‘Pugon’: Cinemalaya to premiere harrowing story of child pawning

In the Cinemalaya short film Pugon (The Furnace), the harsh reality of child labor is tackled with attention to the blurred line between pawnship and slavery. In an environment where pawning of children is normal, it begs to ask when the cycle of debt bondage will end.

In order to pay the debt of her impoverished parents, 14-year old Sonia (played by promising teen actress Jhassy Busran) a fishing village girl who is full of dreams, is thrown to a bread factory and forced into labor. Together with other enslaved children, the acts of abuse grow darker in the hands of their employer, Mang Rey (played by veteran character actor Soliman Cruz).

As if there’s no stopping their servitude, a shocking news will welcome them by the time they could finally go back home. For Sonia, the future is not even close to being bright. This short film will tell us how she will deal with her fate.

Pugon at Cinemalaya

Pugon is a narrative statement short film directed by Gabby Ramos. It is an in-exhibition film at the 2021 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival. It stars Andrea Del Rosario, Soliman Cruz, and introducing Jhassy Busran, Cassie Kim, and Bamboo B. Also in the cast are Edmond Santiago, Carmen Del Rosario, Sheena Lee Palad. 

An initial venture of Rems Films, Pugon is proudly a part of the Indie Nation exhibition section of the prestigious Cinemalaya 2021, which is now on its 17th year. The most popular indie filmfest in the Philippines is slated to be streamed from August 6 to September 5, 2021 via KTX.ph.

The cast and director of Pugon were present at their virtual media conference to discuss their latest project and its inclusion to Cinemalaya.

Soliman Cruz’s longevity in showbiz

CinemaBravo asked Soliman Cruz if it ever occurred to him to quit from acting, given that he has already been in the industry for 16 years now.

“Siguro pag debutante na ako, 2 years from now… [That’s] 18 years,” he quipped.

“Yung pag-arte sa akin, bahagi ito ng skill ko sa pagtuturo e. If you’re a teacher, you must be a performer. So hindi siguro ako titigil. Hindi lang ako nakaloob lang sa medium ng TV, film at theater–sa loob din ng classroom.”

— Soliman Cruz on staying in showbiz

Aside from Pugon, he was also in a starring role for the Romanian film To The North—his first lead at the age of 58.

When we asked him about his motivation for still active, he replied, “Kung may inquiry, magpapatuloy. Kung mayroon pang pangangailan sa akin.”

On young stars Jhassy Busran and Bamboo B.

Careful guidance to young artists is much needed in films that have sensitive themes. Letting them understand the story and the intent is one step to direct them in portraying their roles. As for Pugon, its lead teen stars Jhassy Busran and Bamboo B. are given all-out support by their families, most especially their respective parents.

Bamboo B.—who is also a singer, dancer, and model—acknowledges the love of his mother for him.

“Si Mommy naman po, when it comes to my career, nandiyan po siya lagi to support. Lagi po siyang nandiyan para suportahan ako. I’m very grateful na ganoon si Mommy sa akin. As in pati pagkain, idudulot na sa akin pag nasa shoot ako. Iba po yung feeling! I’m very thankful na si Mommy yung naging Mommy ko and siya yung kasama ko sa shooting at nandiyan siya lagi sa tabi ko.”

On another hand, equally multi-talented Jhassy shared how her family supported her.

“Sina Mama at Papa, ang family ko, very supportive po talaga sila sa akin. Sila po kasi ang unang nakaalam ng story ang sinabi lang nila sa akin. Bago po nila [tinanggap], tinanong muna nila kung kaya ko ba, kung okay lang ba sa akin na ganoon [ang role]. Noong sinabi ko po kaya at kakayanin, sinuportahan po talaga nila ako. Dito naman po sa path na tinatahak ko, very supportive sila sa lahat ng ginagawa ko, as long as alam nilang masaya ako sa ginagawa ko at nakakatulong ako sa ibang tao din sa ginagawa kong pagpapasaya. Thankful po ako na ginagabayan nila ako. Sa other side ng family ko, may mga alam din sila sa mga ganitong bagay… sa pagtitinapay…”

Jhassy and Bamboo are also part of the upcoming mystery-adventure film Caught in the Act, written and directed by Perry Escaño. This is also the launching movie of hot newbies Joaquin Domagoso (from GMA Artist Center, the son of Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso) and Andi Abaya (ABS-CBN’s ‘Pinoy Big Brother: Connect’ 2nd Big Placer).

READ MORE: Fresh from TV, Joaquin Domagoso, Andi Abaya to star in ‘Caught in the Act’

About the Director

Juan Gabriel Ramos a.k.a. Gabby Ramos was born on April 4, 1980 in Batangas City, Philippines. He is one of the country’s audiovisual directors in the fields of television, film, and commercial. His key strengths are directing, writing, editing, and cinematography.

He graduated Cum Laude in Far Eastern University with post-study at Bond University, Australia.

In the Philippines, Direk Gabby worked with government agencies and leading companies, including the Department of Tourism, the Department of Trade and Industry, NEDA, TESDA, DOLE, DOE, Studio 23, ABS-CBN, GMA Network, and more.

He is also a successful businessman venturing in his own film production company called Remedios Entertainment Production or REMS Film.

Director’s Statement on Pugon

Ang maikling pelikulang ito ay tungkol sa Child Labor, tungkol sa mga anak na naiprenda ng sarili nilang mga magulang, mabuhay lamang ang kanilang pamilya.

 Pero sa pelikulang ito ay hindi ka makakakita ng mga batang nagpapakahirap sa minahan. Hindi ka rin makakakita ng mga batang nasadlak sa prostitusyon o mga musmos na pinahihirapang maglakad sa bundok para mag-buhat ng mabibigat na troso, o di kaya’y mamalimos sa lansangan.

Sa halip, ang pelikulang ito ay magpapakita ng mga batang maaring minsan mong naging kalaro, kaibigan o naging kasambahay. Sila ang mga batang isinanla ng kanilang magulang bilang pambayad sa kanilang pagkakautang – kapalit ang kanilang kamusmusan at pagiging inosente.

Ang pelikulang ito ay paglalantad ng reyalidad na, dito sa ating bayan ay normal lang na ipinadadala ng mga magulang ang sarili nilang mga anak para magtrabaho sa ibang lugar at makatulong sa kahirapan ng kanilang pamilya. Nakakatawa mang isipin na ang alam nating panuntunan na “Gagawin lahat ng Magulang, mabuhay lang ang kaniyang mga anak“ ay taliwas sa totoong nangyayari sa kasalukuyan . 

Ang intention ng pelikulang ito ay ipakita ang reyalidad na ito ng buhay, at umaasang masagot ang mga katanungang: Meron bang dapat sisihin? Meron bang dapat gawin? 

At para sa mga bata na nagtratrabaho para lang mabayaran ang pagkakautang ng kanilang mga magulang: Maari ba silang tumanggi? Maari ba silang mamili ng kanilang kunabukasan?

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