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Film screening Sayaw sa alon - Dancing on the Waves

Film Screening: Sayaw sa Alon (Dancing on the Waves)

The Philippine documentary film Sayaw sa Alon (Dancing on the Waves) portrays the life and performing arts of the Bajau people, also known as the Sama Dilaut, who traditionally live on boats in the Sulu and Celebes Seas in the borderlands between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. On a parallel cinematographic level, "modern traditional" dance is woven into the plot in order to connect the historical and contemporary trajectories. Rounding off an academic symposium on the music and dance of the Sama Dilaut, organized by the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) Leiden and the University of Amsterdam (UvA), this film will be screened on 9 September, 2010, at 4 pm in the University Theatre of the University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16. Writer and director of the film, Nannette Matilac, will be present and introduce the film, the screening of which will be followed by a discussion. Entry is free, visitors are welcome.
For a trailer of the film, see

Film Abstract

A thousand years ago, the Bajau built magnificent sea vessels; fifty years ago, they still navigated the seas with beautiful houseboats. Now, there are no more trees from which to make their houseboats and they are forced to live on land. They are also threatened by war, western acculturation and globalization.

The Bajau, or sea gypsies, of the Philippines used to dance and play music in everyday life. Sayaw sa Alon (Dancing on the Waves) captures the remaining remnants of such cultural heritage which reside in the memory of the elders, like Hadji Musa Malabong who mourns for the loss of their houseboats; Ennura Domingo who is now blind and can no longer dance and play bamboo clappers; the ageing kulintangan musicians of Sitangkai who still play during weddings and full moon rituals; and Jahurra, the medicine woman who can still chant and heal the sick.

Sayaw sa Alon (Dancing on the Waves) traces the rapid transformation of the Bajau from a seafaring people to a land-based nomadic group living in slums along railroad tracks. Through ritual, dance and music, they struggle to hold on to their ethnic identity. How can they save their invaluable wisdom about the sea, their arts and their beliefs in the face of new hostile environments?

The documentary combines the traditional dances and music of the Sulu Archipelago to dramatize the rapid transformation of the Bajau from sea dwellers to land-based nomads. The dance documentary follows the Bajau migration from the Sulu Archipelago to the slums along the railroad tracks of Laguna.

Running time: 60 min

Writer and Director: Nannette Matilac · Narration: Cecilia B. Garrucho · Cinematography: Neil Daza and Egay Navarro, with additional footage by Manie Magbanua and Cynthia Paz· Production Manager: Cynthia Cruz-Paz · Editor: Milo Alto-Paz · Musical Scoring: Isha Abubakar · Artistic Consultant: Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa · Dancers: AlunAlun Dance Circle and Tambuli Cultural Troupe of Tawitawi

Produced with the support of the NCCA and UNESCO Philippines