By: Michael U. Obenieta
“I AM making a film about the Bajaus, with the aim to celebrate a nonviolent people amidst a very violent world. It’s an intriguing premise about a particular people of peace living in a place of endemic violence.
One of the most interesting peoples in southern Philippines, the Bajaus are native sea-dwellers that are also found in the neighboring Malaysian and Indonesian archipelagos. They are the so-called Sea Gypsies who are skilled in building various types of boats, and widely known as fishermen, pearl divers and mat weavers.
As a film, THY WOMB examines the opposing natures of two women (Nora Aunor/Shaleha’s sterility against Lovi Poe/Mersila’s fertility) to reflect the prevailing condition in Tawi-Tawi, a place endowed with natural beauty and rich resources but mired in economic and socio-political crises. A quiet hell of a paradise, THY WOMB’s “birth place” and its environs are constant reminders of yesterday’s conflict that has remained unresolved up to the present.
The Bajaus are considered to be the most primitive and oppressed among several ethnic groups in the region; and they assume a subordinate status in their diverse and divided community, which includes the Samal and the Tausug, among others. But in spite of this, the Bajaus are generally perceived to be non-confrontational, forgiving, seemingly contented and happy people.
When wronged, it is said that the Bajaus would simply move to another place, bringing their houseboats (lepa-lepa), constantly roving, living in harmony with nature. To this day, they are mostly looked down, degraded and much maligned by their ethnic neighbors and others, thus rendering them harmless, helpless and almost powerless.
But in their heart of hearts, are they really so, or is it just another way of life merely misunderstood by those inured to violence? With this thought and theme, and my curiosity further piqued, the narrative voice of the film has emerged loud and clear.
With intensive research and truthful depiction of certain characters and their circumstances, as articulated in the poignant tale of an aging, childless couple who resolve to find the mother of their much-wanted child, I hope THY WOMB would show a slice of life in the best possible light."
-- BRILLANTE MA. MENDOZA