When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1992, the Aetas dwelling in the mountains were resettled in the lowlands of Pampanga. This gives the Aeta children such as Jonalyn Ablong (played by herself) the opportunity to study in the town’s public schools. Jonalyn graduates from elementary and she expresses her earnest desire to teach her fellow Aetas, especially the elders, to read and write so they could finally exercise their right to vote for the upcoming National Elections of 2004. So Jonalyn proceeds to the Aeta settlement to jumpstart her goal with sample ballots in hand to further help her fulfill her mission. However, upon reaching the settlement, Jonalyn looks for her grandfather and finds out that he is missing. She treks towards the mountain forest together with her father to search for him. But this does not prevent her from teaching the elders to read and write. Up in the mountains while searching for her grandfather, she teaches her tribe members to write the names of the candidates on the sample ballots. Will she be able to find her grandfather and at the same time achieve her goal of making the Aetas exercise their right to vote?
Using the cinema verite device, the film succeeds in showing the current state of the Aetas. The rawness of acting and the setting add texture to the film’s entire look. The long trek to the mountains that shows the neglected countryside symbolizes the long and winding road to progress and modernity. But then the film concentrates too much on the hike, putting the literacy theme on the side. Functional literacy as the central problem is not explored and merely stops at the elections. Although the film is clearly focused on the Aetas’ exercise of their right to vote, such right is only tackled on a very shallow level.
The Aetas are Filipinos too, and they should be given every right a Filipino citizen enjoys. This is what the movie tells its audience. Because of the fast-paced life that people live, they tend to forget that there are those who are left behind and suffer problems brought about by the gross neglect of society. Manoro has set the ground on the ethnic minorities’ battle against modernization. Furthermore, the film touches the audience’s heart by letting viewers see the issue thru the very eyes of an innocent child. Jonalyn’s innocence should remind the audience of their roots and to where each one should go back- the road to simplicity and purity. At the end of the day, one’s worth is not measured by how much he or she owns but by how much he or she is able to give to his/her country and fellowmen for the greater glory of the One who created all things.