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This Netflix Documentary Showcases a Sama-Bajau Free Diver

The Sama-Bajau is a major indigenous group that originated from Sulu.
IMAGE Netflix
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If you've got 30 minutes to spare, queue up episode 3 of Netflix docu-series Home Game.

The series takes a look at “unique and dangerous sports”, as the press description calls them, from around the world. These include Scotland’s Highland Games, where participants toss giant logs up in the air; kok boru, from the Kyrgyz steppes, where horsemen jostle to carry a goat carcass into a goal; and a mystical wrestling match from Congo called catch fétiche.


For some, though, these sports are a way of life. This is the case of Eldio Gulisan, affectionately known as “Imam”, who is a fisherman in a Sama-Bajau community. To make a living, he dives to extreme depths without any equipment to spearfish for his family to eat.

But to raise the profile of his people, he decides to become a freediver.

The Sama-Bajau, a nomadic people once called the Badjao, is a major indigenous group that originated from Sulu.

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For centuries, they’ve made their living from the sea, and across the generations, their bodies have gradually adapted to holding their breath for long periods of time.

But the 56-year-old Gulisan, who is also a religious leader, only recently got into the sport for which his body is uniquely built, in part because his people have been belittled and oppressed in modern Filipino society.

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“Through freediving, our profile as Samas will be raised,” he said. “A national record would be a source of pride for me and my tribe.”

The short episode trains a lens on his attempt to set a Philippine national record in the Deeper Blue competition held last year in Panglao, Bohol. His goal is 67 meters, or the equivalent of a 24-story building. He'll have to hold his breath for around 3 minutes.

It also touches briefly on the female freedivers who are currently making their waves in the scene.

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The serene underwater cinematography is an effective vehicle for a surprisingly affecting story about how sports can stand for something bigger than just competition. You’ll be rooting for Imam all the way, though we won’t spoil the ending for you. And at just 30 minutes, you can finish it over your lunch break.

Click here to watch Home Game on Neflix.

This story originally appeared on Spin.phMinor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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