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Mark Joseph Maquiling of ELJ-CMA: His Journey Towards the 1st ANAK Ng Pinoy Youth Org Filmfest

“Kapag namulat ka na sa katotohanan, kasalanan na ang pumikit.”

True to this adage, Mark Joseph Maquiling, a Grade 12 Senior High school student from Eugenio Lopez Jr. Center for Media Arts SHS, has lived up to his belief that storytellers should convey powerful stories especially with the pressing issues in the country.

Together with his production team, Aira Belle Bejerano, Eric Martinez, Michael Chris Loyogoy and their actor, Ron Emil Sigua, Yugto Production successfully produced “Sitio Bakal,” which features “Pinong,” a young farmer who had to leave their sitio to study in the city. Despite the uncertainties that he had to face, he is determined to fight for the rights of the farmers.

“Sitio Bakal” is a short film anchored on the life story of most Filipinos. It shows the identity, perseverance and resilience of Pinoys through the eyes of the farmers. No matter what challenge comes along the way, they are ready to face it.

If you’re also wondering why it is entitled, “Sitio Bakal,” Maquiling mentioned that it is literally an existing rural place in the middle of Bagong Silangan, Quezon City and San Mateo, Rizal. Initially, they considered the place to be their film’s setting since it has a farm but later on decided it is befitting to use sitio itself in the title as they discovered its rich history.

But according to Mark Joseph, there is more to that narrative.

“Farmers are the backbone in the production of one of our basic needs-- food. And it is alarming that they have been attacked recently. At the start of the pandemic alone, a lot of farmers were killed and we need to stop these killings. We need to take a stand and defend them from these attacks and abuses,” Maquiling said.

Indeed, young filmmakers of today are not only talented, but more importantly, purposeful. In this day and age where a lot of people are deprived from equal rights and protection, there is no other way but to speak up and be the voice for the voiceless.

“We dedicate our film Sitio Bakal to the youth and to our hard working farmers. We need to be aware of the struggles they are facing. Kailangang maging mulat tayo sa katotohanang ito. Our farmers’ deserve to be honored because without them how are we gonna survive? We have to fight for them and their rights,” Maquiling, the director of the film emphasized.

Meanwhile, Maquiling admitted that it wasn’t a smooth journey for their team. They might have been equipped with the right mindset and advocacy in producing a story, but since they are all students, production expenses became a big challenge.

“In a time of pandemic, producing a film is no joke. We cannot aid the expenses of production and we had to use one camera only and a tripod as an alternative stabilizer for motion shots. And since we only have one camera, we needed to take several angles to create a variety of shots. The lack of equipment really added burden and very time consuming but we are thankful we made it through,” Maquiling said.

Their team also had to do online meetings for pre-production to ensure everyone’s safety and not to mention, the sleepless nights they had to go through in editing and other post production concerns.

“Passion brought us to this project and hard times will never stop our film production. Perseverance will always be the key. We were already challenged since the story we want to convey is a hot issue now in the country, but we are unstoppable. We have to stand for the truth,” Maquiling added.

Hard work really pays off. After days of brainstorming, shooting and editing, they have already received the best reward yet. “Sitio Bakal” was well-recognized at the first ever ANAK ng Pinoy Youth Organization Film Competition and was proclaimed as the Grand Winner.

Their film, which is a product of collaboration and creativity won Best Picture, Best Musical Score, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, and Jury’s Choice award. They were also nominated in the Best Production Design category, Best Story and Best Actor in a Leading Role. Mark Joseph Maquiling was hailed as the Best Director of the Film Festival organized by Anak ng Pinoy Youth Organization, which seeks to empower and strengthen the lives of the young Filipinos.

“Growing up, I really wanted to be a doctor. But when I got older, I realized that my skills are inclined in the media industry and I have discovered my love in storytelling and filmmaking. Joining the film competition is a level-up moment for me and my team and we consider it a huge achievement competing with other college students who also participated in the said Film festival. We are just senior high school students and we are grateful that we have reached the top,” winning Director Maquiling said.

“This win is not only my win. We dedicate our film Sitio Bakal to the youth and to our hard working farmers. And we hope that we have raised awareness to the struggles that our farmers are facing. Kailangang maging mulat tayo sa katotohanang ito. Our farmers deserve to be honored because without them how are we going to survive? We have to fight for them and their rights,” Maquiling emphasized.

When asked about his future plans in filmmaking, Maquiling said that he wants to produce more films that tackle social issues in the country and is looking forward to creating stories about the pandemic since we are all in a red-hot-battle with COVID-19.

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