Motherland premiered October 16 on the PBS documentary series POV. It can be viewed at the POV website. It will be released on Digital HD, DVD, and Blu-ray November 7, 2017, by Filmrise.
Ramona S. Diaz, an American cinema verite documentary filmmaker, was in search of a story on reproductive justice when she came upon the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manilla, Philippines. It houses the world's busiest maternity ward. The staff oversees 60 births a day — and at its peak, as many as 100 babies within a 24-hour period.
As we are taken through the dormitory wards, we notice that two women and their newborns often share the same bed. Everybody is sweating in the tropical heat because there is no air conditioning. Most of the women in this facility are poor, live in rural areas, and adhere to the Catholic cultural bias favoring large families. They also lack access to education, medical care, and family planning services.
Among those who talk about their situations are new mother Lea Lumanog who is having a hard time coping with the surprise birth of premature twins. Since this public hospital is underfunded, there are no incubators. Each mother is supposed to bring a tube dress which can be pulled up to hold the infant against her chest; she must carry the baby that way 24/7.
Lerma Coronel has just given birth to her seventh child (she's in her mid-thirties) and her husband is unemployed. Seventeen-year old Aira Joy Jubilo also worries about money and the challenges she faces with a preemie who needs to gain weight.
Diaz has made a valiant documentary about the quiet heroism of women nurses, doctors, and social workers who patiently try to stem the tide of ignorance, rigid traditions, and cultural shibboleths about birth, children, and caring for them.