Pinay who inspired Cannes film now living in poverty

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 02 2013 06:24 PM | Updated as of Aug 03 2013 05:44 AM

Filipino Teresa Sajunia inspired Singaporean director Anthony Chen to make the movie "Ilo Ilo." Photo from the movie's Facebook page

'Auntie Terry' to attend premiere of 'Ilo Ilo' in Singapore

MANILA - The Filipina domestic helper who inspired the Cannes-winning film "Ilo Ilo" is set to attend the premiere of the movie in Singapore on August 29.

Teresita "Auntie Terry" Sajonia was recently visited by Singaporean director Anthony Chen in San Miguel, Iloilo, together with his younger brother, Christopher.

Sajonia took care of Chen and his brothers 16 years ago.

An article published in Singapore's Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao reported how Sajonia, 56, is now living in poverty and has been neglected by the relatives she used to help financially when she was still a domestic helper.

The Facebook page of "Ilo Ilo" provided a translation of the article on Thursday.

"Living in such conditions, instead of making a life in the city reflects Teresita's helplessness and lack of confidence. She had stopped speaking English for a long time, and thus was very shy and reluctant to speak to visitors in English.

"She tells us she is in poor health, and she's not sure what she can do in the city. She planned to be a nurse-midwife before she went to Singapore, but she did not end up taking the exam. Even after she returned home, she could not fulfill her dream as the nephews whose studies she sponsored offered her no financial help.

"Living in poverty, she has not seen a doctor in 16 years, and turned to traditional herbal treatments whenever she fell sick. On this trip, the Chen brothers gave her some money, as well as vitamin supplements, to help her with her health, if only for a small part," the Facebook post read.

The article, as translated on the Facebook page of "Ilo Ilo," noted how Sajonia could not even afford to buy a pair of eyeglasses, adding that she has not watched a movie in a cinema in 16 years.

"Mr. Charles L. Lim, head of Selrahco Management, was inspired to find the real Auntie Terry after hearing about ILO ILO. With his help, including getting sponsorship from an airline company, both Aunty Terry and Mr. Jhunie will be attending the Singapore premiere of ILO ILO. This will be the first time she is visiting a foreign country after 16 years, and to watch a movie in a cinema," the post read.

Sajonia worked with the Chen family for eight years in the early 1990s until the Asian financial crisis.

"Ilo Ilo," which was inspired by Sajonia, explores the lives of Singapore's workaholic, ambitious middle classes and the domestic help on which they depend.

The film won the Camera d'Or prize at Cannes, the first time that a Singapore feature won at the prestigious film festival.