by Don Jaucian
Busong (Palawan Fate, 2011)
D: Auraeus Solito
C: Alessandra de Rossi, Bonevie Budao, Clifford Banagale, Rodrigo Santikan, Dax Alejandro, Walter Arenio
Despite the serene cadence of nature in Busong, there is a threat that slowly slips through the stones on the shore and the leaves of the trees, manifesting in strange shapes and forms: the sound of chainsaws gnawing the air, abandoned huts infested with death, and smokestacks towering against the forests and mountains. But the majesty of Palawan, Solito’s homeland, eventually extends its limbs to stir the desolation that is slowly creeping up, threatening to eradicate its long-neglected, near-mythic heritage.
The three interwoven tales of Busong may seem like bedtime story fodder at first (Solito based these on the stories that his mother told him during his childhood). They are, after all, cautionary tales grounded by the titular Palaw’an concept of instant karma. Each of the characters trip, break, and dive into their uncertain fates, guided by their own fractured sense of direction.
Solito uses these characters to draw a portrait of Palawan’s past, present, and future. But it is with Aris (Banagale) that we see Solito, desperate to do what he can to save his homeland. In one haunting moment, we realize that the chant that we have been hearing throughout the entire film is nothing but a ghost of a glorious past where trees sang and the skies echoed the grace of the universe.
Busong, underneath all its beauty, is a lament on Palawan’s fading glory, a land that is slowly spoiled by the Invading Arm of the Occident, the stone-cold march of progress and generational apathy and amnesia. Punay’s mysterious wounds are nothing but a symptoms of the ills that plague, not only Palawan, but our entire collective consciousness. If only they could be exorcised by a shamanistic ritual.
Drenched in melancholy and spiritual recollection, Busong’s core isn’t the simple intervention of spells and magic but the strong hold of these little folktales to our communal struggle. Because most of the time, it is through myth and legend that we understand our history, where figures are carved from exaggerated imaginings and values are sifted through urban legends.