Panaghoy sa Suba (The Call of the River) (2004)




Director:     .

Starring:     Cesar Montano (Duroy), Juliana Palermo (Iset), Jacky Woo (Fumio Ohkohara), Philip Anthony (John Smith), Caridad Sanchez (Lahi), Joel Torre (Damian), Ronnie Lazaro (Kuwanggol), Daria Ramirez (Miri), Rommel Montano (Nonong), Rebecca Lusterio (Bikay), Suzette Ranillo (Nun 1), Flora Gasser (Biti's Aunt), Chelo Espina (Biti), Ramon Villanueva (Tatoy), Reiven Bulado (Ibo).

set during the American Occupation (1942) and the Japanese Occupation (1945)


Spoiler Warning:


Central Visayas, 1942.  Duroy has a boat that takes on customers who want to go somewhere.  Some people say they want a ride but Duroy says he doesn't have the roof on his boat.  He still has to fix it.  A man says that Duroy doesn't need a boat cover.  So Duroy takes an old man and a woman as passengers.

Duroy has drinks with some of his buddies.  They talk about a woman that Duroy likes.  "She's the daughter of Tatoy and the niece of Lahi."  One of the buddies tells Duroy to be careful for now the woman works for White Balls.  And now here comes Iset.  Duroy stares at her.  Iset talks a bit to one of the fish vendors, her mother, for a little while  Mother tells Iset to be good to Mr. John Smith (aka, White Balls), so he will be good to them..  Iset now leaves. 

Mr. Smith runs a business of making things out of palm leaves.  Iset's father tells Smith that Iset is an honor student and she could even help him with his business.  And her English is very good.  Smith says Iset has only worked for him for a week.  He needs more time to tell how good of a worker she is. 

A young man, Ibo, brother of Duroy, says Iset looks good in the dress she has on.  A co-worker warns the fellow that White Balls is watching him. Iset also warns him and tells him to get back to his station because they might see the fellow.  The guy says he's not afraid and he'd do anything just to talk to Iset. 

A worker reports to Smith that Iset is talking to a worker.  Smith gets angry and goes out to tell Iset to come here.  He tells her not to speak to the laborers.  Go check on the nipa weavers.  [Nipa is a a palm tree with creeping roots, characteristic of mangrove swamps in India and the Pacific islands.]  Now Smith fires Ibo. 

Iset gets on Duroy's boat.  She asks him where is her letter?  He says he hasn't finished it yet.  Duroy says for beauty so timeless, it takes time to do it justice.  He then mentions that her Aunt Nang Lahi is waiting for her.  The woman scolds Iset for taking a ride with Duroy. 

A serenade is dedicated to Iset from Duroy. 

Duroy finishes his letter to Iset.  He dictated it to his young sister, Bikay.  He asks her if she liked it?  She can't answer because her mother is calling for her.  Ibo comes home.  He tells Duroy that White Balls drove him away from his job, but he'll get even some day.  Duroy tells him to forget about it because he can always find another job. 

A man is selling dynamite to fishermen to make it easier to get a larger catch of the day. 

Nang Lahi asks Iset if Duroy has asked her to marry him?  Iset says don't hurry things.  Lahi responds that they say war's coming soon.  Aunt Lahi tells Iset that her father and her just don't want Iset to marry someone who is poor.  And she doesn't approve of Duroy or his brother. 

The talk is that the Japanese have taken the island of Cebu in the Philippines.  Many young Filipinos have died.  A woman asks Duroy if it wouldn't just be easier to let the Japanese occupy the Philippines so they could still live peacefully?  Duroy says she could do that, but a person who does so is not a true Visayan. [a member of the most numerous indigenous people of the Philippines] nor a true Filipino. 

Iset sees her father giving money to Mr. Smith.  When her father leaves, Smith gives Iset more than enough money to buy a green dress.  He says she looks good in green. She says he gave her too much money.  Smith tells her that's okay and he wants her to call him John from now on. 

Duroy sees Ibo carving on a tree.  He goes over to him and Ibo says he's carving the initials of his beloved on the tree.  He says if he should lose her, he would lose his life too.  He finishes the job and leaves.  Duroy takes a look at the carving and realizes suddenly that both he and his brother love the same woman: Iset. 

Nang Lahi asks her brother if he and Smith are running a different business, other than nipa and mats?  Her brother won't answer that question.

Bikay asks Duroy why did he stop wooing Iset, because the girl seems to really like him?  He responds that for now for him it's all about Ibo, Bikay and mother.  Speaking of mother, she tries to do some housework and faints again.  Bikay calls for help and Duroy runs to them. 

At nigh Bikay asks her mother if her father is such a good man, why did he leave his family behind?  She cries.  Bikay says no, her father is not a good man.  Her mother starts crying now. 

At dinner they have a little birthday celebration for their mother. 

The next morning Bikay discovers that her mother has died.  She starts crying.  They hold a boat funeral procession.  From the river shore people throw red flowers into the river. 

Iset has dinner with Smith.  He presents her with a pretty necklace.  She is pleased with the gift.  The two young women servants serve the dinner.  Smith gets irritated by them and tells them to take the soup and leave!  The idiot Smith says:  "Jesus, Filipinos!"

Smith gives Atabrine, a new drug for malaria, to Iset just in case anyone gets the disease.  Duroy watches from the shadows. 

The next morning at work, Smith is not too happy with Iset because the people looking to get paid are pushing against each other.  Smith forces the people to make one single line.  As he leaves, he tells Iset not to overpay the workers. 

Bikay comes running to get Duroy.  Ibo is in trouble.  Ibo is fighting with his former boss.  The boss is taking a beating.  Then Ibo gets a machete and goes after the boss.  The boss runs.  He sneaks up behind Ibo and hits him in the head with a log.  Ibo falls down and rolls downhill until he lands in the river.  Other workers have finally showed up and they jump into the river to save Ibo. 

A funeral is held for Ibo.  John tells Iset and her family that he has been drafted into the US Army and he will have to go to war.    He tells everyone that when he gets back from what will be a short war, he and Iset will get married.  He says goodbye to the family.

Smith is about ready to leave in his fancy car.  He tells Iset's father that he wants to swing by to say goodbye again to Iset.  Meanwhile, coming to do battle with Smith is Duroy who is carrying a sword with him.  He goes down to the work place, but a worker tells him that the boss closed down the place.  He says Smith said the Japanese are coming and he wanted to be out of their way when they arrive. 

Iset talks with Duroy.  She says she doesn't care if Smith doesn't come back.  She asks him to put aside his hatred for the man.  "Where you are  . . . I'm ready to go with you."  He tells her he still has unfinished business and he wants her to tell him when she sees John again.  He leaves. 

They say in the market place that the Japanese have reached Cebu and Iloilo.  A woman says that they don't need to worry about the Japanese because their village is so remote. 

And here comes the Japanese coming down the river ready with a machine gun and troops.  Duroy goes up into the mountains.  The Japanese cut the village's communication lines.  Many villagers go into the church to be safe from the invaders.  Some women go with the men up into the mountains. 

The Japanese occupy the Church.  Lt. Gen. Sosaku Suzuki, commander of the 35th army, speaks from the pulpit.  He says the Japanese are not the people's enemy, nor are the Filipinos enemies to the Japanese.  They have a mutual enemy, America.  "We not harm you."

A Japanese soldiers yells at the Filipinos who are building a dock for more Japanese boats.  The Commander has to tell him not to be too harsh with his workers. 

A message is past in church from Duroy to tell Father Silvio that the people in the mountains need help.  They need malaria medicine. He says they will wait in the Sacristy.  Duroy has to run when he is told the Japanese troops are coming. 

The men come back to the mountains to say they had no luck at the church  -- not even one tablet against malaria.  A man named Damian is dying of malaria. 

The Japanese catch a Filipino with a box of dynamite.  The fellow who is caught is Iset's father.  He explains that he uses the dynamite to catch fish.  Luckily for the father, his sister and his daughter show up.  Now the Japanese commander starts taking an interest in Iset.  He goes to her house and looks at her photo scrapbooks.  He finds a particularly beautiful photo of Iset and asks if he can keep it?  She hesitates, but does say:  okay.  There is a burial for Damian. 

Three years later.  A Filipino soldier together with an American soldier ask Duroy for permission to stay with the mountain refugees for a few days.  The Americans have come back to the Philippines and this war will come to an end.  The American says they brought some ammunition for the Filipinos.  Duroy says they don't need any help:  "This is our war, not the Americans'."

The commander is back with Iset in her home.  He gives food to the family.  He tells her that after the war, she will come with him. 

The guerillas plant dynamite where a group of Japanese are getting drunk on liquor.  Huge explosions go off.  The commander leaves Iset.  He tells his men to find the culprits and bring them to him. 

It turns ou that the Filipino soldier with Duroy is actually his long, lost father.  Dad says that he sent his daughter because he knew she could make it back okay.  It's the Filipino men who are stopped and questioned.  Duroy slugs his father and knocks him down.  He says if anything happens to Bikay, he will make sure his father pays with his own life.  Furthermore, he tells dad to never call Bikay his daughter. 

Bikay must have been tortured by the Japanese, because they follow her to the priest's quarters.  He tells her to take the malaria medicine up into the mountains before he realizes the Japanese are with her.  The Japanese take the priest away. 

It looks like the Japanese are going to execute Father Silvio and a nun.  Iset and her aunt run and put their arms around the priest to save him.  But the Japanese officer slaps the aunt down to the ground and tells the troops to get the two women away from here.  The Japanese shoot the Father in the head and down he goes.  The commander finds out and slaps the officer across the face and takes his insignia off.  The officer later commits seppuku (i.e., ritual suicide).  

And now Iset wants to send her brother and sister up into the mountains.  She is going with them.  She starts leaving the house when the commander shows up.  Iset sneaks out the back way and heads for the mountains. 

The commander finds out that the Japanese will soon be evacuating this area.  He says he is staying here! 

Iset's father points up into the jungle and says that Iset is up there. 

Iset is with Duroy in the mountains.  She says she wants to be with him.  She is sick of being down there with the Japanese.  She also says:  "I'm sure it was Father who squealed to the Japs -- that's why they captured Bikay and Father Silvio."

A Filipino comes running up the hill to tell everyone that the Japanese are on their way up the mountain.  A woman asks how could the Japanese have found them?  The man says that the Japanese just followed Iset up the mountain.  A woman tries to get at Iset calling her a traitor who led the Japanese to their refuge. 

Luckily, there are only six Japanese soldiers. Duroy orders the men to gather together.  The men plan to ambush the soldiers. 

When the Japanese walk into the ambush, the Filipino men shoot them all down.  The American soldier stands up saying they're all dead.  Duroy tells his men to wait, but it's already too late for the standing American.  A Japanese survivor shoots the American.  The survivor is killed by a grenade. 

Bikay is tied to a tree hanging by her thumbs.  Duroy says to Iset that he's sorry that her father chose the Japanese over his country. 

The guerillas start planning a rescue of Bikay.  They carry out the plan, kill a lot of Japanese soldiers and free Bikay.  In addition, they free the Filipino prisoners from the river cages.  Duroy comes to take out the Japanese commander.  He shoots the commander. 

Duroy's father speaks with him and says he can't forgive himself for being so neglectful of his family.   Duroy says:  "You didn't value the love we had for you.  You traded us for an American woman."   Dad drops to his knees in the corn field and asks Duroy to forgive him.  Then dad starts crying.  This bothers
Duroy who now helps his father stand up.  He then leaves the corn field. 

After the end of WWII, John Smith returns to the Philippines.  He comes back to his old home.  He sees a coffee cup on a table and grabs his pistol from his bag.  He goes to see who is there and Duroy knocks him to the floor.  He then starts beating the man.  He picks up Smith's pistol and points it at Smith's head.  Iset comes running up to the house.  A pistol shot is heard.  Iset sees Duroy and then runs past him to check on John.  Duroy figures that she loves John and leaves. 

John Smith tells Iset that Duroy tried to kill him.  Again, he says something stupid:  "This country if full of nothing but animals!"  She steps back from Smith, tears the necklace he gave him from off her neck, throws the necklace at him and says:  "Animals don''t need this!"  She walks away from him. 

Bikay tells her brother that she finally gave his love letter to Iset.  Then she says that Iset said she likes the letter.  And:  "She wants you to serenade her tonight."

Bikay says:  "My brother is like no other man.  He and the river breathe as one.  Wherever his life ebbs and flows, however times change, he knows how to drift with the tide.  For always, one must be ready to answer the insistent Call of the River!"


Good movie about a love story set during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II.  The family of the young woman Iset puts a lot of pressure on her to love the rich men in the area.  First she was dating the American businessman John and then pleasing the commander of the Japanese forces in the area.  This, of course, is upsetting to the native Duroy who likes Iset very much.  The war takes John away as he has to join the American forces.  Duroy leads the local resistance to the Japanese commander and his forces.  The love tension comes in by the audience not knowing what Iset is going to do?  Is she going to go with John, or the Japanese commander, or is there still a chance she will go with Duroy? 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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