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Sigwa is a film by Joel Lamangan in the 6th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival Directors Showcase category. The script is written by Bonifacio Ilagan.

The term sigwa, which means “storm,” spans the 15 years of social unrest in the Philippines during the Martial Law era.



Lamangan got the inspiration for the film from the story told by a Fil-Am named Dolly, a junior correspondent in a US Magazine, who went to the Philippines in 1970 to write a story on student activism in Manila. In 2010, she returned to the Philippines fueled with a personal mission – to find her daughter earlier believed to have died but was reported to be alive.


The film is a story of the persecution, torture, intrigue, and betrayal of the authoritarian regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos upon the declaration of Martial Law in 1972 as experienced by six student activists caught in the tempest of the First Quarter Storm of 1970.

Amidst these predicaments, many activists continued with the struggle. Cita (played by Zsa Zsa Padilla) joined the armed struggle while Rading (played by Jim Pebangco) became an organizer for the national democratic struggle. Azon (played by Gina Alajar) portrayed the activist who chose to end her involvement in the movement. Oliver (played by Tirso Cruz III), on the other hand, betrayed his comrades and chose to cooperate with the Philippine government instead.



The film highlighted the awakening of the political situation in the Philippines, especially among the youth, as it brought up the experiences of activists during the dictatorial regime of Marcos. The film is timely as its release falls on the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm . ‘Sigwa’ featured some of the activists in the 1970s such as Judy Taguiwalo (faculty representative of the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines, Carol Araullo (chairperson of Bayan) and Satur Ocampo (former representative of the Bayan Muna.

The Cinema Evaluation Board, an office under the Film Development Council of the Philippines, gave the film a “grade A.” The board cited that the film is “insightful and effective” and “makes us confront our own beliefs and encourages us to take a stand.”


Lualhati Bautista claimed that the “concept and approach” of ‘Sigwa’ must be lifted from her 1997 TV movie, “Desaparesidos.” She explained, “‘Sigwa’ is told from the point of view of Dolly, a junior correspondent of a US magazine who joins the NPA (New People’s Army). During a raid, she hands over her daughter to her comrade Azon ... ‘Desaparesidos’ is told from the point of view of a communist rebel, Anna, who entrusts her 3-month-old daughter to a comrade, Karla...”

Viva Films bought the film rights for “Desaparesidos” in 2000 but the production was cancelled. The movie would have been directed by Lamangan who was given a copy of Bautista’s script.

Lamangan countered, “(Bautista) has no monopoly over the mother-looking-for-daughter theme. The situation may be similar, but the approach is different. And I don’t have a copy of her script anymore.”

Bautista was then advised to file a formal complaint before the Cinemalaya committee.