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- ‘Sunday Beauty Queen’ Shows OFWs With Their Family Away From Home
Posted by : Pinoy Screen and Stage Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Sunday is a family day, but for some of our women, this is the only day where they get to be themselves. Sunday is a symbolism of freedom, which these OFWs in the film spend with others who work in the same industry. For a day, they get to be pretty, be with their friends, and enjoy what life has to offer provided it’s within their budget. For a day, they get to be normal human beings, not something close to a machine which works 24 hours a day, six days a week.
This documentary by Baby Ruth Villarama which was shown as part of the Busan International Film Festival follows the lives of Filipino migrant workers closely as they interact with both their employers and the community which has been there for decades. The amazing thing about the narrative is that it shows us the difficulties the protagonists have to cope with everyday without sounding preachy or being a propaganda material. Whether it’s about the threat of deportation when one gets terminated and cannot find a new employer within 14 days, or their owner’s pets being treated better than them because many get scraps and are not allowed outside the kitchen, literally, the tone of the film is just neutral, and even very optimistic at times.
The main characters in the narrative are Leo, a butch lesbian community worker and beauty pageant organizer and Rudelie Acosta, one of the active beauconeras (pageant contestants). Even though this documentary shows the contrast between the lives of the two, the former being a rare househelp who is allowed to rent his own place by Bonnie Lee, his employer, and the latter having experienced a common incidence of being like a puppet on a string when it comes to employer-employee relationship, it does so matter of factly. Like what we know, most of these people are undereducated and just want to earn more so they can support their relatives back home. However, what we don’t know, which the documentary establishes within the first half of the film, is that they just earn an average of $555 a day, which is just around 26,000 to 27,000 pesos.
One of the employers featured was the late Jack Soo, a producer of both Cantonese films and TV dramas, says pretty much why some countries think it’s perfectly logical to get household workers from the Philippines. Aside from cheap labor, he has this belief that the world will be in chaos if our country would stop sending workers abroad. The narrative ended with a lot of hope, whether the protagonists ended up in a better place or not. In fact, there is an OFW there who mispronounced “employer hopping” as “employer hoping”, which strikes at the very heart of this film since all of them could hope that they get an employer who will treat them as human beings, if not a member of a family away from home.