by Anna Ryana D. Tampogao
“We wage war with the power to keep home. And home is always a tender thing,” said writer-film maker Adjani Arumpac during Woman/Hood: Changing Tapestries for Change, an International Women’s Day activity hosted by the Department of English, with support from Gender and Development Resource Center of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension, on March 8, 2018 at the Mini Theater in MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology.
Arumpac’s documentary film War Is a Tender Thing is a gentle probe into her own family history—Christian on her mother’s side, Muslim on her father’s—and its complex relationship with Mindanao, a “dormant land of conflict” she calls home. It juxtaposes war on the domestic front with war in Mindanao. It tells the story of Arumpac’s parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, which is a story of mistrust, separation, massacre, and colonial manipulation. The film is driven by rich dimensions of diversity contained in every individual and her family’s undying memories of pain brought about by migration, martial law, and the war.
According to Arumpac, the film was about massive migration within the country in the 1930s, when the government gave ancestral Muslim and indigenous people’s lands to people in the capital (Luzon). The tender war lies in finding the link between the personal and historical, two entities that happened at the same time.
She shared that she originally intended to make a personal essay film, a type of documentary film that uses literature to create images. She wanted to explore the dynamics of cultural intermarriage and retell stories embedded in the memories of common people which are not found in historical texts, news, and official records.
Arumpac, a writer, filmmaker, and educator who specializes in the documentary film genre at the University of the Philippines, shared that her original plan was to make a personal essay film, a type of documentary film that uses literature to create images. She wanted to explore the dynamics of cultural intermarriage. She retold stories embedded in the memories of common people which are not found in historical texts, news, and official records.
“I tell stories in the memories of the common people, often not found on historical texts, news, official records perceived as unreliable and non-omniscient. The personal, the memory, the female, the common, the sub altered–I very much believe hold a sense of urgency that can reclaim a people’s long history of tragedy from the curatorial, referring to a narrative always moderated, mediated, censored, incomplete to state a mitigation.”
In the film, her uncle Abdul Arumpac expressed his deep sorrow recalling the war between the government forces and the MNLF as well as many other incidents. He conveyed his support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law which is currently in the process of getting signed by the government. He also said that the peace agreement would protect the rural folks from Mindanao.
War is a Tender Thing is the second in an ongoing autobiographical trilogy on internal diaspora in the Philippines. It has been shown in various film festivals, including Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, Southeast Asian Film Festival, Signes de Nuit International Festival, and Cine Totoo: Philippine International Documentary Film Festival.
The film has also been widely screened in a series of fora and fundraising for the Marawi’s internally displaced persons organized by the BAI Indigenous Women’s Network, a coalition of women’s organizations and individuals that are committed to help displaced women in Marawi.
Aside from the film showing, the English Department has also organized an array of activities throughout March in celebration of the International Women’s Month. These include a movie screening, an essay writing contest, and a poetry reading event. According to Melicent J. Arig of the English Department, these activities aim to inspire and empower women to maximize their potential by using their voices. They seek to draw attention to the rights, richness, and diversity of creative expressions of Filipino Women.
Department Chairperson Nelia G. Balgoa also talked about women’s struggles in all parts of the world. She thanked the Feminist Movement for risking their reputation so that women of this age can have access to these rights.
“We just do not celebrate; but there are instances that will lead women to push. But pushing implies the breaking of softness and fragility of women that do not sit well in the in the society where the dominance of men is still evident. And society does not take kindly for women to push. We have to remember that [it is] in pushing that we untangle the tapestries for change.”