Sunday Beauty Queen: Appreciating the Modern-Day Darnas

Ever since it was first shown–and awarded Best Picture–in the recently-concluded Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) 2016, I have always wanted to watch Sunday Beauty Queen in cinemas but have not had the chance to do so since I was at home in the province and malls there would rather show better-earning films than better-quality ones. Hay..but that’s another story.  Anyways, just yesterday, as I was waiting for the release of my True Copy of Grades  (TCG) from my college, I chanced upon a film-showing event of Sunday Beauty Queen in DL Umali Auditorium in UP Los Banos.

Sunday Beauty Queen is the very first documentary film ever shown in the newly-revamped Metro Manila Film Festival in the Philippines. It tackles the lives of  Filipino domestic helpers working (from Mondays thru Saturdays) in Hong Kong and how they spend Sundays, their only day off from work, in the most fun and extravagant way possible: by being a beauty queen.

Here’s the trailer of the film by Baby Ruth Villarama:

Growing up in a province where life is simpler yet more difficult, the story of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong hits too close to home: almost every family in my entire neighborhood growing up has at least one member working there. Even my mother once contemplated on working there had it not been for my sister who bawled her eyes out upon learning about it. She would have been one of the four in my entire family to be a domestic helper in Hong Kong, aside from my other relatives: Ate Cita, Ate Maylin and Ate Marifel.

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Ate Maylin catching up with fellow domestic helpers in Hong Kong, who are mostly my childhood friends’ mothers. (I have not asked them if they ever watched a Sunday beauty pageant together. Maybe.)

Shot over the course of around four years, the film portrays OFWs in a different light–going beyond the usual OFW films where domestic helpers are shown living a lonesome, sometimes pitiful life in an unfamiliar land in exchange of a better quality of life for those they have left in the Philippines. With a speck of hilariously funny moments every once in a while, the 94-minute film is downright moving; I definitely had to hold back my tears quite a few times. The last fifteen seconds, which gives an update about the workers a year after the pageant, was definitely one for the books for me. We were all moved you could definitely hear the audience in the auditorium gasping in unison, followed by a long and loud round of applause.

After the film-showing, an open forum was done with the director, Baby Ruth Villarama, and editor, Chuck Gutierrez. After saying their thank yous, the director called the producer onto the stage then she told everyone she has a surprise; that’s when we all got really excited!

“Let’s all welcome…one of our modern-day Darnas, Mylyn Jacobo.”, the director exclaimed, then came down the teary-eyed MJ, greeted with the audience applauding loudly, in awe.

On our way to leave the auditorium, I spotted Mylyn Jacobo and asked her for a picture; she obliged. I was so starstruck that I began rambling about my three relatives in Hong Kong. She told me to inform them about the film’s screening there on the 26th. Then, I asked her for a hug!

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Gutierrez, Villarama, and Jacobo during the open forum. (Sorry for the low-quality photo. We weren’t prepared!) (c) Jake Pena
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I was so starstruck, I asked if could hug her. Haha. ❤ Thanks for the inspiration! (c) Jake Pena

After watching the film, I became sure about one thing: the film deserved its Best Picture win. It was definitely an eye-opener, an effective tool for us to be able to really empathize with our loved ones working abroad and be reminded that there is more to them than just the balikbayan boxes they send us, or the seemingly fanciful life abroad as they share on their Facebook posts. Working as an OFW, be it in Hong Kong or in any other part of the world, can be really hard; but no matter how hard it gets, there are always Sundays to look forward to at the end of it all, both in a literal and figurative sense.

Sa mga OFWs, mabuhay po kayo!

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