During the announcement of the official entries at the 2016 Manila Film Festival, one particular film would be eager to catch your attention; the film being, a fascinating documentary feature going by the name of ‘Sunday Beauty Queen’. For a film of its kind, it is indeed a daring feat – getting chosen by the committee, and being a historical landmark for the festival that pridefully proves its validity; more so with the fact that it had just earned the Best Picture award during the 2016 MMFF Gabi ng Parangal, and rightfully so – turning doubters into believers that would endlessly extol this magnificent gem and gaining more attention, awaiting to embrace more patrons with glamorous warmth.
Baby Ruth Villarama’s SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN flips through the pages of a real-life fairy-tale detailing the plight of our domestic workers in Hong Kong which gets us deeply alarmed about their emotions, and makes us concerned about the saddening state of labor and employment that hinders our very country. It is simply a film that earns our respect for them and immediately commends their firm grip onto a life so challenging; a dignification of their struggle that explores their lives, and lets us witness them in a manner that never involves pure dreariness, only natural sympathy to sweeten the acidic taste that encircle their tales and get our eyes welling up by the time the curtains close, the glitters float away, and reality strikes a punch to the heart as we open our eyes to a fact that every Filipino should ingest and get affected with.
The documentation of their stories, told in a narrative that views them as a singular sorrow, works their human magic in spades; enlivening our spirits as they joyously alternate from the fantasy that is the pageant that they participate in, and the exhaustive profession that they have to face afterwards. The contrasting emotions that we get through in just one sitting are in fact, too much to handle if one were to put it in a realistic perspective. Nevertheless, the film never makes our hearts weigh heavier than it is during the moment we walk in – just carefully moving us along to the waves that its enthusiasm and fondness ride onto so movingly through the displays of predicaments that are comforted by the twinkling pageant sequences that ease the pain whilst never forgetting where it all came from.
The people that Villarama gets to capture onscreen maintain a beaming smile so infectious, injecting a a high dosage of elation in our veins, having immense capability of making our day. In a sense, the universal essence of it, and the message of overcoming a life conflict, soulfully speaks for all and reflects our own selves; proving the film’s transcendental virtuosity as triumphant in bottling a cinematic exploit that would continue to summon multitudes of feelings upon every viewing as it accomplishes that so perfectly – bringing you desire in reliving each moment which relishes the mood that it has brought upon in just a very delightful short span of time, giving its all and flaunting its impassioned and emphatic efforts even if they are as simplistic as they may appear.
Projecting little vignettes of multiple OFWs whose cries are wanting to be heard, the sadness that exudes from them pinch our humanity from time to time, and produces a bond that sees us empathizing and applauding at them for boldly handling distressing hardships that could almost be deemed as self-destructive. The stories that get told and known, such as Leo’s, are pearls of luminosity that get sheltered in warm blankets of sheen which gets our attention rolling, and our eyes steaming from the well of tears that immediately rushes down our cheeks the moment we stop to think about their as we listen to what they have to cry out, and get exhilarated about.
There really is just something worth admiring about the human touch that this film adheres to, and Villarama makes it completely apparent with a winsome vigor that she keeps intact, elevating every sequence to levels that one wouldn’t think it would attain. Adding up to that is the impressive truth surrounding her documentation and their focal points; the house-helpers who authentically express their experiences, stressing on the bad and the good, blow us away with the exposure of their own accounts soaked in their very own tears. There isn’t a single ounce of acting to be seen here, only truthfulness that gets divulged, and it is just beautifully incredible – uncovering its soul, allowing it to touch our very lives.
Sunday Beauty Queen is a heartbreaking broadcasting of broken dignities beautified by self-love; an equally euphoric and despondent real-life Cinderella story where happy endings are quite temporary, reality gets mixed in between the fantasies that dazes our perception of reality, and stereotypes are crushed to the ground with wonderment. There’s sadness, happiness, and pride all going strong, and altogether, docu-filmmaker Baby Ruth Villarama erects an empowering pillar of our OFWs for our nation to behold with honor.
• Baby Ruth Villarama’s Sunday Beauty Queen is an official entry to the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival.