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Cinemalaya 2017 entry aims to educate as it entertains

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Education provides people the baseline skills needed to survive in this world. Yet while there are great efforts being implemented to further the education system in the Philippines, several factors keep it from gaining more ground in certain places.

In a recent interview, director-actor Perry Escaño pointed out some of these issues.

Perry Escaño (Photo by Jojo Panaligan) /mb.com.ph

Perry Escaño (Photo by Jojo Panaligan)

“May tita akong teacher so nakikita ko kung ano ’yung problema na kinakaharap ng mga estudyante lalo na ng mga bata,” he said. “May mga schools na ’yung mga estudyante nagshi-share lang ng books. Tapos siyempre andyan ’yung kulang ’yung mga teachers…”

Perry also claimed the rate of illiteracy is high in several areas in Mindanao “kasi bihira ’yung mga teachers na pumupunta sa mga ilang areas sa Mindanao dahil sa gulo, sa mga giyera.”

“Kaya naman ’yung ibang mga farmers du’n, no read no write talaga,” he said.

Despite these difficulties, Perry said people in Mindanao are willing to make sacrifices just to receive formal education.

“’Yung mga bata, kung makikita lang ng mga tao, talagang gustong-gusto nila mag-aral to the point na kahit dalhin mo lang sila sa ilalim ng puno, magbabasa sila, magsusulat. Talagang willing silang matuto at makamit ’yung right nila to education.”

Comes the film

Knowing all of these things, it’s no wonder Perry’s directorial debut, an entry to next year’s Cinemalaya titled “Ang Guro Kong Hindi Marunong Magbasa,” aims to educate as it entertains.

“Ang daming struggles talaga na dinadanas ng mga bata when it comes to education so kahit papano, through this film, ay maipakita ang problema,” he said.

“Ang Guro Kong Hindi Marunong Magbasa” is about a teacher who disappears resulting to the rise of “child warriors” or kids who take up arms against the government because of their hopelessness.

The film was inspired by a video shown to Perry by a soldier.

“Du’n sa video, nakita ko ’yung isang bata na may hawak na baril so tinanong ko (’yung sundalo) kung bakit sila sumasali sa mga rebel group,” he recalled. “Sabi nu’ng sundalo, wala daw kasing trabaho, walang education, and the only way to survive is mag-join sila mga ganu’ng grupo.

“So du’n na ako nag-research at napatunayan ko na totoong may mga child warriors sa Mindanao.”

Perry hopes the film will help open the eyes of as many people as possible.

“Sa Manila kasi ’yung mga bata medyo napo-focus sila sa mga gadgets at minsan hindi na nabibigyang importansya ’yung education,” he noted. “With this film, makikita na ’yung mga bata sa Mindano, kailangan pa nila makipaglaban para makapag-aral, so in that way maging eye-opener ito sa mga tao na bigyang halaga ang education.”

The lead actor
Public servant-actor Alfred Vargas banners the film. According to Perry, he personally chose him for the role as “importante na magaan ang loob ko sa ka-trabaho ko.”

“Si Alfred kasi naka-trabaho ko na before so may recall siya sa akin,” the director explained. “Napakabait niya sa akin sa set. So sabi ko, mabait ’tong artistang ’to and naisip ko parang bagay siyang maging guro…”

Alfred is currently training in preparation for his role.

“Kasama na du’n nag-undergo siya ng firing, tapos acting workshop. Aside from that, nag-gym talaga siya kasi he had to lose weight kasi farmer siya eh,” Perry said. “Ang nakakatuwa, talagang ginagawa niya ’yung hinihiling namin kumbaga willing talaga siya na ma-portray ng maayos ’yung role.”

Beyond rom-com

“Ang aim talaga nitong film is sana tangkilin talaga ng mga Pilipino.”

Perry also said: “Kung tinitignan nila ’yung mga rom-com, dapat tingnan din nila ’yung mga serious na tipo ng pelikula, para kahit papano naman ay mag-grow din sila pagdating sa pagkilatis sa mga films,” he said.

Perry admits he wasn’t expecting the film to be named finalist in the prestigious festival. He’s glad to be doing it not only with a splash but with one borne of social relevance.

“Gusto ko kasi ‘yung something na may social relevance and eto hindi siya ’yung common or cliché na genre ng film eh,” he noted. “So sabi ko i-try ko lang pero iniisip ko na sana maniwala ’yung mga jury sa istorya, sana ma-inspire sila. So thankfully, na-appreciate (naman) nila.” (With report from Jojo P. Panaligan)

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