Tondo, Beloved: To What Are the Poor Born?

Tundong Magiliw: Pasaan Isinisilang Siyang Mahirap?

- THE PHILIPPINES / 2012 / Filipino / Color / Blu-ray / 76 min

Director, Photography, Editing, Producer: Jewel Maranan
Source: Jewel Maranan, Cinema Is Incomplete

Residents of the Tondo district of northwestern Manila live in a dense, yet vast expanse of small wooden houses, on a platform protruding over the ocean. A mother lives there with three children, and is carrying her forth. Their house has only a single room, where her children play by imagining stories from the pirated DVD covers they hang on the walls. Light shines through cracks in the wooden boards, illuminating their mother’s hands. The voices of nearby children, the sounds of dogs and chickens and the rumble of the harbor all reverberate in a cacophonous living space, which stimulates the senses as it flows in cinematic time.

[Director’s Statement] Tondo holds a unique place in Philippine culture and society. Being one of the nation’s oldest extant districts and the birthplace of the Philippine Revolution, the current of national history is imprinted deep in its everyday grind.

Now, with the Manila North Harbor, the largest domestic and international port in the Philippines, at its heart, Tondo has become an ideal locus of arrival and for decades has been the site for the first city jobs for thousands of peasants who have migrated from the countryside. They fill the district’s roadsides, seasides, and dumpsites.

In Tondo, Beloved: To What Are the Poor Born? this place ceases to become just a source of a story, but becomes the story itself. The story is something we’ve always known but never fully understood––the oppressively constant contrast between survival and affluence.

This time, it is reflected in the smallest things in the smallest homes and in the most uneventful hours of everyday life, moving along in slow unblinking time that escapes the film characters’ memories as it pervades ours. So while nostalgia is the immediate feeling, it is not the only point. It is also the persistent cross-sectioning, in painful detail, of aspects of contemporary life, bearing imprints of both a colonial past and patterns of a future.

- Jewel Maranan

Jewel Maranan is an independent documentary filmmaker from the Philippines. While a student at the University of the Philippines Film Institute, she started working on independent documentaries in 2008, tackling conflict situations in Metro Manila. Through the years, she has developed a deep interest in the ways by which history inches through ordinary life. The two films she has directed so far were crafted in this pursuit. Her graduation film Garlic Peeler (2008) follows a female garlic peeler as she exhausts all possibilities for public health service for her husband’s testicle ailment. Tondo, Beloved: To What Are the Poor Born? (2012), her most recent documentary, observes the geopolitics of life before birth in the oldest and most densely populated slum in Manila. Aside from filmmaking, she currently manages Cinema Is Incomplete, a cinematheque and film conversation project that she founded in 2011. She is currently starting a film distribution and production company in Manila.