None of us are strangers to short, three-minute commercials that'll leave you feeling fragile and ready for a good cry. And the latest addition to the list is the short film, Safeguard: Pabaon sa Buhay, which tells the story of Norman King, the first-ever Aeta who graduated from the University of the Philippines.
The video starts off with King, wearing traditional Aeta clothing, making his way around campus and being noticed for his appearance. He then recalls growing up in the mountains with his mom. "Ma, bakit tayong mga Aeta, kakulay natin ang lupa? Kaya ba marumi ang tawag nila sa'kin?" he asks.
There's also a scene of King being chased by kids and being ridiculed for wearing the same clothes again and again. "'Nay, baka pwede mo nang palitan," he says to his mom when he runs home. "['Yong] mga kaklase ko, puro bago [ang] suot."
He eventually leaves for college. When he goes home, he's sporting an afro, sunglasses, and a bright-red hoodie, prompting his mom to ask why he looks like that. "Uso 'to, ma. Ganito rin ang mga afro ng mga basketbolista sa TV," he explains. "Mas pinapansin ako ng mga kaklase ko ngayon." Throughout the flashback scenes, King's mom always advises her son to stay true to who he is and not conform to what people expect from him. "Kailangan ba talaga magbago para matanggap ka ng ibang tao?" she asks.
The video returns to King's college graduation ceremony. In a sea of barongs and dresses, he proudly wears his lubay. (That's actually what happened in real life when King graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Behavioral Science.) And as he steps up to receive his diploma, he is greeted by a loud round of applause, while his mom looks on. "Ang turo sa'kin ng nanay ko, kapag natanggap ko na kung sino ako, mas malayo ang mararating ko," the real King says in a voiceover.
Director Pepe Diokno, who worked on the video, shares his feelings about it in a personal Facebook post. "This film is a tribute to our Indigenous Peoples. It's a love letter to our parents. It's a celebration of being Filipino," he says. He also thanks the cast who worked on the film with him. "Thank you to Norman King and his family for trusting us with their story and welcoming us into their home. And thank you to our beautiful all-Aeta cast, whose performances are the heart of this film: Jonalyn, Rocky, Jonathan, and Borjack, and of course, the real-life Norman and Nanay Warlita!"