SanSwê: The Challenge of Encroaching Culture

A scene in the film SanSwê

   Sarangani Province is rich in stories that are worth sharing. These stories reflect the daily lives of the people inhabiting in it. Aside from the beautiful sceneries, abundant natural resources and the rich and diverse culture of Sarangani, the stories found in this Province are interesting, enigmatic, entertaining and you can learn a lot from it. 

   A good friend of mine and a fellow SOCCSKSARGEN Bloggers, Ariel Lalisan, shares one of the stories of Sarangani in the SalaMindanaw International Film Festival (SIFF) last November 2013. His film SanSwê (it pronounces as Sanswa – meaning Betrothal) depicts the culture of B’laan where parents arrange the marriage of their children. It also presents the challenges face by the B’laan culture from the influence of the outsiders. His film will be showcased in the 6th Cinema Rehiyon this coming February 19-22, 2014 to be held in Cagayan de Oro City. 

   In an interview, he said that SanSwê is his first film. Short film for him is very challenging because he is accustomed to direct music videos (in support for local artists). I know from the very start that Ariel has potential for filmmaking. That’s why I persuaded him to join the SIFF. 

   “It’s basically learning by doing”, Ariel said. “We wanted to show an actual wedding ceremony of the B’laan but we did not have enough resources to rent traditional (B’laan) attire and the time to organize such an act. I had also a hard time inserting the filmmaking process in my schedule. We did not have the proper equipment like lighting, and we are all first timer. Because of constraints we are not able to follow the script in its entirety”, he added. Despite the challenges he encountered in filming his short film, he enjoyed making it. Supposed to be, I should be his Production Manager & Designer for Sanswe, but our schedule did not meet and I also help Ronald Tamfalan for the film . So we shoot our own films and survive its challenges. 

   “Watching my film in the cinema was unbelievable for me”, Ariel said. “I never thought that one day my work would be seen by other people in the big screen. I was very nervous because I’m not confident of my output. The reaction of the people was flattering. At least there were expressions of kilig, laughter, surprise and somehow provoke their thoughts.” 

   The character of Mimi in the film is worth remembering. Her character epitomize the young generation of B’laans who get educated in the city and tend to forget their culture. As Ariel explained, “it is easy for them (the young B’laans) to turn their back on their traditions. Mimi embodies the challenges face by the young B’laans in modern times”. He pointed out that showcasing their stories through films may help for the preservation of the B’laan culture. It is important to document this kind of story to educate the younger generation of the importance of culture and tradition against modernization. 

   Ariel also shares his dream film project. He said that he wanted to make a collection of films showcasing the rich culture of the different tribes in Sarangani. He wanted to present their plight and sentiments. To make them proud of their identity and to empowered them, as well as to educate the viewers. Moreover, he wanted to tell stories that never heard before or realities that most people tend to ignore.

   “If you want to create a great film, you want to harness the talent of the right people to help you carry out your vision,” as Ariel realized. “Film is a very good medium to communicate your ideologies. Sometimes a story may seem simple or complex but if you look at the symbolism and the language use in a film you will realize its richness, depending on the viewer’s interpretation”.

   I really admire Ariel for sharing the stories of the B’laan tribe. It is important to showcase their stories for enlightenment. I hope the majority of the Filipino viewers will appreciate this kind of story. Enough with the teleseye type of story because too much “entertainment” will drown us to delusion. As Ariel suggests, “Look around you; immerse yourself in the community. Listen to their stories. Listen to what your heart tells you. Take everything as an opportunity to learn and to grow. Never tire to learn new things.” Ariel's advice may sound cliché but it is still worth a try. 



Ariel Lalisan’s SanSwê (Betrothal) follows Mimi who returns to her family in remote Sitio Atnayan. Being the first in her sitio to have finished high school, Mimi’s homecoming is surely the family’s proudest moment. But not until the stark difference between the new set of norms she has acquired— after several years of living in the town—and the old traditions her B’laan family enshrines begins to turn the reunion into a mishmash of awkward realizations and heated confrontations.

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