“‘Yung PUGON, isa itong uri ng child labor na istorya. Hindi ito ‘yung istorya na nasa minahan o pinagbubuhat ng pagkarami-raming bato sa kabundukan. O kaya isang batang mapupunta sa pagiging prostitute. Hindi ganoon ang kuwentong ito,” film director Gabby Ramos explained what his short film is all about in a media conference last July 28. “Ito ‘yung kuwentong possible na naging kalaro mo noong bata, naging kaibigan, o naging kasambahay mo. Ito ‘yung kuwento na nagiging normal lang sa Pilipinas, lalo na sa aming mga probinsyano.” The film, he explained, offers the perspective on child labor as an issue so close to many of us, without our awareness.

Direk Gabby continued, “Yung kuwentong ipineprenda ang kanilang anak para maghanapbuhay, ‘Yung kanilang mga suweldo ay inutang na ng mga magulang.He went on to share that we may unknowingly be exposed to the issue as it is packaged differently in many cases. “Marami siyang mukha. May mga mukha na hindi na makauwi, may mga mukha na hindi na makauwi sa kanila, may mga kunwari pinapaaral pero ang totoo, kinakatulong na. Gusto ko siyang ipakita na hindi porke child labor, prostitusyon na kaagad.”

He also added a simple comparison, “Para siyang oven eh, may tinapay kang niluluto. ‘Pag nagkamali ang chef, sunog ang tinapay. ‘Pag maganda pagkakaluto, maganda ang kalalabasan. ‘Yun yung kuwento ni Pugon.”

The Inspiration

The story hits close to home for Direk Gabby as he recounted the story of their long-time house helper, Yaya Sion. “Meron akong yaya, kasambahay na hanggang ngayon nagta-trabaho pa sa amin. Noong bata pa siya, kasama namin siya. Siya nag-aalaga sa amin, kambal kasi kami. Hindi na siya nakapag-asawa,” he introduced the person behind the film’s inspiration.

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Yaya Sion’s salary, according to Direk, was given directly to her parents back in the day. When they died, her salary went to her relatives. When asked, Yaya Sion was dismissive about the issue and just said, “Hayaan mo na, okay naman ako sa inyo.”

After much probing, Direk Gabby discovered that what seemed normal back then was reflective of the deeply rooted societal issue of child labor. “‘Yun ‘yung inspirasyon. Hindi siya based on a true story pero ‘yung hugot ko, realidad talaga!,” Direk ended.

About Pugon

PUGON (The Furnace) is a narrative statement short film directed by Gabby Ramos, starring Andrea Del Rosario, Soliman Cruz, and introducing Jhassy Busran, Cassie Kim, and Bamboo B.

Also in the cast are Edmond Santiago, Carmen Del Rosario, and Sheena Lee Palad.  

An initial venture of Rems Films, PUGON is proudly part of the Indie Nation exhibition section of  the prestigious Cinemalaya 2021, now on its 17th year. 

Story of Pugon

Thrown into the pawnship slavery to pay the debt of her poor parents is Sonia (Jhassy Busran), a 14-year-old girl full of dreams from a fishing village, a community where pawning their children is the norm. Forced into labor for a sum their parents get is an abuse the kids need to face every day.

Her baptism of fire begins when she is brought to a bread factory. Along with other children, they witness the acts of abuse by their employer, Mang Rey (Soliman Cruz).

After ten months of servitude, they could finally get back home. Shock and dismay welcome her back as she learns that her father had died. This forces her mother to pawn her again as payment for her father’s funeral expenses.

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Like the rest of the child-laborers from the Bread Factory, all homeless and in debt once more, a question awaits to be answered:

When will this cycle of debt bondage end?

To Sonia, is a bright future even possible? How will she deal with her fate?

Pugon will start streaming at the Cinemalaya Film Festival on August 6 to September 5 via KTX.PH.