Monday, 02 July 2012
An Ode to Palawan
Mysticism infuses Auraeus Solito's "Busong," a quiet, lyrical ode to Palawan, a tropical island paradise in the Philippines whose inhabitants go by the same name. The film, based on folk tales passed to the director from his mother, comprises four loosely linked narratives. Punay (Alessandra de Rossi) is a woman covered in sores who must be carried by her brother, Angkadang (Rodrigo Santikan), to find a tribal healer. They encounter Ninita (Bonivie Budao), who searches for her missing husband; Lulong (Dax Alejandro), a fisherman deprived of his boat; and Aris (Clifford Banagale), a son of Palawan returning to reclaim his shamanic birthright.
The Palawan venerate nature: Aris gestures reverently toward a huge fern; Lulong respects the venomous stonefish. And nature in turn comes to their aid: when Lulong is threatened by a cigar-chomping Westerner who claims private ownership of a beach, a stonefish stings the landowner. Nature also defends itself: a chain-saw-wielding lumberjack is crushed by the tree he attacks. Mr. Solito has little patience with industries plundering the island's resources. "Birds die when they fly over the nickel mine," a native says. Punay, scarred and suffering, stares wearily into the distance. "I am like that mountain," she says. "Bleeding." But the film is as much a celebration as a cautionary tale. With no small assist from Louie Quirino's gorgeous cinematography, Mr. Solito revels in the verdant splendor of Palawan, exulting in its vegetation, waterfalls and sunsets, and savoring the imagery of its myths. His spell is potent.