Streetlights: When war is defeaning, the earth whispers


I was lucky to be invited to a film showing entitled Hunghong sa Yuta (Earth’s Whisper) by Arnel Mardoquio, a two-time Palanca awardee. A good friend, Sr. Lulu Dulay ICM, the Directress of St. Louis Center organized the film showing. She was so eager to invite various groups to watch the movie with her. True enough, it was a powerful and thought-evoking film which dissected the Mindanao conflict in a very courageous way.

The film is narrated and seen through the eyes of a deaf mute Moro boy named Makdung. At the beginning he is seen holding a torch in front of a river, wishing that someday peace would finally reach his land. He comes from a farflung community called Hinyok, a place where children are all deaf and mute. They survived earlier attacks to their lives but not without a war-related trauma and a man-made disability. Only their mothers are left with them in the village to go through the daily demands of survival.

One day, a teacher-to-the-barrio reached Hinyok, to the mixed surprise and doubt of the villagers. His endearing and innovative means to communicate with them, however, earns the respect and acceptance of Makdung’s family and especially the children who hungered to learn and rest from the destruction of war. Despite doubts and fear, Hinyok accepts the stranger who, they later addressed as “maestro.”

The maestro teaches the community (both young and old) the sign language, the ABC’s and basic math. The maestro convinces them to replace their guns with the kulintang and helps them heal their wounds with education and laughter. Most of all, the maestro teaches them how to love life again. It will later be revealed that this was the maestro’s way of coping with a deep personal loss in his life.

Some of Hinyok’s residents cast doubts on the maestro, even hinting that he might be an infiltrator who wants to know the activities in Hinyok. The maestro witnesses children training for war under the moonlight, under the supervision of two men who clandestinely slip into the village every now and then. One of them is Makdung’s loving father who visits his son at night; the other one is a brusque husband who always demands pleasure from his wife but is mean to his stepson.

The twist – the brusque husband who feeds intrigue among the villagers about the maestro being an infiltrator is actually the real stranger. Early on, he dramatized his entry into Hinyok by pretending to be injured from battle. He later got a wife in Hinyok and joined the remaining man in securing Hinyok. More than Hinyok’s security, both of them also waited for the MILF orders.

This pretender named Taok is actually a power-hungry soldier who wants prominence and promotions which he planned to do by destroying Hinyok. He is a military deep-penetration agent, taking commands from high-ranking military officials, government officials and the United States government who all want to exploit the resources of Hinyok and the whole of Mindanao while pretending to be one with the Moros, the Lumads and the Christians. Towards the end, he goes berserk – he goes on a killing spree. He kills the community leader, the maestro, the women and the only man. In cold blood, he holds the children hostage and commands his troops to await the liberation of child warriors. He is eventually killed by his wife.

After the destruction, Hinyok survives with the children and a woman. All of them travel on a bamboo raft towards a new destination, where Hinyok would live again, while crying for kalinaw (peace) in Mindanao.

It is hard to discuss the entire film. It is even harder to make emotions flow with the words. After the viewing, we all applauded in amazement and deep emotions. Reactions to Hunghong sa Yuta were shared by the audience during the open forum.

I do hope that the earth’s whisper will be heard by all those who are advocating and working for peace, those whose lives were torn by unjust wars, those who resist involvement in many social concerns and those who are overpowered by greed and power.

Soon, we will all hear the earth’s whisper through a calming sound of peace.

Congratulations to the men and women behind Hunghong sa Yuta. #

*pen name(NorDis)

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