Singaporean filmmaker Anthony Chen debuts his film Iloilo at Cannes Film Festival this May 2013. Set in Singapore during the 1997 financial crisis, Iloilo is about the Lim family and their new househelp Teresa; how their already problematic family ties evolve; and how cultures crash.
When asked about the film’s title, Chen answers:
“When I was much younger, my mother hired a Filipino maid to look after the children. Teresa was with us for a long 8 years until I was 12 years old. We called her Auntie Terry. When she left to return home, it was hard to bear, but we got used to her absence and somehow lost contact. I believe the universal experience of children growing up with maids is one of having a “”surrogate”" mother, a friend and a confidant. The one thing that has stayed with me after all these years is the name of the place she was from, Iloilo, a province in the Philippines. That is how the title of the film came about.”
As it chronicles the filmmaker’s family life with their Auntie Terry, the film also depicts the life of a Filipino domestic helper overseas– their sacrifices, their hardships and the simple joys they get from the children they treat as their own. Though not a Filipino film and entirely shot in Singapore, Iloilo somewhat gives delight to the Filipinos especially those working overseas. More than the money they earn, nothing else makes them feel all the sacrifices are worth it but to feel appreciated and loved in a land strange to them. And this film makes them feel special and appreciated in so many ways.
Today, May 1, as we celebrate Labor Day in the Philippines, take time to watch the trailer. It feels overwhelming to have a foreigner appreciate a Filipino worker even after a decade or so has passed. People like Teresa dignifies a job that is often deemed cheap and low. As this film takes over the International scene, we hope our OFWs and Domestic Workers could also receive the same respect as the foreigners would give to Auntie Terry. We wouldn’t know for sure, but this film might change how the world sees the Filipino domestic workers .Not only because this a film about a Filipino maid, but because the foreigners would be seeing it from a perspective of a non-Filipino.
Knowing she have touched hearts and transformed lives, and that a film was made about her, Auntie Terry could not be happier today wherever she is.
Iloilo is starred by Filipino indie film and theater actor, Angeli Bayani. Iloilo will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival this May. As for the Philippine screening? We have to wait.
//Photos and quotes from Iloilo Facebook Page