The poetry of Hinulid begins with its premise. Sita, an OFW, returns to her village in Bicol carrying the ashes of her only son. She rides on the old train that forms part of this universe she used to inhabit, a vehicle that circles this past, much like tandayag — the primordial serpent.
Inspired by the story of Carlos Ojeda Aureus entitled The Night Express Does Not Stop Here Anymore, poet and filmmaker Kristian Sendon Cordero has staged a coup with this film, starring as it does Nora Aunor as Sita.
But this film is not just about Aunor’s icon, as it is about multiple layers of intertext, ones that come into play when we hear of, and finally watch, this film.
There’s the fact of Aunor’s Bicolana roots, her rags-to-riches story beginning with being discovered while selling water on a Bicol train. From water girl to Superstar, Aunor’s journey is inevitably built into our expectations, and valuation, of this film. As such, this is not just about her going back home to Bicol, as it is also about us, her public, finally being introduced to this side of Aunor, the one that is ensconced in the narratives of this geo-political space, of the past yes, but also given the present.
This is also Aunor’s first film in her mother tongue Bikol-Rinconada, certainly a feat in itself and something all our icons might aspire to do. We after all keep our languages alive by daring to use these with no hesitation, in various media. A full-length film starring the Superstar in a language that will be familiar to a relatively small audience, one that a commercial film might not care for? The value of that is immeasurable.
Beyond Aunor, there is also the contemporaneity of violence in Hinulid, the kind that leave mothers weeping, and nation mourning. Cordero is telling the story of how a devout Roman Catholic like Sita survives the loss of her son — a victim of violence inflicted on him by his peers.
Sita’s fortitude is in her act of going home: to her son’s ashes, his recorded voice, and her roots.
There is, of course, the layer of folk religious beliefs, those that are part of our DNA as Filipinos who come from one province or another, the beliefs and superstitions of which seep through our lives regardless of whether we like it or not. These are the narratives ingrained in our souls, and which flow through our veins. Here, the weight of justice is altered, the exercise of mourning different.
All these layers make Hinulid a film worth watching, if not one that already begs to be discussed given the issues it seeks to unpack, the histories it demands we as audience unravel.
This kind of creative and intellectual rigor is no surprise given Cordero, an award-winning poet and writer, one of few organic intellectuals of his generation who is unapologetically rooted in his own Bikol, while gaining ground beyond geographical limitations through daring cultural engagements, from literature to film.
Cordero’s first full-length film, Angustia (Out of the Depths) was finalist in the 2013 Cinema One Originals Film Festival. It was awarded one of the three Best First Feature Films for that year by the Young Critics Circle.
Hinulid will have its gala premiere on October 16 at the Robinson’s Galleria, Cinema 8, 9 p.m. as part of the Circle Competition of the QCinema International Film Festival.
For details on the festival go to its official website qcinema.ph.