Docu about Pinoy frontliners in Europe premieres in prestigious London institution

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 16 2021 06:23 PM | Updated as of Nov 16 2021 09:44 PM

Documentary participants and the Juan EU Konek team, which produced Kontra Corona, a 2-hour documentary about Filipino frontliners in Europe and their families during the peak of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was recently screened in London. Photo courtesy of Juan EU Konek
Documentary participants and the Juan EU Konek team, which produced Kontra Corona, a 2-hour documentary about Filipino frontliners in Europe and their families during the peak of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was recently screened in London. Photo courtesy of Juan EU Konek

LONDON - A documentary focusing on the impact of the coronavirus disease pandemic on UK-based Filipino frontliners was screened in London on the first Saturday of November.

Prestigious academic institution School of Oriental and African Studies SOAS University of London hosted the film showing of Kontra Corona, a two-hour documentary about Filipino frontliners in Europe and their families during the peak of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From the UK to the epicenter of the pandemic in Italy, to Spain and the Philippines, the film documented the story of Pinoy migrants. 

The screening at SOAS is the first collaboration between the award-winning documentary team of Juan Eu Konek and the educational institute.

“SOAS is hosting the Filipino community to have this documentary and to share this documentary. It’s worth saying that this documentary is about the Filipino community in the UK and the rest of Europe. There are about 250,000 members of the Filipino community in the UK, “ said professor Adam Habib, Director of SOAS University of London. 

Filipino frontliners in the National Health Service or NHS have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. In the first peak, more than 70 of them died, which was also the time when the documentary team gathered to start their documentation. 

The Nursing and Midwifery Council registers 35,679 nurses who trained in the Philippines. Filipino nurses now make up the largest group of international nurses registered in the UK. 

“They are frontline workers and precisely that is why, in many ways, the burden of the corona virus has been disproportionate in this community, and this is their story. It’s a story of how they survived, it’s a story about their loved ones. It is a celebration of resilience,“ added Habib. 

Filipino professor Cristina Juan of SOAS brokered the collaborative project as the UK progressed to "unlockdown." 

“Just seeing everyone, I felt almost crying," said Juan. 

Members of the community from across England and Wales packed the Brunei Gallery to watch Kontra Corona, the film offering from the documentary team of Juan EU Konek, headed by Rose Eclarinal, who executive produced and presented the film, with co- presenters Gene Alcantara, a veteran community leader, and Crystal Dias, a solicitor.

The documentary also features an original song composition by Jay Montelibano-McLeod “When We See the Rainbow,” which is a tribute to fallen Pinoy frontliners in the UK. 

“This is a passion project and I am glad this magnificent team, composed of professionals and volunteers selflessly devoted their talent and time to complete this film,” said Eclarinal, who also currently heads the news bureau of ABS-CBN in Europe. 

The documentary is perhaps the first and only video documentation of its kind, emanating from the Filipino diaspora in the UK and Europe, produced by a team of embedded documentarians from the UK, Italy and Spain. 

“I’m glad to be here to support you guys in a very outstanding project, so proud of it actually. The film showed the problems that our kababayans are facing. The indomitable Filipino spirit is highlighted. They are willing to go through a lot of hardships because, of course, they are interested in the welfare of their family back home,” said Philippine Ambassador to the UK Antonio Lagdameo.

Juan Eu Konek tapped various communities in the UK to find some of the most compelling stories of Filipino frontliners. Similarly, during the film showing, various groups, particularly Caviteños UK and Filipino Women’s Association or FWA UK were key volunteers. 

“One thing that makes me proud this afternoon is seeing a lot of community leaders from different parts of the UK, gathering in one place,” said City Councillor of Gloucester Raymond Padilla, who also represented the Filipino Association of Gloucestershire. 

“The storytelling is one thing but I think beyond the storytelling, what the film highlights is the service of the Filipino people to the world and what we are made of as a community," said Luis Bariuan, Managing Director of TFC Europe.

Kontra Corona was also aired on ABS-CBN’s DZMM Teleradyo and Sky Cable Channel 26 in March this year as part the partnership between the filmmakers and the Philippine media network. 

The film, which was independently produced by Juan Konek Ltd, was funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder of great causes and ideas in the UK.