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Fantastical tale from the North about the ‘civilized’ versus the ‘barbarians’ in ‘Tokwifi’

“Tokwifi” is a fantastical Igorot tale from Carla Pulido Ocampo. Think “Pleasantville”… and you’re almost there.

Cinemalaya 2020 goes virtual this year because of Covid-19, and the focus is “removed” from full length feature films to give “chance” to short films (which are in the main competition).
For those wanting to see these short films in competition, sign up for a Vimeo account at You may JOIN VIMEO with your email address, Google, or by using the ‘LOGIN WITH FACEBOOK’ option.
If you already have an account, log in to Vimeo and search for Cinemalaya ’16 or go directly via this link

“Tokwifi” is a fantastical Igorot tale from Carla Pulido Ocampo. Think “Pleasantville”… and you’re almost there.

Briefly: Limmayug (Kurt “Ayeo-eo” Lumbag Alalag) saw a falling star. Upon closer inspection, he found where the space rock fell a television; it wasn’t destroyed, but showed a woman (Laura Blancaflor, played by Adrienne Vergara) trapped inside. Their interactions are highlighted as Laura (representative of the modern world/mainstream media/Western way of thinking/etc) starts seeing Limmayug’s world with different eyes.

It may well be a love story of two persons coming from different worlds; but it can also be seen as an allegory of a lot of things – traditional versus modern, West versus the East, and so on…

And it is for this that – for me – “Tokwifi” works somehow…


The flick’s premise re tackling Igorot misconceptions – e.g. “uncivilized” mountain people, unloving Igorot mothers, etc. – is noteworthy, making this memorable. But this isn’t a flawless flick.

So let’s get some negatives out of the way first.

  1. Horrible costume design – e.g. when was the last time you saw farmers who just did some harvesting have Tide-clean clothes? You’d see them here…
  2. Camera-conscious peeps – e.g. some characters swiftly glance at the cam, aware it’s there.
  3. Dark shots – e.g. night shots. This immediately highlights (or at least gives that impression of) how low-budget this flick is.
  4. Issues with “flow” of storytelling – i.e. continuity.
  5. The risk of hiring non-actors is their inexperience. It could work – e.g. The Bicycle Thief – or the move could fail. Here, sadly, this decision is… apparent; and not in a good way (like with stilted delivery of lines).
  6. Inconsistencies – e.g. one shot, the screen isn’t B&W, then in the next shot, it’s suddenly B&W (like after their first night together, and Limmayug was caring the TV).
  7. Wasted shots – e.g. ‘Pabasa Kan Pasyon’ was able to capture the grandeur of Mayon (and vicinities); this one, unfortunately, didn’t capture the beauty of parts Northern Luzon.


As the longest of all the flicks for Cinemalaya 2020 (at 20.01 minutes), this has a lot going for it.

  1. It’s a non-imperial Manila narrative; and that’s always refreshing. In fact, it’s an anti-imperial narrative (not just Metro manila), so that’s always a good thing.
  2. The Philippines has over 100 languages, yet not many people even know these exist. Here’s one that uses a language we hardly – if ever – see represented in mainstream media.
  3. Commentary on mainstream media’s fault re misrepresentations – e.g. “tame the barbarians”, what “desirable women” are supposed to be, etc.
  4. Commentary on social issues – e.g. women empowerment (and this is even if, admittedly, this is very quickly done); our “romance” with technology even if it isn’t always good for us; etc.
  5. Color use for representation – e.g. the B&W world that’s “boxed”, even if they pretend to know it all; while the people being criticized the one living in full colors.


This flick is… slow, even meandering (it can even benefit from tighter editing). But for a somewhat small effort, this one’s still worth watching…

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