Saturday, June 8, 2013, 6 to 8 pm

“P U R E Z A : The Story of Negros Sugar”


 There can never be a more controversial and important film in Negros history than PUREZA. This full length documentary-film aims to tell the ONE story that is vital to the history and the future of the Negrense people and their culture, the story of sugar. 


When one hears of the Island of Negros, there are two things that come to mind – sugarcane fields and sugar-based delicious food. Certainly, Negros is a province of sugar and sweets.

From the 50’s-70’s, the Negros sugar industry was the highest wage-paying industry in Asia’s largest sugar producer, the Philippines.  The “Sugar Bowl of the Philippines” represented affluence and material abundance with the image of the swaggering haciendero representing the face of Negros.

In 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law, throwing the country into political and social turmoil.  In 1974, the U.S. Sugar Act and the Laurel-Langley Agreement expired, throwing the country into the competitive free market.

Marcos created the National Sugar Trading Corporation whose most controversial policy was to dictate a single fixed sugar rate.  NASUTRA allegedly ripped off planters by paying them a paltry average of 50% of their dues.

Reeling from low world prices, bank debts via crop loans and problems with insurgency, planters barely managed to plant their fields.

The image of the swaggering haciendero changed face into the gaunt photograph of the starving “Batang Negros (Child of Negros).”  The planter was depicted as the abusive landlord, holding his farm workers in virtual servitude and their children into hunger.

In 1986, Marcos was exiled from his homeland.  The NASUTRA was demolished. As the country entered a new democracy, Negros awaited the resurgence of its sugar industry.  But sugar leaders took on differing views and created a gaping factionalism. Larger organizations broke into splinter groups, creating disunity.  They filed court cases against NASUTRA and other agencies for defrauding the sugar industry but until today, no court case has been decided on.

Today, the sugar industry is beset with stiff competition from other sugar-producing countries, most notably Thailand. It is also in constant threat by new crimes like the smuggling of imported sugar.

In 2015, the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) tariff on imported goods will be abolished, paving the way for the entry of cheap imported sugar.

Questions have been raised by concerned parties in the Negros sugar arena which the docu-film hopes to shed light on:

Why is the industry still in peril, even after the Marcos era?  What events in the local scene and the global market led to the fall of the industry?  And what is the real story of the sakadas?

Jay 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).