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SBQ’s bounty keeps Daddy Leo going

11 March 2017

Leo Selomenio
By Daisy CL Mandap

Just a few years back, Leo Selomenio could only gaze from afar while singer Aiza Seguerra performed onstage. Now, they exchange text messages, and Aiza even promised to come to Hong Kong and perform at one of Selomenio’s events this June.

And it’s all because of “Sunday Beauty Queen” or SBQ.

Selomenio, a popular community leader known to many as “Daddy Leo”, is one of the Hong Kong OFWs whose heart-rending life stories were featured in SBQ, a highly acclaimed documentary which won as Best Picture in last December’s Manila Film Festival.

While she may not have made money from the movie, not even a small “TF” or talent fee, Selomenio said she is grateful enough that many doors have opened for her because of it.

Apart from becoming text mates with Aiza, Bela Padilla, Anne Curtis, Iza Calzado and other movie stars who sought her out after seeing the movie, Selomenio has also been offered support for her advocacies by big companies and private individuals.

The biggest offer has come from a generous Filipino couple, Juancho Robles and Pinky Therese Pe Tobiano, who have pledged to support events organized by Selomenio for the next two years through their OFW online advocacy group,

The couple reportedly came to Hong Kong to seek Selomenio out, and brought lavish gifts for her and her live-in partner. As the Robles couple plans to embark on a goods delivery service in the Philippines for OFWs as part of their project, they also sent complimentary gift boxes to the families of Selomenio and her partner, each filled with goods worth Php8,000.

“Sobrang generous nila,” said Selomenio, who added that Robles also gave her a lai see packet with $2,000 in it, while Tobiano gifted her partner with an “expensive” pair of pearl earrings.
The generous socialite has even offered to lend her gowns made by top Filipino couturiers Cary Santiago and Francis Libiran to the 30 candidates in the June 4 beauty pageant that Leo’s group, Global Alliance, is organizing.

A total of 25 gowns have already been pledged for delivery to Hong Kong in May, and Tobiano has reportedly said she’d have five more made so all the contestants would have something to wear.
“Pati costumes ng mga beauty contestants ay libre na, so wala na silang gagastusin,” Selomenio said.
On top of this, the Robles couple has also undertaken to pay for the cost of mounting the show, and provide the prizes for the winners.

Another generous donor is Michael Kors – Hong Kong, whose marketing manager, Henry Tang, asked Selomenio to present her planned activities for the year. Tang was reportedly so impressed that he offered sponsorships throughout the year, with part of the money to be given in kind, meaning through gifts of its iconic handbags.

Another big sponsor is Camella Homes, owned by the richest Philippine lawmakers on record, Senator Cynthia Villar and her husband, former Senate President Manny Villar.

Many other similar offers are in the pipeline, which means Selomenio would be busy organizing events for the next two years.

Despite the bounty that has virtually fallen on her lap, Selomenio cannot help but gripe at how she and her fellow OFWs featured in SBQ appear to have been left out of the financial rewards being reaped by producers of the film.

“Ang akala kasi ng iba, ang dami-dami ko nang pera dahil sa pelikula,” she said.

In fact, according to her, the $5,000 plus that she and fellow OFW Hazel Perdido each paid for their plane tickets to Manila for the MFF awards night have yet to be reimbursed. And while she got to keep the Piandre suit she wore to the event, the gowns worn by Hazel and Mylyn Jacobo, the two other OFWs who went with her, had to be returned.

She also said that her appeal to screen SBQ in Hong Kong for a charity event on Mar 26 went unheeded, until she signified an interest to pay the standard US$500 fee per screening charged by the producers.

Luckily for her, a professor who got to watch SBQ in its initial screening in Hong Kong at Asia Society was so moved by the domestic workers’ plight that she offered to book a theater at Hong Kong University for free for Selomenio’s group.

With this, and the sponsorships from various sources, Selomenio is confident she will raise enough for her group’s regular beneficiary, the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, and to scholarships for children of the Itneg and Mangyan tribes back home.

Money matters aside, Selomenio is also unhappy that SBQ showed the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong in a rather unfavorable light.

In one scene in the movie, Selomenio is shown telling Bethune’s Edwina Antonio, “Bakit ang hirap lumapit sa Konsulado kapag may problema?”

In another, Selomenio can be seen talking about having made to clean the Consulate’s air conditioners. She says this is a joke she and her friends regularly throw about, but in the movie, it sounded like a complaint.

“Ayaw kong magbigay ng public comment (about it) kaya bumabawi na lang ako sa mga newspaper interview. Kasi ang lumalabas, parang ang sama-sama nila (PCG),” said Selomenio.

It is to the credit of the Consulate officers that they are still supportive of her despite the unfair image given them by the film, she added.

But having vented, she is sanguine enough to accept that SBQ has raised the level of public awareness about what OFWs like her have to put up with just to improve the lives of their families back home.

Even employers seem to have taken notice, and taken heart.

Selomenio said that she was apprehensive when her own employer was about to watch SBQ, as it showed her and her partner living together in a boarding house. Up until then, the employer knew them only as close friends.

Her employer did not say anything after the movie. But the next day, just when Selomenio was about to leave her home, the employer handed her “baon” which was obviously for two people. The employer simply said, “this is for you and your honey”.

That was the time Selomenio realized SBQ’s full impact, and how it has tapped into the audience’s innate goodness to create a better understanding of the plight of Filipino migrant workers.

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