(Video) GMA News TV Docu ‘Bente Dos’ Features Poor Manila Family with 22 Children

May 31, 2012 8:06pm

What if you had more than 20 children? How would you support them?

This is the question that documentary filmmaker Joseph Laban sought to answer in making “Bente Dos,” a documentary about a poor Filipino family of 22 children living in the slums of Manila. The documentary first aired last 2011 on the GMA News TV program “Front Row,” which has garnered several awards for its gritty, cinéma vérité style documentaries. “Bente Dos” bagged a Silver World Medal in the prestigious New York Festivals 2012.

As the debate over the Reproductive Health Bill rages on, “Bente Dos” takes an honest look at how women like Rosalie Cabanen overcome the daily challenges of supporting so many children. At 47 years old, Rosalie has sired 22 children over the past 26 years. The Cabanen family lives among a community of informal settlers in Baseco, Manila, and subsists on whatever the children can earn through various odd jobs as well as loans from loan sharks. Rosalie’s husband, Danilo, is a 49-year-old street sweeper who earns the minimum daily wage of P404 or equivalent to just under $10.

After graduating with a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking from New York University on a Fulbright scholarship, the writer-director Laban said he wanted to produce stories that would communicate how ordinary Filipinos survive in the face of devastating poverty. “I wanted to film the manifestations of pervasive social inequities that we have become collectively desensitized and accustomed to using a different approach and a relatable perspective,” says Laban. The stripped down, no-host format of ‘Front Row’ allowed Laban to approach the subject in a way that was truthful and unobtrusive.

Laban says he was surprised that the members of the family have varied views on reproductive health and family planning, despite their desperate situation. Rosalie is concerned about the purported side effects of birth control pills and even condoms, while Danilo is more than open to using contraceptives as long as they are affordable. “Even their children have different opinions about reproductive health. The older ones are more supportive of RH while the younger ones tend to be against it,” observes Laban.

“Ultimately, we do not want to pass judgment on people’s choices or preach about what we should or shouldn’t do. All we wanted to do is offer a glimpse of what it is like to be in a family with well-meaning but poor parents and their rowdy brood of twenty-two children,” says Laban.

Watch “Front Row” documentaries every Saturday night at 8:40 PM on GMA News TV Channel 11. “Bente Dos” replays on June 2. Follow “Front Row” on Facebook and Twitter.

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