FILM REVIEW: Three OFWs’ Struggles in A Piece of Paradise

Community News & Features Mar 22, 2019 at 4:02 pm

A Piece of Paradise-posterBy Michelle Chermaine Ramos
The Philippine Reporter

In celebration of International Women’s Day and National Women’s Month, the Consulate General in Toronto hosted a screening of A Piece of Paradise on March 8, 2019. Written, produced and directed by Dr. Patrick P. Alcedo.

The documentary took five years to complete including one year of post-production as he followed the lives of three female OFWs Norlyn, Em-Em and Betsy in Toronto over the course of four years along with some scenes shot in the Philippines and Hong Kong.

The film takes a raw approach at storytelling as the camera follows the characters almost vlog style giving us a glimpse into their daily lives, personal struggles and moments of triumph.

From left: Joe Rene Teruel with baby Victoria Teruel, Prof. Patrick Alcedo with baby Miguel Teruel, Femme “Em-Em” Carillo Teruel, Norlyn Relente, Consul General Rosalita Prospero and Consul Edna May Lazaro.                                                        (Photos: MC Ramos)

From left: Joe Rene Teruel with baby Victoria Teruel, Prof. Patrick Alcedo with baby Miguel Teruel, Femme “Em-Em” Carillo Teruel, Norlyn Relente, Consul General Rosalita Prospero and Consul Edna May Lazaro. (Photos: MC Ramos)

Em-Em worked in Hong Kong for four years prior to coming to Canada and has been working as a nanny for a little girl for two years, patiently waiting to get her Permanent Resident status before she can go back to the Philippines.

Her friend Betsy worked in Singapore for a year and a half and has been in Canada for 23 years. Betsy works at a diamond and gold jewelry store and struggles to make ends meet by taking other side gigs while raising her teenage son Bimboy.

Norlyn has been living in Canada for 14 years and has been working as a personal support worker for a senior lady with Alzheimer’s for seven years. While she is fortunate to have employers who treat her as part of their family, she still faces challenges as a divorced single mother dealing with her pre-teen son Darrell’s teen angst and rebellion triggered by his parents’ breakup.

The whole movie is unscripted as Dr. Alcedo simply followed the three women across three countries to record their lives as they naturally unfolded in that four-year period.

In an interview after the screening, Dr. Alcedo explained that he did not realize that Darrell’s role in the film would eventually be bigger than he had anticipated.

Darrell’s experience and unwillingness to visit the Philippines depict the confusion many young Canadian-born Filipinos face coming to terms with their cultural identity after growing up in Canada unable to speak their parents’ native tongue and feeling alienated from their roots. This internal culture clash leads to several instances of conflict as Norlyn patiently handles Darrell’s reluctance to embrace his Filipino heritage.

Opening remarks by Dr. Patrick Alcedo

Opening remarks by Dr. Patrick Alcedo

This is in stark contrast to his older cousin Bimboy who is a Canadian-born half Filipino but shows no resistance and happily participates in activities on their vacation in the Philippines as Darrell deals with culture shock.

Unlike most documentaries, the film uses no outside narrator voiceover as the characters tell their stories themselves directly to the camera interview-style, as well as in moments of vulnerability where they share their hardships and dreams with each other as the camera watches like a fly on the wall.

One particularly heart-wrenching scene was shot at Centre Island where Em-Em tearfully confides in her best friend about her frustration with her father haranguing her for not sending enough money and his lack of understanding of the personal sacrifices she makes to provide for her parents and siblings back home.

Cast member Femme  “Em-Em” Carillo Teruel

Cast member Femme
“Em-Em” Carillo Teruel

The film also shows the women coping with homesickness by watching TFC and finding fellowship with other Filipinos in church and cultural events. One scene which appears to be symbolic is where Betsy jumps on a piece of luggage overstuffed with pasalubong trying to squeeze and zip it shut, which reflects the many priorities she and the other women juggle to squeeze in their busy lives as they put their loved ones’ needs before theirs.

Dr. Alcedo credits the strong women in his family for inspiring this project. “Filipino women are incredibly resilient. Filipino women are incredibly strong and they really have the capacity to in a way be leaders and also run a household. In a way, they don’t need men to empower themselves,” he says.

However, he also stresses that this is not a victim narrative. “I believe na may ability yun tao to overcome. And makikita mo naman sa film na kahit okay yun mga employers nila, may mga problema pa rin sila,” he explains. “So gusto kong makita yun complexity of people’s lives.”

As for the message he wants this movie to convey, he says, “I hope more and more Filipinos go into different fields. You know, I’m a professor in academia. I hope we’ll go into and flourish in fields like sciences, engineering, and really take advantage of what Canada can offer. Let’s fight models and be inspired by triumph.”

 

Cast member Norlyn Relente

Cast member Norlyn Relente

Dr. Patrick Alcedo and cast with consular staff and guests

Dr. Patrick Alcedo and cast with consular staff and guests

Consul General Rosalita S. Prospero

Consul General Rosalita S. Prospero

Emcee Consul Edna May Lazaro

Emcee Consul Edna May Lazaro

Deputy Consul General Bernadette Fernandez (middle) with Dr. Alcedo’s colleagues, Professor Terrill Maguire and filmmaker David Langer

Deputy Consul General Bernadette Fernandez (middle) with Dr. Alcedo’s colleagues, Professor Terrill Maguire and filmmaker David Langer