HONG KONG (SE): The Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong celebrated National Women’s Month with the screening of Martika, a movie highlighting the struggles of both overseas workers and their employers on March 25.
The 60-minute feature film, directed by Wong Fei-pang, calls attention to Filipino domestic workers, whose presence may have been ignored but exposes that they matter to Hong Kong in more ways than is currently thought of.
Philippine consul general to Hong Kong, Antonio Morales, feels the film is realistic in that it shows the common feelings of both employees and employers, and the fact that overseas workers are also human beings with their own challenges and issues.
Martika tells the story of a foreign domestic worker who takes care of an old man with dementia and at the same time, deals with her boss’ emotions.
Wong Fei-pang, who is best known for directing one of the five shorts in the award-winning film Ten Years released in 2015, made Martika for RTHK’s Below the Lion Rock, a television series that explores different social issues in Hong Kong.
Wong said what inspired him to make a film looking into the relationship between old people and foreign domestic workers was the scene at an old people’s home where he did a research on Alzheimer’s disease among the elderly.
He could see that foreign domestic workers seemed to be the primary carers for some old people as well as people closest to them, even more than their children and other family members.
In the movie, Martika, played by Minpa Gervacio, faces the difficulty of taking care of a sick old man with dementia, who needs constant care to prevent accidents and at the same time, deals with her own family problems in the Philippines.
On the other hand, her employer, Alan, played by actor, Patrick Tang Kin-wang, also plays the role of a stressed-out son, who faces the burden of taking care of his grandpa and the disappearance of his mother, who is later found to have suffered from dementia as well.
According to Wong, the film conveys the message that everyone is in need of help, and we must be ready and willing to help one another. He compared people to “clay Buddhas,” a Chinese idiom referring to those people who may be regarded as a source of help, but at the same time are really fragile and are in need of support.
For example, while employers heavily rely on foreign domestic workers to solve their problems, foreign domestic workers themselves are in dire straits and in need of help.
He reminded the foreign domestic workers present during the screening that no matter what happens, they must know that they are not alone.
Gervacio said the trials of her first job in Hong Kong helped her relate to the anxiety of Martika. She recalled that when she first came to Hong Kong eight years ago, she worked for a family of 12.
Due to lack of sleep and overwork, she became really weak. She later suffered from chicken pox and was sent to a boarding house to rest.
However, residents of the boarding house, afraid of becoming infected, kicked her out. She was left sleeping on the rooftop with her luggage.
The scars of chicken pox on her forehead now remind her that everything can be solved with prayers and confidence.
She is hopeful that the film will encourage employers to treat their workers with dignity, as a good employment relationship can help to nurture a happy home.
She is grateful to her employer, Sanders Ho Man-yan, who allowed her to take her days off to shoot the film. She said she maintains a good relationship with her employer that was built up with her hard work for the past five years.
During the sharing session, Lorna Pagaduan, an overseas worker with a nursing degree, said the film raised concerns about old people with dementia.
She believes more training on how to take care of such patients is needed for both foreign domestic workers as well as the family members, not just in Hong Kong but also back home in the Philippines.
She commented that people know little about dementia and old people with this illness can be regarded as insane, which is especially true in the provinces in the Philippines. She recounted the story of her own grandmother, who suffered from dementia, but family members did not have the patience or skills to take care of her.
She said it breaks her heart as she is taking care of an old person in a foreign land, while her own grandmother has no one to rely on.