2019 Philippine elections

Nora Aunor, Brillante Mendoza wrap up Tawi-Tawi shoot

David Yu Santos
The country's superstar stayed close to 2 weeks in Tawi-Tawi to shoot her indie film

DOWN SOUTH. Superstar Nora Aunor poses with Tawi-Tawi Vice-Governor Ruby Sahali before the shooting of indie flim "Thy Womb" directed by Brillante Mendoza. (Photo courtesy of Vice-Gov Ruby Sahali)

MANILA, Philippines – “It’s a wrap.”

Close to two weeks since coming to the island province of Tawi-Tawi, the country’s southernmost frontier, Nora Aunor has finished shooting her latest film “Thy Womb.”

“We are gratetful to Ms Aunor, as well as those behind this movie, for choosing Tawi-Tawi as their location,” Vice-Governor Ruby Sahali told Rappler by phone. “It’s a welcome breather for us amid all the bad press the province has been getting.”

The superstar herself is equally grateful for the hospitality the province has shown to her and the film’s crew.

Aunor flew in to Tawi-Tawi last April 14, to shoot the indie film, her first since returning from a hiatus in the United States. Shooting took place in at least 3 locations: the island-towns of Bongao, Sitangkai and Taganak. She left the province last Saturday, April 28.

“Thy Womb” is a collaboration between Aunor and Brillante Mendoza, Cannes award-winning director, and is seen as a landmark in modern Filipino filmmaking.

Initial press releases indicate that the movie tackles the struggles of a native Badjao midwife (Aunor) and deals with “an intriguing tale of love adrift with an unsettling question [on] how to sustain a life struck between the devil of passion and the deep blue sea of tradition?”

Actress Lovi Poe waves to fans waiting outside the Bongao airport. (Photo courtesy of Vice-Gov Ruby Sahali)

Indie film actress, Mercedes Cabral gets a warm welcome upon arriving in Tawi-Tawi. (Photo from Vice-Gov Ruby Sahali)

Also spotted in Tawi-Tawi during the fliming of "Thy Womb" is actor-turned-producer and director, Raymart Santiago. (Photo from Vice-Gov Ruby Sahali)

Aside from Aunor, other stars who were in Tawi-Tawi for the location shoot included Lovi Poe, Mercedes Cabral and Bembol Roco.

Action star Raymart Santiago was also part of the film, reportedly not as among the actors, but as part of the film’s crew.

“It was surreal for us to see all these movie stars coming down to Tawi-Tawi. Being the farthest to the nation’s capital, we never thought they would come and shoot a film here,” Sahali said.


Provincial police director Rodelio Jocson said there were no untoward incidents reported throughout the duration of the filming. Both the police and units of the Philippine Marines provided security for stars and the film crew, which numbered around 30 to 40 members, excluding local talents who were tapped for minor roles.

“Whether they are famous movie stars or ordinary tourists, as long as they coordinate with us, we will be ready to secure them,” Jocson said, pointing out the security plans are prepared each time they are informed of incoming visitors.

Two foreign birdwatchers abducted two months ago in the remote town of Panglima Sugala remain in captivity up to this time.

Tawi-Tawi is also infamously known as the jump-off point for illegal immigrants to Malaysia, due to its proximity to the State of Sabah.

Despite perceived security threats, Cannes Festival award-winning director Brillante Mendoza chooses the islands of Tawi-Tawi as the location for his latest project. (Photo from FB/In Thy Womb)

Apparently, despite the security concerns, Aunor and Brillante pursued shooting in Tawi-Tawi, which reportedly will be shown in “at least 70% of the film.”

Though smaller films have been shot in Tawi-Tawi “decades ago,” this is the first time in recent years that a full-length was shot in Tawi-Tawi.

“The abduction of the foreign birdwatchers was just an isolated case. We can assure you that we are doing everything to have been freed as soon as possible,” Jocson added.

Both Sahali and Jocson noted that ironically, since the February abduction, there has been a rise on the number of tourists coming to Tawi-Tawi. A crew from the National Geograhic Channel is also reportedly doing a documentary in the province.

“If you set aside all the bad press, Tawi-Tawi, or Mindanao as a whole, is a very beautiful place,” Sahali lamented. “We don’t get to be appreciated so much by majority of the Filipinos because all we hear and see are the negative news about our place.”

“We hope that with the widespread publicity of ‘Thy Womb’ both here and in other countries, it will also draw interest into our province, more than just the reports on violence and cases of human trafficking we have become to be known for.” – Rappler.com

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