Photo courtesy of cinemalaya.org
By Zymon Arvindale Dykee
Deep in the forests of Panay, Bukidnon, a community heavily inclined to an age-old tradition lives up to this day. As the tribe continues to revere nature’s spirits, a girl in her teenage years stands up against the custom despite being its next heir.
Roderick Cabrido’s Tuos brings to life Dowokan (Barbie Forteza), the succeeding princess of the binukot (“kept maiden”) tradition who rebels against the choice through a showcase of emotions for Dapuan (Ronwaldo Martin) and admiring the modern way of living. Her dilemma worsens as she is the granddaughter of the current binukot princess, Pina-Ilog (Nora Aunor), who insists on maintaining their tradition. As she notices how Dowokan vocally dislikes the decision, Pina-Ilog gets torn between preserving the age-old agreement with the spirits and choosing her granddaughter’s happiness. However, Dowokan finally manifests her will to be liberated by breaking the sacred pact which has bound her for long.
The film serves as an exposition of a prevailing culture that has existed for a long time but has not yet crawled into today’s minds—which have been flooded with ideas of modernity. It propels the viewers to delve deeper into the macrocosm of unexplored wonders in the form of shooting breathtaking sceneries such as the altitudinous mountains covered with overgrown trees in which plants have stemmed towards the soil, and rivers and waterfalls where rocks twice the height of a human person interrupt the current. Moreover, it adheres to the ethnic notions of Bukidnon through the use of the Kinaray-a language by the actors who flawlessly portray the characters.
To further elucidate the binukot culture, the movie adopts the method of animation. By casting shadows of various figures against a gloomy background, the film interests the viewers of the mysticism that envelops the whole piece. In synchrony with the motions of the silhouettes is the chanting of the tribe’s oral literature Tikum Kadlum by a binukot, adding up to the enigmatic mood of the story. Furthermore, an occasional shift of live scenes and animation aids in the delineation of the plot which impressively illustrates the legend rather than distracting the viewers.
In an attempt to amplify further the mystery, the movie scatters numerous symbolisms throughout its duration. For instance, Dowokan and Pina-Ilog transform into an oxymoron when juxtaposed with each other. The former resembles the present while the latter depicts the past. Pina-Ilog can be perceived as the raging current of a stream while Dowokan trudges with struggle against it—exemplifying the recurring repulsion between the two. Moreover, two opposing forces evince in the story as Dowokan signifies modernity while Pina-Ilog emblematizes traditional ideologies—a choice between liberating oneself from the norms or clinging to principles forefathers have passed to succeeding generations.
Tuos, in its entirety, showcases the fearless determination of an individual to contest the standards that enchain him and the society in which he belongs. It imparts a message of modification and deviation from the social guidelines that strangle one’s being, particularly women who have been continuously confined because of the predominant influence of patriarchy.