When I learned that there is a Singaporean movie entitled Iloilo, my beloved hometown, you get curious what the film is about. You get even more intrigued when this Singaporean film directed by the young and not to mention, handsome, Anthony Chen won the Camera d’Or (best feature film award) in the prestigious Cannes Festival this May.
The story is set in the 90’s during the Asian financial crisis about a Singaporean family who hired a Filipina maid hailing from a province in the Philippines called, Iloilo to take care of their son and help around the house. The story reflects how the two married couple tries to make ends meet under the financial struggles as their naughty and obnoxious son finds himself in several mischiefs much to the gangrene of their new Filipina maid, Auntie Terry, But as the story progresses, the maid and the little boy strike up an unusual friendship and bond as the pregnant mother reconciles with her feelings of envy with her son’s attachment to the maid.
This story was inspired by real life story of the director Anthony Chen who was cared for by an Ilonggo maid, named Terry just like in the movie. The real Auntie Terry is now 65 years old living quietly in San Miguel, Iloilo with her partner with no kids. With the help of Bombo Radio, a local radio statio in Iloilo, Anthony Chen was able to reunite his old nanny and brought her to the gala premier of te movie in Marina Bay Sands last August 24 2013.
First I have to start by saying that Iloilo is a province in Philippines and using it as the name of movie is very confusing for us who knows what it means. It would have been best to use ‘Ilongga’ as the title which means, ‘a woman from Iloilo’ ,but the director may have his own reasons for using Iloilo as the title of the movie. The movie has all the essential ingredients of a well-crafted independent film that we all learned to appreciate. There was no ups and downs or conflict and resolution that most high budgeted film use to hook audience. Rather it was just a honest story of lives of people and we, the audience are mere peeping-toms to the half-drawn curtains of real life. Each character has played their role exceptionally well. Each character showed their strength and weakness in a skillful subtleness of their seasoned acting. The stars were all the four main characters of the movie: the mom, the dad, the maid and the little boy. They all given their character justice. Chen gave everyone a fair share of telling their story without biases. The scenes were perfectly contained and delivered without overdramatization. Kudos to the screenwriter too. The dialogues was injected with humor and wit to off set the drama. I would also like to thank Anthony Chen for giving a voice to the a plight of foriegn maids not only Filipinos, working in Singapore or in other countries. He didn’t tell a story of an abused maid in a foreign country which may seen more controversial and has more appeal to conflict-hungry audience but this may seem unfair to his country by going towards that direction. I was also glad he shown how Filipino maids take care of their ward with compassion like they are one of their very own. When the movie showed the maid going to Lucky Plaza, I panicked. I am aware of the negative connotation of most people of Filipno maids in Lucky Plaza. But Anthony Chen didn’t pursue in that light, rather he told the story of maids finding extra income by working poarttime in parlors in Lucky Plaza. The director was intelligent in using subtle imagery and rememberable exchanges for the intelligent audience to think and give their own interpretation of the story. I have to applaud our very own Angeli Bayani for holding her own among Sinagporean actors and portraying a strong but compassionate character. She was the perfect person to play the role. Some Filipinos may receive this movie with a bad taste in their mouth because they dont want Filipinos to be specifically associated only as a country of OFW maids. But it is a reality that a great number of Filionos are deployed to other countries to work as domestic helpers to support their struggling family in the Philippines. I have to note that some of these domestic helpers are even college graduates but the lack of job opportunities in Philippines would resort to working as domestic helpers in other countries and caring for kids that are not their own. We shouldnt be ashamed of this fact because it is the truth. Rather we should applaud them for persevering and making a hard decision. The Tagalog song used in the last scene was also very appropriate and whoever chose it should be praised. It was perfect song to ened the movie.
This movie reached people’s heart and even won an award because it was truthful, simple and realistic. The real Auntie Terry should be proud of her young ward, Anthony Chen for creating a movie that both Singaporeans and Filipinos, specifically the Ilonggos to be proud of. It goes to shows that Iloilo, a City of Love are composed of loving people that can touch everyone , whatever race they maybe and leave a permanent mark of love and endearment that can inspire someone to make a wonderful piece of art like this movie.