Happening Today: Iloilo

“We were touched by four characters, and the story of a family in Singapore. The director’s intelligence and sensitivity bring forth very important issues – childhood, immigration, class struggles, the economic crisis. We were unanimous in our first round, and have chosen to award the Camera d’Or to Anthony Chen for ILO ILO.”
– Camera d’Or jury president Agnes Varda in her address before pronouncing ILO ILO as the winner of the Camera d’Or.

Photo Credit: Singapore Tourism Board

I have heard about this award-winning Cannes film, Iloilo, in a news release around September and was touched by the gesture of its director who looked for his nanny to whom he dedicated this film.

Tonight, through the Singapore Tourism Board and the Singapore-Philippines Association, I was able to view a private screening of this award-winning Singaporean film at the Resorts World Manila.

My team, together my boss and president of Singapore Philippines Association, Alan Chng (2nd from left), Sherina Chan, Director of Singapore Tourism Board and Cheok Pin Lee of Singapore Philippines Association.

Film’s Synopsis

Terry (Angeli Bayani) accepts a job as a maid for an ordinary family living in a tenement in Singapore, where she quickly meets her biggest challenge: the precocious ten-year old boy Jiale. Terry nearly gets deported when the kid frames her for theft. But Terry will not be pushed around, and with tough love and determination, she slowly wins the heart of the little boy. As Terry takes charge of the household, she also strikes the suspicions of the mother, a pregnant working woman who doesn’t want to lose control. But the year is 1997, in the middle of the Asian financial crisis, and the father has just lost his job. While the family struggles with their finances, Terry’s employment is also put on the line. Based on the true experiences of director Anthony Chen and the Filipina maid who raised him as a child, Iloilo is the story of how people across cultures connect with one another in the midst of frustrations and doubts.
Reading on the manuscript for this film, I was touched by this quotation from the director, Anthony Chen–

“When I was much younger, my mother hired a Filipino maid to look after the children. Teresa was with us for a long 8 years until I was 12 years old. We called her Auntie Terry. When she left to return home, it was hard to bear, but we got used to her absence and somehow lost contact. The one thing that has stayed with me after all these years is the name of the place she was from, Iloilo, a province in the Philippines. That is how the title of the film came about.

My experience is probably similar to many other kids in Singapore and in the region, where hardworking parents spend their days at work, leaving the young ones in the hands of a hired stranger. In this case, having a maid is not a luxury of the bourgeoisie but a need for practical reasons.

There have not been many films made on the subject of such maids, at least not in Singapore. Yet more often than not, what the media portrays is usually of a negative kind – controversies of abuse concerning domestic helpers, where either the victims are the children they care for, or the maids become the victims of employers. What one forgets is that an entire generation of children has grown up in the hands of maids. This is more true today with most families having both parents working full-time.”

I believe the universal experience of children growing up with maids is one of having a “surrogate” mother, a friend and a confidant. What is intriguing and never brought to light is the emotional inter-relations created, nurtured, cherished, and yet brutally taken away when circumstances change.” 

Iloilo is a film that has captured a raw emotion which can only be portrayed and captured by someone who had a first-hand experience of this down-to-earth, simple and heartwarming bond of a little kid to his nanny.


For more information, contact:

THE SINGAPORE TOURISM BOARDThe Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is a leading economic development agency in tourism, one of Singapore’s key service sectors. Known for partnership, innovation and excellence, STB champions tourism, making it a key economic driver for Singapore. We aim to differentiate and market Singapore as a must-visit destination offering a concentration of user-centric and enriching experiences through the “YourSingapore” brand. For more information, please visit http://www.stb.gov.sg/ or http://yoursingapore.com/ 

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