Agriculture is everywhere, even in films that have nothing to do with it. People went wild in 2019 when the end of Avengers Infinity War showed how big baddie Thanos, after making half the world’s population disappear with the literal snap of his fingers, didn’t gloat or set about ruling the world, but instead retreated to the quiet life of a farmer in the Mountain Province, the Batad Rice Terraces in the background.
But the genocidal warlord with a penchant for hand jewelry isn’t the only movie character whose retirement dream is to become a farmer. Here are three local movies that have seemingly nothing to do with farming, yet where, if you look closely, whose plots tangentially rely on agriculture, and always not in the way you think.
Beware. Spoilers abound.
Temptation Island (Joey Gosengfiao, 1980)
“Walang tubig, walang pagkain. E di magsayawan na lang tayo (No water, no food. Let’s just dance).” The famous quote Azenith Tobias, the con artist played by Azenith Briones in this cult classic is often trotted out when a situation is so hopeless, resorting to absurdity is the only way to deal with it.
What does the story of a bunch of shipwrecked beauty queens have to do with agriculture? They’re stuck on an island with no food or water and at one point become so delirious they mass hallucinate a giant fried chicken. If only there were edible shrubs or a lone homesteader (both of which would also signal a freshwater source) on that deserted island, then maybe the Miss Manila Sunshine Beauty Pageant contestants and their companions wouldn’t have spent those few hours in misery. But then we wouldn’t have such a great movie, either.
Kisapmata (Mike De Leon, 1981)
Kisapmata is a film based on Quijano de Manila’s (Nick Joaqin’s pen name) true crime reportage “The House on Zapote Street.” Though described as a crime drama, it can also be classified as a horror film, especially since the audience witnesses the slow, deeply uncomfortable breakdown of all the characters that lead to its final, jarring scene.
What has farming got to do with this? Dadong Carandang, played by the excellent Vic Silayan, is a retired police officer who spends his free time urban farming. It’s never stated in the film, but there are scenes where he talks to his son-in-law-to-be Noel (Jay Ilagan) in his vermiculture area about how important his family is to him and how much he loves his daughter Mila (Charo Santos). There are also scenes where Dadong can be seen working in his backyard pigpen, which holds a couple of heads of swine. A critic reading into these things might make the connection between the African nightcrawlers and backyard hogs and Dadong’s buried secrets and obvious disregard for things that do not fit into his world view.
When MIla and Noel escape Dadong, they hide in Los Baños where Noel’s brother has settled as a farmer. He actually says something along the lines of “Life here is hard, but we survive because I’m in agriculture.” This is considered an option before the couple return to Manila, the wrong choice as anyone who’s seen the movie will tell you.
Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington (Jade Castro, 2011)
The movie’s English title is Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings, which is about a man named Remington (Martin Escudero) who, as a child, liked to taunt gay men and who is cursed to turn gay before he reaches the age of 21. This curse starts to come to pass during a time when a serial killer is on the loose, targeting gay men. The serial killer turns out to be a closeted gay man and his weapon is a gaydar that reveals a person’s sexual preference before killing them. The gaydar wasn’t originally invented to kill people. Before it became a weapon for nefarious means, it was invented to tell the genders of goats. It was supposed to be a tool for animal husbandry.
The main action in this horror comedy takes place during the Pahiyas festival in Lucban, a harvest festival in honor of St. Isidore the Laborer, the patron saint of farmers. Houses are decorated with colored rice paper called kiping and a procession is held. But the harvest festival existed even before it was Christianized, with farmers offering their harvests to the gods at the foot of Mt. Banahaw. When you think about it, a lot of these fiestas are either fertility or harvest festivals, which has to do with farming. But that’s for another time.
If you pay attention, you’ll see that agriculture is everywhere. You just have to take notice.