“ILO-ILO” the Movie Wins in Cannes

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Monday, August 5, 2013

SEVERAL experiences and stories of our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) have been told on television, movies and publications. A young Singaporean film director thought of making an indie film and calling it “ILO-ILO”.

It is the story of a lady OFW who worked with a Singaporean family where she took care of three kids, all boys. Before this, the domestic helper worked for a family for two years. And later she looked for another job. She tried to apply for a job with another neighboring family. She was taken in. Only known to the family as Auntie Terry, this OFW worked for eight years caring for the three boys, the youngest being only a few months.

When the director finished the movie, he attempted to enter his film into the Cannes Festival. To everyone’s surprise, the movie “ILO-ILO” won an award. As the story on the award spread like wildfire in Singapore, it reached the Philippines.


One day, Charles Lim, a PR man, called and said, “Let’s find the lady known as Auntie Terry and bring her to Singapore to watch the movie and meet the director.” We did not know her family name, not even her birthplace. So we attempted to spread the news through the media circle. Lim contacted the director in Singapore and told him that he will locate the star of the movie. The director gladly agreed and felt happy that there was a man who will take his time out to locate the star of the movie.

Auntie Terry, the OFW domestic helper was nowhere to be found until Lim spread three photos sent over by the director to him to media friends. In only two weeks, Ilonggos got so excited and let it out in the social networks. Some identified the lady OFW and mentioned she was still alive and living in San Miguel, Iloilo.

Director Anthony Chen was so excited as this Auntie Terry happened to be his former yaya; the relationship between them must have been so worthwhile that he was inspired to turn it into a movie. A Locating Team went to the town and indeed found Auntie Terry, living in a shack with earth flooring that turned muddy when it rained.

Lim talked to Auntie Terry over a cellular phone and he asked her questions to authenticate her identity. It was truly Auntie Terry. Later she pulled a belt bag to show the Locating Team several photos similar to the ones published, including her travel documents.

Days after, brothers Anthony and Christopher Chen called Lim to say they were flying to Iloilo to meet and reunite with Auntie Terry. The brothers along with two friends, a Singaporean filmmaker and a lady photojournalist-reporter joined them in Iloilo.

Raining with muddy roads, we accompanied the company of four to meet Auntie Terry who never expected this dramatic moment to happen after 16 years. Now 57, Auntie Terry lives simply in a dilapidated house with no refrigerator, neither a stove nor electric fan. With only bulb and a socket for power, she has a wooden bed and a mosquito net. Her rain boots are always ready for when it rains.

When the Chen brothers entered Auntie Terry’s house, they were stunned. Director Anthony embraced Auntie Terry and when Christopher introduced himself as the youngest boy, she embraced and hugged and kissed him as he was her favorite of the three.

Tears simply flowed down in almost everyone present to witness the reunion of the two boys and their yaya. Director Chen insisted that their visit then was purely private and, at least for the moment, should not be known to anyone. The brothers decided to bring Auntie Terry to urban city of Iloilo where Anthony bought her eyeglasses, clothes and treated her to lunch.

Auntie Terry was often seen beside youngest Christopher holding and hugging him as he showed her photos of the parents and themselves. Both brothers were affected seeing the living conditions of Auntie Terry as both contemplated on helping her.

Indeed, the brothers showed their heart and love for Auntie Terry, an unlicensed midwife at Iloilo Doctors Hospital. She had taken care of the kids and they were now successful individuals.

Lim announced that Auntie Terry is set to fly to Singapore this month for the premiere viewing of the movie. She will fly direct from Iloilo to Singapore via Cebu Pacific Air with a team of media, government and private persons. The premiere invitational showing of the movie “ILO-ILO” in Singapore will be graced by dignitaries as this is the first Singaporean film that won an award in Cannes.

Here are some photos taken during the private meeting of Auntie Terry and Chen brothers Anthony and Christopher.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 06, 2013.


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