Sue Prado and Kalil Almonte topbill Hulagway, a two-part documentary linked together by a love story and features the endangered languages of the Dupaninan Agta in Isabela, and the Tandulanen Tagbanua in Palawan, Philippines.
The film follows the journey of Consuelo (Prado) and Robert (Almonte) against the backdrop of the changing ecosystem in the grasslands of Isabela, where endemic grasses are being slowly displaced by invasive foreign species, and ends on the beaches of Palawan once inhabited by mythological crabs.
As a poetic and lyrical rumination on the beauty of words, this film shows how language is indeed the soul of a culture.
“As the writer and director, I had to read the dictionaries and wordlists previous researchers had already gathered and look for patterns that somehow stand out from their anthropological, ethnographic, and linguistic work,” says director Alvin Yapan.
“These researchers and linguists were all acknowledged in the closing credits of the documentary. From what I have read, the Dupaninan Agta language depicts and upholds a culture of walking. On the other hand, the Tandulanen Tagbanua language distinguishes between what is real and what is not, what is seen and unseen, and what is visible and invisible. These are the main linguistic characteristics we tried to show and capture in the documentary,” he carries.
From the words collated from the dictionaries and wordlists, the team behind the film went to the areas of these linguistic groups and validated the data. They tried to confirm if these words were still in use and in circulation and how much have already changed since they were first recorded and studied.
“The validation interviews were included in the documentaries. We tried as much as possible to interview a representative cross-section of the linguistic group from the elders to the much younger generation,” Yapan shares.
Hulagway also features a previously undocumented folksong sung by one of the tribal leaders. As Baket Edna sings this folksong, Consuelo recounts a summary of an Agta epic song already forgotten but recorded and transcribed several years back by linguists and researchers much like Consuelo.
The film raises questions as to the validity of ethnographic intervention in the preservation of dying languages, raising once more the contentious debate between etic and emic, the outsider and insider, viewpoints in ethnography.
Hulagway is funded by Subcom-mission on Cultural Dissemination and presented by National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Rolyo Productions in cooperation with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).