I grew up both in Silay and Isabela, in sugarcane farms. I grew up in a hacienda. So when this movie project came up, I thought, yeah, I know this topic very very well.
I was wrong.
The sugar industry fell in the late 70’s and I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I think my parents protected us from the real horrors that were happening. Yes, they were probably just protecting us.
I grew up thinking Negros was the best place to grow up in. I believed Negros was THE place in the country.
That we were special. Maybe I was wrong.
When I started with this documentary, I started my whole research by interviewing my Dad. And this would be the best education I would receive in my life. Because at 37, it was the first time anyone has ever told me what really happened to Negros and the sugar industry. My Dad shared with me the truths about Negros. And so I finally knew my history. Suddenly, I knew the real meaning of things. They weren’t just trivial anymore. . I finally knew what it meant when people in Manila referred to me as a haciendero. I finally realized that I didn’t like it. And I became critical about my pride for Negros. What was I proud about, really? What is the standard we hold ourselves up to? What has Negros become?
And this is why this movie became important to me.
This is a very hard movie to watch. It’s going to be long and heavy. Because history is long and heavy. But it is also VERY important. History is very very important.
I worked on over twenty-five feature films in the country in a span of 10 years and only one was a documentary. The rest were all narratives. So in my mind, I was prepared to do this film. I was not. We spent three years trying to make sense of this documentary and although I’m happy that I found my voice, I wish I had studied film more.
What I can say is that this was not just another film project for me. This was very personal. I go home to Negros at least once a year and face my family, face my friends, face the Negrense hacienderos. I had to be sure I could hold up to what I said in this documentary. And I can.
Jay Abello started out as a photographer by heart. He took the correspondence course of New York Institute of Photography in 1997. He started with weddings, school year books, and events and then went on to shoot portraits and commercial works before entering the world of filmmaking by 1999.
An industry disciple working on over 25 feature films in the Philippines, countless TV shows including soap operas and TV commercials in a span of 10 years, Jay Abello is a movie fan by heart. He describes the movie set as “one of the most romantic places you can ever be in. You’re in the middle of nowhere and you have all these lights and production people trying to make something out of nothing and it’s a new world altogether.”
Among Jay Abello’s best works is doing cinematography for the films Brutus (Tara Illenberger, 2008), Donor (Mark Meily, 2010), Kano’: the American and his harem(Coreen Jimenez, 2010) and Aparisyon(Vince Sandoval, 2012). He has also directed two feature films (Ligaw Liham aka Letters of Nor and Namets! aka Yummy!) and one full length documentary film (Pureza: the real story of Negros sugar., 2012).
He also believes that he is a film student at best and has always travelled and accepted projects based on this—“I just want to learn more about film.”