By Karen Martinez

PLONING, NGA labing maleban. Ang gegma mo Ploning, nga ingkadadoan. Lisinsya ko Ploning, kong sarang togotan, mapamasyar ako sa marayeng logar. Ploning, pobri akong masyado. Ara ‘ko sasalan nga mga rikwirdo. Ara ‘ko bolawan, ara ‘ko diniro, solaminti Ploning, demdemen mo ako.

For several months now, I have been itching to write about my reaction to the movie Ploning, which I watched on Mother’s Day in Manila. Nanay Jane Timbancaya-Urbanek and I saw it together after a hearty lunch (a.k.a. “eating-well session”) at a mall in Ortigas.

I went to the movie house unsure of what to expect as it was my first time to watch a Filipino-made indie film. Ploning tells the story of a Palaweña who lives on the island municipality of Cuyo, northern Palawan. Now, the place is much-talked about because of its beauty and allure as presented in the film.

All I was certain of that day was my excitement to see it because our dear Neva (Nanay Jane’s daughter) was Ploning’s best friend in the movie. It’s from her that I am currently learning more difficult Cuyunon words and phrases – I’m glad I am coping.

Ploning made me left the movie house by getting more, way more than what I was excited about.

I’m not Cuyunon so I don’t know anything about the place, the culture and traditions of its people, and their way of life. It’s intimidating sometimes when you don’t know anything about what you’re interested about; it’s like being a child learning his/her ABC.

Ignorance excuses no one — I had to interview two dear Cuyunon friends of mine to ask them for their insights and opinions about the movie as well. I wanted to know if what was presented in the film was accurate.

“The genre about movies like this is at hand, it’s about time. As an artist, how the director dramatized the movie to show culture is his call. We can’t criticize a person for things he didn’t intend to do to begin with,” Carlos Fernandez told me.

He hasn’t seen the movie because he’s waiting for it to come out in DVD, but he has heard so much about it and has read a lot of good reviews. For him, just the thought of a Palaweño making a movie about Palawan and its culture is great idea enough.

My good friend Malou Paglinawan, who is from Cuyo, said the movie is ticklish on the intellect. “The movie is intellectual. If you’re expecting usual plots often offered by commercial movies, then you will be frustrated,” she said.

Malou believes the movie is beautiful and relishes in the feeling that after you see it, you’ll ask yourself many questions. She explained further that the fact that the movie made her battle with herself on so many questions is proof enough that it is an interesting film.

Life in Cuyo where she was born is slow-paced because people live it with no complications, luxuries, or embellishments. While its people are like everyone, hopeful for the best things and opportunities to come their way, they do not complain about what is not there. Rather, they make do with what they have, thankful for their blessings and take so much pride in their culture.

Ploning is an art film, and art in general, is supposed to make one wonder and think. It is meant to stimulate the mind and allow a person to have his/her own interpretation, independent from what the artist wants to convey. True good art is more than what meets the eye, or any of the senses for that matter. It leaves us food for thought.

I have a handful of Cuyunon friends, and I can honestly say, taking into consideration that I have been exposed to many different cultures, that they are one of the most good-natured people I have ever met. That even in times of adversity, they remain positive and hopeful about life. They remain graceful and calm amidst chaotic conditions. Cuyunon people make the best of what they have and their God-given talents – they are content. And last but not the least, they adhere to their morals and principles in spite of whatever environment they are in, be it morally-jaded.

I’ve heard people criticizing Ploning, even those from Palawan whom I thought would be proud of it because it’s Palaweño-made. Cuyunon Dante Nico Garcia put a lot of effort in bringing the film to showcase the unique culture and traditions that the Palaweños have. It may not be anywhere near the commercial qualities of popular directors’ works, but that’s what made it spectacular. After you see it, you know there can’t be anything like it.

Ploning is not just a typical or ordinary movie, for me it is a life experience worth seeing and learning from over and over. It gave me a rich harvest of lessons, taught me to have a more positive outlook in life, to be more thankful for the simple things around me that I usually take for granted, to be more selfless and bring joy to those we love and be happy in seeing them happy.

They said that it was “dragging and dull” – yes, it was slow-paced, but that is how life is on the island town. It’s not a film that stars Robin Padilla; it was never marketed as an action film or a comedy flick, why would we expect it to be fast-paced?

Ploning isn’t bad for me, a Manileña. Sometimes, we move in such a fast-paced environment that we fail to appreciate simple things that count, moments, events, feelings and even interesting people we know because life passes for us so quickly we can’t run after it.

Life should not be lived as if it’s a rat race; it should be enjoyed and savored. It is in slowing down and taking a breather that we can realize how blessed we truly are and see what important details we have been missing out on… just like Ploning.

A friend says that when watching movies, it is better not to have expectations (big or small) because it is in expecting too much that we become frustrated and that we fail to see the most important things that they want to tell us.