In 1989, a Hollywood teenage musical called Sing
was released here in Metro Manila. Starring Peter Dobson, Lorraine Bracco and Jessica
Steen, the films story is about how a group of high school students are putting
together their annual song festival only to be told that they cant stage it
because the school will be shut down anytime. Instead of looking for an alternative school
or at least stop ther schools closure the students spend all their
time and energy trying to put up that darned songfest.
While some of my companions who watched this film with me during its premiere night in
Greenbelt Cinema sniffed their way through parts of the movie (there were some mushy
moments), I hated practically every minute of it. I simply could not relate to the film
characters concerns especially since their only problem in life is how to
stage their school production.
Munting Tinig is also about how an elementary schoolteacher (Alessandra de Rossi)
struggles to organize a small singing group that would compete in a song competition
within the region. But unlike Sing, your heart will go out to the characters in
Directed by Gil Portes, who co-wrote the script with Adolf Alix and Sennedy Que, Munting
Tinigs concerns are not just about chorale competitions. The problems cited here
are of national scope particularly the countrys educational system, poverty and
peace and order.
Of course, most of the situations presented here are scenarios we are familiar with
like the principal (Dexter Doria) selling ice candies. Or about how there arent
enough books and classrooms for public school children. And yes, this decades-old problem
about how some farmer parents dont allow their kids to attend school during planting
or harvest season because these youngsters have to help out in the fields.
Munting Tinig, however, gives us a better understanding of these social issues. More
importantly, it reminds us that these problems are there because with all the
things going on in this country, we tend to forget that our educational system is just
rotting away and begging for attention. Thanks to this film, we become aware once more
that, indeed, there are social problems that have long been asking for solutions.
But in spite of all the social ills presented here almost one after the other, Munting
Tinig with all its poignant moments doesnt really depress you. But
it hits your social conscience and how!
To his credit, the director wisely injects humor in some of the scenes depicting the
countrys social problems. The deteriorating quality of education, for instance, is
no laughing matter. But trust Portes and his writers Alix and Que to squeeze out laughter
from this supposedly grim reality.
And so they have this English teacher in the movie (played by Irma Adlawan) who will give
any serious grammarian a heart attack because of the way she mangles the Kings
language. If you ask her and this is what she teaches in class the plural
form of potato is "potatos" and the plural form of tomato is
The character portrayed by Adlawan sure is funny, but ouch! how many like
her are still running loose in the field of education?
Actually, different kinds of schoolteachers are represented in this movie. Aside from
those who have no right to become teachers because they dont know the first thing
about teaching (like the English teacher played by Adlawan) and the principal who sells
ice candies (its longganisa and even panties in most instances), there is
also a depiction here of public schoolteachers who abuse their pupils by asking them to do
chores even outside of the school. (In the movie, Malou Crisologo makes her pupils clean
her house and feed her hogs after school hours.)
Of course, there is also mention of the teacher who goes overseas to work as a domestic
helper which is another sad reality in this country. In Munting Tinig, Gina
Alajar works as a domestic helper in Hong Kong to enable her daughter, Leilani Navarro, to
finish BSE so she can later work as a teacher which the daughter does so dutifully.
Unfortunately and this is the height of irony the low salaries received by
teachers eventually drive Leilani to fly to Singapore where she also ends up as a domestic
helper like her mother.
And then, there is the dedicated teacher which I believe there is still a lot of
as portrayed by Alessandra de Rossi. Brimming with the desire to impart knowledge,
this young teacher does not allow hopelessness and other obstacles already built into our
educational system to get in the way of her work. If only all teachers were like her.
And if only all local movies were like this.
Munting Tinig is truly one of the most important films of the year. It is excellently
handled by director Gil Portes and his writers and boasts of a fine cast led by Alessandra
de Rossi, who is always good at whatever she does (Dexter Doria, Malou Crisologo and Irma
Adlawan are equally wonderful in the film).
The strongest point of Munting Tinig, however, is its strong social message
actually a plea from poor students, underpaid teachers and oppressed farmers whose small
voices are all waiting to be heard.