Eleven award-winning short films produced in three years by some 60 talented and passionate student-crew led by a brilliant captain who steers the ship of Layag Film Productions.
The captain of the ship is Raquel Rarang-Rivera, program adviser for students of Special Program (SPA) Media Arts in the Alaminos City National High School (ACNHS) in Pangasinan.
While the members of the production crew are Junior High School learners enrolled in the SPA – Media Arts, some of those who were from the first batch are now in Senior High School and other film enthusiasts students from other Special Programs and regular class.
Films recognized national and international
Their films tackle social issues such as psychological abuse (Layag, 2018), child labor (Sa Layag ng Bangkang Paurong, 2019), religious intolerance (Ana Bikhayr, 2019), lack of access to socialized medical services (Satiguar, 2019), drug users’ non-violent rehabilitation in the context of Philippines’ brutal drug war (Ang Himala sa Kamay ng Daang Tao, 2019), toxic masculinity and oppression of the LGBTQIA+ (Duruko, 2019).
Just last March 28, one of their short films “Sa Layag ng Bangkang Paurong” was recognized as Best International Documentary Film during the Fresh International Film Festival held in Limerick, Ireland.
The same film ranked third place and was awarded the Best Documentary Film and Best Advocacy Statement during the Streets to School National Film Competition of the Association of the Rights of Children in South East Asia (ARCSEA) on March 21.
It was directed by Mark Giddel Liwanag, a Humanities and Social Science (HUMSS) Grade 11 learner.
One of their first films “Ana Bikhayr”, directed by Hannah Ragudos, was also awarded third place for the ARCSEA Children Empowerment Award category.
Another film she directed “Decalcomania” bagged the Best Experiemental Film and Best Editing Awards in the International Teen Short Film Festival in Beijing, China and the Best Class Project by the WCTE -PBS student film festival in Tennessee, USA, earlier this year.
And the list goes on for Layag Film Productions for producing quality films which earned them international and national laurels.
Their films have been viewed during the Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinemas in France, Huntington Beach Cultural Cinema Showcase 2020 in California, USA, Children’s International Film Festival 2019 in Bangladesh, DYTIATKO International Children’s Media festival 2020 in Romania, and Bangalore Queer Film Festival in India, Festival Film Bahari 2020 in West Java, Indonesia, International Children’s Rights Film Festival 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey, Busan International Kids and Youth Film Festival 2019 in Busan South Korea, Korea Pinoy International Film Festival 2019, International Tourism Film Festival Africa 2021 in Gauteng, South Africa, International Youth Visual Media Festival in Fukouka City, Japan, Super Teen Internation Film Festival 2020 in Bucharest, Romania, Covellite International Film Festival 2020 in Montana, USA , Newark International Film Festival 2020 in New Jersey, and CinemaRehiyon of National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, Metro Manila Film Festival Short Film Festival 2019, and Catholic Mass Media Awards.
“It all started with our stint with Commission on Population (Popcom) in 2017, when the students produced “Layag” an amateur film depicting life in the famous Hundred Islands, which won in the regional level, taking home eight out of the nine awards,” Rivera, Master Teacher 1, shared.
The feat continued when they represented Region I in the 3rd Adolescent Health and Development Film Festival and bagged the Best Actor award.
A year after, the “Sa Layag ng Bangkang Paurong” was produced and again represented the region at the national level and again bagging eight awards in the Regional Film Festival.
“We only wanted to produce films about the culture and arts in Alaminos City, eventually the stories of its people, but I believe the main element here is that our works come from the heart and soul that is why each one of us gives his/her all-out effort,” Rivera added.
In 2015, there were only nine students enrolled in the SPA – Media Arts.
Taking it as a challenge, Dr. Rarang with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) specialization, joined various trainings provided by the DepEd, Sanayguro by NCCA, CCP Summer Arts Academy and other institutions to equip herself on multimedia.
She checked on all available resources online and offline on subjects about photography, radio drama, film-making, and other available subjects of multimedia to capacitate herself.
After two years, there were already two batches enrolled in Multimedia Arts.
It was also in 2017 when they represented the Schools Division of Alaminos City in a film workshop on screenplay, cinematography, and editing initiated by Popcom 1.
Later on, providing opportunities for them to compete and showcase their works not only in the national but international arena.
“The group started only with one unit of a DLSR and cellphone to shoot their first film but eventually with the cash prizes they received, they have already procured additional equipment to use in the film shoot and edit,” Rivera said.
At present, there are 40 students enrolled under SPA Media Arts.
The sail of the ship was not always smooth and easy, there were times that the waves were rough.
Despite the challenges, Layag Film Production is grateful for the support of Dr. Elnora Raroque, Officer-in-Charge Office of the Principal, and the entire ACNHS, including the Schools Division of Alaminos City led by Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Lorna Bugayong and Education Program Supervisor In-Charge in Special Program in the Arts Mr. Arleen Alcantara, and the City Mayor Arth Bryan Celeste, in providing all-out assistance to them in these competitions and festivals.
“We are also grateful for the trust provided and the relationship built with the parents of these students,” Rivera said.
She added, “the support of the local government unit and the communities where we conduct our film shoots is also essential.”
At present, the Layag Film Productions through the initiative of the city government of Alaminos led the recently concluded week-long Hundred Islands Film Festival 2021.
One of which was the conduct of the Online Educational Program from March 22 to 28 through webinars with renowned resource speakers from the film industry which aimed to inspire and encourage young filmmakers.
On deck will be the Open Area Cinema where award-winning independent films will be shown to the people of Alaminos City through their existing LED screens.
The project is in partnership with National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the Film Development Council of the Philippines and the Commission on Population Region 1.
SPA Media Arts students in ACNHS and Layag Film Productions were likewise recently given separate citations by the City Government of Alaminos and the Provincial Government of Pangasinan for their countless achievements bringing pride to the people of Pangasinan.
In finality, Rivera emphasized that their art is not because of the competition, the awards nor to prove that they are great, but it is the talent and the skills given by God and to be in the position to inspire and uplift other people especially the poor and the oppressed.
Teaching her students valuable lessons like humility, “these students are producing films out of their passion, commitment, advocacy, and purpose.” Rivera said.
By: Joan Diaz-Sabado, Public Affairs Unit
File Photos from the Layag Productions of ACNHS