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Mark Giddel Liwanag: A Student Filmmaker and Pangasinan’s Pride


That would perfectly describe how I felt upon watching a student film entitled, “Sa Layag ng Bangkang Paurong.” It is a documentary film directed by 16-year old Mark Giddel Liwanag from Alaminos City National High School.

This 15-minute documentary shot entirely at Alaminos, Pangasinan famously known for its Hundred Islands is truly a masterpiece. It mirrors the story of Pangasinense boatmen who primarily transport tourists as their source of living.

“It emphasizes the issues and needs that beset young people of today and how they affect the country’s pursuit to achieve the demographic dividend. Meeting the needs of these young people contributes largely to the attainment of their full development into adulthood,” Giddel emphasized.

But what made it even more heartfelt is how they unfolded the story of a student boatman named Mark Mielboy Bielza who had to work early while studying to help support his family’s daily needs.

He is helping his father who has been a boatman for almost four decades now, with whom he learned how to clean, steer and dock the boat. When peak season comes, he has no other choice but to take an absence from classes because of the income which can really be of great help to sustain his family. This fact alone inspired Giddel together with his production team to produce a film that will surely capture the hearts of many.

“Many boatmen students come into this job early that causes them to commit grave absenteeism or totally leave school. Sa pelikulang ito, gusto namin yung mga kaklase naming mga bangkero na magpatuloy pa rin sa pag-aaral at abutin yung mga pangarap nila at huwag muna sila mag-asawa ng maaga.”

This vision of Giddel and his team paved the way to tell a wonderful narrative not just in our country. Could you even imagine that at a very young age, they have already left a mark at the international scene? This Pangasinense student and his crew won the Best International Documentary Film award at the 2021 Fresh International Film Festival in Limerick, Ireland. An outstanding feat, indeed!

Of course, winning didn’t come overnight. In fact, Giddel shared with The Film Dream the challenges they had to face in film production.

“Marami kaming mga struggles sa budget pa lang at syempre sa puyat. Tapos nung ginagawa namin yung film may klase din kami. Then it was difficult to look for a bangkero that can be the subject of this documentary. Most of them are shy about being interviewed in front of the camera.”

“Thankful din ako sa buong team kasi nagtulong-tulong talaga kami na mag-brainstorm, mag-isip, at makapag-produce ng film. Especially to S.P.A Media Arts kasi dun po nagsimula ang lahat. Teamwork is the key.”

On the other hand, if you’ll ask me what I even admire about Giddel -- that would probably be his humility. Despite the awards he received and praises from people, he is open to learning more and even over the moon to unfold powerful narratives.

He was even so generous to share some advice to his fellow storytellers and dreamers that aside from teamwork, they also have to appreciate the effort of their teachers and mentors who guide them towards becoming a good storyteller.

“Tuloy lang po tayo sa paggawa ng pelikula. Ituloy lang po natin yung passion. Ang mahalaga ay makapagbahagi tayo ng aral sa ating audience and at the same time, open the minds of our viewers.”

At present, this young and talented Pangasinense student filmmaker Mark Giddel Liwanag is excited to produce more documentary and narrative films in the future that talks about social issues and convey the values and strength of the Filipinos.

Truly, a Pangasinan’s pride!

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