by Kelly Ramos

The Northern Mindanao Film Festival (NMFF) formerly known as Cinemagis – the Digital Short Film Festival in Northern Mindanao – has helped shape filmmaking in this part of the world for 11 years. With a scheduled run of four days and a virtual screening of 36 Mindanaoan films, the festival fittingly morphs and rebrands itself in 2020. “New Frontier, New Journey” is the theme that gives spine to this Festival that celebrates and recognizes Northern Mindanao filmmaking engagements and frontiers,” says NMFF Festival Director Hobart Savior.

From September 30 to October 3, 2020 audiences are treated to films that show the narratives, images, and voices of Mindanao. Participating filmmakers share unique insights and reflections on the socio-political and environmental realities within their communities. To watch, simply go to the NMFF Facebook page here:

Apart from confronting us with the fragile mortality of all humankind, the COVID-19 pandemic is changing how we do certain things. An example is in how we celebrate the art of the cinema. Certain limitations for the health and safety of one and all necessitates a virtual film festival, and this in turn opens opportunities for wider participation and audience reach. If you have connectivity and a gadget, you can now enjoy the NMFF no matter where you are.

The films that are virtually screened this year are a good sampling of the exemplary work of Mindanao filmmakers, from full length films (TANGLAW) to prizewinning digital short films (LANTAW), to select films from various Mindanao film festivals (NMFF EXTRA). A big treat for aficionados of this art form is Sine Talakayan (Kalinga ng Sining), an online forum on the state of regional filmmaking and discussion on work processes by Northern Mindanao filmmakers in the time of pandemic.

The Festival brings together the creative work of Mindanaoans that have reached national and international acclaim in the world of the cinema. Participation comes from Zamboanga City, Ozamis City, Iligan City, Camiguin, Agusan del Norte, and Davao City; with representations from the host town of Cagayan de Oro City. 

Forum guests include filmmakers Julienne Ilagan & Joe Bacus, and Ben Padero. The three speakers are recipients of film labs and grants. TANGLAW full length films are made by Vic Acedillo with Kamunggai and Sheron Dayoc with Halaw.

LANTAW short films are by Joe Bacus, John Roel Cabana, Daniel Clark Cabantan, Kissza Mari Campano, Angelo Dabbay, Noriell Joyce Dalman, Glenmark Doromal, Reena Bianca Dunque, Gray-em Erezo, Megan Louise Hernandez, July Ilagan, Jenriel Lagat, Ray Anthony Lao, Jasmine Limas, Adrian Manapil, Orpheus Nery, Earl Hendrix Reyes, Kenneth Sabijon, Tat Soriano, Westine Taneo, Edmund Telmo, Christian Alan Toring, Shaun Alejandrae Uy, Harold Villegas, and Cloyd Winstanley

The NMFF EXTRA filmmakers are Jun Vincent C. Abao, Reyan Christian C. Amacna, Jerome Bullifer, Christian Paul Lim, Joshua Caesar Medroso, Jeffrie Po, Junlou Tordos, and Rodiell Veloso.

Programming of the NMFF Virtual Film Festival is designed in such a way that audiences will have the flexibility to plan their schedules by providing two viewing runs per film, except for the 2 TANGLAW feature films that bookends the four day festival and only has one run each.

The Festival kicks off at 12:15pm of September 30, 2020 with an opening program and a screening of Kamunggai, by playwright director Vic Acedillo of Camiguin Island. This treat of a film made its way to the 2nd ToFarm Film Festival in 2017, where Davaoeño senior stage actor Roger Soe Gonzales won the Best Actor Award for his performance. The NMFF will then close with Halaw by Zamboanga-born playwright-director Sheron Dayoc. It is a beautiful film about escaping to Malaysia through the backdoor. 

In between are the curated sets of films grouped together from lighthearted and comedic to more heavy serious ones. For cerebral viewers, there is Sine Talakayan the filmmaker’s forum.

The first day of the forum is where Joe Bacus and Juliene Ilagan discuss pertinent creative issues. The second day will have Ben Padero on screen, where issues are explored through the lens of a production designer. Padero is a Montessori de Oro graduate who studied in the University of the Philippines and worked as production designer on the seminal films Heneral Luna and Siargao.

Here is the schedule of screenings, and details of the festival curation and programming:

TANGLAW (2 films)

  1. Kamunggai by Vic Acedillo –Opening Film
  2. Halaw by Sheron Dayoc – Closing Film

LANTAW (26 films total)

Set A (6 films)

  1. Kasing Kasing Amang by Shaun Alexandrae Uy
  2. Pan de Sal by Ray Anthony Lao
  3. Ayo-ayo by Reena Bianca Dunque
  4. Ang Lihim ni Natividad by Jasmine Limas
  5. Orpheus by Orpheus Nery
  6. Perya by Angelo Dabbay

Set B (6 films)   

  1. 3021 by Edmund Telmo
  2. Mist of Mind by Harold Villegas
  3. Sealed by Glenmark Doromal
  4. Gahani by Jenriel Lagat
  5. Lucid by Cloyd Winstanley
  6. Wa Ko Kakita by Westine Taneo

Set C (5 films)

  1. Wonderful Nightmare by Gray-em Erezo
  2. Across the Universe by Megan Louise Hernandez
  3. Goodnight by Tat Soriano
  4. Plastic Mirror by Daniel Clark Cabantan
  5. Parlor by Adrian Manapil

Set D (5 films)

  1. Passion of Cries by Earl Hendrix Reyes
  2. Sangil by Christian Alan Toring
  3. Balot.Penoy.Asin by July Ilagan
  4. Repleksyon by John Roel Cabana

Set E (4 films)

  1. Tutob by Kissza Mari Campano
  2. Anggulo by Noriell Joyce Dalman
  3. Kasubo sa Kahidlaw by Kenneth Sabijon
  4. The End of War by Joe Bacus

NMFF EXTRA (8 films total)

Set A (4 films)

  1. Trabungko by Joshua Caesar Medroso
  2. Consequences of Man by Jeffrie Po
  3. Dieciseis by Christian Paul Lim
  4. Bituin by Jun Vincent C. Abao

Set B (4 films)

  1. Trespas by Reyan Christian C. Amacna
  2. Salom by Jerome Bullifer
  3. Ang Wa Damhang Importansya sa Teleserye by Rodiell Veloso
  4. Tabyog by Junlou Tordos


Online forum on filmmakers’ creative process amidst the pandemic with

  1.  July Ilagan & Joe Bacus
  2. Ben Padero


Northern Mindanao Film Festival (New Frontier, New Journey)

September 30, 2020 – October 3, 2020

September 30, 2020        DAY 1

1pm to 4pm                     Opening Program with TANGLAW Film Feature: Kamunggai by Vic Acedillo

5pm to 7pm                      LANTAW SET A

7pm to 9:30pm                LANTAW SET B and NMFF EXTRA SET A

October 1, 2020                DAY 2

9:30am to 11am               SINE TALAKAYAN (Kalinga ng Sining) with Joe Bacus and Julienne Ilagan

1pm to 4pm                       LANTAW SET C

5pm to 7pm                       NMFF EXTRA SET B

7pm to 9:30pm                 LANTAW SET D

October 2, 2020                DAY 3

9:30am to 11am                SINE TALAKAYAN (Kalinga ng Sining) with Ben Padero

1pm to 4pm                        LANTAW SET E

5pm to 7pm                        NMFF EXTRA SET A

7pm to 9:30pm                  LANTAW SET A and NMFF EXTRA SET B

October 3, 2020                DAY 4  

9:30am to 11am                Closing Program with TANGLAW Film Feature: Halaw by Sheron Dayoc

1pm to 9:30pm                  LANTAW SETS B to E

Another way that the new frontier is developing with NMFF 2020 is through its partnerships and through exciting ways forward with stakeholders. Presenters of the Northern Mindanao Film Festival are Liceo de Cagayan University; The Cultural Center of the Philippines Cultural Exchange Department and its Kalinga ng Sining Program; The National Commission for Culture and the Arts; The Film Development Council of the Philippines; Safer River, Life Saver Foundation, Inc.; SMART and PLDT; CDO DEV; About Cagayan de Oro; Money Cache; Philippine News Agency; and ARTIHE. Support is also extended by the National Committee on Cinema of NCCA, Local Government of Cagayan de Oro City, the Provincial Government of Misamis Oriental, and the Department of Tourism Region X.

Behind the scenes, the NMFF is made possible through the efforts of Liceo U’s Office of External Relations and Cultural Affairs, Liceo Office of Cultural Affairs, Liceo Communications and Promotions, Rodelsa Hall, and La Castilla Museum. It is part of the 15th Cultural Season of Liceo de Cagayan University through a grant project entitled Panagsama Higala.  

Going forward with strong participation from stakeholders, there are plans for a Film Council or a Film Development Program of Cagayan de Oro. “This while continuing to nurture audience development and providing an inclusive platform for filmmaking that reverberates with the language and text of communities,” expounds NMFF Festival Director Hobart Savior. kr

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