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Film a tribute to DHs caring for elderly – director

09 April 2018

The audience that watched Martika at the Consulate.

By Vir B. Lumicao

Minfa Gervacio, the Filipina domestic helper who has become a movie celebrity in Hong Kong, was so unique that RTHK would not have been able to shoot its TV movie “Martika” if the production team did not find her.

That was what director Wong Fei-pang said about the 32-year-old maid from El Nido, Palawan, whom he directed in the starring role in the one-hour episode of the series “Below the Lion Rock”.

The movie is also an eye-opener for the need to provide domestic helpers training on care-giving for old people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The young director said he was inspired to do the movie after observing the relationship between domestic helpers and elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease during his visit to a home for the aged.

“The film’s starting point is the domestic helper, and the relationship between us and the domestic helpers is very important for me. It is very important for me that you guys are facing some problems but you are not alone. I think this is the whole important message of the film,” Wong told The SUN after the film's screening at the Consulate on Mar 25.
Minfa Gervacio receives a certificate from Consul General Tony Morales.

The movie, which aired in December last year and featured the vital yet undervalued role of a foreign domestic helper in Hong Kong society, has unexpectedly turned the simple and unassuming Gervacio into an instant celebrity.

“I don’t think the ‘Martika’ would be the same because she was so unique, for her own story, for her voice, for the singing. Also, because if we didn’t find Minfa to do this, I don’t think we could have shot that movie so smoothly,” Wong said.

The Consulate's conference room was packed with more than 50 viewers, including OFWs, diplomatic staff and local media for the 2pm second screening of “Martika”. Consul General Tony Morales decided to show the movie as the highlight of the Consulate's celebration of National Women’s Month.

About the same number of people came for the 10am screening of the full-length version of the
movie at the invitation of the Consulate.

Wong, Gervacio and her employer Sanders Ho were in the morning showing, but Ho could not stay on for the second screening because she had an overseas business trip in the afternoon, the newbie actress said.

Congen Morales, who joind the first screening, noted that many of those in the audience could relate to the lead actress’ situation.

“I think this is a good opportunity also for us to realize that Filipino household service workers are appreciated and recognized. We are not invincible,” Morales said.

He said the Filipinos here are not just workers but “human beings with their own sets of challenges and issues” and they sometimes end up interacting with the elderly with Alzheimer’s disease who help open their eyes to their mutual vulnerability.

Gervacio thanked Morales for giving her the confidence to come out and show “Martika” to fellow workers, explaining that she was initially afraid to be identified as the star of the film because of strict Hong Kong government rules for helpers’ activities. This was why she had to use the name Selena M. Gomez on screen, and in some of her earlier press interviews.

In the question and answer session, Lorna Pagaduan, president of the Filipina Nurses Association, said that in Hong Kong, Alzheimer’s and dementia are now recognized as diseases that are part of ageing. There are now institutions where afflicted patients can obtain care.

In the Philippines, they are not so recognized as diseases so care of elderly sufferers is provided by family members, she said.

Pagaduan said that in the movie, Martika was obviously aware the old man was sick and felt she was duped as she was not warned about it beforehand.

But had she been equipped with knowledge about the disease, she could have provide better love and care to her elderly ward.

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