Delikado documentary shows dark side of paradise in Palawan, Philippines

Annalisa Burgos talks to filmmakers Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco about their documentary "Delikado," about the dark side of paradise on Palawan.
Published: Nov. 25, 2022 at 5:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Virtual screenings for the Hawaii International Film Festival wrap up on Nov. 27. Among the critically-acclaimed movies you can watch is Delikado, a documentary about indigenous land protectors who risk their lives to stop illegal logging and fishing on the beautiful islands of Palawan in the Philippines -- also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Filmmakers Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco share their thoughts about bringing the film to global audiences.

“There’s a dark side to the island that that nobody was really aware of, where the the rainforests are being plundered and destroyed for development purposes and tourism. And so Delikado follows a group of men called para-enforcers, they go into the forest, to save the trees from being destroyed,” Syjuco said.

“For us wanting to do something about climate change situation, wanting to do something to defend indigenous rights. This was just a way to channel all of that energy into something that we feel like can make a real difference in the world,” Collins said. “It’s being billed as an eco tourism destination where, in fact, you know, the government itself, some of the powers that be behind the scenes, are really destroying the environment there. So it’s understanding that balance, it’s understanding how to keep you know, that the tourism is an important part of the economy, but that there has to be real action to be taken to protect the environment that’s actually drawing so many people in.

“Tragically, the Philippines is the number one country in the world to, you know, for land defenders being murdered, or assassinated, you know, which is it’s crazy to me because you have Brazil and the Amazon and you hear a lot about, about that happening there. And nobody really talks about, about your life in danger, to be a land defender in the Philippines,” Syjuco said.

“Part of the power of this kind of storytelling is the film itself is really about people. Yes, it’s about the environment and about the importance of it, but it’s about people and their connection to the land. And the fact that they’re willing to put their lives on the line to save it. And it’s just giving people that understanding that this is what’s happening everywhere. And I think that is what empowers them because then you feel a connection to them. It’s not just a It’s not just a statistic, this many trees are being, you know, destroyed every year, it’s actually people who you’re connecting with on screen whose lives are being lost, their family was being murdered,” Collins said.

“This film follows a group of para-enforcers in Palawan and they’re working on a shoestring budget. So we have a direct link where you can donate to them so that they can go out on these missions. These guys walk through the forest for days at a time barefoot and pull chainsaws out of people’s hands. It’s what they do. And a little bit of money for them goes a long way,” Collins said.

To donate, visit and watch the documentary online at through Nov. 27.