By DANTE CORTEZA
Daily Zamboanga Times
June 21, 2013
I am glad that the film, Thy Womb by Director Brillante Mendoza, continues to get rave reviews and recognitions in the local and international market (it has been shown in world's top film festivals in Venice, Toronto, Busan, Bologna, Vienna, Brisbane, Taipei, Dubai, Munich, Amsterdam, etc. ). Last June 19, 2012, Thy Womb won the best actress award for Thy Womb main character, Nora Aunor, and the Best Production Design during the 36th Gawad Urian Award at the NBC Tent in Taguig City. Urian awards are given by the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (MPP), a group of film critics and academicians.
What makes Thy Womb endears in my heart, it was filmed in Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi and revolves around the people, culture and life of the Badjaos. Films like this I believe uplift dignity as it changes perceptions for better understanding.
Starring superstar Nora Aunor, Thy Womb revolves around the unconditional love of a Badjo midwife (Nora Aunor) coping with both the cultural burden and gendered irony of her own infertility amid the deprivations of the Badjaos in Tawi-Tawi. One of the most interesting peoples in southern Philippines, the Badjaos are native sea-dwellers and are called Sea Gypsies who are skilled in building various types of boats, and widely known as fishermen, pearl divers and mat weavers.
Director Brillante Mendoza said, “I am making a film about the Badjaos, 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.
Art Tapalla of Enter Showbiz wrote that ‘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 Badjaos 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 Badjaos 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.