I am Arbi Barbarona,
a film maker from Mindanao.
Last September 25, an anonymous Facebook page posted a video alleging my film Tu Pug Imatuy is a “deceptive indie film” full of untruths. It went on to allege that the filmmaker had ties to the CPP-NDF-NPA. The video took clippings of my film without permission and twisted it to fit their propaganda.
While I welcome criticisms and questions on my work, this post goes beyond the typical, as it resorted to branding my film as a lie, and maligns the integrity of my work.
The question here is: why did I make the film Tu Pug Imatuy?
This film is part of my journey as a Mindanao filmmaker. For nearly a decade, I have directed films and documentary, and collaborated with other directors as cinematographer and editor in making films that depict the stories of Mindanao, which also won accolades nationally and internationally.
In crafting these movies, I have come face to face with the people of Mindanao, the Lumad and Moro people, each with a story and a struggle that weaves the story of Mindanao. This is a Mindanao that is witness to many wars, to displacement, destruction of ancestral lands and degrading of culture and memory.
I aspire that my films will take the audience to the journey of the Mindanao people, one that is filled with hope amidst many questions.
One such story is that of Ubonay Manlaon, whom I met while doing a documentary of the Manobo bakwit from Talaingod in 2014. She appeared on the last part of the film, where she narrated how she was maltreated by soldiers who forced her to guide them through the Pantaron forest, tied her up and fed her leftover food.
Her experience shaped the film of Tu Pug Imatuy where I wanted to let the audience experience the Lumad’s pain of being maltreated in their own land. I wanted to present a movie that mirrors the issues of Lumad killings, attacks on schools and the destructive nature of mining.
It took time to complete this film, as I have to ask for financial support from friends, fellow film makers and church groups who are advocates for Lumad rights.
When the film finally came out in 2017, the accolades was more than I had expected. A common reaction among the audience in cinemas and schools is that this is an eye-opener to the experience of the Lumad.
Tu Pug Imatuy is a work of fiction, but it strives what National Artist for Film Lino Brocka said about artists: “The supreme duty of the artist to investigate the truth, no matter what forces attempt to hide it. And then to report it to the people, to confront them with it…. the artist is a committed person, that he will always take the side of any human being who is violated, abused, oppressed, dehumanized whatever his instrument — the pen, the brush, or the camera.”
Tu Pug Imatuy strives to open the window to experience the Lumad struggles, and to question why this experience is happening, and what can be done to change this.
I believe artists should be free to raise such questions through their craft and never be harassed or subject to attacks. I am grateful to fellow artists, filmmakers, the Concerned Artists of the Philippines, and friends who have expressed their solidarity in defending the integrity and independence of artists.
I invite all to watch this film, and join in seeking answers to what could bring a peace based on justice, for Mindanao and for the rest of our country.
Mabuhay and pelikula mula at para sa Mindanao. Mabuhay ang katutubong Lumad.
– Arbi Barbarona
Director, Tu Pug Imatuy