Migrante is an advocacy film that will tackle the situation of Overseas Filipino Workers here and abroad. It aims to provide a rigorous study of the culture of OFWs in the Philippines, starting from the 1970s, when it became government policy to send its workforce abroad. And while some of these workers have found fortune, many of them hit bad luck--from the loss of their jobs, to being physically abused and murdered.
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) was able to attend the story conference of the movie held last Friday, October 7.
Present in the event were veteran director Joel Lamangan, scriptwriter Bonifacio Ilagan, and the cast, led by Jodi Sta. Maria, Allen Dizon, Jim Pebanco, and Raquel Villavicencio.
Other members of the cast present were Chynna Ortaleza, Rich Asuncion, Alex Castro, Regina Angeles, May-I Fabros, Sam Nasser, and Joshua Bramaje.
Film producer Ms. Gracia Lara of XITI Productions, and people from OFW advocacy group Migrante International, were also in the panel.
Boni Ilagan, who has won awards for his screenplays for Sigwa and Emir, was very enthusiastic for the story he had crafted.
"Hindi ako ganun ka-stranger sa usapin ng mga OFW," Ilagan enthused. "Pero para sa pelikula na ito, kinailangan ko po na makipag-ugnayan sa Migrante [International], so humingi po ako sa kanila ng mga materyales, may mga case na hinandle nila, yung compilation ng kanilang mga dokumento, at ang huli nilang binigay sa akin, yung statement nila sa United Nations na nagpapasinungaling sa posisyon ng Philippine government tungkol sa magandang kalagayan ng mga OFW."
When asked how different Migrante will be from the past spate of films about OFWs, Ilagan said his film will try to encompass the history of worker migration in the country by letting his characters speak.
"Sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon, makikita talaga yung iba’t-ibang anggulo ng epekto ng migrasyon. Marami nang pelikula tungkol sa OFW, pero yung anggulo na magpakita ng kanuna-unahang Pilipino na nag-OFW noong 1970 pa, e, magpapakita na naging psyche na lang ba ang pag-aabroad ng Pilipino sa kabila ng mga abusado?" he said.
Take the lead characters, for example.
The lead character, Frida (Jodi Sta. Maria), is a government employee who had already worked abroad two times. Finding that her salary as a mere employee barely covers her family’s expenses, she decides to work abroad. Frida gets raped, but escapes by jumping off the building she works in. Her character symbolizes well-intentioned workers who meet their demise abroad.
Frida’s husband, Andy (Allen Dizon), is a loving father and husband, who is prone to careless flings and alcohol. He is also careless with money. His character symbolizes the relatives of OFWs who rely too much on OFW money, to the point of extravagance.
Manong Lando (Robert Arevalo), Frida’s father, worked as an OFW in 1975. His role is important because it represents the historical roots of the phenomenon of worker migration.
Manang Yolly (Raquel Villavicencio) is another veteran OFW who met good fortune in Italy. She is the poster lady of migrant workers, after inheriting a large sum from her employer. Her role embodies the eternal illusion of Filipinos that a fortune awaits OFWs.
Other characters are symbols of the larger picture. There’s Frida’s cousin Mila (Rich Asuncion), a nursing graduate who chooses not to work abroad. She has an ongoing spat with her boyfriend Calvin (Alex Castro), a nursing graduate who wishes to go abroad, but only if Mila agrees to go with him.
Edna (Chynna Ortaleza) and Jack (Joem Bascon) are OFWs in Israel, who work with Migrante International. They help Frida get on her feet again after being raped. Edna and Jack’s roles represent the militancy and self-help among migrant workers.
Rez (Jim Pebanco) is also a Migrante volunteer. He works at a construction firm in Israel, is gay, and contracts AIDS. His role represents the dilemma of working in places where cultures are different from what Filipino workers are used to.
Director Joel Lamangan hopes to handle the complexity of the script. "Ito po yung mas masinop, mas nakikita at nasasalamin ang mga problema ng OFW. Ito po, makikita natin ang buong kabuuan ng problema ng OFW. Mas masinop po ito at mas malalim na pag-aanalisa ng problema ng OFW."
Shooting for the film will start this month. Migrante International will help the film’s cast and crew get permits in shooting the scenes in Israel.