Feature: Ex-Nanny from Iloilo to Watch Cannes Film in Singapore
She had never expected to go back to Singapore after 16 years. Much less to watch a movie that she inspired, a film that won in this year’s Cannes FilmFestival.
Teresita Sajonia, 57, the Ilongga nanny who inspired the Singaporean film, "ILO ILO," in a press conference at Plazuela de Iloilo in Iloilo last Aug. 15, thanked the media for their help, and told them of another good news.
Teresita Sajonia, the Ilongga nanny now known as "Auntie Terry" in the film "ILO ILO," was joined by her common-law husband, Johnny Taguibe, in a press conference in Iloilo last August 15.* (Danny Dangcalan photo)
Now known as celebrity nanny "Auntie Terry," she said she is going to Singapore today, Aug. 23, to watch the premiere of "ILO ILO" tomorrow at the Marina Bay Sands theater.
She will be staying at the Marina Bay for two nights with her common-law husband, Johnny Taguibe, 64. The couple lives in a humble nipa hut at Sitio Unas, Brgy. San Jose in San Miguel town, Iloilo.
Cebu Pacific Airlines, the movie’s official airline partner, will bring "Auntie Terry" and Taguibe to Singapore.
Candice Iyog, vice president for Marketing and Distribution of Cebu Pacific, said in a statement, "We are honored to be part of this wonderful reunion and support Auntie Terry when she goes to Singapore through Cebu Pacific’s direct flights from Iloilo. For us, Auntie Terry represents the hard work and selfless love of global Filipinos.
She and many other global Filipinos leave a lasting impact wherever they are in the world."
"ILO ILO" is directed by Sajonia’s alaga (ward),Anthony Chen, 29, who is the first Singaporean to win a top award at Cannes for a feature film. The Cannes Film Festival awarded "ILO ILO" the Camera d’Or Prize (best first film) last May.
Set against the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the film chronicles the relationship between a young Singaporean boy (Chen) and his Filipina nanny, named "Auntie Terry."
It is also the film debut of Anthony, one of three Chen boys that Sajonia took care of as a domestic helper in the Lion City.
In the press conference, Sajonia said she is excited but nervous for her return trip to Singapore.
She is excited how much of the story would resemble the real events in her life with the Chens, knowing that Anthony was only 8 years old when she left for the Philippines for good, and the filmmaker only based the movie on his recollection of her 16 years ago.
She said she is also excited how the film’s lead, Angeli Bayani, would portray her.
Sajonia’s story has also became a tourism marketing venue in promoting the city and province of Iloilo.
In the press conference last Aug. 15, Blend 45 coffee extended P50,000 worth of livelihood package to "Auntie Terry" for her to start a small business.
Maxine Fernando of Universal Robina Corporation’s Beverage Marketing Department said the gesture is their way of recognizing Auntie Terry’s tender loving care for her alagas in Singapore.
"She embodies the daily heroes and innate Filipino trait of love and care," she said.
"Auntie Terry" was reunited with Anthony and his younger brother Christopher, 24, who she said is her favorite alaga, last month in San Miguel, Iloilo.
After winning the Cannes film festival, Chen expressed his desire to reunite with Sajonia despite the lack of information on her name and home town.
With help from a Cebu-based public relations agency, the Iloilo media joined the search for Auntie Terry until she was traced last month.
After learning that his former nanny has been found, Chen said they were touched by the gestures and efforts of the Ilonggos.
"My family and I are completely overwhelmed by the goodwill coming from Iloilo and the Philippines in finding Auntie Terry. We honestly did not expect to hear any news so soon," he said in a statement.
The search ended in an emotional reunion, when Chen and his youngest brother Christopher flew to Iloilo to see her again after 16 years.
Chen said they were especially touched that Auntie Terry treasured the time she was with their family.
Auntie Terry, who finished midwifery course at the Iloilo Doctors College, literally kept her happy memories in Singapore as proven by the photos of her wards and their family which she safely tucked in her belt bag.
"I always carry these photos wherever I go because of the happy times we had. The pay was not that much but my employers treated me well. They even let me join when they go out on their family days," she added.
"It has been an emotional day for us, and I am extremely touched especially after seeing that she still kept so many photos from her time with us," Chen said.
Sajonia said in dialect, "I was very happy to see them and just hugged them tight. They were still young when I left, and now they have become so big and handsome."
"Auntie Terry" has become a symbol of the positive impact of overseas Filipino workers not only on the lives of their own families but that of their employers as well.
Teresita worked for the Chen family for eight years, but had to return home in 1997 due to health issues. Since then, she had lost touch with the family but still carried photos of the three boys with her.
"They were very nice kids; they could be mischievous at times, but they’re really very sweet," she shared.
Sajonia said she could not believe that Chen would make a movie inspired by their story and that he and his brothers would come looking for her. "I’m so touched and thankful," she said. "It must mean that they loved me as much as I loved them."
"ILO ILO is a story about love, family and relationships, and we could never have imagined that a little film like this could reach out, connect, and re-connect those ties that we thought were long lost," Anthony Chen posted on the movie’s official Facebook page after the reunion.
The Chen family in Singapore is also planning to help Sajonia, but details as to the assistance were not disclosed at the press conference.*(DBDangcalan)