July 21, 2022

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Stories of northern indigenous people highlighted in new series

THE NATIONAL Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) premieres a miniseries on a man who learns about his roots in the Philippines’s northern regions.

Project Destination, which premieres on July 24, 11 a.m., on GTV, follows Andre, a 23-year-old Filipino-American who is estranged from both his biological family and Filipino heritage. Upon learning about his father’s death, he returns to the Philippines where he discovers his family’s Filipino history, culture, and heritage.

Written by Felinda Bagas and directed by Zig Madamba Dulay, the series aims to explore and investigate Filipino cultural values.

“Tuwang-tuwa ako na maging part ng project na nagkukuwento ng mga kuwentong katutubo (I am happy to be part of a project that tells stories about our native people),” Mr. Dulay said during a press conference on July 12 at the NCCA headquarters in Intramuros, Manila.

Mr. Dulay has directed several films and TV series focusing on indigenous groups. The first was Paglipay (2016), about an Aeta from Zambales who makes a living from the kaingin farming practices and hunting on Mount Pinatubo. He then directed the GMA fantasy drama series Sahaya (2019), which focused on a Badjao child who has a special connection with the water; as well as the GMA the romance drama series Legal Wives (2021), about the Maranao community.

“[Ka]pag nagkuwento ka kasi sa kanila (audiences) ng hindi masyadong aware iyung mga Pilipino…you get to share hindi lang ‘yung kanilang kultura kundi yung kanilang pagiging tao (When telling stories to the audience about something Filipinos are not very aware of, you share not only the community’s culture but also their humanity),” he said.

“In that way, nakakatulong kami, kung hindi man mabura ay mabawasan ng tuluyan ang diskriminasyon o yung pagtingin ng iba sa kanila. Para sa akin, malaking tulong na iyun (In that way, we are able to contribute, if not erase then slowly lessen the discrimination or others’ perception of them. To me, it is a huge help),” he added.

THE PRODUCTION
Work on the series began in 2019 with research that involved traveling to Pampanga, Baguio, Ilocos, and Cagayan, and conducting interviews with members of the indigenous communities there and their elders.

The series highlights a defined set of Filipino values based on focused group discussions (FGDs) facilitated by the NCCA. The FGDs were facilitated through the NCCA’s Planning and Policy Section (PPS). The creative team also included Lutgardo Labad and Lotlot Bustamante as executive producer.

The result of the research and interviews is a six-episode miniseries. The series was shot in 2020 when COVID-19 restrictions eased, and film production was permitted.

“Kahit na hindi kalakihan yung budget namin, sinikap naming mag-shoot sa mga probinsya kasi mahalaga sa amin na kapag ipro-project mo iyung kultura ng isang lugar, kailangan mong mag-shoot doon (Despite the tight budget, we sought to shoot scenes in the provinces because it is important for us to shoot on location when it involves projecting the culture of a community),” Mr. Dulay said.

THE CAST
Andre is played by Filipino-Australian actor Migo Adecer. Paul Holmes plays Cole, Andre’s adoptive father while Yul Servo plays Jojo, Andre’s biological father. Angeli Bayani plays Isabel, Andre’s mother who married Cole out of necessity. Kate Valdez plays Loret, from a prominent political clan in Negros, who falls in love with Andre. Royce Cabrera plays Jay, Andre’s younger brother who was left behind in the Philippines and works as a traditional wood carver and tourist guide. Linda Villalobos plays Lola Miling, Isabel’s mother, Andre’s grandmother. Also in the cast are Acey Aguilar, Ross Pesigan, Tim Mabalot, Seth dela Cruz, and Yñigo Delen.

To know if the production had depicted the communities correctly and effectively, the final cut of the miniseries was screened in the communities and gained the approval of the tribe leaders and elders.

“Kailangan mong makita ‘yung kuwento nila at kailangan mong malaman ‘yung opinion nila or masasabi nila after mong magawa (You have to see the stories they tell you, and you have to seek their opinions or feedback after the work is done),” Mr. Dulay said. “Ang taas ng tingin ko sa prosesong iyun…. (I have high regard for that process).”

Mr. Dulay recalled that the elders, who in their 80s, said that there have been a number of series, films, and documentaries shot in their community, but this series gave them the chance to contribute their insights, opinions, and suggestions.

“Gamitin mo ang medium mo para magbigay ng boses sa mga tao na hindi masyadong pinapakinggan (Use your medium to lend a voice to those who are seldom heard),” said Mr. Dulay.

Project Destination premieres on July 24, 11 a.m. on GTV. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman