Nov 29
MONA–A TRIBUTE TO PILIPINA WORKERS by Butch Macaro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Thu, Nov 29, 2007

A special screening of the Iza Calzado-starrer Mona: Singapore Escort was held at the SM North last Monday, Nov. 26 to a capacity audience. The film’s press kit emphasizes that the film, which was co-produced by Bandit Films and Online Digital Films, is a tribute to Pilipinas working abroad. Mona was produced in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to promote gender equality and woman empowerment. The movie will be shown in its regular screening at SM Cinemas starting Friday, Nov. 30.

Mona Morales is a single Pilipina mother who was abandoned by her lover when she got pregnant. She lives with an aging sick father and her asthmatic young daughter, BING. To support father and daughter, Mona works in a beauty parlor as a hairdresser. But her meager income is not enough.

One of her customers, a Balikbayan from Singapore convinces her to work as chambermaid in Singapore where according to her kind-hearted client, she will be earning twice as much. The lady customer gives her a calling card and advises her to decide immediately as she will be leaving the country in a few days. Mona finds herself between two hard choices–to stay with her daughter and live in misery… or to leave her little family to work abroad and earn just enough to give them a little comfort in life.

Mona learns from another hairdresser that one of the girls they know was forced to turn to prostitution to keep her sick mother alive as she could not seek better luck abroad. Mona says that is not the kind of work she will be forced into if she went to Singapore. She says that a chambermaid is one who works in a household to serve a master and that certainly is better than being a prostitute. Mona finally decides to leave her family behind to work in Singapore.

In Singapore, Mona is brought by her parlor client friend to the office of a certain Mr. Lee. She is aghast when she realizes that Mr. Lee’s business is the same work she detests, prostitution. Mona is repelled by the thought of selling her body to male strangers and clients. She angrily blames the woman for bringing her into this messy situation. The woman admits her guilt but confesses she simply took sympathy on Mona and wants to haul her away from her miserable life. Mona can go back to the Philippines if she wants to and her benefactor will shoulder the expenses back home, the woman tells her.

Confronted with the incredible situation, Mona accepts her misfortune and merely bears in her mind that this is a sacrifice she must do for her daughter Bing.

Soon Mona adjusts to her new world and keeps the pain to herself. There follow so many male clients who are attracted to her beauty and body. She regularly sends money back home.

One of her customers, a Chinese engineer, becomes a regular visitor. Unlike the others, this one shows kindness and tenderness to Mona. He treats her with gentleness and respect as a woman. Unfortunately, he suddenly disappears.

Then an Italian painter tasks her to pose for him as a model. He asks Mona to wear a wedding gown and begins to paint her in that getup. He even chains Mona to a post as he works on his masterpiece. An angry woman bursts into the studio as the painter is removing Mona’s chains. The woman fires at Mona who is slightly wounded. A deadly struggle between the painter and the woman ensues and one of them is shot to death.

In the hospital, Mona regains consciousness and finds herself face to face with the Chinese engineer. She learns that the engineer disappeared because he tried to locate Mona’s family in the Philippines and provided them food, medicine and other needs when he found them. Mona is beside herself with gratitude. She is more surprised when the engineer proposes to marry her.

An integral part of the film was shot in cosmopolitan Singapore. Aside from Iza, the other members of the cast are Brad Murdoch and Jake Makapagal. They have strong support from Jess Evardone, Clowee Carandang, Papadom, Hestia Himongala, Jocel Vergel de Dios and Miguel Faustman.

The film is the second directorial assignment of Jowee Morel. The executive producer is Pete Daza with Lawrence Gochioco and Malcolm Gochioco as associate producers. Kenneth Cheng is the Singaporean associate producer. The film musical scorer is Jun Lopito. The movie is presented by Philippine Airlines.

In the interview before the final screening, Iza Calzado related her experience of shooting the film in Singapore. She clarifies that many Filipinas hold decent jobs in the place though she admits there are foreigners—not necessarily from the Philippines only—who are street hookers and prostitutes.

Shot in 35mm, Mona is being prepared for international release. The story of Mona is a undeniable slice of present day reality about of the plight of unfortunate Filipina workers in foreign lands and mirrors the poverty that forces them to seek their luck abroad. It is hoped that the film will prod the country’s leaders to take a second look at the poverty being experienced by a larger segment of our countrymen. May this film serve as a wake up call to our politicians.