OFWs: 'Sunday Beauty Queen' an eye-opener for families
MANILA, Philippines – Former, current, and aspiring overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families on Saturday, January 14, were all praises for the documentary film Sunday Beauty Queen, which had struggled to remain in theaters. (READ: MMFF 2016: 5 things to know about 'Sunday Beauty Queen')
Around a hundred people – mostly OFWs and students of the language training program of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) – got to watch the film during a free screening sponsored by OWWA at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
The film, directed by Baby Ruth Villarama, follows the stories of OFWs in Hong Kong who work for 6 days a week, and have one free day – Sunday, which they spend mounting beauty pageants.
Sunday Beauty Queen received rave reviews from movie critics and won Best Picture at the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) last December. (READ: 'Sunday Beauty Queen' review: Enthralling reality)
Chona Salceda, an OFW for 23 years, couldn't help but cry after watching the film. An office professional in the Middle East, Salceda said the film made her feel bad for domestic helpers who work day and night to support their families in the Philippines.
"Ako nga na sa opisina nagtratrabaho – maayos ang salary, may freedom – na-ho-homesick. Paano pa kaya ang mga domestic helpers?" she said.
(I work in an office which gives me a good salary and more freedom, but I still get homesick. How much more our domestic helpers?)
Rodalyn Molino, who worked as a domestic helper in Singapore and is set to work in Hong Kong soon, said she was able to get a glimpse of her future life in Hong Kong.
"At least handa na ako ngayon kasi napanood ko na kung ano ang buhay nila doon. Madami akong nakuhang lessons tulad ng paano mo matutulungan ang sarili mo pag na-ho-homesick ka," she said.
(At least now I'm prepared for my future life there [in Hong Kong]. I learned a lot of lessons like how I can help myself when I'm feeling homesick.)
For Lorena Riyad and Mylene Crebello, who are both relatives of OFWs, the film opened their eyes to the struggles of working abroad, which people in the Philippines usually take for granted.
"Nakaka-touch kasi kahit mga college graduates sila, pinili nila magtrabaho abroad. Mas pinili nila ang pamilya nila kesa sa sariling kaligayahan," Crebello said.
(It's touching because even if they're college graduates, they still chose to work abroad. They chose their families' welfare over their own happiness.)
"Ganyan pala ang mga OFW, lahat gagawin para sa pamilya. Pero 'yung mga naiiwan dito hindi na-re-realize kung gaano kalaki sakripisyo nila," Riyad said. "Para siya sa lahat, hindi lang sa OFWs."
(So that's what OFWs are like – they'll do everything for their families. But those left here don't realize how big OFWs' sacrifice is. The movie is for everyone, not just for OFWs.)
Struggles with a 'new format'
Mylyn Jacobo, one of the OFWs featured in the film, shared that she was surprised with the audience's reception.
But she expressed dismay that Sunday Beauty Queen was not screened in many provinces, especially in her hometown, General Santos City. "Ang lungkot kasi dapat mapanood talaga nila ito, lalo na mga pamilya ng OFW. So sana mabigyan ng chance," she said.
(It's sad because people really need to watch this, especially relatives of OFWs. So I really hope they give it a chance.)
Jacobo also hopes the film would not only inspire OFWs, but also shed light on important issues concerning them and spur government action.
Villarama also expressed her frustration over not being able to bring her film to other provinces.
"People have been clamoring [for] it, talking about it. Pero 'yung avenues to watch the film ay sobrang limited – parang tinago siya sa lipunan. Nagpaka-Cinderella, parang may curfew bigla 'yung movie. Kasi since nag-end ang MMFF, parang inend na rin ng cinemas although they've kept the usual suspects backed up by big studios," she said.
(People have been clamoring for it, talking about it. But the avenues to watch the film are so limited – like it's been hidden from society. Just like Cinderella, suddenly the film had a curfew. Once the MMFF ended, the cinemas stopped screening it although they've kept the usual suspects backed up by big studios.)
According to Villarama, they are still negotiating with SM cinemas to screen the film again since they continue to be flooded with requests.
"We're trying to find common ground with cinemas para mapalabas siya ulit. Kasi ang fear ng cinemas ay walang manonood because this is a new form, it's untested, hindi siya kasama sa formula nila – walang artista, hindi siya box office candidate," the director said.
(We're trying to find common ground with cinemas so the movie can be shown again. Cinemas fear that nobody will watch because this is a new form, it's untested, and not part of their formula – it doesn't have celebrities, it's not a box office candidate.)
"From the business perspective, they don't want to risk it. But the turnouts have been really great – sold out in most screenings. So it's really finding balance," she added.
When asked why she opted to make a film about OFWs in an "untested format," Villarama said there's a need for it. "I think it's about time we see ourselves in our story, in a new line, a new perspective. It's high time we give Filipinos [well-deserved] quality films and stories that they can champion and be proud of."
Following an MMFF dominated by independent movies, Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III had criticized the removal of "50% commercial viability" from the criteria for selecting the 8 films that will be featured in the festival. Sotto said in a resolution that while some enjoyed the new films, others were still looking for old festival favorites that "give them a good laugh."
To this, Villarama said the senator should "watch the films first" before reacting.
"I'm just wondering if he really went out of his way to watch these films. I'm pretty sure if he really watched these films, he would think differently... We have to remember, Shakespeare did his masterpiece using pencil and paper. All those great things that we've seen – people started it from scratch," said the director.
"So it's not about the quality of equipment. And technology now has a way [of] really helping young filmmakers like me to tell a story [that's really] world-class. Sana mapanood, 'yun lang ang sa 'kin. Sana mapanood niya bago mag-react (I just hope he gets to watch the films. I hope that he watches the films first before reacting)." – Rappler.com
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