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Culion Movie : An Official Entry To MMFF2019, A Story Now Ready to Be Told

Culion Movie #BreaktheStigma

The long wait is over. The Metro Manila Film Festival Executive Committee finally announced last Wednesday, October 16 the last 4 films that would complete the MMFF Magic 8, and “Culion” secured a slot. The announcement was held at Club Filipino in Greenhills and was attended by several members of Team Culion including Producer Shandii Bacolod, Iza Calzado, Mike Liwag, Nico Locco and Executive Producer Mrs. Gilie Sing of iOptions Ventures Corp.

It can be recalled that the first four films were announced in July, and were screened based on their completed scripts, while the last four were screened based on completed film submissions.

The weeks leading to the announcement have been nerve-wracking for Team Culion and everyone was hoping and praying that the movie would be selected, as everyone was excited for the chance to be able to tell the story in a bigger stage.

“I felt sick before the announcement and I wasn’t sleeping well. As a first timer, I didn’t know what to expect,” Executive Producer Gilie Sing shared.

She added, “After we were announced, it felt good but I was shaking inside. I was close to tears while I was explaining on stage about our movie!”

Culion’s producer, Shandii Bacolod also felt anxious before the announcement. “To be honest, may hesitations ako na um-attend noong MMFF announcement. Kinakabahan ako kase na-experience ko na ‘yan noong 2016. The anticipation, the waiting, it’s crazy. Pero tumuloy ako as advised by my EP, Ms. Gilie Sing. When CULION was announced as part of the MMFF Magic 8, naiyak si Ma‘am Gilie. Grabe ang sigawan at saya nila Iza, Mike and Nico. Ako naman, ‘di ako naka-react nang bongga. I sort of became catatonic. Nag-flash lahat sa akin ang pagod, the waiting, the sleepless nights, lahatBumaliktad ang stomach koHaha. Nag-sink in lahat sa akin na pasok na kaminoong nakaalis na ako ng venue. I am very happy and very proud,” said Bacolod.

With the announcement of Culion’s inclusion to this year’s MMFF, Team Culion’s mission to move past the stigma associated with Hansen’s Disease and the island of Culion in Palawan is slowly becoming a reality. The film hopes to raise awareness about the disease and debunk the old myth that it is highly contagious and incurable. Years ago, Mr. Peter Sing (who formed iOptions with his wife Gilie) learned about the story of Culion and he wanted to share its importance with the current generation who would hopefully pass it on to the next. One effective method that he could think of to share the story was to produce a film, and that’s what he did. 

The project started two years ago and the aim was to have it compete at the Metro Manila Film Festival as they believe that it is the best way to deliver the film’s message because of the festival’s wide network and audience. 

The support that the film has been getting from the public after it launched its first teaser trailer has been overwhelming, and many have already expressed their desire to watch the film. Even National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, who is the head of the MMFF selection committee, has showered “Culion” with praise.

Producer Shandii Bacolod shared on Facebook a video of a very beaming and emotional Lumbera talking to Iza Calzado and praising “Culion.”

“Sharing this video that almost made me cry. Grabe super emotional kami ni Maria Izadora Calzado,” Bacolod shared.

“He also spoke to me briefly and said Pumalakpak ako. Pinaiyak niyo ako. Tell Ricky (Lee) and Alvin why do they keep making films na napakasakit!‘” Bacolod added.

The stamp of approval, from no less than a National Artist, definitely speaks volume about the quality of the film and caliber of the people behind it. And the bar is certainly set very high with the best of the best working on the film — director Alvin Yapan, scriptwriter Ricky Lee, cinematographer Neil Daza and producer Shandii Bacolod.

Director Alvin Yapan himself could not contain his joy upon hearing Culion’s inclusion to the MMFF.

Hanggang ngayon nanginginig pa rin ako sa announcement na kasali tayo sa Metro Manila Film Fest ngayong 2019. Tagumpay ito ng Culion, ng buong bayan ng Culion. Tagumpay ito ng produksyon ng Culion. Tagumpay ito ng lahat ng Pilipino na sa kabila ng pang-aalipusta, ng stigma, ng pagmamata, ay nananatili pa rin tayong mabuti, nanatili pa rin tayong may pag-asa, at nananatili pa rin tayong naniniwala sa pag-ibig,“  Yapan shared.

Meryll Soriano, who plays one of the female leads, was also beaming with pride for Culion and shared her pride at the accomplishment.

In an interview right after the announcement, Soriano said, “Tagumpay! Tagumpay! Masayang, masayang, masaya ako na nakapasok ang aming pelikulang Culion for MMFF 2019. Kasi talagang pinaghirapan namin. Hindi siya yung parang showbiz na sinasabi naming “pinaghirapan namin yung pelikula”. Pinaghirapan talaga namin at pinaganda namin ito. And it’s really a film that we want to be part of Metro Manila Film Festival. Kaya’t nagpapasalamat talaga kami na nakapasok kami. Tapos na yung sigawan pero, yes! Talagang masaya kami.

Although the journey took two years to complete, “Culion” the movie, now an official MMFF contender, is finally ready to fulfill its duty. 

5 Things You Might Have Missed In the ‘Culion’ Teaser Trailer

We didn’t see it coming. That’s for sure. When they said that there would be a big reveal in the teaser trailer for “Culion”, nobody expected to see John Lloyd Cruz’s face at the end of the clip. It definitely caused a stir. Even the media people during the launch went on a frenzy the moment they saw JLC on the screen.

Continue reading 5 Things You Might Have Missed In the ‘Culion’ Teaser Trailer

Breaking The Stigma : A Film’s Effort To Raise Awareness About a Highly Misunderstood Disease

Culion Movie #breakthestigma
“Culion” Cast and Crew

Leprosy has long been around, and ever since it has suffered the horrible stigma surrounding it. Those who carry the disease bear the burden of being discriminated, ridiculed, and isolated from society. The visible manifestation of the disease by physical disfigurement and the lack of knowledge about its true nature cause people to fear it.

The stigma was so terrible to the point that Hansen’s Disease patients were forced to wear demeaning bells to warn everyone of their presence so others could avoid them. It was believed that the disease was a curse given as punishment to sinners, and that those afflicted were considered “unclean”. All they had about the disease that time were myths that were far from having any scientific basis at all.

It was not until the late Norwegian physician, Gerhard Henrik Amrauer Hansen discovered in 1873 the bacterial agent that caused leprosy that the world finally had credible information about the disease. This, however, only made matters worse for those suffering from it as it was determined that leprosy was indeed transmissible.

The stigma worsened. The patients were shunned even more by society. It was even thought that leprosy was a form of STD or a stage of syphilis. It also didn’t help that there was no known cure for it. The only method they could think of to prevent the spreading of the disease was isolation.

Thus, leprosariums were built in different parts of the world. Culion island in Palawan was among them. At a time when the cure for leprosy wasn’t discovered yet, the government ordered segregation in order to protect the healthy.

But as everything else has progressed over time, so did the treatment for leprosy. With the discovery of three antibiotics collectively known as Multi-Drug Therapy, leprosy is now curable. Despite this, the stigma remains.

It is for this reason that Mr. Peter Sing and his wife, Mrs. Gilie Sing of iOptions Ventures Corp. decided to produce a film that would carry a very significant advocacy. The couple fell in love with the story of Culion the moment they heard of it and were so touched by the untold stories of struggle, hope and triumph that they felt the story had to be told. In a one-on-one interview with Mrs. Sing, she recounted how the movie Culion came to be.

“We fell in love with the history of Culion. It is unique in the Philippines, part of world medical history, and yet not many Filipinos know about it,” said Mrs. Sing.

She added that her husband was the first one to learn about the story of Culion seven years ago.

Meron kaming survey na ginawa about Culion for a client. That is how he got there. Then dinala niya kami last year. Nagulat nga din siya n’ung nakarating siya sa Culion the first time na meron palang kwento d’yan sa Palawan na ganyan and walang nakakaalam.

Mrs. Sing said that it is the film’s purpose to educate the Filipinos about the unique history of Culion, eliminate the stigma of Hansen’s Disease by humanizing the characters, and to open up Culion to more tourists who are eager to learn about its history and also help in the further development of the municipality.

After being inspired by what they learned about the island of Culion, the couple who would become the executive producers of the film, reached out to one of the country’s most brilliant producers, Shandii Bacolod to oversee the production of the film and set everything in motion.

“To be honest, I was completely clueless about Culion. Wala akong alam sa history nito. But when Executive Producer gave me a call and discussed Culion, naloka ako. So I started doing my own research, and there it was. It’s rich history. It’s heartbreaking. Mabilis sa part ko, I feel like I am always drawn to projects that are brave and tackle themes na hindi conventional. I also believe na CULION is a story that needs to be told. Now,” Bacolod said.

It is sad but true. So many Filipinos are oblivious to the fact that right next to a tourist spot that is Coron is an island of great importance due to its historical root. It is nothing but irony that what was once a very famous island known for being one of the most advanced leprosarium in the world is now an unknown place to most Filipinos.

What’s even more heartbreaking is the fact that the very few people who know the island think that it is still a place where leprosy patients are thrown to. But so much time has passed, so many things have changed. Culion is no longer a leper colony, but a flourishing and peaceful municipality.

“I honestly believe na ang purpose ng film is to make everyone remember a forgotten story. More than a tragedy, Culion is a story of human spirit, resilience and triumph,” said Bacolod.

The producers hope that the film can help eradicate the stigma associated with leprosy — a disease that had caused so much anguish, suffering and trauma in the past to the point that even the term leprosy is so revolting for the ones suffering from it that they prefer the name “Hansen’s Disease”. It seems that the pain of being treated as pestilence and being scorned by society is far worse than enduring the physical effects of the disease itself. And that is the very thing that the film wants to put an end to. It is trying to deliver a message to all of us — a message that can hopefully help end the leprosy stigma on the island of Culion as well as in the whole world.

“Hansen’s Disease is curable. Huwag tayo matakot. Huwag tayo mandiri. Tama na ang panahon ng ignorance at discrimination. Tao tayong lahat. Pantay-pantay,” Bacolod said with conviction.