Kalinga (Care): the Filipino Caregivers’ Stories
In the various waves of migration of Filipinos to Canada, one of the most heartbreaking stories is the Caregiver Program stream, which singled out Canada for offering permanent residency after a successful completion of work. This stream has resulted in migrants leaving thriving careers, abandoning professional and educational pursuits, and long-term parent-child separation while allowing Canadian family employers freedom within their respective family care. That, in the objective of providing a better future for the family, one has to leave their loved ones behind.
This is the focus of Kalinga (Care), a documentary on Filipino caregivers in Vancouver, written and directed by Kent Donguines, and co-produced with Robin Macabulos. This 29-minute documentary was pitched and completed through Telus Storyhive, has been going around the film festival circuit, and is supported by Story Money Impact, “in creating strategies, building partnerships and organizing screenings designed to educate and expand audience understanding of the social issues of the film”. This film was also a personal process for Kent, as it made him reflect and understand his mother’s decision to leave them when he was six years old, to be a nanny for another family abroad. It explores the concept of “If caregivers and nannies take care of other people, who takes care of them?”
A project that started from an impulse to go around the Filipino community and conduct interviews, the film has generated traction beyond Kent and Robin’s expectations. Aside from the successful pitches with Storyhive and Story Money Impact, Kalinga has received several recognition: Kathleen Shannon Award by the National Film Board of Canada; Honourable Mention for Short Film in Hawaii Film Festival; nominations for Best Documentary and Chilliwack Spirit Award at the Chilliwack Independent Film Festival; nominations for Best Multicultural Short Film and Best Director - Non Fiction at the Yorkton Film Festival; and official selection at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival, Whistler Film Festival, and Toronto International Film Festival. Kalinga will also be playing in Air Canada as part of their in-flight entertainment. In all these, Kent has seen the impact the film has had on the community, how it had been cathartic for the interviewees and his own story as well, and how it can be a vehicle to create change in Canada’s care industry which can be subjected to exploitative practices.
Kent’s entry into the creative industry was when he held a camera as a Grade 4 boy, and was entered into a photography competition. His grandmother was then an avid photographer. He finished his Communications degree at the University of the Philippines, and worked with Viva Entertainment and Star Cinema, before moving to Ottawa in 2015. He then moved to the west for a scholarship offer at the Vancouver Film School. It is here where Kent and Robin met - Kent was then a teaching assistant in one of Robin’s classes. Robin, on the other hand, is a Business Marketing graduate of the University of Asia & Pacific who moved to Canada in 2016, and studied at the Vancouver Film School, focusing on the business and logistics side of film production. He currently works with Creative BC, and collaborates with Kent via Aimer Films together with Maxime Beauchamp.
In 2021, Kent was one of CBC Playback’s 10 to Watch, which highlights 10 emerging creatives in the film/broadcast industry for their innovative works and prominent voices. Jayme Pfahl, a senior instructor at Vancouver Film School and Kent’s mentor, says in another interview about Kent, “...His gut instinct is why his voice is so strong. He believes in people and the good in humanity and this shines through in all his projects. They are often centred around outsiders – the underdogs, the misunderstood, the fringes of humanity – and at their core, all these stories have an authentic beating heart. I believe audiences are looking for that authenticity in storytelling, and I feel this is what Kent brings to the table.” Kent’s other works include: Netflix’s Filipino film First Love; the CBC short documentary The Ink Runs Deep, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and won Best Documentary in Calgary; the music video Iridescence; Catwalk; Small Fish (Crazy8s film), and Grey. He was one of five Canadian producers selected for the prestigious 2020 Canadian Film Centre Producers Lab, the Hot Docs Doc Accelerator Program, the Canadian Film Centre’s Producers Lab, the Netflix-Banff Diversity of Voices Program, and a finalist in the 2017 Whistler Film Festival Power Pitch Competition.
Taking into account the shortage of Filipino-Canadian representation both in front and behind the camera, Kent and Robin resolve to be a medium for Filipino and other under-represented voices on screen, and to work with young and promising creatives in Canada and the Philippines. Kent has just finished another Filipino immigrant story and is working on a feature length documentary “Treasure of the Rice Terraces”, about fixing a fractured identity through traditional Filipino tattoos, with National Living Treasure Awardee Whang-Od, the last and oldest mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattoo).
I asked these two young men, whose passion in their mission and craft are so palpable and are being recognized for their work, what their guiding principles are. For Robin, it is about patience, trusting the process, and the thinking that if you are passionate about it, it’s going to happen. Kent believes in the ripple theory of change - of thinking about one as a droplet of water, how are you going to influence the people around you and the community. This thinking has always been tied to his grandmother’s saying: positive people do not put others down. The only way we can survive is when the people you work with enjoy working with you. Try your best not to step on anyone’s toes, be empathetic and passionate with everything.
For more information on Kalinga (Care) the documentary, go to the Kalinga - Documentary Facebook page.
* Screening of Kalinga (Care) is scheduled for February 16, Wednesday, 8-9:30pm MST. Free event. Register to receive the screening link - https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/philippine-arts-council-presents-kalinga-care-tickets-264456916757
** This article was published in the February 2022 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.
*** Do you know of a Filipino, or of Filipino-descent, artist/creative or an art and culture event that should be featured? Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.