Movie Review: Bontoc Eulogy

by Miguel Taylor, a Filipino in Canada

At the Vancouver Asian Film Festival (September 1997), I had the chance to watch an excellent film that every Filipino-American and Filipino-Canadian should see.

"Bontoc Eulogy" is about a Filipino-American's lifelong search for his roots through the villages of Mountain Province and through countless museums and archives in the US. In this film, Marlon Fuentes describes, using a combination of reenactments and actual footage, how tribal Filipinos were displayed like circus animals for all the "civilized world" to see at the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis. He shows how hundreds of tribespeople - after having lived quiet and peaceful lives for centuries - were separated from their families shortly after the American invasion and shipped to the States in inhuman conditions. On the train ride from San Francisco to Missouri, two Ifugaos freeze to death inside their cattle car.

Unlike others who pursue the nationalist line a bit too rapidly and rabidly, Marlon Fuentes uses this powerful documentary to sway human emotion. And Fuentes shows real empathy for the plight and private suffering of the Ifugaos, a quality rare among many so-called "rewriters" of history. One particularly moving scene shows Westerners gawking in awe at the Ifugaos as they perform some exotic ritual, unaware that the displaced tribespeople are actually mourning their comrades who died on the way to the expo site.

Every Filipino who cares about the Philippines owes it to himself/herself to watch "Bontoc Eulogy".

        provided by: Miguel Taylor, a Filipino in Canada

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created: November 10, 1997
updated: January 29, 1998
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger