War Is a Tender Thing

- THE PHILIPPINES / 2013 / Filipino, English / Color / Blu-ray / 51 min

Director, Photography, Editing, Producer, Source: Adjani Arumpac

News broadcasts that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government after a long struggle for independence in Mindanao. But the director’s parents are skeptical. The director, born in southern Mindanao, traces the roots of her father’s family of plantation owners of Islamic descent, and her mother’s lineage of Christian settlers who migrated from Luzon. Individual voices reveal a complicated family history, one that is not encompassed by the simplistic “war zone” narrative broadcast by the media.

[Director’s Statement] “Peace is just a temporary period between wars.”

Dubbed as the second-longest running conflict in the world, the Mindanao War is retold in War Is a Tender Thing as a poignant tale of seeking and keeping home.

There is restlessness within. A war has been raging in my homeland for decades. This documentary focuses on the fusion of two cultures, the Muslims and the Christians, in one promised land. It is a curious exploration into the integration of cultures brought together by a state-sponsored land resettlement project in the 1930s.

Colonial policies are still in place that promise homes already owned by one person to another. And like viruses, these colonial policies breed even more skewed policies that primarily serve those who already own land, and not the displaced and the landless. And in 2012, another “framework agreement” was introduced and signed—yet another attempt to quell the unrest in Southern Mindanao.

How does one account for the many lives toyed with by these national political maneuvers, which do not take into full consideration the lives being lived at the grassroots level? One listens to their stories, however imperfect, however partial. These memories make up a narrative of the war that is as powerful as it is truth telling.

- Adjani Arumpac

Adjani Arumpac is a writer and filmmaker from Mindanao, Philippines. She is now based in Quezon City, Metro Manila. She graduated with a Bachellor of Arts in Film and Audio Visual Communications from the University of the Philippines. Her directorial works include Walai (2006), a full-length documentary film about Muslim women in Mindanao, and Nanay Mameng (2012), a documentary film on the life of a beloved octogenarian and urban poor leader in the Philippines, Carmen Deunida.