Monday, January 30, 2012

PUREZA - A Sober Look At Our Sugar Heritage

Sugar is the lifeblood of Silay and the rest of Occidental Negros.  It is in Silay City that Hawaiian Philippines Company, one of the biggest sugar centrals in the country is located. In fact, a few months ago, I wrote about the last remaining steam locomotives or iron dinosaurs still being used there today. But that is not the topic of this post... Sugar is and how this industry has affected the lives of the Negrense a.k.a Negrosanon.

On February 7, 2012, a full-length documentary film on the sugar industry of the island of Negros will be shown at SM Cinema, Bacolod.  The title is “Pureza: The Story of Negros Sugar”, produced and directed by award winning cinematographer Jay Abello, himself a scion of rich landowners from Silay and Isabela.  The documentary traces the history of the Negros sugar industry and seeks to explain why the sugar industry today has "plunged from its proverbial pedestal into its inglorious present state".  This however isn't the first Filipino film made about the sugar industry, although it is the first ever documentary.  Remember Behn Cervantes' "Sakada" in 1976?  I remember how I negatively reacted to a preview written in The Varsitarian (UST's school paper) to the point where I even wrote the author about my displeasure.  I believed then that it gave an unfair portrayal of the situation in Negros. Of course that was probably because I was isolated from life in the haciendas.  My grandfather was a small landowner who had his farm leased out and my exposure to hacienda life was meeting Tyo Kisin, the trusted farmhand who came to Silay once in a while to give updates to my grandfather on how the farm was being managed by the lessee.  But as I matured and became more involved with social issues, I realized that my perception was far from reality. And when I eventually saw the movie Sakada much later in life, I belatedly knew that indeed it did show a lot truths.  How silly I must have sounded to the author (I remember he was a law student) of that article. If I had the chance to meet him again, I would say...mea culpa.  And I would not be making that same mistake.  

At present the small farm our grandfather left the family is still being leased, however for this crop year the lessee has informed us that he will no longer renew his contract. Why? For many reasons but mainly because he lacks workers and the high costs of fertilizers makes it unprofitable for him. The outlook for the sugar industry for the next 5 years is not good and for small landowners like us, that is really bad news.  To be fair, during the last 30 years or so, the sugar industry has undergone a lot of good changes. Still, that seems to be not enough.  Perhaps this documentary film may serve as a wake-up call for people who have the capacity, resources and power to make a difference for the survival of the sugar industry.

The film is produced by Bonfire Productions and Negros Pureza Foundation with support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

Executive Producers J. ABELLO, JOEY GASTON
Director J. ABELLO
Director of Photography J. ABELLO
Visual FX Supervisor RICHARD FRANCIA


February 7, 6:30pm – Premier at SM City Bacolod Cinema 3 (by invitation only)
February 11 – Free screening at Robinsons Place Bacolod as part of the Bacollywood: Cinema Rehiyon 2012
February 17 -  Regular screening at SM City Bacolod

Metro Manila showing: to be announced.  Please check the Pureza page on Facebook for updates.

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