Migrante: Gripping story of an OFW’s nightmare

Almost all Filipinos have an OFW relative: a nurse, a singer, domestic helper, etc. But not all Filipinos realize the ordeal — sometimes, even the kind of hell — these OFWs go through just to keep the family back home alive.

Joel Lamangan's film, "Migrante (The Filipino Diaspora)" depicts this nightmare — in OFW Frida Mallari's (Jodi Sta.Maria) blood-curling screams while her Jordanian employer raped her, her lost look, pathetic limp, panic-stricken eyes.

The nightmare spills over to her husband Andy (Allen Dizon), who swallows his pride and asks for plane fare money just to search for the mother of his young children — one of them sick with cancer.

The bad dream visits the children, who cling to their mother before she flies to Israel with bright hopes for their future. It haunts Frida's retired OFW father (Tony Mabesa) and makes her sister swear to endure poverty instead of living a bad dream abroad.

But the film doesn't stop at depicting this nightmare. It shows that for every missing wife and mother, there are sympathetic Filipinos who shelter their hapless kababayan. These Filipinos, who are part of Migrante International, which is devoted to help exploited OFWs, become Frida's saving grace.

Unseen enemy

End of story? Not quite. Turns out even the OFWs' saviors need saving themselves. They feel the enemy's unseen presence — ironically in the very embassy they expect to seek protection from.

Frida learns the hard way that even this faraway land, might makes right. A powerful employer's hand is still long enough to ruin you even if you thought you've broken free from the prison cell that's his home.

And like the white migratory birds that dot the Israeli sky, Frida has to run again — as fast as her legs can take her. When she finally stops, Frida finds herself in another place, and, like the chameleon who changes in order to adjust, becomes a totally different person.

She must sink or swim.

Frida finally swims — but her eyes remain sad. And questions remain unanswered, ironically in the land where Christianity — and its values — were supposed to have started.

We don't know how many more Fridas — and Andys -- are out there. All we know is there are so many little ones like Frida's children who go down on their knees to pray for their mother's safety, miles away from home.

"Migrante" leaves a nagging pain, a ton of what-might-have-beens. It shows us why, in their effort to save their families, some OFWs end up breaking the very institution they seek to protect.

Make no mistake about it. It's the story of our times. And a gruesome reminder of what desperate OFWs do in the name of love.