Double Feature: QCinema and Sitio San Roque

For years since my first involvement with SIKAD, a cultural organization advocating for the rights of the Urban Poor, the Quezon City government never failed to make two significant events happen at the same time: the QCinema International Film Festival and waves of violent housing demolition against the residents of Sitio San Roque located in the North Triangle area. I tried looking back on the posts I made since 2018 (when I made my current Facebook account since the last one was sold by Zuckerberg to some Uruguayan online sellers), and it seems to me like a tradition that occurs every October / November, save for 2020 when the film festival was put on halt. 

In 2017, a script I submitted was selected to be produced and eventually got produced, by the same film festival. The film, Pixel Paranoia, was about two lumpen proletariat cybercriminals who have been monitored by an unknown entity ever since they tried monetizing a video of an activist-desaparecido being experimented to be a cyborg. It’s quite an ambitious project that was hampered and toned down by the cheapass QCinema grant (but eventually got made in the kind of film that I can be proud of because of the friends who helped make it). We only shot it in two days – well, it’s a short film, so it would have been criminal to extend it. 

Imagine my agony when the day before my second shooting day of Pixel Paranoia a wave of demolition happened at Sitio San Roque under the command of the QC Government and the National Housing Authority (NHA). The van going to Marilao just exited NLEX and I wanted to go out and get back but I have little money on me (yeah, the grant never assured any travel expenses, at least for me). That’s on top of a lot of things I still need to do for work and for school that I did when I arrived in the location where I spent the night.

The same calendar of parallel happened in the years to come: 2018, then 2019 when long nights of barricade watch were made along with alliance networking and campaign activities. In December, Kadamay San Roque and Save San Roque Alliance (now rebranded as Inclusive Cities Advocacy Network (ICAN)), brought to Mayor Joy Belmonte a proposed community development plan for the residents of Sitio San Roque. The plan is a product of a year-long research on the conditions of the residents and possibilities that the community can further offer were it to remain in the hands of the residents.

Years went by and it seems that Belmonte did not pay any mind to the plans that her own constituents prepared for their own community. The QC local government continues to collude with the National Housing Authority to give way to the private interest of Ayala Land Corporation. Sitio San Roque, whose beginnings can be traced to the 1940s, has long been fighting the aggressive and violent harassment of Ayala’s private security forces. 

Fast forward to October 2023, QCinema International Film Festival boasts its international film lineup exciting cinephiles in my feed. And just as the festival approaches its opening, the QC Local Housing Board and the NHA began railroading demolitions in Sitio San Roque’s Area H. Kadamay San Roque was not even invited at the pre-demolition conference to be held at PCUP on November 9.

A friend reminded me that psychological operations, or Psyops, do not always need to be deliberate cover-ups or distractions. Cultural state apparatuses, like cinema and its institutions, especially when tied to government institutions always ensure the interest of the state first – the apparatus being distracting to injustices is just part of its functions, but never really its mission. It’s almost an automatic thing that at its core – both the festival and the demolitions benefit the ruling classes the most: after all, the QCinema is mounted, by default, in malls owned by big landlords, imperialists, and members of the national bourgeoisie, and that the festival ensures mall traffic to them.

At its core, the Quezon City government facilitates its celebration of cinema along with the displacement of the urban poor, as though part of the spectacle being presented to their masters, the Ayalas, as they bulldoze the houses and make people run for their lives while tracing the design of their masters’ dreamed casino that they plan to build on the land covering Sitio San Roque. The very same Quezon City government that brings films of international city life into our screens is the same Quezon City government that destroys its own city life by violently evicting its own people from their homes. The Same Quezon City government that invites people to sit back, relax, and enjoy the movies, is keeping the people of Sitio San Roque on their toes as they need to alert themselves of what will happen next. 

The Third Cinema movement of Argentina said to mount their film screenings where the workers and the community gather. In factories, they often place a banner on the screening site where words from the Martinique philosopher, Frantz Fanon can be read: “all spectators are either cowards or traitors.” In this sense, clashing events are happening, where oppression and entertainment come from the same source, a film festival is a congregation of cowards or traitors. 

Demand for Zero Eviction!

Push the Agenda of San Roque’s Community Development Plan!



from the facebook page of SIKAD

ADDENDUM: Today, November 9, 2023, a mobilization was led by Kadamay San Roque in front of the offices of PCUP where the pre-demolition conference was happening. The dialogue between the San Roque residents and the NHA exposed several irregularities in the conduct of the planned demolition. AREA H of Sitio San Roque is temporarily safe from forced eviction as the demolition is currently suspended.

The suspension is thus a temporary victory. We must remain vigilant and critical of the motions of the colluding forces of QC Government, NHA, and the AYALA GROUP to completely combat the attempts to evict the residents of Sitio San Roque. In a brief statement released by Kadamay San Roque, they urge unity between various groups within the community and allies to stand firm in their fight for decent and affordable urban housing.


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