Funded! This project was successfully funded on August 2, 2012.

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An intimate in-depth look into the life and legacy of Eugenio A. Antonio; Politician, WWII hero, and Founder of Tanon College

UPDATE: Our Interview on Kababayan LA ch. 18!

THE MOVIE

KUSGAN is a documentary about the life and legacy of Eugenio A. Antonio, Jr (1910-1992). After courageous acts in WWII, Eugenio returned to the Philippines determined to contribute to his community as a member of civilian life. He used back pay to found Tanon College in San Carlos City, Philippines. This school was the first of its kind – a high school and college for students from poor families in the underserved Negros Occidental region of the country. Tanon College will celebrate its 60th Anniversary in Summer 2012. This movie will capture the celebration, document the impact of Eugenio’s colorful life, and will include real accounts of friends, family, city officials, students, and many others. 

WHY NOW

In the city of San Carlos,resources are limited for documenting on film ones history and experiences. Because of this, its rich culture and stories rarely leave its shores. Our documentary will accomplish two rarely attempted goals: It will tell the story of a Filipino man who influenced and changed a community, and continues to impact future generations even after his death. And, it will share this powerful and inspiring story around the world.

 

This August we will be traveling to the Philippines to attend the 60th anniversary of Tanon College, the reunion of Eugenio’s entire family, as well as the 90th birthday of Eugenio’s last living sibling, his sister Lawrencia Antonio Gonzales.  During this once-in-a-lifetime trip, we will document the stories, celebrations, traditional performances, as well as recollections of the students, political figures, and relatives impacted by Eugenio's life.  Many of the people who knew him throughout his life are very old, so we must meet them now! 

Try something.  Think about the films or documentaries you’ve watched in the last five or ten years.  Try to recall how many were about important figures or traditions of the Philippines. I’m sure you could count them on one hand, if that.  We feel it is important to film this documentary short, and give a unique and real account of a place most haven't heard of, and a story that is begging to be told.  A Filipino story of a man who influenced and changed a community, and continues to impact future generations even after his death.

A story like this needs to be documented.  Needs to be told; or it will be forgotten.

Aerial View of San Carlos City, Philippines
Aerial View of San Carlos City, Philippines

WHERE WE'RE AT and WHAT WE NEED

At this point, we have already arranged interviews with local students of Tanon High School/College both past and present.  We will collect stories from his 7 living children and his last living sibling, Lawrencia.  We have begun to record interviews from US-based relatives that included stories from WWII and the beginning of the school.  We will film Eugenio's grave site, Tanon College, the old family house. We will conduct interviews with local politicians and officials, and access local archives and records. We are going to have access to local culture, traditional dances, celebrations, and history of the Philippines, which we will also selectively incorporate into the film.

 

We have our plane tickets, 80% of our food/lodging, one camera, some equipment, memory, tripods, lenses, but are still in need of microphones to rent, one more camera to bring, the ability to hire some local crew and local guides of historic sites, an editor, website and graphic design, and festival fees.  We really need to reach our goal so we can have everything we need to film in August.  Any amount is appreciated.

The Antonio Family-Eugenio and wife Pacita (center) with 8 children named in alphabetical order:Alfonso (deceased), Belinda, Cynthia, Diana, Eugenio III, Frances, Gilberta, Hernan and Irene
The Antonio Family-Eugenio and wife Pacita (center) with 8 children named in alphabetical order:Alfonso (deceased), Belinda, Cynthia, Diana, Eugenio III, Frances, Gilberta, Hernan and Irene

THE MAN/OUR STORY

Kusgan, a Bisayan word meaning "Strong" , is a name Eugenio was called during WWII, when he earned the distinction of being the only Municipal Mayor in Negros Occidental who did not surrender to the Japanese. Instead, he served his country, organizing the Resistance Movement and forming a guerilla unit in the mountains (where Elizabeth's mother was born).

WWII Guerilla Fighters-Philippines
WWII Guerilla Fighters-Philippines

Being heavily involved in politics, Eugenio was blacklisted for "elimination" during the Reign of Terror, in the late 1940s to early 1950s.  The Philippine Free Press tagged Negros Occidental the "isle of fear" due to the actions of its Governor, who fielded a private army of 2,000 men charged with intimidating oppositionists to secure the success of his candidates in the elections through intimidation and physical violence.  In discovering he was a target for not kowtowing to the Governor, Eugenio was determined to stay and fight. But his wife Pacita convinced him he could not fight an army by himself, so he escaped and returned with the help and intervention of the Defense Minister by sending Philippine Marines to guard the Antonio household and keep his family safe.  Unfortunately, they were not in time to save the opposing candidate from the atrocity of being tortured, showing his mutilated body in different locations and finally killing him.  This is the fate that Eugenio escaped. 

Years later, Eugenio took his back pay from the war, and chose to invest his money on the lives of young people by establishing Tanon High School, and now Tanon College.  At the time, public education in this region stopped at 6th grade, and unless you were from a wealthy family, you could not afford to continue your schooling.  But Tanon was formed as a school for the children of the poor and average-income laborers of the hacienda in San Carlos City.  Eugenio believed that an education was one thing that no one could ever take from you, and he envisioned a school that would provide the poor access to quality education that would improve their lives, and the realization that poverty is not a hindrance to success.

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