Bernardo M. Villegas
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Rebalancing Strategy
published: Mar 31, 2017



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Another Indie Film on OFWs

           We can never thank enough the more than 10 million Filipinos who sacrifice a large part of their lives toiling in some foreign country, separated from their respective families, in order to earn a decent living and provide the Philippine economy with precious dollars that bolster our international reserves and equip millions of Filipinos with purchasing power to fuel a consumption-led growth that has made the Philippines the envy of many countries struggling to overcome the ongoing world-wide recession.  As I have repeatedly written, not even the low price of oil and the political crises in the Middle East will make a dent on the 3 to 5% annual growth of OFW remittances.  Filipino workers are always a cut above all other migrant workers because of their unique virtues and values.  They are always the first to be hired and the last to be fired.

          That is why I was elated to learn that a prominent investment banker, Jojo Dispo, is producing an indie film about OFWs that will be shown in cinemas around mid-April prior to the national elections.  Mr. Dispo himself wrote the story which has been adapted into film and screenplay by young and talented Sigrid Barrios-Sanchez, known for many acclaimed indie films in the country.  The plot centers around the Magtanggol family from a prominent political clan, whose pedigree dates back to the time of Jose Rizal.  The family’s honor and pride is its undying patriotism.  The family’s colorful and rich history has been intertwined with the country’s historical and political events, from the uprising against the Spaniards, the revolution versus the Americans, resistance to the Japanese occupation, the People Power movement that overthrew the Marcos dictatorship to the present struggle to protect the more than 10 million OFWs from dangers arising from wars, natural calamities and human abuses. Since the Magtanggols have been known for fiercely fighting for the marginalized and underprivileged, their present cause is the promotion of the welfare of OFWs.

          The film is entitled “Sino ang Bayani ng mga Bagong Bayani?”  It is highlighted by a court scene in which young Senator Juan Magtanggol Jr. is being tried as the principal suspect in the murders of foreign employers who have been accused of abusing Filipino overseas workers.  A potential presidential candidate, the young Senator is well known for his passion and advocacy for the welfare of ordinary workers, especially the OFWs.  Pro-labor legislations, particularly on OFWS, were authored by him in the Senate, earning him adulation and popularity among the country’s labor sector.  Then there were these series of killings, involving the mysterious deaths of abusive employers of Filipino workers in some Middle Eastern and East Asian countries in which there is a high concentration of OFWs.  Especially sensationalized was the case of a Filipina maid raped and abused by her employer.  Two months after the maid was sent home, the abusive employer was found dead.  The empirical twist was that every time there was a  mysterious death of an abusive foreign employer of an OFW, Senator Magtanggol was always in that country on some official trip as a legislator in charge of looking after the welfare of OFWs.

          Senator Magtanggol became the prime suspect in these killings because of circumstantial evidences.  The Philippine government succumbed to international pressures to present the suspect so that these killings would stop.  The climax of the story is the trial itself.  The country was sucked into a hurricane of protests and counter-protests from the labor sector who adulated the accused on one hand and the political leaders kowtowing to international arm twisting on the other.  Without being a spoiler, I can only say that the resolution of the mystery was found in a secret revealed by the equally famous father of the young Senator, Juan Magtanggol Sr. who came to witness the trial accompanied by another son, Anton, a paraplegic.  The ending reminds me of some of the more recent novels of John Grisham, such as The Rogue Lawyer.

          The actors and actresses in the film are the young and talented Tom Rodriguez, EJ Falcon, Yam Concepcion, Denise Laurel, Myrtle Zarosa and veteran Jonee Gamboa, Ronnie Lazaro, Epi Quizon, Dina Bonevie,  Jenine Desiderio and William Martinez , a matinee idol in the 1980s.  Mr. Dispo intends to use the proceeds from the film to put up a fund that will promote the welfare of OFWs, especially to give scholarships to children of OFWS to enable them to get the highest quality education both in the Philippines and abroad.  I hope movie goers will patronize the film both as a tribute to these unsung heroes and as a means of helping to finance projects for the welfare of OFWs. For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.