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By Engelbert Rafferty Dulay

Traditions are vital for retaining cultural and national identity. This is the reason why we cling onto them despite being archaic and obsolete. In Roderick Cabrido’s Tuos, two women are both entangled in the constricting confinements of their culture. They are in the crossfire between modernity and tradition.

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Somewhere in the mountains of Antique, an indigenous group is about to have a momentous event. They are to have a tuos, a pact transferring the title binukot (a kept maiden) from Pinailog (Nora Aunor) to her granddaughter Dowokan (Barbie Forteza). Yet, the latter refuses to oblige for she feels like she shouldn’t be stuck in such position. She feels like she is more than just memorizing legends and songs and performing them in ceremonies. She is further challenged when she is stuck in the middle of two diverging roads, one which leads to a life of isolation that is to become a binukot and the other which leads to a life of freedom with the apple of her eye Daupan (Ronwaldo Martin).

The film also depicts the first book of the Sugidanon, an epic of Panay. It is where Tikum Kadlum (a black dog) tells the story of Buyong Paiburong, a hunter who cut a golden bamboo which disturbed an evil spirit named Buyong Makabagting. The use of this sub-narrative is essential in the development of the story. It is a good introduction on how our folklore and epic stories combine the real and supernatural.

The use of shadow animation to tell the story gives the film’s narrative a somber atmosphere. This treatment is important in keeping the form of the movie consistent. The intricate details of beliefs and rituals hypnotize the viewers to watch and listen to the film’s story. Such details are manifested in the production design of the movie.

The film presents the debate found in the pages of cultural relativism. It asks the audience whether culture and tradition weigh more than freedom and independence. Presented on the screen is juxtaposition between long-held tradition and feminism. It tells the story of a grandmother trying all her might to preserve their tradition. In contrast is her granddaughter who needs to claim her identity as a woman.

While we cannot deny the caliber of Nora Aunor, people will see that in this film, she is not the star of the show. It was Barbie Forteza, who portrayed her character with so much sentiment and conviction. This wasn’t her first time doing this (she had done it before in Milo Sogueco’s Mariquina and in Louie Ignacio’s Laut). Her effective display of acting proved to fans and non-fans alike that she is one to watch out for.

The film had minimal dialogues and was more focused on the actions of those involved. Yet somehow, its intentions were vivid enough to the point of immersing the viewers into its plot. The power of culture becomes more needed than ever in our search towards locating our Filipino psyche. In which case, we need to think and analyze the importance of accepting both the old and the new. Roderick Cabrido’s creation is a testament to that.

4.5 stars