culture of the Ibaloi and the Pangasinan communities through the Agno River, an Ibaloi community leader who opposed the construction of the San Roque Dam when his ancestral land was submerged by the construction of the controversial project, an Ibaloi vegetable farmer who also earns a living as a traditional small-scale miner and guide assisting tourists who hike the scenic mountain trail of Barangay Dalupirip, and a middle-aged mother believed to be possessed by the spirit of Deboxah, the legendary warrior-princess of the ancient Pangasinan kingdom in which Itogon used to be a part.

The third location where the artist-pilgrim mounts her search is downstream of the Agno River in the central Pangasinan town of Bayambang, where she was born and where she spent her childhood. She encounters real life characters: a disillusioned Catholic priest who leads the parish of Bayambang as the town celebrates its Quadricentennial foundation, a housewife who had lost her parents and younger brother during the Great Flood of Luzon in 1972, another housewife who earns her living selling dressed chicken in the public market of Bayambang, and the guardian spirit of the river (danaya na Agno) who takes lives of unsuspecting children and visitors annually.

Combining old newsreel footages of the Agno River and the Great Flood of Luzon in 1972, cinema verite style scenes where actual subjects would reveal their thoughts and emotions for the film, boat shots of the Agno River at present, scenes of everyday life of the subjects, fictional scenes including surreal sequences, and citations of statistics and historical data revealed through a voice narration, the experimental film and hybrid documentary aims to create an evocative autoethnography of the present-day Pangasinan and Ibaloi communities who have been living for centuries in the Agno River basin.
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