Sunday Beauty Queen

In January 2022, we screened Sunday Beauty Queen (2016, Philippines), an award-winning documentary following five Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong as they spend their weekly day off preparing for an annual public beauty pageant. We also hosted the director Baby Ruth Villarama and three of the documentary's stars— Leo ‘Daddy’ Selomenio, Judy ‘Mommy’ Sison, and Mylyn ‘MJ’ Jacobo— for a conversation.

In this excerpt, Leo and Judy talk about their 16-year relationship and how it has created a 'home away from home' for other Overseas Filipina Workers (OFWs) living and working in Hong Kong.

🎙️ Listen


Session Notes

📌 Audio and transcribed excerpts have been edited for clarity.

❤️ Elsewhere Cinema Club thanks Baby Ruth Villarama for speaking with us about Sunday Beauty Queen. We also thank Leo ‘Daddy’ Selomenio, Judy ‘Mommy’ Sison, and Mylyn ‘MJ’ Jacobo for speaking about their experiences as domestic workers and their participation in the documentary.

🔗 Watch Sunday Beauty Queen on YouTube.

🔗 Donate to Bethune House, a shelter for migrant workers in Hong Kong.

Elsewhere Cinema Club's PHOEBE

It feels like even though you've been away for so long and so much of your life takes place away from the Philippines, there is still a very strong sense of community and identity.


LEO

My life is already committed to our Filipino community here in Hong Kong. I was offered a job in Philippines, but I didn't accept it because I think my fellow OFWs here in Hong Kong still need me.


PHOEBE

JUDY, you have been in Hong Kong now for 19 years, and even though you don't have a big starring role in the film, you are a very strong part of the foundation of the film and in the organization behind the scenes. Could you tell me a little bit about your experiences with the film?


JUDY

Actually, my experience with the film is so funny. During the filming, you're not given the script, right? You say what you want to say and then you act naturally. It was our first time. When the film came out, it was so funny because when people watched it, they said, "Oh, it's Mommy Judy! She's so funny during the pageant!" The film open doors for me to have more friends, like with the director (BABY RUTH VILLARAMA). We formed a family and until now we are in constant communication. I am pleased that they like my cooking and they showed my cooking in the film.


LEO

Actually, JUDY's role in Hong Kong, is really...


JUDY

Like a mother?


LEO

No! For me, she's always beside me to support me. Because she is not actually an officer in our organization, she's not part of it. But she's always there beside me, to support me, and help me. Like a personal secretary. (Laughs) Because our OFWs are all volunteers, sometimes I'm hesitant to ask them to do things. But if JUDY is there, I can just say, "Okay, you do this!" When I'm so stressed and so angry, she is there.


JUDY

I am the 'shut up server'. Anything goes wrong with the show (pageant), I am the one to blame.


PHOEBE

I think it really shows that the both of you are the anchors of the community, of what you have built around the pageant.


LEO

Yes! Actually here in Hong Kong, they call us 'Mommy' and 'Daddy'.


PHOEBE

Since both of you have been partners for 16 years, there is a natural way in which you talk and work with each other. Like how JUDY picks up all the little things that LEO cannot do or when LEO is not feeling so well. I feel that the relationship when you have is the emotional anchor of SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN. It shows when they call you 'Mommy' and 'Daddy'; everybody is away from home but you have created this new home and invited them in.

LEO

We have inspired a lot of people here because our our relationship is just as normal as any other relationship. We don't consider ourselves as different. We just consider ourselves as normal. Everybody gives us their respect. Even the Philippine Consulate calls us 'Mommy' and 'Daddy'. It feels like we are family. Everyone who has problems should come to us. It feels like we are their parents.


PHOEBE

For a lot of the young women, I think it is important to know that they can come to you and have a safe space, physically and emotionally.


LEO

Yes!