Here in imperial
Sheron Dayoc’s feature debut, Halaw, is a story of the dangerous, daily diaspora from
In a seaside town in Zamboanga, where it all begins, a Badjao named Jahid and his young daughter Daying prepare for the illegal pump-boat crossing to
However, the sea journey is never free of risk and treachery. The pump-boat operators may know all the precautionary measures from mapping out the best routes to escaping detection in Malaysian waters, but nothing is guaranteed. The smallest exigency – e.g. the presence of water in the hull, the sudden sputtering of the boat’s motor – can be a cause of concern for both the travelers and their transporters. Easy passage is for the unusually lucky.
Even as there are divertissements along the way – e.g. the young Daying regaling her boatmates with what must be a Badjao dance, something she parlays into a handful of coins – the sense of reprieve is palpably temporary. In a well-conceived, penultimate scene set on
If, as one watches, one detects an Ariadne’s thread of sorts through Halaw and films like Jeturian’s Kubrador,
That seems to be part of Halaw’s one glaring problem, its rough-draft finish. Like an exquisite corpse, Halaw has some missing vital parts. The interaction between the travelers, the agoraphobia of the open seas, the different complexions and colorations of a journey, seem hurriedly sketched, rushed. A sense of narrative truncation happens at the end, all too abruptly. Perhaps, this picture’s structure is an attempt to draw a parallel to the lay of the land, highlighting the chopped-up nature of a nation. Like a gangrenous limb, there is a part of us that must want, desperately, to be separated, amputated.