(Originally written last December 30, 2016)
Before I start, let me just say that this is my first Metro Manila Film Festival movie ever. Previous MMFF entries gave me no reason whatsoever to participate in this annual film showing, unless I wanted to be treated to stupid antics and recycled plots. So the fact that I paid for the big screen this time meant that there is something different in MMFF’s lineup this year.
Sunday Beauty Queen is the only documentary film among the 8 MMFF entries, and this difference + the trailer + friends’ recommendations were all factors in my decision to watch it before everything else. It follows snippets of life of four Filipina domestic helpers in Hong Kong. They work 24 hours a day, 6 days a week. But on Sundays, they’re free.
If my work schedule is as crazy as that, I won’t do anything but sleep on my day off. But these Filipina women forego their only day of rest for something fab and glamorous: joining beauty pageants. They may be stressed and ragged in their jobs, but on Sundays, they transform into dignified beauty candidates vying for the one crown.
But more than the pageant preparations, it’s really their stories that would get you the most. Every single one of them were college degree holders, but they chose to work as maids in a foreign country, even if working conditions aren’t always ideal. I wasn’t planning on crying, but when one of the women wrote the word “LOVE” on the Balikbayan box she’s going to send home, I just lost it. :’(
SBQ is executed well. The transition from one story to another is smooth and easy to follow. I particularly liked that some of the OFWs’ employers were given airtime to say what they think about their Filipina helpers. Still, the favorable comments cannot mask the reality of our heroines’ sacrifice, the family they left behind, and the treatment they all endured just to find their place.
When the lights went back inside the cinema signaling the end of the movie, I did not want to move. I wanted to stand up and clap a heartfelt clap. And then I wanted to get back on my seat and ponder over the masterpiece that I’d just seen. But most of all, I wanted to cry.
I am not going to look at Filipina OFWs the same way again. Thank you, MMFF. And to all the people behind SBQ, thank you.
Sunday Beauty Queen won Best Picture during the Metro Manila Film Festival Awards Night. Two out of the four Filipinas whose lives were featured in the film received the award. Congratulations, SBQ! ‘Tis very well-deserved!