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Tears behind the dazzle of Sunday Beauty Queen

24 February 2017

 Sitting for Q and A during the premiere of the Sunday Beauty Queen are , from left:, Rudelie Acosta, cast; Leo Selomenio, cast, Baby Ruth Villarama, director; Hazel Perdido, cast; Micheal Wong, co-producer; and Liza Dino Seguerra, Film Development Council of the Philippines chairperson. CBC

By Cris B. Cayat

The screening of the independent documentary film Sunday Beauty Queen at Asia Society on Feb 7 was awash with tears, as men and women alike unabashedly shed tears as the movie ran its course.
The movie, which won the Best Picture award at the Manila Film Festival last December, centers around Filipinas who escape the drudgery of working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong by joining beauty contests.

But Sunday Beauty Queen is as much about living on borrowed glamor, as it is about the difficulty and loneliness of working abroad to fend for families back home.

Vice Consul Robert Quintin set the tone for the rest of the evening when he said in a speech before the film started that everyone should step back and rethink how to deal with the lure of beauty contests to overseas Filipino workers.

“I hope that after the film, after the glitter, after the crown came down their heads, they know that they are mothers, sisters, daughters here to provide livelihoods for their families back home,” Quintin said.

He also challenged those in academe to look more closely into the phenomenon.

“To those in the academe, this topic is worth studying. Try to explain why this is happening,” Quintin said, noting that beauty contests are rooted from where the workers came from, and are not about to go away anytime soon.

After the screening, the movie’s cast which included several OFWs in Hong Kong, joined a Q&A with those who were in the audience.

One of them, Rudelie Perdido, said joining pageants was her escape from her daily work grind. Though the pictures she posts on Facebook, she also tries to assure her children back in the Philippines that she is doing fine.

“Gusto kong makita ng mga anak ko na masaya ako,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
But at the same time, she said she hopes the movie would help open the minds of OFW families back home that a domestic worker’s life in Hong Kong is not easy.

Also in the audience were several local Chinese people, one of whom asked if there was a version of the film with Cantonese subtitles.

Chinese co-producer Michael Wong said there was. Wong was said to have been instrumental in convincing the employers of the OFW cast members to participate in the film and open their homes for filming.

Another OFW cast member, Leo Selomenio, said she organized beauty pageants to raise money for charity. She admitted that candidates were asked to sell tickets, but added that after the movie’s success, she may no longer have to do this as several business establishments in Hong Kong have expressed interest in sponsoring her beauty pageants.

SBQ’s director Baby Ruth Villarama said former Consuls Joy Banagodos and Charles Macaspac were the ones who got her interested in delving into the phenomenon way back in 2011.

Villarama said the movie was filmed over four years, and that she was not confident at first about completing it because of the unstable work situation of the main cast members who are all OFWs: Selomenio, Acosta, Mylyn Jacobo, Cherry Bretania and Hazel Perdido.

But in the end, the film was not only finished, but also went on to win top honors, bringing accolades to its maker and renewed interest on the Sunday beauty queen phenomenon among OFWs.
SBQ is just one of several independent films being shown at Asia Society this February.

The others are Entre Medio del Fin, Sakaling Hindi Makarating, Imbisibol, and Curiosity, Adventure and Love.

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