MANILA: “Sa Layag ng Bangkang Paurong” (Boats that Sail Backward) — a documentary film produced by young filmmakers from Alaminos, Pangasinan — was declared Best International Documentary Film in the recently concluded Fresh International Film Festival in Limerick, Ireland on March 28, 2021.
The short film created by students of Alaminos City National High School (ACNHS) was a product of POPCOM-Region I’s 4th Adolescent Health and Development Film Festival in 2019 under the theme, “The Youth and the Demographic Transition.” It depicts the plight and demographic issues of young students who thrive as boatmen working in the province’s Hundred Islands to support their education and family’s livelihood.
The documentary represented the region in POPCOM’s National Film Festival in 2020, and since then has managed to break through in the global scene. Its string of feats continues this year, as it was again selected in Bangladesh’s Children’s International Film Festival; 3rd Meihodo International Youth Visual Media Festival in Fukuoka, Japan; and was also recognized as Best Advocacy Statement as well as Best Documentary Film in the Streets to Schools National Film Competition of the Association of the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia on March 21.
POPCOM-I Director Erma R. Yapit commended the successful journey of the young filmmakers who started their passion for filmmaking in 2017 during POPCOM’s 3rd Regional Film Festival: “We are overwhelmed to witness these young students’ mindsets evolve: from simple perspectives, to gender and culturally sensitive, age-appropriate, and advocacy-worth films by way of their exposure to POPCOM’s film festivals.”
According to Yapit, “Sa Layag…” emphasizes issues and needs that beset young people of today, and the way they affect the country’s quest to achieve its desired demographic dividend: “Meeting the needs of these young people contributes mainly to the attainment of their full development into adulthood.”
According to Dr. Raquel Rarang-Rivera, coach and founder of the Layag Productions of ACNHS, 87 of ACNHS students earn their living as boatmen. Many are forced to drop out of their schooling, as they choose to work by way of sailing—despite an existing city ordinance that restricts minors to work in hazardous environments.
“At a young age, children like them learn the ways of their fathers’ work,” Rarang-Rivera confirmed. “They grew up in that kind of life where they have been deprived of their rights and liberty early on.”
Members of the film’s production team commented that: “Joining POPCOM’s film festival was a good opportunity for young adults like us to be exposed to the realities of today’s alarming issues. This documentary we produced reflected the actual experiences of our fellow students in their desire to help their families financially, while sustaining their own education. The film is our way of communicating our story. It enabled us to understand the situation as an essential step in achieving social change.”
Since its production in 2019, the film has been part of the official selections of various international film festivals in 2020, such as the Newark International Film Festival in USA; International Children’s Rights Film Festival in Istanbul, Turkey; Festival Film Bahari in West Java, Indonesia; Golden Tree International Documentary Festival in Hessen, Germany; and DYTIATKO International Children’s Media Festival in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
The documentary may be viewed in POPCOM’s official YouTube channel through this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIRmoXeYr8g .