True-to-life Caramoan massacre inspires Alvin Yapan’s MMFF entry ‘Oro’

An entry to the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival, Oro (Gold) is a drama crime thriller based on true events dubbed as the “Gata 4 Massacre” which happened in Caramoan, Camarines Sur on March 22, 2014.

The film follows the life of Elmer (Joem Bascon), a small-scale miner, who plans to finally establish a life of his own by asking for Linda’s (Mercedes Cabral) hand in marriage; separate from Kapitana (Irma Adlawan), his long-time employer-benefactor who buys the gold he mines. Linda works as an elementary teacher, while Elmer barely finished high school. Pregnant with their child, Linda keeps this a secret from Elmer, fearing that this would only pressure him to marry her.

Just when Elmer and Linda are about to reveal their plans and secrets to each other, their small mining community is disturbed by the arrival of an armed group, Patrol Kalikasan, masquerading as environmentalists. The loyalty of Elmer and the small mining community to Kapitana will be tested as they could not produce a permit to mine, even though they have been working the mines since World War II, with no effects of environmental degradation. As Kapitana scrambles to secure a permit to protect her community from the harassment of the armed group, Elmer and the rest of the community struggle to eke out a living, as Patrol Kalikasan settles down in their community, and takes over the mining operations.

Written and directed by Alvin Yapan, the film is about the lives of simple folk caught between the crossfire of Kapitana accused of political patronage, and Patrol Kalikasan using the environment as a front for their own political and economic interests on the small mining community. As the provincial government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) fight over the jurisdiction over small-scale mining operations, Elmer and Linda suffer the devastating consequences of the legacy of violence and corruption of the country’s turbulent political and ideological history.

“While some parts of this film are fictionalized, Oro is based on true events dubbed as ‘Gata 4 Massacre,’ which happened on 22 March 2014 in Barangay Gata, Caramoan, Camarines Sur,” explains Yapan.

“We usually simplify things. Those who fight for the environment are the good people. Those who mine for gold and other mineral resources are bad people out to destroy the environment. Laws protecting the environment and regulating the mining industry may have been created with the best of intentions.

“But in the application of the law on real life situations, things are more complex. Sometimes, corruption and violence destroy the true spirit of the law. This is what I want to bring out in this film: to explore this fine line of what is just and unjust, of what is right and what is wrong. Environmental protection should not run counter against basic human rights.

“In the same vein, protection of basic human rights should also not justify environmental exploitation.

“As a director, I also would not want to romanticize the victims in this film. I want to present how slogans for the protection of the environment and human rights are just that: Slogans! In the end, care and attention should be given to the complexity of micropolitics.

“This is where I think film could be very effective, in understanding that there are no absolutes, in appreciating the network of oftentimes conflicting motivations. I want this film to become a study of character. What drove people to the industry of mining? How power corrupts in the hands of ordinary citizens. How patronage could actually be a positive force for social development. And how in a place of wealth, there could be so much violence.”

From doing his first short film Rolyo back in 2007 (Best Short Film at the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2007 and at the Gawad Urian 2008), Yapan has gone a long way in filmmaking. He has also won the Golden Award for Digital Films at the 2009 Cairo International Film Festival for his film Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe which followed more films including the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival entry Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (2011) which won Best Picture at the 2012 Gawad Urian and Bronze Precolumbian Circle at the Bogota Film Festival 2011, and Debosyon (2013). He has also directed a weekly TV mini-series for GMA News TV titled Titser. After that, he continued directing films namely Mga Anino ng Kahapon (2013), An Kubo sa Kawayanan (2015), Ang Tulay sa San Sebastian which is an official entry to the CineFilipino Film Festival 2016, and EDSA, an official entry to the World Premieres Film Fesitival which won Best Picture.


Oro stars Irma Adlawan (Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe), Mercedes Cabral (An Kubo Sa Kawayanan), Joem Bascon and Sandino Martin (Ang Tulay sa San Sebastian), Arrian Labios, Sue Prado, Cedrick Juan, Biboy Ramirez, Ronald Regala, Timothy Castillo, Tracy Quila, Acey Aguilar and Sunshine Teodoro.

From Feliz Film Productions and as distributed by Solar Pictures, “Oro” opens December 25, 2016 in cinemas nationwide as part of the anuual Metro Manila Film Festival.

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