Me and my travels: filmmaker Ida del Mundo

Filmmaker Ida del Mundo on how her travels to Lake Sebu in Cotobato inspired her to write her award winning film, K'na the Dreamweaver

photos courtesy of Ida del Mundo

I’m very lucky to be able to travel a lot as part of my job as a writer, musician, and filmmaker. I travel at least once a month, but lately its been two or three times a month, which I love!

If I’m on vacation, I like to relax, have a massage, and indulge in food– all very laid back. But, since I usually travel for work, I follow an itinerary. Traveling as a writer sees me ziplining, surfing, hiking, wakeboarding, and more. I wouldn’t call myself adventurous because I don’t seek these things out, but I’m up for any adventure.

Ida on Lake Sebu

My first trip to South Cotabato and Lake Sebu was unforgettable and will definitely remain very close to my heart. When we were stranded in the mountains and had to hike in the rain, in the dark, I seriously thought that I was going to die! Now, South Cotabato holds happy memories. I've made many friends there, especially in the T’boli community. I was born in the US and my parents are from Manila, so this is the closest thing I have to going home to the province.

When I first encountered the T’bolis, I was fascinated by the vibrancy of their culture, especially their tradition of t’nalak dreamweaving. I felt a special kind of connection with the T’boli people when we were stranded in their small village and had to spend the night there. When I was trying to write about the experience later on, I realized that film was the best medium to translate the T'boli culture. 

It didn’t take long for me to write K’na the Dreamweaver, which became my first feature film inspired by the T'bolis because I had long been wanting to write a tragic love story set in an ancient Filipino culture, inspired by Zhang Yimou’s films. 

Filming was difficult because we had no electricity and other modern comforts on location. We only had the equipment that we brought with us, so we had to improvise a lot. One of the most memorable experiences while shooting was when we couldn’t get the helicam we needed for the opening shot. Lee Briones and her crew instead strapped a tall ladder to the deck of a boat and recreated the effect of a helicam. 

The first encounter: Ida and award-winning photographer George Tapan with T'bolis on her fateful first trip to South Cotabato

I love how filmmaking (unlike writing) is a very communal experience. You foster a relationship with so many people. 

There was no pressure to impress my dad [acclaimed screenwriter Clodualdo del Mundo] because the films he did were very different from K’na in theme and in scale. He told me during the shoot that he had never shot scenes as big as the ones in K’na. 

Aside from South Cotabato, I absolutely love Palawan. Diving, snorkeling, and kayaking in El Nido was amazing, something that I would want to do again. I also went to Bohol with the Manila Symphony Orchestra a while back and we were given a private performance by the Loboc Children’s Choir. Their voices were ethereal and brought tears to the MSO musician’s eyes.

Ida accepts the Special Jury Prize at Cinemalaya 2014. Photo by Don N. Juan

I love the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. I used to be a volunteer docent there. K'na was shown there recently. The Ayala Museum is also special to me because the MSO performs there regularly. Both these museums have an extensive precolonial Philippine gold section.

I think finding inspiration is more of an inward exploration. When I’m stuck in a rut, I usually stay at home, listen to music or watch TV while I clean my room. I’ve started doing yoga as well. I go to Yoga+ Express in De La Salle University.

I work so much that when I have free time, I usually stay at home. I live near the Cultural Center of the Philippines, so I really like hanging out there to catch a performance or just take a walk by Manila Bay.

Ida in traditional T'boli garb

It’s baduy (cheesy) and we argue a lot when we travel, but my favorite travel partner is still my mom. She’s the type who is also up for anything. She’s more of a people person than me, so I get to know the locals vicariously. 

I always take my malong on my travels. It can be used as a top, skirt, or dress; a towel; a blanket; a picnic blanket; a bag; a pillow; a sleeping bag – anything! I also always take my notebook and pencil. And socks.

I hate dust collectors, so I don’t buy kitschy souvenirs. I usually look for unique clothes or accessories wherever I go.

Surprisingly, I haven’t been to SagadaBatanes, and Davao.

T'boli girls see themselves on the monitor for the first time during production

In the coming months, K'na will be shown in Texas, Chicago, and again in New York, USA. We just came from the Aichi International Women’s Film Festival in Nagoya, Japan. I hope to show the film to more audiences in the Philippines.

About Ida
Ida del Mundo’s first film K’na the Dreamweaver, a fable about a young T’boli woman, won the Special Jury Prize at the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival in 2014 and Best of Show at the Female Eye Film Festival in Canada. Del Mundo continues to write for The Philippine STAR and is busy as a violinist with the Manila Symphony Orchestra. She is currently finishing a script for a new film. For updates on screening schedules for K’na the Dreamweaver, check out the film’s Facebook page.

Interview by Amanda Lago

Published September 2015