Mulanay and Mumbaki Doctors to the Cinema

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This year, Philippine cinema was invaded by doctors to the barrios. In June, Mulanay (Sa Pusod ng Paraiso) was a runaway winner in the Manila Film Festival grabbing almost all awards. In August, Mumbaki was shown locally.

Two movies with the same theme shown too soon apart.

The films seemed like remnants of the year when two versions of Elsa Castillo’s “Chop-Chop Lady” massacre movies were battling for blockbuster supremacy, awards and profits.

Mulanay, co-produced by the New Tropical Medicine Foundation, starred two of the country’s finest actresses – Jacklyn Jose and Gina Alajar. The movie was written by the respected Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. and directed by multi-awarded Gil Portes.

Mumbaki, co-produced by John Hopkins University starred many of the better matinee screen idols led by Raymart Santiago, Rachel Alejandro, Joel Torre and Albert Martinez. Story and direction were by Antonio Jose “Butch” Perez.

While Mulanay touched the heart, Mumbaki tickled the imagination.

A simple movie with an effective script, Mulanay gives an overview of the continuing struggle of a young lady doctor in a far-flung, almost-forgotten fishing village in Quezon.

On the other hand, Mumbaki offered spectacular scenes depicting the colorful loves of the Ifugao, complete with exciting but bloody tribal wars. A young doctor, who happened to be an Ifugao, is in conflict with himself whether to take revenge for his father’s death (who was killed by another tribal group) or go to the united States to pursue a promising career in medicine with the one he loves.

While the Mulanay doctor battled for community and political participation to fight an epidemic, the Ifugao doctor (termed as Mumbaki) was having second – and third, then fourth, even fifth – thoughts of serving his community. Anyways, he decided to avenge his father’s and his brother’s death first.

But, in fairness to Mumbaki, another barrio doctor (Joel Torre) was the one doing the rounds, while the lead character was thinking of what to do with his life. Only when the former doctor died did the latter doctor decide that he would stay in the mountains for good.

In Mulanay, the importance of the doctor to the barrio was emphasized. In Mumbaki, with all the killes that happened in the movie, it seemed that Ifugaos would not need a doctor after all, but tough and rough police officers.

For HealthBeat critics, Mulanay should have been the movie vehicle enough to get the Doctors to the barrios messages across… Or Mumbaki should have been shown two years later, during the Philippine Centennial Year!