THIS CONNECTION CALLED SIGNAL ROCK
Gary C. Devilles
In the global age of migrant workers, digital interconnectedness, and industrialization, Signal Rock attests to the contradictions inherent in all these. The story follows Intoy living with his family in Biri, Northern Samar and is supported by his sister, Vicky, who is married to a foreigner and working in Finland. Vicky like so many women who migrate to a First World country takes on the gender role of “breadwinner” of the family–-a role that has traditionally been assigned to the man in the family. Strangely, not only for Intoy and Vicky, but the whole town is inured by the feminized labour force–-Mommy Chi built her house from money she money she earned as an entertainer in Japan; Gina sets her boyfriend Kiko aside to marry an elderly German; Rachel, Intoy’s girlfriend, was sent by her father Mario to work in an Olongapo club. The community even has a tradition that women leave, while men must stay.
With all these incongruities, Signal Rock seemingly paints a community of this remote island bent on making sense of their problematic situation. Intoy’s father, Jamin, lives separately from the mother, Alicia, yet she cooks and takes care of him. Huse, the jail guard is friendly with his only one prisoner, and the mayor and his wife may not necessarily get along with some folks, Loida, the grocery owner, Fr. Bebong and the traditional healer, Manang Sima, but in the end they all help each other especially Intoy with the documents needed to help his sister even if these were counterfeits. When Intoy finally got all the papers needed, they must cross the sea in the middle of the harrowing storm to appeal to the consulate prove Vicky can support her child should she return to the Philippines–-only to be disappointed in the end, when Vicky decided not to return. At the core of this story is both the disappointment and triumph of Intoy, his family, and the town with its unapologetic stance and their dignity intact.
Signal Rock may refer to the strange rock formations that provide ironically the best place to get cell phone reception and may only be their means of connection to the outside world, yet it beacons their stories to the rest of 10.4 million Filipinos abroad who are permanent, temporary, or irregular migrants located in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Their story resonates to us all who benefits from their annual remittances amounting from eight to ten percent of the gross domestic product. In 2014 alone, Overseas Filipinos sent US$ 24.3 billion in cash remittances. Last year, remittance had increased to US$ 31 billion, which was nearly 10% of the GDP of the Philippines. Remittances by unofficial, including illegal, channels are estimated by the Asian Bankers Association to be 30 to 40% higher than the official BSP figure. In 2011, remittances were US$ 20.117 billion. In the past two decades, an annual average of 172,000 Filipino Women Migrant Workers were deployed overseas as new hires. The number of newly hired Women Migrant Workers reached its peak in 2004 when women comprised about ¾ of the total deployment of newly hired workers. They are predominantly service workers and they are also leaving as marriage migrants and au pairs.
Signal Rocks beams the message that our women workers are responding to the care deficit in destination countries. Domestic work and caregiving are usually precarious in nature as they are outside of government regulation in most countries. They continue to experience abuse and exploitation. Just recently, the body of a murdered Filipino house worker has been discovered stuffed into a freezer in Kuwait as police say she was tortured or strangled to death. Joanna Demafelis, 29, was sent to work for a married couple in 2014 and dropped out of contact with her family in 2016. Police believe her remains may have been in the freezer for more than a year. Her body was discovered last week as the deaths of seven other Filipino workers in the Arab nation were also investigated.
Signal Rock’s greatest strength, aside from its outstanding cinematography and realistic depictions of characters, is the truth that it sends-–that this paradox will go on developing new vision and expression of life, for the same economic and social drives that endlessly transforms the world around us, both for the good and for evil, also transform the inner lives of the men and women who fill this world and make it go. Amidst the exploitation and torments, we summon all our inner strength to confront the world and believe that we and those who come after us will go on fighting to make ourselves at home in this world. Even in this very trying times of disconnection, we always endeavour to make sense of our past and reflect on our double-edged answerability.
KABAYANIHANG ATAS NG CELLPHONE
Sa Signal Rock, dambuhalang tipak ng bato na naka-ungos sa gilid ng dagat ang tanging paraan upang ang cellphone ay magamit sa pag-ugnay sa kausap na nasa Amerika. Si Intoy (Christian Bables) ay may babaeng kapatid na nakarating sa US bilang asawa ng Amerikano. Inasahan ng hikahos na pamilya ni Intoy na makatutulong sa gastusin ang kapatid na si Vicky sa pagasang may trabaho itong sumusuweldo ng dollar.
Alam ni Intoy na may problema si Vicky sa kanyang asawa na kinaugaliang bugbugin ang babae. Isang dahilan ito kung bakit hindi regular itong nakapagpapadala ng suporta kina Intoy.
Nilayasan ni Vicky ang asawa, at naging problema niya ang pag-angkin sa anak na si Sofia. Kailangan niyang magharap ng mga dokumento na magpapatunay na kaya niyang mag-isang suportahan ang bata kung dadalhin niya ito sa labas ng Amerika.
Naging problema ni Intoy ang problema ni Vicky. At buong kagitingang pinasan ni Intoy ang problema para makabalik na sa Pilipinas ang kapatid.
Subalit lahat ng dokumento ay katibayang may kinalaman sa kuwarta na sa katunaya’y wala ang pamilya. Nilakad ni Intoy ang mga kababayang may katayuan at katungkulan upang makalikom ng mga pinekeng apidabit at opisyal na papeles na magpapatibay na kaya ni Vicky na buhaying mag-isa ang bata.
Hinubdan ni Rono si Christian Bables ng kinaugaliang kaguwapuhan nito at sa papel nito bilang sanggano, ang aktor ay naging desperadong kapatid na humahanap at nagpapaawa ng tulong sa kungsino-sinong may yaman at posisyon sa bayan.
Sa Signal Rock, tumutok si Rono bilang direktor sa gabay ng matalisik na script ni Rody Vera, sa paglalarawan sa politika at kultura sa isang munting bayan sa probinsiya. Halimbawa, dinala tayo sa kasal ng isang dalaga sa may edad nang turistang Amerikano at pinatawa tayo sa bali-baling Ingles ng mga kaanak at kakilala sa seremonya matapos ang kasal. At sa pagkalap ng mga dokumentong kakailanganin ng kapatid ni Intoy, ipinamalas sa atin ang transaksiyon sa pamimeke na kinadawitan ng binata sa mga opisina at tahanan ng mga taong maimpluwensiya. Ang lahat ng ito ay naganap kaugnay ng magulong pamumuhay ng maralitang pamilya ni Intoy na magkabukod ng tirahan ang ama at ina bagamat ipinagluluto naman ng ina ang nakahiwalay na asawa. Sa sining ni Rono, ipinamalas sa atin ang damayan sa munting komunidad na sa panahon ng kagipitan ng isang bahagi ay nagtutulong-tulong upang lutasin ang problema ng nangangailangang kababayan.
Nagtagumpay si Intoy, nakalap niya ang mga dokumentong kailangan ni Vicky,at ang batang Sofia ay mababalik sa pag-aalaga ng ina. Kaya lang, naipanalo nga ang kaso ay nagpalit naman ng isip si Vicky—ang inasahang pagbalik niya sa piling ng pamilya ay hindi na mangyayari. Nagpasya ang kapatid ni Intoy na manatili sa Amerika.
Lumbay at ngitngit ang iniwang bisa ng pasya ni Vicky. Nang ibalibag ni Intoy ang kanyang cellphone at nawarat ito sa dambuhalang bato sa gilid ng dagat,damdam natin ang hampas ng kabiguan sa binata. Subalit sa mga sumunod na eksena, ipinakita ni Rono si Intoy na akmang magbabasketbol at tila ang binata ay handang muling sumanib sa buhay ng komunidad anuman ang poblemang ihaharap nito.
Sa Signal Rock, pinatunayan ng sining ni Rono na sa pelikulang Pilipino, ang kailangang-kailangan ay ang masinop na kolaborasyon ng scripwriter at director upang makapag-alay sa mga manonood ng kagiliw-giliw at makabuluhang larawan ng buhay dito sa ating bayan.
SIGNAL ROCK (2018) Direction: Chito S. Rono; Screenwriter: Rodolfo Vera; Producers: Lea Calmerin, Minda Ponce-Rodriguez, Ferdinand Lapuz, Chito S. Rono; Music: Erwin Fajardo; Cinematography: Neil Daza; Editing: Carlo Francisco Manatad; Production Design: Mark Sabas; Cast: Christian Bables, Daria Ramirez, Nanding Josef, Mon Confiado,Flora Espano, Elora Espano, Keanna Reeves, Francis Magundayao, Archie Adamos, Sue Prado, Jomari Angeles, Ces Quesada, Kokoy de Santos, Mara Lopez, Ruby Ruiz. Running Time: 130 mins.
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