Migrante-Europe supported the showing of the film Sunday Beauty Queen in this year’s 2nd Philippine Film Festival-Berlin. It was the culminating film for the festival, which ran from November 3-5, and 8-12. The film, directed by Baby Ruth Villarama, is a documentary featuring the lives of five domestic workers in Hong Kong and how they spend their Sundays organizing and participating in beauty pageants in order to alleviate homesickness and foster community in a foreign land. More than a hundred people, mostly Filipinos and some Germans went to see the film and participated in the roundtable discussion (RTD) held afterwards. The Philippine Film Festival-Berlin, the only film festival in Germany that showcases Filipino films is organized by The First Reel, and the Philippine Studies Series-Berlin, and supported by various organizations in Germany.
The discussion theme for the SBQ was “Philippine Migrants’ struggles and desires”. Two Germany-based members of Migrante-Europe–Elnora Held and Father Mark Jun Yañez were invited as panelists to the RTD. Held is a member of Gabriela-Germany and the auditor of the Migrante-Europe, while Yañez is the port chaplain of the Seamen mission in Hamburg. The other panelists were Krisanta Caguioa-Moenich, a language mediator in Banying, organization that helps migrant women who are victims of violence, Megha Amrith, an urban anthropologist of migration, and Lisa May David, an artist who previously worked on issues of identity and migration.
The discussion lasted for more than an hour, as the audience got actively engaged by asking questions and sharing some thoughts about the theme and the film. During the discussion, there was a general agreement among the panelists and the audience that the film presents a sad reality on how hard the lives of the majority of domestic workers in Hong Kong are. Most of the discussions also revolved around the significant contributions of Migrant workers to the Philippine economy and the government’s weak efforts in securing their rights abroad and helping migrants facing various problems such as violence or abuse in their host country. Held emphasized that present-day migration is mostly forced migration: caused by war, poverty, and even climate change. She added that forced migration can only be addressed by solving these root causes. Father Yañez stated that Filipino seafarers are in demand as they are of highly qualified but cheap. “The government however is not bent on addressing this issue believing that pushing for the increase of Seafarers’ wages will prompt hiring companies to take cheaper labor from other countries, thus reducing their potential remittances” he added. In his experience working with the Seamen, most of them are not happy with their work because it means being away from the family. However, their family and the desire to give them a better future are the reasons why they take these jobs. The seamen hope that Philippine economy will get better soon and that they no longer need to be away from their families just do they can provide for their needs.
Some notable contributions from the audience were on the discussion of the Labor Export Policy and the sharing of an experience by a former overseas domestic worker herself. The discussion ended with insights from the panel and the audience on what migrants in Germany can do to help their fellow migrants.