Indie film screens for free courtesy of PHL Studies Initiative

Brother and sister (portrayed by Joey Almoete and Analyn Bangsi-il ) trek mountains and rivers to go to school in ‘The Road to Kalimugtong.’

By Gil Quito

The Philippine indie classic “The Road to Kalimugtong” (Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong) is available to screen for free from April 16 to April 30, courtesy of the Sulo Philippine Studies Initiative at New York University and the King Juan Carlos Center.

Here’s a synopsis: A brother and sister trek over mountain, ravine, and river to and from school.  After coming back from school, they take care of the pigs, feed their ill grandfather, and do their homework.  When news arrives that the mine where their older brothers have been working to support them has collapsed, their arduous but predictable routine is thrown into turmoil.

Kalimugtong is the first full-length feature of writer/director Mes de Guzman.  He said, “Kalimugtong remains the closest to my heart and soul; it was here that I felt to the bones there is no obstacle if you really desire to do cinema.”

The film takes place in an area in the remote Benguet mountains, where the only possible mode of transportation is by foot.  The story revolves around a small boy (Potpot, who also narrates the film) and his elder sister Jinky who washes their only school uniforms each day after the long trek back home, as their family couldn’t afford more uniforms.  The remoteness and all-pervasive poverty can’t be further away from the freneticism and consumerism of the world around NYU.  Yet the film gently and constantly reaches depths where such outward differences vanish like the fog that’s often seen enshrouding the mountains.   

De Guzman’s budget for Kalimugtong was an almost nonexistent 20,000 pesos (about $400).  He worked with a Panasonic DVX100b camcorder, borrowed for a week, and a cast of local non-actors.  The crew consisted of four people, with the assistant director doubling as cook, and the cinematographer and soundmen both newbies.  

Writer-director Mes de Guzman:  Making a film was in his bucket list. Photo: IMDB

“My only plan was to do a story about the kids I encountered when I was in elementary school in Nueva Vizcaya, with Igorot, Ifugao, mountain kids who had to walk interminably to get to school.  I always wondered why those kids were always dirty, especially their feet and sandals.  In making the film, I had no pretension or ambition about gaining awards or attention from critics.  I only wanted to fulfill part of my bucket list… to make a film while I am alive.” 

It was therefore a surprise when the film went far and wide, winning major awards in the Philippines and Europe, and over 15 years after its premiere, still being invited to local and international festivals and retrospectives.

Kalimugtong remains a prime example of how soul and resourcefulness can trump technical impediments and scant budget, an attribute that has made contemporary Philippine indie filmmaking an arresting presence on the world’s arthouse stages and an inspiration in a world where just about anyone can shoot video with a cheap cell phone.  The film has a modernistic economy and resonance in the way it would often suggest an entire episode through a single, glancing shot.  It’s remarkably free of false sentimentality and movie manipulativeness.  It gathers a plethora of universal epiphanies found in the most unexpected moments and places, including a pig pen.   

For the Visions/Panawin presentation, New-York based filmmaker Craig Nisperos has expertly remastered Kalimugtong, making sure that the rendering remains faithful to the original version, including the foggy atmosphere of its world.   

The film has won awards in the San Sebastian International Filmfest (Best New Director – Special Mention); Gawad Urian (Best Direction, Supporting Actor, Production Design), and Star Awards (Movie Child Performer of the Year).

How to Watch

Click on the following link to access the film’s Eventive Page: The Road to Kalimugtong. Once you arrive at the film’s Eventive page, click either “Pre-order” or “Buy” (don’t worry, you will be able to screen each film free of charge) and you will be prompted to enter an unlock code, which is case sensitive:


If this is your first time using Eventive, you will be asked to register and create an account before you can proceed further. Once you are registered and the “purchase” for the film is complete, you will receive an email confirmation with a direct link to watch the film.

One Comment

  1. B. Agramonte wrote:

    Enjoyed the read.

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