There was a film festival last December that had no blockbusters but spoke so much about ordinary folks, because the ordinary folks made the films themselves. They talked about their struggles and their triumphs, some using smart phones and some semi-pro cameras. Some of them wrote, directed, and acted in their works. Or, because they were really working with tight budgets, tapped on their relatives and friends as extras or goffers.
This was Sinemaya, a film competition and festival organized by the CARD-MRI, The Center for Agriculture and Rural Development – Mutually Reinforcing Institutions. CARD started out as a social development organization in 1983, then went into Grameen-inspired lending, and formed a bank in 1997, now with 36 more branches all over the country, with 628 branches operating under the CARD NGO. Founded and chaired by a soft-spoken fellow Aris Alip, no not a screen appellate (he goes by a more intimidating name – Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip), CARD has become the lead of the pack in micro-lending in the Philippines - counting on women power.
It was the desire to hear from the hundreds of beneficiaries that led to Sinemaya. There has been hundreds, if not thousands, of success stories in the almost 40 year old history of CARD and Alip, a visionary, wanted to tell them so as to let others know that miracles do happen with hard work, right amount of push, management of finances no matter how small sometimes, and perseverance that is paired with a plan.
In one of the brainstorming of staff and consultants a year ago, the idea for the clients to narrate their experience through moving pictures popped up. There were doubts expressed over the capability of these people to go into film or video making, but because CARD has witnessed the innate artistry and sponge-like capacity of their beneficiaries to absorb learnings when interested, workshops on scriptwriting, and video production were conducted. These triggered enthusiasm
The CARD MRI Community Short Film Festival was nicknamed Sinemaya, a contraction of the word sine (cine) and maya, the passerine bird, particularly the red maya, the former national bird until President Fidel Ramos declared it should be the Philippine eagle, now replacing heroes in our national bills. The maya best reflects the Filipinos that CARD works with. They are resourceful, nimble, beautiful, whose spirit for freedom and survival is compelling.
The 2022 Sinemaya had nine entries, coming from the Mountain Province, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro, Ilocos Sur, NCR, Batangas, and Camarines Sur.
Jacqueline Estrella’s Hibla emerged as the Night’s Best Film, which also won four special awards: Best Cinematography by Arnold Jumpay, Best Editing by Jene Vie Estrella, and Best Director by Jacqueline Estrella. Justin Mark Estrella, who portrayed a son wishing for a complete family, was judged as the Best Supporting Actor in a Male Role.
“CARD MRI’s Sinemaya proved that regardless of age or social status, we can aim to do bigger things. We are grateful that clients like us were given the chance to showcase our talents and skills aside from being microentrepreneurs,” said Jacqueline O. Estrella, the CARD Bank client who wrote and directed the Best Film Awardee.
Flordeliza Taña’s Ngiti sa Likod ng Lente won the Founder’s Excellence Award and the 2nd Best Film. Taña and Juel Morales, the film’s lead characters also bagged the Best Actors in Male and Female Roles.
Meanwhile, Venezza Gonzales’ Tulay grabbed the Managing Director’s Choice and the 3rd Best Film. The film also won the Best Screenplay by Venezza Gonzales. Joneth Enriquez who acted as a granddaughter who supported the journey of her lola towards recovery won the Best Supporting Actor in a Female Role.
The board of judges was composed of CARD MRI Senior Advisers, CARD MRI Board of Directors, and award-winning directors and photographers namely: Aniceta Alip, Dr. Dolores M. Torres, Raul Dizon, Lorenza dT. Banez, Flordeliza L. Sarmiento, Lourdes Dijan, Mylin Chosaz, Adundia Manabes, Pascuala Genoso, Al Benavente, and this writer.
The three works, together with the six other entries were shown to the public for free at the SM Cinema in San Pablo City last Dec. 3 and 10. The viewers voted for Tinig ng Tahimik by SK Baclig as the People’s Choice Award.
“We view the film fest as more than a platform to showcase our clients’ talents. It’s about tapping their endless potentials so that they can escape the cycle of poverty. Their films depict the reality of their lives and how they journeyed towards empowerment,” enthused Alip.