Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mga Dayo (Julius Sotomayor Cena, Cinemalaya 2012 New Breed Finalist)

Mga Dayo is the first full-length Cinemalaya feature filmed entirely abroad. Set in the United States island territory of Guam, the film takes a look at three Filipinas with varying immigration statuses during Thanksgiving Day. Just like the two states outside mainland USA, Guam is populated with lots of Filipinos. More than one fourth of the territory’s population is made up of Filipinos.

Local newspaper photographer Alexandria 'Alex' Caballero (Sue Prado) is on pins and needles on her wedding day. She has contracted her Guam-born friend for an arranged marriage that shall hasten her obtaining a green card. Her friends, VIP guests, and sponsors are calming her nerves. The picturesque, ocean-view setting is breathtaking. The lovely sunset gives out a nice flattering hue that is perfect for photography buffs like her. The only thing missing is the groom.

The story of journalist Miriam Cruz Sanchez (Janela Buhain) is a little muddled due to the limited time allotted to her tale. She seems to be nearing the end of an arranged marriage agreement. She gets the elusive green card alright but at a price. However, the official synopsis from the Cinemalaya program says otherwise. She's getting a divorce after long years of marriage with a foreigner. Whatever the reason, she ends up wasted. There's a fellow Filipino, though, to comfort her.

Ella Regalado (Olga Natividad) is getting ticked off with Filipinos. She had recently been promoted as supervisor of a hotel. She struggles to rein in Filipino subordinates who don’t follow instructions. She had a run in with a Filipino acquaintance over some money owed to her. But, after hearing that the guy will be sending money to his family in the Philippines, the anger in her subsided. She no longer pursued the issue. Despite being an American citizen, she is still very much a Filipino at heart.

The highlight of the film is Ella's breakdown at a hotel room. After seeing the extent of the room's pigsty-like surroundings, she cussed out at them, the Americans. Her reaction shows that she still has this feeling of 'otherness.' She is a true American in the way she handles her work but she is not yet an American at heart.

I loved that Mga Dayo, despite having alien settings, have characters that are truly Filipino in values and behavior. Director Cena, himself an immigrant worker, shares what it is to be a resident alien. Most Filipino workers endure alienation, homesickness, and backbreaking work just to make their family members happy. Ella bought a ticket for her octogenarian mom because she wants her to see the United States. Ella's Guam-born daughter doesn't share her joy over the elder's impending visit. The young one must not have been brought up the Filipino way.

Filipinos' pursuit of the American dream has its share of bumpy roads and do not always have a happy ending. Alex and Miriam may be down at the moment but they will move on just like any resilient Filipino workers. They have a brood of Filipino friends helping them to get back on their feet. Ella has her family to feed and that keeps her focused on her work.

Director Cena's gem of a film shows that faith, family, friends, a Filipino upbringing, and a forgiving heart are things that immigrant workers, make that all Filipinos, should be thankful for. This abundance of blessings is enough to counter rough trials in our lives.


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