HUNDREDS of child soldiers have been released recently by the country’s main rebel separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as part of its commitment to the United Nations to end the recruitment and use of children within their ranks.
This, however, did not happen overnight. The negotiations, according to reports, lasted for eight long years.
What happened throughout those years had given filmmaker Perry Escaño enough materials to write and create his debut full-length feature “Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa,” which, on MTRCB’s first review initially got an X-Rated classification, apparently due to “significantly violent scenes.”
But after the second review, based on MTRCB’s guidelines, the film got a new rating – PG-13!
Now, the young audience (teens) can watch the movie starting December 6 (Wednesday) in cinemas, since the target market of the film is that age-bracket, to know the importance of education and to be aware of the story of child warriors in the Philippines.
According to Escaño: “I’m thankful that we got PG-13 rating after the second review by the MTRCB. The film is approved with very minimal cuts. The message of the story is intact, nothing has changed. The integrity of the storytelling is not affected.
“The audience will still see the bloody and violent scenes in the movie, since based on my research, those realistic scenes are really happening in our country, especially in far-flung provinces in the Philippines where there are child warriors because of war.
“A million thanks to MTRCB for being lenient and for the opportunity that the younger viewers will learn the value of education and have the chance to watch mature and socially relevant themes on the big screen.”
Escaño, also a film, TV, and theater actor before becoming a filmmaker, adds: “Twenty to 30 percent of rebels in any particular group are children. They are trained to use guns and are put at the frontline of battles. There are many related issues concerning child warriors, but this film is related to the value of education.
“This film tells us that these children should be carrying books, not guns. If they could afford education, then we would see them in schools, and not in the battle field.”
Quezon City Representative and actor Alfred Vargas plays the lead role, Aaquil, a farmer who struggled to teach the children in his town to read and write, in spite of being illiterate himself.
Vargas said: “I’m not used to having my previous films classified as X-rated. My past films in Seiko were just until R-16, but we are grateful that MTRCB reconsidered our film ‘Ang Guro’ and reclassified it as PG-13. Now, the teen-agers will be able to watch this kind of relevant film material that is really happening in our country.
“As a congressman, I would like to make use also of my craft as an actor to make socially relevant films like this one which must be an eye-opener to the government.”
“Guro” is Vargas’ first film in four years. “I’ve decided to concentrate on public service, but when I read the script, I couldn’t resist it. I immediately agreed to doing it because it’s actually hitting two birds with one stone — I can act and at the same time advocate education,” the actor said.
Also part of the main cast are three awarded child actors Miggs Cuaderno, Marc Justine Alvarez, and Micko Laurente, who all had to train on how to properly handle fire arms before shooting the movie.
“I have always been afraid of guns,” said Alvarez. “I would close my eyes shut before pulling the trigger. Direk didn’t want that. After the training, I’m glad was able to overcome my fear of handling guns.”
“I felt nervous in the beginning, but my mom said I was so cool, because not all boys my age would get the chance to fire guns. I actually enjoyed it since then,” added Cuaderno.
Laurente recalled: “I remember the time when Direk asked me to fire a pistol. I though I would not be able to handle the recoil, but I did. Also, we have scenes there that show us as rebels in training. We had to crawl on mud. My whole body hurt the day after, but it was fine.”
A finalist of the 2017 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival (held last August), “Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa” also features Mon Confiado, Lou Veloso, James Blanco, Kiko Matos, Loren Burgos, Garie Concepcion, Alvin Barcelona, Paul Sy, Lianne Valentin, Lorraine Salvador, among others.
Opens December 6 in cinemas nationwide.
As an extremist group trains children to fight the government, an illiterate farmer (Alfred Vargas) pretends to read while he attempts to play the role of a teacher to maintain the kids’ faith in the value of education.
Volunteer teachers from the city are afraid to teach in small, far-flung barrios because of the threat of the on-going war between the military and the rebels. This prompts Aaquil (Alfred Vargas), a farmer, to assume the work of the educator in their community.
His students, some orphaned by the war, are unaware that Aaquil is actually illiterate. How has he managed to keep them from finding the truth? Aaquil heads to the city one day and fails to return. Feeling hopeless and confused, his pupils decide to commit themselves to a rebel organization. These children learn to use guns like skilled warriors.
They mercilessly shoot at their enemies, whom they accuse of being the reason for their failure to pursue their dreams. The story depicts how the cycle of anger and vengeance continues when education is ignored and neglected.