From medicine to movies: Aspiring doctors make advocacy film

Aimee Capinpuyan, Jose Ma. H. Zaldarriaga, Romina Dilig

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From medicine to movies: Aspiring doctors make advocacy film
A group of Ateneo medical students produce their own film entitled 'Mga Kwentong Tsubibo,' to explore the very context in which health is accessed and delivered - the social, cultural, and economic factors

MANILA, PhilippinesThe day of a typical medical student is often spent reading books, pouring over notes, attending lectures, and preparing for exams. It is surprising, therefore, how Batch 2019 of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH) was able to produce Mga Kwentong Tsubibo, a full length feature film to be screened in November 2015.  

Mga Kwentong Tsubibo revolves around the individual stories of 8 strangers: a frustrated medical student on the verge of quitting her studies; a dewy-eyed boy who, pressed by poverty and desperation, searches for medicine for his ailing grandmother; a well-loved city mayor whose critically-ill son urgently needs a kidney transplant; a young, engaged couple planning their future together; and an older couple in a fishing village scrambling to raise money for the medical bills of their hospitalized son. 

The movie follows their intersecting lives, unravelling their struggles and triumphs in the span of a single day. 

At the heart of the movie are the collective reflections of the batch of over 160 Ateneans after having finished their first year of medicine, providing insight into their core understanding of healthcare.

“The way we are taught in medical school, we have to look not just at the biomedical reasons that a person develops an illness, but also at the different social factors that lead to the illness,” said Louis Alfred Rellora, the film’s director, who is also part of the batch.

The film also serves as an outlet for the doctors-to-be to put their talents to good use. All of the crew members except for the main actors, colorist, and sound mixer are medical students. 

“Batch 2019 is a very talented batch. Creativity flourishes in everything we do,” said Dia Cembrano, one of the heads of the film screening, alongside Karl Duque. 

Putting it together

Conceptualized by Rellora and written by Janina Hernandez, the story was initially pitched to a small group of friends who then won the approval of the whole batch. With the entire batch mobilized into teams for production, finance, and screening, the project soon started to take shape and become an advocacy film. 

A separate team, was put in charge of negotiations with a partner community. Meanwhile, casting calls were announced, and several film and theater actors responded with great interest. A particular draw for the actors, aside from the strength of the advocacy, was that the production team is composed of medical students. 

Support soon came pouring in from the school administration, doctors, and fellow students, and funding was mostly furnished by solicitations and benefactors who saw the value in bringing the film to life. “We wanted to take all that talent and put it into something meaningful that we could be proud of,”said Cembrano.

The project is meaningful both for the school and for the batch of second year med students. The film’s proceeds will go towards capacitating the Quezon City District 2 Adolescent Center in designing and delivering a comprehensive range of services for Filipino adolescents, including primary health care, reproductive health counseling, psychological and developmental counseling, smoking and substance abuse counseling, and employment linkage. 

The goal of the project is to achieve zero teenage pregnancies in the said area.

Starring Mercedes Cabral, Bernard Carritero, Jhiz Deocareza, Brenda Fox, Mike Liwag, Jun Nayra, Star Orjaliza, and Joel Saracho, Mga Kwentong Tsubibo steps beyond the comforts and inadequacies of looking at health from a purely biomedical perspective. It explores the very context in which health is accessed and delivered – the social, cultural, and economic factors which will determine its realization or its demise. –

‘Mga Kwentong Tsubibo’ will be screened on November 28, 2015 at the Henry Lee Irwin Theatre, Ateneo de Manila University. You can show your support to the cause by making a donation to the project or by purchasing tickets to the screening. 

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