Wawa no Cidal: What is in a Name? Explored from an Taiwanese Aboriginal Experience

Wawa no Cidal – A Story about Self-Identity

In the movie Wawa no Cidal, Panay (Lin Hsio Ling) tells a story of how she had been forced to introduce herself with “Hi, my name is Lin Hsio Ling” in order to hide her aboriginal identity. However, through the  experience of returning to her village she can now proudly say “Hi, my name is Panay.” Read more

Name – more than a way to call someone

While a name does not define the person, it is one’s first introduction to the culture, society, and heritage they were born into. In a globalized society, one would find it somewhat difficult to find one’s own place. However, a name is the first step to finding where one comes from. With this in mind,  one can figure where one is now and his/her future prospects. Read more

Dueling Names – Taiwanese American edition

In this continuously globalizing society, being forced to take up another name is  losing one’s own definition and place in society. Much like aboriginals, Taiwanese Americans also has the hard ordeal of finding their name, a Mandarin name versus an English name. Read more


Wawa no Cidal – A Story about Self-Identity

Wawa no Cidal is a story about an aboriginal village’s struggle against the modernizing Taiwan culture. It follow an aboriginal called Panay (Mandarin name Lin Hsio Ling), as she travels back to her village to take care of her ailing father. Meanwhile, the village is under pressure to have their land sold in favor of constructing a holiday resort. To the aboriginals, the land is sacred and was passed down generation to generation. On the surface this movie is one that focuses on the village’s struggle to retain its land, but that takes place in the larger story of retaining self-identity.

One pivotal scene is when Panay is trying to get support for her project to reinvigorate the farming of the land. Having only 5 minutes for her pitch, she saw the first line, “Hi, my name is Lin Hsio Ling.” Instead of speaking those words, she told the audience her experience of growing up speaking at several public speaking competitions (言講比賽). She mentions how she would always open with “Hi, my name is Lin Hsio Ling” but never her original name.

This strategy, along with the removal of her aboriginal accent, landed her first place multiple times because the judges would believe she was not an aboriginal. However, her original name, Panay, holds much more meaning. Panay in Amis means unmilled rice, in other words, it is the fruit of mother Earth’s labor. Despite having a beautiful name filled with meaning, she is forced to use her Mandarin name to mask her roots and in turn win these competitions. Now she no longer wants to win these competitions, she just simply wants to be herself: “Hi, my name is Panay.”

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Name – more than a way to call someone

Behind the scenes about the connection of finding one’s own name (Mandarin)

Wawa no Cidal means Children of the Sun in Amis, and in this movie represents the villagers and the next generation but to Co-director Yu-Chieh Cheng, “children of the sun, isn’t just children of this village, but it means everyone. It could mean a person or it could mean a country.” Furthermore, his wish for this movie is for “every children of the sun to say who they are, their real name, in their own tongue.”

Based off of the documentary Wish of the Ocean Rice directed by Lekal Sumi, Wawa no Cidal was also directed by Lekal Sumi. In the original documentary, Sumi documented her mother’s journey to bring life back to land, and during this time, Sumi searched for his own bearings and sense of belonging in his village. Aboriginals in Taiwan oftentimes have two names, one is their aboriginal name and one is a Mandarin name. Taking this Mandarin name is to fit into this modernizing Taiwan society, comprising mostly of people of Han descent, this movie shows the importance of remembering one’s original name and one’s roots.

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Dueling Names – Taiwanese American edition

Choosing between an aboriginal name versus a Mandarin is symbolic of something seen by Taiwanese Americans. To the original Taiwanese that emigrated to America, English is not their native language, so their children will have Mandarin names to foster an attachment to their Taiwanese heritage. However, to integrate into the American society, these children will also adopt an English name as their official name, leaving only their Mandarin name a nickname for family members. Due to the complexity of the Mandarin language, names constructed from Mandarin characters tend to hold meaning, much like “Panay.” In ABC’s Fresh off the Boat, mother of the Taiwanese American family, Jessica’s Mandarin name is Chu Tsai Xia, meaning colorful rainbow. Since she needed to be integrated into American society, she was forced to pick an American name to fit in. This phenomenon is not uncommon as even Taiwanese are slowly calling themselves English names while in Taiwan.

While a name does not define the person, it is one’s first introduction to the culture, society, and heritage they were born into. In a society and world that is more and more globalized, it may be hard to find one’s place in it. Nevertheless, a name is the first step to finding where one comes from, and with it, where one is now and where one will be in the future.

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Film Review by Film Diet

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