Sulu 1999: Memories of a Forgotten War Part 2

In the first set of photographs that I had posted in this album, I shared some experiences that we went through in the making of the film “Memories of a Forgotten War” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0810083/), in which parts of the film were shot in location of Patikkul in Jolo Island.

Our work was to reenact the so-called 1906 “Battle of Bud Dajo”, where the Americans almost every Tausug man, woman and child in the village found in Mount Dajo. Our original plan was to do the actual shoot in Mount Dajo, but the local military prevented us from doing so, due to operations in the area. So we worked at the next mountain, Patikkul.

The production designer
The production designer

Here I am documenting the production, with Mount Dajo in the background.

A last minute group picture, that got blurred
A last minute group picture, that got blurred

Here is the whole crew, along with some actors (whom we casted from a local school), posing with Mount Dajo in the background. The photograph is quite blurred as we were all rushing with last day of shooting, with the sun about to set. We were not able to bring any lights, due to the difficulty of getting on site, as well as the very small budget that we had to work with.

All my tools were hanging from my belt, as I was prepared for anything, including first aid
All my tools were hanging from my belt, as I was prepared for anything, including first aid

My primary job was to be the production designer; who was in charge to sets, special effects, makeup, and costumes. With no assistant (except at the times in needed carpenters to build something), I would walk around will all my tools and other materials hanging around my waist.

Preparing for my
Preparing for my “death” scene

From production designer, I shifted to stunts coordinator, since we had to reenact some battle scenes. However, there were some scenes in which our actors could not do the stunts, so I myself had to do the actual stunt. This is a photograph of me in costume, as I prepare to be “blown up” by artillery fire.

The man who fought a tornado
The man who fought a tornado

Aside from casting students from MSU (Mindanao State University) Jolo, we also cast many locals including members of the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front).

This gentleman (whose name escapes me) got our attention when we were still at the town of Jolo. One night, a tornado hit the city, which caused much alarm to everyone. Many of the MNLF in the area came out and started firing their weapons into the tornado, as to frighten the evil spirit that brought it. This man came out into the field and stared at the tornado, as he pulled out his barong (a short sword) and started stabbing at the storm.

The very next day, we discovered that the tornado did little damage to the area where we were staying, but it did gouge a large track of land that ran right through the military camp. It seems that these Tausug warriors were very effective in scaring off the evil spirit that caused the tornado, and ran it off into their enemy’s camp.

The locals waiting for their scene
The locals waiting for their scene

There were many spirits that had visited us during our stay in Jolo; from an army of warriors manifesting themselves while we were in the city of Jolo, to multiple possessions during a reenactment of the destruction of the masjid (mosque) in Patikkul. So it was little surprise if some of the crew felt wary that a spirit would pop up at any given time.

This photograph was taken by our secondary cinematographer, Regiben Romana, who felt that the young lady looked like a diwata (goddess or spirit) of the forest.

In full costume
In full costume

The Tausug are a very festive people, even if their area seems to be rife with conflict. One of their greatest expressions is the pangalay (offering) dance, which is performed by the whole community. We saw the people dance the pangalay in the city, and up in the mountains when there is no reason to celebrate. I later learned to dance the pangalay by participating in their celebrations.

Here I am posing with two pangalay dancers, who had recently finished their performance for a visiting government official.

Singing the Beatles and The Eagles
Singing the Beatles and The Eagles

On our last night up in the Patikkul area, we had a small celebration at the home of the local datu (chieftain). To give back to the community, I joined with an MNLF soldier to sing to the locals songs from the Beatles and Eagles, which every Filipino seems to know, no matter where.

Enjoying the beauty of Sulu
Enjoying the beauty of Sulu

Before returning to the city (and hop on board a ferry to the mainland of Mindanao), our hosts took us on a day of at one of the local beaches. The waters were so pristinely clear and the sand was immaculately white, which could easily top our best tourist beaches in the Philippines. Somehow, the conflicts in this island have lead to the preservation of the natural environments, which would have otherwise been exploited and destroyed if tourism came to these shores.

Photographs by Regiben Romana & Peter Marquez

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