Monday, April 27, 2009

Padyak for pagpag

In the 56th Berlin International Film Festival, a total of 3,600 shorts films were submitted. The screening jurors, the Berlinale Talent Campus, chose 32 films, and a Filipino-produced, directed, written and filmed six-minuter topped. The title of Ferdinand Dimadura’s opus is “Chicken a la Carte”. Reader Ronald sent it to me.

I will attempt to put in words the story the short film portrays. Read it and weep.

Two young ladies perhaps out for a Halloween “gimik” decide to fill themselves up with fast food first. They see the brightly-lit marquees of McDonalds, KFC, Jollibee and Chowking. They enter one, and look at the brightly-lit overhead menu. One chooses to order a chicken meal, the other one a huge pork chop, with rice, beverage and sidings. They do not clean up their plates. (I hope it was because most fastfood is simply tasteless, and the two girls had better palates, but that is beside the point). They proceed out of the restaurant, and into whatever gimmick the night had in store for them.

Then, the next scene shows a “padyak”, not the kind of commuter contraption Mar Roxas rides in his latest TVC, but a “cargo” padyak. At the steel-fabricated cargo hold was a big polypropylene container. The taga-padyak stops at the closed fastfood eatery, and enters through its service-door. The utility personnel allows him to retrieve the carcasses of everybody’s meal. As he forages into the garbage bins, he segregates choice cuts, such as the little-eaten chicken parts the ladies left on their plates and spoonfuls of left-over pancit, these go into a little green bag. Those which were all bone and some gristle were placed in a plastic polyethylene garbage bag inside the plastic container.

In the “good old days”, all left-overs were put together and became hog swill. We used to call these “kaning-baboy”, remember? But in the urban warrens of Metro Manila and other teeming slums these “glorious” days, there is hardly any “kaning-baboy”.

Nobody tends backyard piggeries any longer, except in the rural areas, where a pig is raised, fed with swill, for the annual fiesta. In the cities, hogs would just compete for space with humans cramped and cooped up in makeshift boxes that pass for habitat. There’s no place for hogs in the fetid slums of the poorest of our poor.

And what used to be fodder for hogs and pets has now become “pagpag”, the daily fare of the poorest of the poor. GMA-7 once featured a day in the life of “pagpag” gatherers using their “padyak” contraptions, and the “pagpag” buyers they purveyed their wares to, by the kilo --- neighborhood carinderias where the left-over chicken would be washed, re-washed, then re-fried, or braised in toyo and suka to become adobong pagpag, or with tomato sauce, into afritadang pagpag, sold with lots of rice to the pagpag-hungry lumpen. Day-in and day-out, menu pour le pauvre jeanne, le masa, interspersed with “nakasasawang” instant noodles.

It’s early morning when the subject pagpag-gatherer reaches his far-off hovel. At the mere sight of his approaching “padyak”, children from the neighbourhood swarm around him, open the plastic container, and feast, drooling with utmost delight, in the “pagpag”. He lets them be, the kind-hearted Christian that he is.

Then, Dimadura’s camera brings us inside his hovel, where a brood of three, born it seemed, in yearly succession, the youngest a baby in his wife’s arms, greet their father happily. The wife opens the little green plastic bag, and starts rationing off the “choice cuts”. A hardly-touched chicken wing goes to one; a half-touched drumstick to another. And then she scrapes off pancit to distribute equally --- “hating kapatid”.

The hungry kids scramble their hands to eat, but tatay stops them, and bids them to first make the sign of the cross. “Huwag kalimutang mag-dasal at magpasalamat”, he seems to be admonishing the kids.

Throughout the portion where pagpag reaches the hovel of the magpa-padyak, a plaintive voice sings these lyrics:

“Let me tell their story / that no one else can hear.
How can someone’s laughter / bring me close to tears?”

“And you’ll never know / ‘coz you’re never there.
After what we’ve seen / Can we close our eyes again?”

“Let me tell their story / you won’t think it’s true.
I have not forgotten / so I’m sharing it with you.”

“For all the things we know / what have we really learned?
Though I close my eyes / the images remain.”

“And their story / begins again…”

The short film ends with the pronouncement that “This is a True Story”, and sure it is, in the benighted land called the Philippines --- our Philippines.

Makes me wonder --- where do the left-overs of Mamou (Gloria’s favourite steak house) and Elberts’s, and the pricey restaurants along Serendra and High Street and the Greenbelts and Glorietta’s go? Or President Erap’s daily bacchanalians? Where would their pagpag go? To the doggie bags of the ultra-rich, who feed their expensive dogs with expensive, imported scrap from Wagyu and Kobe or Prime Angus? Ah…but these “leaders” foray into some lucky districts where the masa live, on their birthdays or an occasional Christmas, to distribute gift bags, not of pagpag surely, but rice and noodles and sardines, une fete veritable pour les miserables.

The cineaste reads a synopsis flashed on the screen at the end of “Chicken a la Carte”, and it reads: “This film is about the hunger and poverty brought by globalization. There are 10,000 people dying everyday due to hunger and malnutrition. This short film shows a forgotten portion of society --- people who live on their refuse to survive.”

“What is inspiring is the hope and spirituality that never left these people”.

Ah…”hope, spirituality” --- such lofty, ethereal ideals. The film depicts a family and a neighbourhood bound by endless hope amidst the gruelling poverty they patiently endure. Ferdinand Dimadura sees inspiration in such.

Pardon me, but after the tears that well are wiped, all I could feel was rage --- rage that this state of things has come to be. Rage that those who allow these to happen and become permanent reality, are not at all affected, and globalization or fair trade or whatever economics they preach, would rather “close their eyes”, as they partake of giant morsels from their pork barrel, or the immoderately greedy choice cuts from the contracts they transact.

Is globalization the main culprit for pagpag-survival and the sub-human toil of our magpa-padyak? Perhaps, viewed from the macro-economic sense, better yet, the international scheme where poor nations have been consigned to servility towards the rich. Yet, there are those, in our neighbourhood even, who despite globalization, have managed to prosper and exile such misery, such grinding poverty into oblivion. This country has not. This country continues to degenerate into the benighted pits.

Or is it the immoderate greed of some, as courageously defined by Jun Lozada, whose coming incarceration for perjury allegedly done to a first-class liar, no one but Cory Aquino and the nuns seem to care about? The immoderate greed of the ruling class.

Where lie the hopes of the “masa”? When will they have a fair, fighting chance? Kailan magkakaroon ng “patas na laban”?

When will they realize that those who dole-out occasionally to them, do so only with feigned charity in their hearts, while gouging out from taxpayer’s money much, much more than they give back for show?

Pagpag. In a larger sense, that is what we have been consigned unto by those who style themselves as leaders of this benighted nation. And we are happy for their tender mercies, for the scraps, for the leavings. How should we survive by dividing amongst ourselves --- pagpag from the tables of the immoderately greedy?


marck said...

ang ganda po ng post niyo. nakakalungkot na nakakagalit.

gusto ko'ng sabihin na si roxas ang sagot dahil walang bahid ang pangalan niya - tatlong henerasyong walang bahid. siya lang ang ganoon. sa lahat ng mga umaasam na maging pangulo ng mahal nating Pilipinas ngayon, siya lang ang ganoon.

pero hindi ko pa lubusang masabi na si roxas na nga ang sagot. kailangan ko ata makita talaga muna na maupo siya at makita kung malalasing ba siya sa kapangyarihan o hindi. kailangan ko munang makita. ganun na kalala ang kawalan ko ng tiwala sa sistema. hope and spirituality indeed...