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Women of the Weeping River: A Look into Tausug Culture

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Women of the Weeping River: A look into Tausug culture

A Film Review

Lliyah Mangawang

Sheron Dayoc has made Women of the Weeping River (2016) into a film that gives a different insight to the general state of affairs in the war ridden region of Mindanao. As unusual as it already is to find a film which tackles the issues and problems in the area with a genuine air without thoughts of exoticizing and cultural exploitation, it is even more so unusual to tackle it through the viewpoint of a woman. The film had managed to portray the state of affairs in the regions of Mindanao from the viewpoint of the people who are least likely to be heard voicing their thoughts and opinion on the fighting, warfare, and general state of the people and the area.

The film follows the conflict between two warring Tausug clans and the resulting terror and deaths it has plagued both sides. The film starts by revealing that Satra, the main protagonist, has just been made a widow with the death of her husband from the hands of the enemy clan, the Ismaels. A territorial dispute which has turned both sides bitter and a feud which has lasted generations; It was said to be a continued back and forth of bloodshed where with each life taken from one side, retaliation means taking the life from the other.

Left with her son Hassan, and under the care of her then family, she revels in her bitterness and agrees with the family that revenge is an agreeable response. Eventually however, she grows introspective and wonders how it would be if the warring would end. When she meets a woman from the other side, who herself has lost her child due to the clan’s conflict, they somehow come to the understanding that they both somehow wish to see that the fighting end. The film revolves around these women, and how the clan war has effectively affected their lives.

The Tausug as previously mentioned in discussions in class and from historical texts are described to be fierce and courageous people. Not only that, they bear an air of superiority over other Muslim clans given possibly their years of experience at resisting the supposed “powers” that constrict them, from the time of the Spaniards up to present day. The Tausug people are also known to function heavily with reciprocity and debts (Kiefer, 1968). Whether they may be debts of gratitude incurred from social events and labor exchanges between themselves, or within the context of revenge that allows the taking of one life after the unjust taking of another, the Tausugs value the exchange of debts whether they may be beneficial or not.

This leads to the central issue and the highlighted facet of Tausug culture that the film wishes to bring to light. Clan wars, blood-feuds, or Rido as they are called in Tausug culture refers to a state of recurring vengeance between different clans characterized by a series of retaliatory acts of violence carried out to avenge a perceived injustice or wrong doing incited upon their families (Torres, 2007).

Given the state of Rido the families were in, the fierce, firm, and blood-thirsty nature of theTausug was greatly highlighted within the film. Plenty of the rather violent or radical scenes throughout the movie point to this. The film shows how much this fierceness is in their blood by showing that it is not enough to be prepared with guns in case enemies were to attack, it is actually essential that every able man train and learn how to fire with proficiency. Furthermore, the family’s patriarch Mustafa, was firm in his stand that the family will need to retaliate and draw blood from the family that had done them the injustice of taking one of their own, which in this case was Satra’s husband. This shows how firm the Tausug are in their beliefs, and as previously mentioned, reciprocation is a value that is continuous in their culture. One would also be able to see how there is a certain blood-thirstiness in the Tausug that seemingly every one of them possesses. I was struck by this realization after seeing the scene in which the young boys who were playing one minute, were suddenly coming to blows during the next. As quick as the scene was, it was a shock seeing it end with one of the boys dying due to a rock to the head.

Despite these rather tense scenes, the natural nature of the Tausug to be fierce, firm, and bloodthirsty, shined through in much simpler and tamer scenes as well. Given that the film was meant to be viewed through the eyes of the women affected by the violence and death that the Rido has caused both families, it also serves to show how these women, though as quiet as they were, can bear the characteristic nature of other Tausugs as well.

The woman from the Ismael clan Shadiya, was shown being steadfast with an air of resolute fierceness as she told Satra how she has lost people she loved and that she wishes that no one would be able to feel the same pain she does. This however did not mean she was willing to let go of the land that was central to both their family’s disputes. Farida, the old woman who Satra tries to sell her jewelry to, refuses to do so because of her knowledge of where the money will be spent for; guns to continue the fighting. It is her firm belief that the fighting should stop, or perhaps the blood-feud could be nulled in hopes



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