John Raphael T.

Almanza
IV-BS Life Sciences

The coming of age of evil: a back-to-back commentary on
Janice O'Hara and Denise O'Hara’s “Sundalong Kanin” and
Joel Lamangan’s “Hustisya”
“War makes monsters of men”- Patrick Ness
The two movies, Janice O'Hara and Denise O'Hara’s “Sundalong
Kanin” and Joel Lamangan’s “Hustisya”, with its excellent
cinematography and directing was successful in delivering its
astounding message towards the ground of people’s actions in the
face of extreme pressure brought about by war, poverty and the
undying zeal to make even with the harsh reality of the world. The
general theme common to both movies was the weakness the
characters had for not succumbing to vengeful acts of killing. Both
had their main protagonist either getting killed or killing at the end
of the movies. And even though both films happened at distant and
different points in time—one at the time of Japanese occupation and
the other at the time being—the message both presents to its
viewers regarding social injustice contributing to a weak
conscience (or a weak disposition to goodness) is more than
evident.
“Sundalong Kanin”
This movie was effective in depicting the strife and struggle of
Filipinos during the Japanese occupation and invasion. The change
in the community due to the coming of the Japanese force was,
basically, the turning point in the lives of the people in the area and
most importantly in the life of the children, our main characters,
there. This is a coming of age story and essentially a coming into
terms with reality. As the characters overcome and later on
surrender in the face of war, it is proven that war makes monsters
of men and that in the hope of rebuilding a society comes a natural
divide in the forces and sectors it abides by its scope and territory.
All throughout the story, it has been all about personal anguish over
that of the community; such that, war can never be made too
personal, because it always is.
In this review, we will highlight five main subplots in the story that
have played a big role in the development of the plot. These are: a)
Tiyago’s power trip, b) Phillipine societal divide creating the
indeterminate enemy, c) Rape and indignation of comfort women, d)
Bestfriends becoming enemies and their eventual bloodbath.

). While serving the colonizing army. it was also hard to distinguish who the real enemy was. non-debatable that the community was composed of people with different characters. a deterrent in achieving unity and eventual peace in the community.The movie started with two groups of innocent children playing “tirador”. As the movie goes on. countless scenes were provided where Tiyago would abuse the Mayor and make him look like a weeping boy. which is obviously on the side of . It is. It turned a gruelling twist when the Mayor suddenly popped into the house of Tiyago and pointed a gun in his son’s mouth by just defeating his son (a part of the other competing group) in the said child’s play. nevertheless. he took oath in revenging the dignity of his son and family. he shot and killed the incumbent Mayor in the original attempt of putting him into trial amongst the town people and accusing him of committing murder to a Japanese soldier sleeping near the town river. As the struggles hardened (curfew. affiliations and et cetera. He even forced the Mayor’s family to go hungry by taking their supply of rice. Some of them stood by where the utmost power lied. that accused non-accordingly guilty and non-guilty Filipinos for committing a sin against the ruling army. a group of men masked with “bayong” in their heads. He took his liberty and abused his power by using it in accordance with his personal agenda. Tiyago still adhered with his promise of revenge. and this instigated fear and a sense of divide among them. in their actions and inclinations. one is opened with the deeper disparity between them that roots from the relationships of their families with each other. “Phillipine societal divide creating the indeterminate enemy”. missing Filipinas etc. This leads us to our second point. This certain event in the movie is most striking especially recalling the days of the Makapili. Tiyago (Marc Abaya) was the father of one of the boys and had been mistreated over the years by the Mayor of the town. Having worked for a Japanese family and learning their language. In the far end. They were seen as the traitors of the people at that time. At first it would have been guessed that it was just a simple game between the two. This foreshadowing of events has actualized when the Japanese force entered their town and when the Mayor and Tiyago switched roles in the society. Tiyago was assigned to be the puppet of the newly established leadership. however. After this event that terrified both Tiyago and the whole of his immediate community. Filipinos were doubtful and suspicious of fellow Filipinos. even though he was proven innocent. Though their motivations may not be limited to one. This is where it was sufficiently evident that even in the face of a common foreign enemy. it is.

have also been sentenced. To spare the faith of his father. Others. true that whatever way we were able to reach freedom. It is. Because considered very young and innocent. it was not easy and rebuilding the society then afterwards is even more difficult. nonetheless. he was excluded in the watchful eyes of the army. As per his friends. In the movie. the girl love interested of the main child protagonist was kidnapped and raped by Japanese soldiers in the river which he and his friends actually witnessed. the boy’s little brother owned up to his bigger brother’s action. either everyone abided by the Japanese orders or if everyone decided to become actively participative in competing. But things got especially eventful when a lot of men in the village. This was made worse by America’s passiveness to the needs of the bewildered Filipinos. “The Japanese occupation of the Philippines and the subsequent liberation of the Philippines brought havoc and destruction to the young Filipino nation…The problem of relief and rehabilitation were the important issued that confronted both the Philippine and American Governments. As we have heard stories of comfort women before.” (Jose 2006) The third point is the “Rape and indignation of comfort women”.the Japanese. Eventually. . stood firmly with their identity of being free as a nation. including his father and the Mayor (which is actually his friend’s father. This significant part had spurred the Japanese army to come hunting for the criminal which then led to the event said infra regarding Makapili. he was recommended to keep silent and act innocently. At the sight of the Japanese leader in the way this little child behaved (he cannot even lift a riffle). then. the leader was shocked to having the child being believed of the action in the first place. This stirred anger from him in which at the sight of a sleeping soldier behind the river. the plot of the movie was also ambitious in depicting this hurtful part of our history. he was swallowed by anguish and eventually committed homicide. Take in the case of the case of the post-war era of the Philippines during the reign of Quezon. Though we could only guess what could have happened if there was no division. The Philippine Government failed to launch an effective postwar relief and rehabilitation program due to lack of funds and the dilatory attitudes of some officials in the Philippine Legislature. we can say that this significant theme have played a big part in the shaping of our history. he was freed and was given a reward for being courageous.

Lastly and probably the most important point. a land they previously owned (Asia for educators 2009). it would be too much to say that colonialism. the death of Tiyago . This restricted Japan’s growth and they were also pressured by the strong resistance of the Soviet Union and China in Manchuria. “Bestfriends becoming enemies”. where the US and other western countries were overpowering and influencing a great part of Asia. In here we see that war did not just come from mere lust for blood and suffering but was preceded and pushed by factors that deemed very hard to be solved. “While it seems that economic factors were important in Japanese expansion in East Asia. He chose the former and had to deal with his friends literal spearheads to his heart. that if we could only see beyond our own suffering. The killing of the mayor motivated one of the son to kill Tiyago. his little brother. trade protection. His mother was raped by a group of guerrillas and was forced to make a decision of avenging her mother. considering they did not have a rich land for resources. Although this part was dramatically presented. The murder of the child motivated Tiyago to kill the rest the 3 children. they could have a rational reason and purpose for their very strict actions. who had seemed to fairly moved on the situation. and the American embargo compelled Japan to take this course. This is when brutal killing and actual bloodbath occured. it opened up a different view we had for our exterminators. it was showed that a long line of Japanese soldiers were waiting to relish her innocence. The said leader have seen this and prompted the immediate death of the girl to stop its misery.” (Asia for educators 2009) The Japanese had their own political agenda of providing a better life for its inhabitants especially in terms of trade.Going back to the life of the kidnapped girl. or helping them fight against the ruling army. This also widens our perspective that they are not entirely destroying in many levels. the son of the mayor and the one that was just mentioned) betrayed the others by helping Tiyago find the quarters of the guerrilla (which two of the boys had a brother in) leading to their defeat. In turn. This was the central plot of the story when one of the boy in their original group (they were originally four composed of the one who killed the soldier. This action of one of the member was spurred by yet another personal story of revenge.

This is in disparity to her indifference to what she really sees in hersurrounding. As prominent in a lot of independent films. evident that the culture in the film revolved around individualistic tendencies and pursuits that did nothing in incapacitating the deliberating effects of war.lead to Tiyago’s son killing his father’s murderer. It was strongly emphasized in this part the injustice that was done to Biring considering that she was already demarcated from society . Biring was presented to be religious and even had a priest as a friend. she was tasked to personally bring prostitutes to their clients and the like. very successful in delivering its central theme of the dynamic change in the life of a mother. Herein we are made hopeful to the possibility of change for the life of Biring. Personal issues also and even conquers this supposed-to-be this graver issue. nonetheless. But as events turn to a very sad twist. friend et cetera (in the person of Biring) that undergoes in the face of an internal war between the conduct of right and the giving into sin. It was. As penance. corruption and the like. basically. at first hand very much involved and hands on in the whole illegal trade. she was framed by her boss for having killed her husband because of cheating. she would throw money from the top of the manila city hall in the hopes of redeeming herself. breadwinner. It was. it showed the hardships of Filipinos in the slums of Manila vis-à-vis depressing poverty. nonetheless. it is not entirely an issue of fighting and winning it. she still continued to blindly perform her sinful duties. The killing did not stop until only the little brother lived. She was sentenced to prison where her life really started to turn its path to greater demise. At the start of the movie. Biring (Nora Aunor) was forced by socioeconomic status and strong influence of syndicates to make a dramatic transformation from being a victim to being a victimizer. “Hustisya” Set in the modern era. however. illegal drugs. This is why even though she recognizes the wrongs of her action. She was. This clearly shows that in the face of war. herself. Being a middleman of her Boss (Rosanna Roces). human trafficking. What really set it apart from other similar movies was Nora Aunor’s acting and her over portrayal of the evil in the city. She was also inclined of mentioning and asking for God’s presence most of the time. This had made her life miserable. Her necessities and responsibility to her family overpowers. her conscience.

In here we are presented that out of pressure and social constraint. Biring then started to have a change in here character profile then on as metaphorically presented by a scene in the movie showing clouds swallowing a moon. In the next few events. that all of them just wanted to live life happily. and the irregularities in investigation and prosecution.” (Asian Human Rights Commission 2007) Inside the prison. Nora accidentally and/or intentionally killed a journalist that she once talked with regarding the expose of the syndicate but she decided later on not to do it. It demonstrates that if human trafficking is to be . The Journalist resisted and so a crime of passion was committed. This is not particularly true in the case of Biring only. The ultimate twist in the character change of Nora comes in the end when Sussana Roces was shot in broad daylight and instead of feeling sorry. This shows a lot regarding the justice system in the country has. the nonexistent witness protection programme. Biring experienced extreme discrimination and maltreatment from her fellow inmates owing up to her Lawyer and her old Bosses pushing her to take the place of Sussana Roces. It is as if she had found her long yearned revenge over her old boss. It was very evident in the movie. roots and the like. she eventually become their crook and learned the nitty gritty of the world of the syndicates. the demeaning social construct stems from imperialists players in the society that exists to flourish corruption. Scenes of protesters were shown where Nora would just listen and dare to look. Ultimately. After being bailed by these people. as what presented.and belittled by life. the morale and values that was holding her back before have been now bent so much that it ceases to even exists in her memory. “The ALRC report analyses why the criminal justice system in the Philippines fails to function. the bias of state officers towards victims and their families. teeming with rich characters of different motivations. It identifies as including “command irresponsibility”. Nora actually found it very amusing for her. to get by and to come in terms with reality. having been falsely accused is another dagger to her suffering. “Corruption is a central issue in facilitating and continuing human trafficking in the Philippines.

then corruption must be curbed. essentially. money and wealth for Sussana etc. “Human trafficking in the Philippines: the need for an effective anticorruption program”.article2. “The criminal justice system of the Philippines is rotten”. Last modified 2009.springer. determined by their ability to stay firm in the face of war—be it political or internal. Andrew. no one actually got justice in the end and this was basically due to the conditions that governed the actions of the characters were of great expense for the others.” (Guth 2009) As what we can get from the title. They are on their fight to get what they rightfully deserve—revenge for Nora. http://afe.significantly reduced. http://link. Asia for Educators.edu/special/japan_1900_power. However. Ricardo. “The World at War: 1931-1945”. Issue 2-3(2010):147-166.columbia.tripod.org/mainfile. nonetheless. Guth. Trends in organized crime 19. it could be said that though both films presented the lives of Filipinos in two distant eras. http://joseangelitoangeles. .easia.tripod.htm. http://www.htm. rehabilitation & Reconstruction of the Philippines. all of the characters sought justice in a community that. promotes injustice. Asian Legal Resource Center. Last modified April 2006. as ironic as it may get. References: Jose.” joseangelito-angeles. Last modified 2007.php/0601/266/.com/post_war. act and behave is similar and. the way that they think. Asian Human Rights Commisision.1007%2Fs12117-009-90820. In conclusion.com/article/10. “The post war relief.com. Japan's Quest for Power and World War II in Asia.

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