Cinema: Pinoy Sunday — walking a mile in their shoes

We’ve all heard the old saying, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.” Malaysian-born Taiwan-based director Ho Wi Ding has crafted a touching movie that lets us vicariously walk several miles in two Filipinos’ shoes, except that they’re pounding the streets of Taipei.

They are migrant workers with boring jobs in a factory and staying in a dormitory with such strict curfew rules that if they book in late three times, their work pass is cancelled and they are deported.

Manuel (Jeffrey ‘Epy’ Quizon) thinks the dormitory needs a sofa so they can better unwind after work. By a stroke of luck, he and long-time friend Dado (Bayani Agbayani) happen upon one abandoned on a sidewalk one Sunday and decide to take it home.

That madcap Sunday is the centrepiece of the film, but the prior setting-up scenes, and many of their encounters while transporting the sofa, deftly sketch the men’s lives in a  foreign country. There is loneliness and distance from loved ones. There is a sense of helplessness when Dado’s wife meets with an accident and there’s little he can do while stuck in a different place. There are language barriers, making them vulnerable; sometimes it’s only luck that gets them out of misunderstanding and trouble. The language barrier in turn creates a ghetto-like experience as they socialise entirely among fellow migrant workers. But even among their own people, there can be unkindness, as Manuel discovers when his love interest spurns him and her friends make fun of him.

At the factory where they work, there are strict rules. Show up for work one minute late and you are not allowed in, which means one day’s wages cut. But at least they get Sundays off. One of their friends, a domestic maid, has not had a day off in two months. The home she lives in is filled with tension, her employers quarrelling every night. Meanwhile her own husband in the Philippines has taken to drink and disappeared.

Despite ingredients that sound like a litany of woe, Ho has created a poignant comedy suffused with friendship, honesty and responsibility. And a bit of whimsical daydreaming. Overall, the human spirit shines through.

As Straits Times Life! film reviewer Boon Chan wrote on 15 June 2011, “The movie is an exercise in empathy, which director and co-scriptwriter Ho Wi Ding executes with humour and compassion.”

Ho was named Best New Director at the Golden Horse Awards last November for this film.

Over at A nutshell review:

This film wouldn’t have worked without both actors putting in fine performances as characters of opposites. One’s a committed family man yet found in a relationship with another domestic help (Meryll Soriano), while the other has the hots over a singer (Alessandra de Rossi) where the affections isn’t mutual, but don’t blame the guy for not wanting to try.


Plot narrative remains episodic, but this serves the film well as Ho Wi Ding crafts comedy by the truckloads, as well as poignant, reflective moments that allows one to take stock of the littlest things we take for granted in others.

This film is a gem that is probably going to be lost among the Hollywood blockbusters all over town, and may have a relatively short season as a result. But for pure satisfaction — not forgetting its relevance to us here with a million migrant workers in our own city — it’s in a class of its own. Pinoy Sunday, exclusively at Orchard Cineleisure, is a must see. Go this weekend. Walk a mile in their shoes.

7 Responses to “Cinema: Pinoy Sunday — walking a mile in their shoes”

  1. 1 Poker Player 17 June 2011 at 10:03

    Does anyone remember the title of a Singaporean-made film many years ago about maid-life in Singapore? It hit a lot closer home and many Singaporeans were uncomfortable with it.

  2. 2 Anonymous 17 June 2011 at 12:35

    PP: Are you referring to No Day Off by Eric Khoo?

    • 3 Poker Player 17 June 2011 at 12:52

      Yes – that’s the one.

      • 4 Poker Player 17 June 2011 at 12:59

        Plus you have to love the title. Next time Singapore boasts about ranking in the top 10 in anything with countries like Australia, NZ, Denmark etc, just try to explain the title.

  3. 5 Singapur 17 June 2011 at 18:37

    There was also a fifty-minute digital video documentary, Maid in Singapore, by a professor and screenwriter Dr. Clodualdo Del Mundo, Jr.. It gives an account on the lives of three Filipino domestic helpers in Singapore.

  4. 6 Alan Wong 18 June 2011 at 10:36

    Our PAP govt even had the guts to give a lame excuse saying since they can’t commit to it, there is no point in ratifying the UN Agreement.

    What kind of excuse is that ? Come on PAP, you are acting as a govt representing a country. Don’t you even understand how a first world country should behave and respect the basic rights of every human being ?

    Can I now say that our PM is not even gracious enough to see to it that our foreign domestic maids be entitled to their weekly rest day off ? If foreign workers are entitled, why foreign maids can’t ? Maids are also human beings, you know LHL ?

  5. 7 Just Fred 18 June 2011 at 16:52

    If you base your judgement strictly from online chatter, it seems that the Pinoys are on top of the “hate list” of foreign workers in Singapore, due to their aggressive nature, slack attitude etc etc. I wonder how how this movie will strike a chord among those netizens?

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