'Delikado' honors the brave land defenders

Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala shares the journey behind the production of this documentary

One of the closing films, Delikado, at the 18th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival was produced by broadcast journalist Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala. 

Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala

The documentary, which runs for one hour and 34 minutes, follows three courageous leaders—Bobby, Tata and Nieves—as they try to prevent businessmen and officials from destroying the forests of Palawan, our “last ecological frontier.”

According to Global Witness in 2018, the Philippines was the most dangerous place for land defenders. “It’s disturbing that people die to protect our land, and that people kill because of greed,” says Kara. “We’ve always been bombarded with the fact that the forest cover in Palawan, the last frontier, is fast disappearing.”

'Delikado' poster

Delikado is an ode to the brave land defenders. Filming in the forest was tough for director Karl Malakunas and his production team. The speed and agility of the para enforcers left the team breathless. “Karl suffered leg cramps and had difficulty filming, lugging all that equipment,” muses Kara. They even had to wear heavy bulletproof vests. One of the film’s protagonists was shot by the illegal loggers.

The pandemic was also a problem as the post production was delayed by almost a year. “Meeting and talking through an edit on zoom through different time zones was exasperating,” confesses Kara. She co-produces this project with Marty Syjuco and Michael Collins of Give Up Tomorrow fame, among others.

Director Karl Malakunas

Kara has more than two decades of experience making documentaries. “I believe in the power of storytelling,” discloses the Batas Militar producer. “It can open hearts and minds. It can pierce and wake the soul into action.” 

Documentaries contribute to nation-building. “We need to document all that has happened in our nation’s history so we get to know ourselves, study what went well and what went wrong, build on past successes instead of always starting over or repeating the same mistakes,” adds Kara.

Tata Balladares and other PNNI para-enforcers walk through a patch of destroyed forest

One of the protagonists of the film is the leader of the Tagbanua community, Maharani, Apo Remedios Cabral, said “the earth is our parent.” The founder of Storytellers International Inc. couldn’t agree more. “The earth nourishes us, allows us to breathe, provides us a playground, peaceful pockets of solitude, shelter from extreme heat and rain, protects us from floods and other forms of destruction,” exclaims Kara. “This parent can make our heart smile, provide balance in our mental health by just being in its midst.”

Kara hopes the audience will love and respect nature, and not destroy it. “It was a great honor to be chosen as one of two closing films for the 18th Cinemalaya.” 

People should see Delikado to honor the land defenders who risk their lives for the love of nature, their home, their families, and our country. “Most of them don’t have much, yet they see their jobs as a mission,” says the founding president of the ICanServe Foundation. “I hope this inspires many who have so much more to, at the very least, live sustainably and respectfully.”

Adelita Arzaga comforts her youngest daughter while surrounded by other family and friends at the funeral for her husband, murdered para-enforcer Kap Ruben Arzaga, El Nido, Palawan, September 2017

Delikado won the Sustainable Future Award from the Sydney Film Festival and the Special Jury Recognition at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

Few are doing anything to stop illegal logging in the country. A few, brave land defenders need our help against the illegal loggers backed by the guns of the rich and powerful. 

We Don’t Dance for Nothing by Stefanos Tai was also a closing film at the Cinemalaya filmfest.