Batad: Sa Paang Palay is about Ag-ap, an adolescent Ifugao boy, who is obsessed with his dream to own a pair of shoes and to explore the world outside the remoteness of his highland home. By its namesake, the movie is set in the rice terraces of Batad, in Banaue, Ifugao. With verdant terraces and panoramic views of the mountains, the movie can be a visually pleasing cinematic treat.
Thankfully, the movie did not over-ethnicize everything. The story was simple and beautiful. In widesight, it brushes up on how Ifugaos struggle with modernity’s onslaught on their traditions and customs. A scene wherein a local teacher was showing Ag-ap a bulul, a wooden Ifugao god, which he plans to sell to foreigners and tourists reminded me of Sionil Jose’s The God Stealer. Similar issues are raised in the film, but going through them might be over-reading the film already. In general, the film invokes social consciousness on the struggles of the Ifugaos and the rice terraces.
The film ended with a reminder that the Ifugao rice terraces have already been declared as an endangered human heritage site by UNESCO. I only have one negative comment though. Unlike Donsol, where the actors were made to speak in the native language as their setting and characters demanded, here we have Ifugaos speaking in straight Tagalog, even among themselves! (Which can be read as a disregard of the traditional polarity between highlanders and lowlanders). To add to this inconsistency, minor characters within the main characters’ peripheries were speaking in native Ifugao, which all the more makes the main characters seem oddly out of place in the highlands.