Laguna Lake fishers thankful to Ishmael Bernal for “Nunal Sa Tubig”

LAGUNA Lake fishermen are thankful to the late film director and national artist for film Ishmael Bernal for directing the 1976 film “Nunal sa Tubig”, which they said is the first and the only serious film that tackled the sorry plight of small fisherfolk in Laguna Lake.

The fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the film which was filmed 36 years ago in Talim Island in Laguna Lake is a political indictment of the administration of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos for allowing corporate takeovers to take place in the 90,000 hectare lake at the expense of small fisherfolk and the environment.

Gerry Albert Corpuz, information chief of the group, who attended the special screening of the film at the environmental center of Miriam College last week said Bernal’s film made a fearless forecast on what would be the fate of Laguna Lake and its people in the hands of a state ruled by a strongman who is obsessed to foreign investments and juicy commissions.

“Ishmael Bernal made the film in bold but in creative way of presenting the people’s strong criticism against the development in Laguna Lake—using film as a medium to express people’s disenfranchisement on what the Marcos dictatorship did to Laguna Lake,” the Pamalakaya information officer told Miriam students who watched the special screening of the 1976 film.

He said noted that the opening credits of Nunal Sa Tubig where a group of foreign investors were seen doing a survey of the Laguna de Bay indicated that the 90,000 hectare lake will be primed for foreign investments and for wholesale auction of the Laguna Lake to foreign investors.

“The intuitive and intellectual Bernal aggressively but creatively depicted Laguna Lake’s transformation into a laboratory for major corporate undertakings that will practically kill the source of subsistence of 18,000 small fisherfolk and 76,000 families dependent to fishing for their daily subsistence and survival,” he added.

The group said Nunal sa  Tubig  highly criticized the proliferation of toxic emitting industries in Laguna Lake. It said at  the onset, there were 1,200 factories operating around the lake, discharging toxic wastes to the lake. The militant group noted that Bernal’s film had warned the national government on the possible implications of profit-oriented firms to the livelihood of small fisherfolk and to the lake environment that eventually cost a major fish kill in Laguna Lake as dramatized in the film.

Few years after Nunal sa Tubig was shown, factories and power plants were constructed in the lake that include—Sucat fuel-fired power station, Malaya Fuel, Caliraya Hydroelectric Power plant, Kalayaaan Pumped Storage Power plant, Mak-ban Geothermal power plant, the Manggahan Floodway and Napidan Hydraulic Controlled Structure- all anti-flood projects which failed to prevent flood in NCR.

The floodgate for corporate fishpens for a time occupied 30,000 hectares of the 90,000 hectare lake. The militant group said Nunal Sa Tubig’s bold exposition and opposition to export-bane industrialization program of the Marcos government paved way to the destruction of the 280,000 hectare of Laguna Lake watershed and the reduction of fish species from 23 species to seven, the group said.

The group said Nunal Sa Tubig had also predicted the mushromming of anti-people and destructive development projects along the lake.  Pamalakaya noted that the 54 major projects under PPP or the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program will repeat what had happened to the fishing community as shown in the 1976 film of Bernal/

These present-day projects include but not limited to the dredging project, the 100-kilometer road dike from Taytay to Sta.Cruz,  the reclamation in Southern NCR (5,000 hectares) for high rise condos and entertainment centers and eco-tourism projects, the conversion of water for water concessionnaires like Maynilad 300 million liters of water a day and Manila Water 100 million liters of water everyday, another international airport at Talim Island.

“We hope we can show Bernal’s Nunal sa Tubig to different fishing communities and inform the people that this phenomenon of death and destruction in fishing areas had started since time immemorial corutesy of anti-people and anti-development projects. It is like Calabarzon then, PPP now,” said Pamalakaya

The group agreed with the observation raised in Nunal sa Tubig that Laguna lake is a dying lake due to misplaced priorities and gross irresponsibilities and neglect of the previous and even by the current administration.

“All development projects in Laguna Lake are not for the development of people and for the protection of the environment. They cater or serve to the best interest of big business, cronies and corporate clients of every administration. This explained the sorry state of Laguna de Bay and the current plight of lake people,” said Pamalakaya.

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