Maganda! (beautiful) was all that some movie fans could say when asked by the media about Sharon Cuneta's film, "Caregiver," which was released July of last year but which my wife and I only got to watch at home last night. I had thought that the thumbs up the movie got from many viewers was simply whipped up by media hype, and by the usual devotion of some kababayan to cheap, rehashed romantic stories and the maudlin. After watching it, however, I must now give it even the big-toes up :) as I did to La Visa Loca" (2005), the only Robin Padilla film I really appreciated.
Let me share with you the notable quotes I got from this film about the life of Filipino carers in the U.K., as well as my reflections on these...
The story starts with this narration:
Some people reach places in their lives they never planned to go. They think they know where they are going, but the destination turns out different from expected. Some don't even realize they've already reached the place. They still seem lost. Something tells them to keep walking, that the distance is just up ahead. Often when we walk that road, the footprints behind us disappear, because we're creating new paths each time.
I guess we all could relate to this observation. For me, though, as I look back to my 33 years on earth I still see my footprints along the trails -- several footprints show confusion and hesitation, some had me retracing old paths, a few saw me leaving the trail or the main road, and still others mark where I leaped and landed, skipped and skidded, danced and dashed.
In one of their usual spats, Sarah (Sharon Cuneta) tells her crabby hubby, Teddy (John Estrada):
...we've changed countries, but we're still the same!
Those of us who have had an "OFW experience" understand this truism quite well. No matter which country we go to, we often take with us our quirks and twists most of which eventually get us into trouble. We admire the few whose move to other lands also meant their climb to higher levels of maturity.
Teddy, a self-pitying registered nurse who works as a health care assistant (euphemism for garbage/utility errand boy), complains to his friend Joseph (Jhong Hilario), a certified doctor in the Philippines who ended up as a nurse in London, about the unfair treatment he is getting from the hospital administration. He should be instated as a nurse, he says, because in the first place he's got more brains that most of the boot-licking nurses around him. Joseph replies:
Brains is not the only criteria in adaptation. you have to know how to get along with others...
Kurak ka jan. :) High IQ does not automatically translate to high EQ, and like a bow without arrows, IQ without EQ is nothing.
William Morgan (Saul Reichlin) is a lonely and grouchy ex-newspaper honcho who is left by his two kids at a nursing home under the care of the winsome Sarah who, of course, eventually gains his affection.
Mr. Morgan just had a tense moment with his beady-eyed daughter who was demanding that he sell the family's ancestral home to make sure everything would be in order before he kicks the bucket. Margaret Morgan (Claire Jeater) leaves in a huff, muttering "You're impossible," and leaving her old man distraught. Sarah was witness to all these, and consoles Mr. Morgan who says to her:
"It's funny. You never know how your children are going to turn out. One day they're helpless little things who depend on you for everything, and then the next day, they're telling you how to run your life like you stopped having a mind of your own. I know how hard you work for your boy, Sarah. I hope the same thing doesn't happen to you.
That reminds me of the quote,
The first half of your life is controlled by your parents; the second half, by your children.
If I live long enough to see my children long after they had left our little nest, I may be able to fully realize what these two quotes could mean to an old man. I keep thinking that my siblings and I have a hard time keeping my aged and limping but strong-willed mother from going out of the house solo, but it must have been harder for her to understand why we don't allow her to do as she pleases these last days of her checkered life.
Just before he died Mr. Morgan tells Sarah while he lay on his bed in his country mansion:
Remember you said to me you had a thankless job? Well, sometimes, when you least expect it, someone will come into your life and make you feel less lonely, less alone. For me, you were that person. You care for people. You give them what they've lost to life down the years -- their dignity, and hope, and joy, and even fun. There are not many jobs in the world that can top that. So, Sarah Gonzales, I say to you, 'Thank you. Job well done.'
Such much-longed for yet rare expression of deep gratitude in the sometimes dreary world of the OFWs beautifully enunciates the invaluable contribution of our kababayan to the making of a more sensitive world. The special touch of our caregivers abroad gives the oft-mentioned term "Filipinizing the world" a pleasant connotation. May movies like this be watched not only by Filipinos but also by Westerners as well.
Mr. Morgan's parting gift to Sarah is a well-kept first edition of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles and this letter:
My Dear Sarah,
You've always said that everything you do is for your husband and your son. Well, they're lucky men indeed to have you as a wife and mother. And I was lucky to have you as my carer. But I want you never to forget that you are a person too, Sarah. And it is vital that you live your own life, and do things that make you feel alive. If I have one wish, it is that you grow old and happy and without regrets.
Goodbye, my lovely Sarah.
Your grumpy, old friend
Related post: "PTs, Pittance, Pity"
Teddy finally calls it quits and decides to go back to the Philippines with Sarah. Minutes before boarding their flight, however, Sarah thinks twice and tells her husband that she's staying. The conversation that follows sheds insights on marital relationships:
Sarah: If you failed, why do you have to drag me down with you?...
Teddy: Because I'm your husband. Where I am is where you should be.
Sarah: Not anymore, Teddy. Even here, I don't have a husband to go home to because you don't care about me. Ted, I'm tired of coming to your aid all the time. I take care of other people, but who's taking care of me? No one.
Teddy: Whether you like it or not, we're leaving.
Sarah: No. I can carry this myself. Let me go, Ted.
Teddy: Sarah, please. Let's start anew.
Sarah: I already started over, Ted. Even without you. Plans and dreams aren't enough.We have to work for our dreams, Ted. We have to struggle. I achieved something here. I achieved something a long time ago.. But you didn't see it. Why didn't you notice it? Why didn't you value it?
Teddy: You can't leave me.
Sarah: Ted, I can. I'm done. I'm done being your wife...
The feisty Sarah we see in this scene is a picture of the modern Filipina who refuses to be imprisoned within the slimy walls of patriarchy and who is no longer afraid to stake her rightful claim to the blessings of life, even if that meant going for it all by herself.
On the other hand, Teddy is the perfect image of a Filipino husband who thinks that his wife is a mindless hag whose primary responsibility is to serve her slave driver 24/7. It is a shame that in the Philippines, a lot of religious folks even misuse the Bible to justify their chauvinist practices and projects both at home and in church.
May more and more Filipinas stand up against marital tyranny or abuse! :) Kababaihan, huwag magpakamartir sa gitna ng pambabastos sa inyong dignidad!
The movie ends with this narration:
Why are we afraid to jump into the uncertain? How will we know what's waiting for us, if we don't step into the dark? Without a first step, how can we move forward?
Mr. Morgan was right. If fear overtakes us, how can we even begin to wrestle with life?
See related quote from "The World's Fastest Indian" here.
"Caregiver" also gives space to the role of religion in the life of OFWs. Despite all our misgivings towards the Church, the fact remains that in the most desperate moments of an OFW's life, the Church becomes her/his refuge. The Beijing International Christian Church, for example, has become a symbol of caring and security for many Filipino ESL teachers for whom we "feel sorry for the way things are in China." :)
Fresh from Sunday worship, Teddy warns Sarah not to associate with Filipina maids. This brief scene captures one ugly side of the Filipino psyche -- ethnocentrism and uppityism.
Sarah depicts the success story of an OFW, while Teddy is a personification of the shattered dreams of ex-OFWs. Now, it is easy to judge Teddy as an egoistic sore loser. But for those of us who once strove to find creative ways to cope with the loneliness, pain, and frustrations of living and working abroad, we can sympathize with his plight. For when disillusionment sets in while you're in a foreign country, even the mere thought of finally going home can keep you from losing your mind.