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Filipina maid shines as ‘Martika’, in RTHK’s new TV movie

15 March 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Selena M. Gomez
She may be just an ordinary Filipina domestic worker, one of the 200,000 OFWs who serve in Hong Kong homes.

Yet, in recent weeks, this simple, unassuming “kongyan” who goes by the screen name Selena M. Gomez, has transformed herself overnight into a movie star propelled by the “can do” spirit of dwellers of this bustling city.

It would look like Selena’s transformation was meant to be, as it came at the right time and at the right place.

When Radio-Television Hong Kong was hard-put to find somebody who could play the role of a foreign domestic worker in an episode of its long-running TV series “Below the Lion Rock,” the show’s director stumbled across Selena.

“Kasi yung friend ng amo ko, famous TV director dito sa Hong Kong – si Heiward Mak,” said Selina in an interview with The SUN recently.

The 31-year-old maiden from El Nido, Palawan, said she met Mak when he came to visit her employer.

At the time, the director had a handful of candidates for the role of  “Martika”– both Indonesians and Filipinas – with the best bet being a performer at Disneyland. But Mak eventually thumbed down the woman for being too pretty and fair skinned, thinking she wouldn’t pass for a servant.

“Tapos minsan dumalaw siya sa bahay ng amo ko at nakita ako. Sabi ni amo, ‘Siya na lang ang kunin mo. Kumakanta pa iyan.’ Kasi naririnig niya kapag kumakanta ako habang nasa kusina,” said Selena.

Selena M. Gomez plays the role of Martika, a domestic helper, in RTHK’s TV movie.
She said Mak sized her up, then agreed to give her a try. He endorsed the Filipina to a colleague, director Fei Pang Wong, who would do the particular “Below the Lion Rock” episode. The director asked her to attend two acting and dancing workshops in a Mongkok studio before shooting.

At the same time, Wong and the production crew patiently visited her for days, after 9:30pm, when her daily work was done, to get to know her better and help her become comfortable with their company before the camera rolled.

Selena said it took a total of eight days in February and March to shoot “Martika”, in addition to the two days of workshop and two days of casting.

She was told beforehand she would not get a penny for starring in the movie because of legal issues, and she said she understood the situation and that the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play the lead role in a movie – which was not even in her wildest dreams – was more than enough compensation for her.

“Martika,” the film title, is also the name of the lead character in the movie about a Filipina domestic helper who struggles to give care to elderly dementia sufferer Kam Fai (Li Ying To) while she tries to resolve a family financial crisis long-distance by phone.

One winter day, Martika was too absorbed trouble-shooting her family problem when her employer Alan Chung (Patrick Tang) gave her an urgent call and rushed home. She was shocked to find out that her elderly ward had gone to the bathroom all by himself to take a shower, got locked up and left the tap open, sending water flowing out into the flat.

For Selena, the scene in which Alan was crying in one corner while she was also crying in her bed, was the toughest part of the movie.

“Ang hirap ng eksena na iyon, yung umiiyak si Alan, tapos ako umiiyak din sa kabilang kuwarto. Ang hirap pala talaga ng iiyak ka sa camera. Pero pinagtiyagaan ko dahil it’s a very rare opportunity,” the newfound actress said.

 She said director Wong and the crew complimented her after the shooting for her “very natural” acting, telling her she would win an Oscar. It wasn’t a joke, as Selina said  RTHK is planning to enter “Martika” in this year’s Hong Kong TV Awards.

“Sobrang nakaka-inspire kasi sa dinami-dami dito ng naghihirap, out of 300,000 ako pa ang napili kaya hindi ko sinayang ang opportunity,” she said.

RTHK TV aired a shortened, 45-minute version of “Martika” on Nov. 26. The full movie is one hour long. After that, Selena got a deluge of friend requests on a special “Martika” Facebook page that RTHK had set up for her.

Selena said one of her avid fans is her lady employer, who accompanied her to the nightly shoots, staying up until 3am despite having to work the next morning. Another is the mayor of her hometown, Nieves Cabunalda-Rosento, who was so proud of her that she shared the Youtube-uploaded movie with friends.

“Very relevant yung story, it’s actually about us domestic helpers… very OFW talaga. Money matters, manghihiram ka sa lending. Very relevant kaya maraming nakaka-relate. Mas maganda kapag Hong Kong viewers para makita nila na mahalaga rin kami sa buhay nila,” Selena said.

Selena’s dream is to earn a college degree. She was just 17 when poverty drove her to Manila at age 17, where she worked as a maid and went to college at night. She was in her first year as a BS Education student when she decided to work in Hong Kong.

“Gusto kong i-encourage ang aking mga kapwa Pilipina na hindi basehan yung may pinag-aralan ka, o ganito, huwag nyong sabihin na kahit katulong ka lang wala kang natapos, hindi tayo pwdeng mag-excel sa trabaho natin o gumawa ng iba. No, we can. Ang trabaho natin pagbutihin natin.”

“Ako po, yun ang laging rason, mahalin mo ang trabaho mo, mamahalin ka rin niya.”

Whether she’s doing the laundry or acting in front of the camera, this belief is what keeps Selena going.

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