Mama, Home and Away: Philippine Cinema’s Discourse on the Feminization of Labor Migration

  • Arjay Arellano


Ever since the ill-fated case of Flor Contemplacion, a domestic helper in Singapore who was executed by hanging in 1994 for murdering another Filipina maid and a child, the Philippine media has been actively taking part in shaping our perception toward the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) phenomenon. The Filipino diaspora has indeed remained alive in the national imagination through media representation (Lejano, (Un)packing the balikbayan box: images of the returnee in three contemporary Filipino movies. Masteral Dissertation, UP College of Mass Communication, 2003). This chapter examines the discourse on the feminization of labor migration in Philippine cinema against the backdrop of gender politics in Filipino culture. Popular and commercially successful films Anak and Caregiver presented the stories of mothers leaving their country and the effect of this modern-day exodus on their families. The film texts revealed a great ordeal experienced by OFW mothers, a crisis in identity and worth.


  1. Aguilar, D. (1989) “The Social Construction of the Filipino Woman”, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Vol. 13, pp. 527–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asis, M. (2003) “Asian Women Migrants: Going the Distance, But Not Far Enough”, retrieved from on March 12, 2011.
  3. Bennett, L. and Manderson, L. (2003) “Introduction: Gender Inequality and Technologies of Violence”, in Manderson L. and Benett L. (eds) Violence Against Women in Asian Societies, London, Routledge Curzon, pp. 1–13.Google Scholar
  4. Commission on Filipinos Overseas (2009) “Number of Registered Filipino Emigrants By Sex: 1981–2009”, retrieved from on March 10, 2011.
  5. David, R. (2002) “Terms of Survival”, in David R. (ed) Nation, Self and Citizenship: An Invitation to Philippine Sociology, UP Press, pp. 82–84.Google Scholar
  6. Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (2008) “Women and migration: Trends and Implications on the Filipino Youth”, retrieved from on March 12, 2011.
  7. Hugo, G. (2005) “Migration in the Asia-Pacific Region”, Global Commission on International Migration, retrieved from on March 11. 2011.
  8. Hayward, S. (1996) Key Concepts in Cinema Studies, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. International Labor Organization (2005) International Labour Organization, Preventing Discrimination, Exploitation and Abuse of Women Migrant Workers, Information Guide, Gender Promotion Programme, retrieved from
  10. International Organization for Migration (2005) “Gender and Migration Fact Sheet” retrieved from on March 2, 2011.
  11. IMDB (2000) “Anak” retrieved from on March 9, 2011.
  12. Lejano, E. (2003) “(Un)packing the Balikbayan Box: Images of the Returnee in Three Contemporary Filipino Movies”, Masteral Dissertation, UP College of Mass Communication.Google Scholar
  13. Pessar, P. and Mahler, S. (2003) “Transnational Migration: Bringing Gender in”, International Migration Review, Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 812–846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Martin, S. (2003) “Women and Migration”, paper presented at the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) Consultative Meeting on “Migration and Mobility and how this movement affects Women”, Malmö, Sweden 2 to 4 December 2003 retrieved from on March 12, 2011.
  15. Parreñas, R. (2001) “Mothering from a Distance: Emotions, Gender, and Intergenerational Relations in Filipino Transnational Families”, Feminist Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 361–90, and Servants of Globalization: Women, Migration and Domestic Work. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Reyes, M. (2009) “Migration and Filipino Children Left-Behind: A Literature Review”, Miriam College Women and Gender Institute (WAGI) for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), retrieved from on March 2, 2011.
  17. Rodriguez, R. (2005) “Domestic Insecurities: Female Migration from the Philippines, Development and National Subject-Status”, Working Paper 114, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University of California, San Diego.Google Scholar
  18. San Juan, E. (2006) “Trajectories of the Filipino Diaspora”, retrieved from on March 12, 2011.
  19. Wikipedia (2008). “Caregiver” retrieved from on March 1, 2011.
  20. Zlotnick, H. (2003) “Global Dimensions of Female Migration” retrieved from on March 4, 2011.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arjay Arellano
    • 1
  1. 1.Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) InternationalWashington, DCUSA

Personalised recommendations