October is the month where we celebrate the diverse and vibrant cultures of local Indigenous Peoples. With the emergence of technology and modern inventions, indigenous practices and ways of living have often been ignored and set aside by many. But little did they know, Indigenous Peoples across the country have made invaluable contributions on forest conservation, natural medicines and traditional craft making.
In celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Month amid the pandemic, we create a long list of some notable and award-winning shorts and feature-length films (and documentaries) which shed a spotlight on the struggles and unique customs and lifestyle of our Indigenous communities. Their colorful history, aside from bearing native identity, constitutes their never-ending effort and priceless sacrifices in preserving indigenous cultures and ancestral lands.
Some of the films in the list are not available for streaming as of now, but you can still add them to your films-to-watch list.
• Igorota (1968)
Director: Luis Nepomuceno
The movie tells the tale of an Igorot maiden who falls in love with a man from the city. They insist on being married, despite the protests of the families.
• Banaue: Stairway to the Sky (1975)
Director: Garry De Leon
After a long search, Banaue and her tribe find a new place in the mountains to make their home. Trouble erupts when another tribe tries to take over the Banaue tribe’s new territory. (Rent it on iTunes here.)
• Mumbaki (1996)
Director: Tony Perez
A chieftain’s son must make a choice between leaving the country with his fiancee or returning to his tribe when his father is killed.
• Busong (2011)
Director: Auraeus Solito
Punay is a young woman who was born with many open wounds and cannot walk. Her brother carries her around the city in a hammock, looking for a healer, and many strangers help them along the way.
• Thy Womb (2012)
Director: Brillante Mendoza
A Bajau midwife copes with her infertility as she helps women in her gypsy community.
• Walang Rape sa Bontok (2014, documentary)
Director: Lester Valle
Two Filipina victims of sexual abuse search the truth behind the finding of a renowned anthropologist: that merely a few generations ago, the Bontok Igorot lived in what seems an unthinkable utopia—a rape-less society.
• K’na, The Dreamweaver (2015)
Director: Ida Anita Del Mundo
When K’na, a young T’boli woman, becomes a dreamweaver, she has the chance to weave together her village’s warring clans. But, will she give up true love to do so? (Stream it on Youtube here.)
• Baboy Halas (2016)
Director: Bagane Fiola
An indigenous family, one of the last forest people of old, copes with the unusual changes in their environment including the imposing lifestyle and customs of the more sociable tribes on the plains.
• Women of the Weeping River (2016)
Director: Sheron Dayoc
Satra, a widow, is caught in an escalating blood feud stretching back generations. She initially seeks vengeance for the death of her husband, but finds herself being convinced by Farida to leave the land after the death of her only child. Beyond the will of her family, she secretly meets up with the matriarch of the rival clan to seek possible reconciliation. (Stream it on Youtube here.)
• Paglipay (2016)
Director: Zig Dulay
Paglipay ollows the story of Atan, a 19-year-old Aeta set to marry his childhood friend, Ani. Before the ceremony can push through, Atan must pay Ani’s parents a dowry of Php 20,000, among other things. Determined to win her hand, Atan journeys to a nearby town in order to make a living.
• Tu Pug Imatuy (2017)
Director: Arnel Barbarona
Tu Pug Imatuy, which means “The right to kill” in Manobo, follows Lumad couple Obunay and Dawin who are uprooted from their traditional way of life after a military encounter. (Rent it on Vimeo here.)
• Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment Redux VI (2017)
Director: Kidlat Tahimik
As the ultimate enfant terrible of Philippine cinema, avant-gardist Kidlat Tahimik refuses to settle on anything, whether it’s the telling of a colonial past, or any version of this film, which he’s been making and revising for nearly four decades. BalikBayan, which means “returnee” in Filipino, is partly about the homecoming of the historical figure Enrique of Malacca, a Malay who Tahimik first played and brought to the screen in 1979. As the slave of the 16th-century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan he circumnavigated the Earth, before returning home as a free man. Old footage of Enrique, played by the young Tahimik, is mixed with the fictional story of a mysterious old man, played by the present-day Tahimik, and documentary footage of a contemporary artist community in Baguio, in northern Philippines. In this version, Redux VI, Tahimik continues his quest to reconsider the Philippines’ colonial legacy. Shot on 16mm (1979–1980s) and video (1990s–2017).
• Nang Malipol sa Gubat (2013)
Director: Donna Matibag
Isang babaeng nakakulong sa kalungkutan ang maglalakbay sa gubat upang bawiin ang bahagi ng kanyang sariling inakit ng mga engkanto.
• Ugkat (2014)
Director: Alyssa Suico
The film speaks of unearthing our identity that we’ve buried in the efforts to level ourselves with cultures that are not our own. In the efforts to move forward, we’ve been misled into situations causing us to be pitted against one another, and ultimately we end up losing our land, our way of life, and our identity. Yet our rich and beautiful culture is still inside of us is just waiting to be heard. If we listen, then maybe we can finally progress. (Stream it on Youtube here.)
• Mga Inukit Na Ul-ul-ulit (2014)
Director: Isabela Fabros
This documentary is about the influx of tourists in Buscalan, Kalinga after their tattooist elder, Apo Whang Od was given the title, “the Last Mambabatok”. The many ul-ul-lit (stories) are told from the perspective of Filipino city dwellers who felt it urgent to get a mark of a fast fading culture.
• Pilawot (2015)
Director: Ian Bondoc
Two young male headhunters trying to avenge their tribe from a long-running rival village.
• Siyanan (2017)
Director: Summer Bastian
Siyanan looks into the disappearing traditions among the indigenous peoples of Bontoc, Mountain Province. Told through a manifold narration that weaves the autobiographical with the mythological.
• Tembong (2018)
Director: Shaira Advincula
In a culture where designs are dreamt about and to be woven only by women, a T’boli man is challenged to face a cultural norm as the abaca goddess shows him a pattern to weave in his dreams.
• Tokwifi (2019)
Director: Carla Pulido Ocampo
A 1950s mestiza star, trapped inside a television that fell from the sky – dreams up a romantic romp with a Bontok Igorot man who does not know how to kiss. (Streaming Soon on MOOV.)
If you want to know more about the life of our IP, you can watch the National Artist for Film and director of Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment Redux VI (2017) Kidlat Tahimik’s talk on the Facebook page of Daang Dokyu where he shares his views on IP wisdom.
*If you are still looking for movies to stream, visit Cinema Centenario’s official online screening platform – MOOV. We made some films available for free viewing.