Movie Review: The Gift of the Barong

10 12 2009

In my last blog, I talked a little bit about Filipino identity. I talked about the many ways people can relate to it and how this perspective we call “Filipino identity” is such an open ended idea to many of us Filipinos. I still think it is a very open ended idea, but either way I think everyone finds a way to understand what Filipino identity means to him/her. But with that said I recently saw a film that helped two men find what Filipino identity means to them.

The film is called the Gift of the Barong. It is a documentary that focuses on two Bay Are Filipinos. In the documentary, it examines a problem these two Filipinos had: their inability to identify with the Filipino culture. Both growing up rejected any aspect of Filipino culture, from little things such as avoiding talking in tagalong and having Filipino friends to bigger things such as having feelings of superiority over Filipinos because they do not speak with thick accents. Their inability to accept Filipino culture lasted until they were both middle aged, when each one was given a gift: a barong. For some reason, once both Filipinos put on a barong, they went through somewhat of an epiphany, feeling somewhat empowered just by wearing it. From there, their curiosity of the barong grew to bigger things, such as finding more about their culture and history. They even went as far as traveling to the Philippines and seeked to learn more about the culture of the Philippines. Interestingly enough, it actually took two years to make this movie (that’s a long journey).

In my opinion, the Gift of the Barong is a must see for any Filipino and Filipino American. It lets you see how one came from totally avoiding their culture to embracing it like no other. Also, there are very moving interviews with family members of the Filipinos, as well as the fact that the film lets you experience and see different parts of the Philippines such as houses in the rural areas of the Philippines to the beautiful landscapes and beaches. Personally after watching the movie I felt proud that I was Filipino and I had a much deeper need to find out more about myself and roots. It even inspired me to to think about visitng the Philippines on my own one day.

I hope you all find a way to watch this movie!

-Nes Martin Morales

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