‘Beyond redemption’: Mike de Leon’s take on the Philippines today in a short film

February 25, 2019 - 2:02 PM
Mike de Leon filming
Mike de Leon on the set of "Citizen Jake." (Facebook/Citizen Jake)

Acclaimed director Mike de Leon released a short video titled “Kangkungan” that touched on the sociopolitical issues the Philippines is facing.

“Kangkungan” refers to a field of “kangkong” or swamp cabbage but it could also be in reference to one of the most famous Filipino expressions: “Pupulutin sa kangkungan.”

The phrase is a metaphor for summary executions.

According to a Filipino-centered trivia website, it has its origins in the practice of disposing people killed in summary executions by hiding their bodies within a field of “kangkong.”

The five-minute video was uploaded on Vimeo on February 24, Sunday—in time for the country’s 33rd anniversary of the People Power Revolution on February 25.

Social media users have been resharing the video to commemorate the historic revolution and to make people aware of the current state of the country more than 30 years hence.

“Kangkungan” notes killings done in Duterte’s bloody anti-narcotics campaign and how personalities critical of his administration policies have been targeted.

It recalls the imprisonment of Sen. Leila de Lima, the ousting of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the attempted arrest of Sen. Antonio Trillanes.

The video also touches on Duterte’s perceived alliance with the Marcoses.

It additionally cites the chief executive’s constant condemnation of the Catholic Church, his insistence to shift towards a system of federalism, and his friendliness to China despite the Philippines’ award over the West Philippine Sea dispute.

“Itinatapon ng taong ito [Duterte] ang Pilipinas sa kangkungan,” the video said.

“Mga kababayan, at lalo na sa inyo, mga kabataan… ngayong Mayo, bumuto na parang nakasasalay dito ang inyong kinabukasan at ang inyong buhay,” it added as it referenced the upcoming elections.

‘Country beyond redemption’ 

Mike de Leon in his interview with ANCX.ph explained that he produced the video out of “frustration, anger, disgust [and] despair.”

“We seem to be a country beyond redemption,” the director said.

“Marcos wanted to create a dynasty that would rule the country forever, or at least indefinitely. But Duterte seems to be inviting chaos and a frightening power struggle,” he observed.

“Was he like Adolf Hitler when the war was going against him and he wanted Germany devastated, leaving nothing to the enemy—a scorched earth policy? Can you imagine the power grabbing in case [Duterte] is incapacitated or even dies?” De Leon said.

De Leon and his political films 

De Leon is known for directing films that tackle patriarchy and fascism. He is also known for being vocal on controversial policies and is fiercely critical of the Marcos regime.

His latest film, “Citizen Jake,” is his commentary on the country’s sociopolitical landscape where he throws jabs against the Marcoses, Manny Pacquiao and former senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada, among others.

His other films, “Kisapmata,” “Batch ’81” and “Sister Stella L,” have political undertones.

“Kisapmata,” according to a lifestyle and culture online magazine, reveals “painful social truths” in its narrative while “Batch ’81” was described as a depiction of the “fascist demeanor of the Marcos regime” through fraternity hazing.

“Sister Stella L” features a nun who actively protests labor policies with Filipino workers.