‘Pinoy Sunday’ Details Two Migrant Workers’ Determination to Claim a Bit of Home in a Foreign Land
An abandoned couch turns Sunday routine into an adventure of perseverance and self-discovery, for a pair of Filipino migrant workers in Taipei.
Director: Ho Wi Ding
Cast: Bayani Agbayani, Epy Quizon, Nor Domingo, Meryll Soriano, Alessandra de Rossi
Language: Tagalog, English, Mandarin
Runtime: 86 minutes
While migrant workers’ experience is a common theme for filmmakers in the region, Pinoy Sunday 台北星期天 elects for a far more lighthearted look compared to most of its contemporaries. While the film is not all sunshine and rainbows, it is the unquenchable and infectious positivity of its leads in the face of adversity that makes it an endearing standout.
Pinoy Sunday details one unique Sunday afternoon for a pair of Filipino migrant workers in Taipei. After a particularly terrible morning, Dado (Bayani Agbayani) and Manuel (Epy Quizon) chance upon an abandoned red sofa. Believing it to be a “sign of God”, both determine to hand-carry the sofa back to their dormitory.
Their trek across Taipei is marked by shenanigans that make the film an easy-going experience. From having a drunk motorcyclist run into the sofa to the pair stealing a shopping cart from children, Pinoy Sunday will keep viewers engaged, guessing, and laughing along with their odyssey.
The film, however, is not a full-on slapstick comedy as the pair’s various capers would suggest. Lurking in the background is their need to reach the dormitory before its curfew, lest they risk deportation. Equally heavy themes of homesickness, financial troubles, and alienation are all readily tackled throughout the film, naturally melding into the pair’s journey.
Through the quaint sofa, each imagines their hopes and dreams. Manuel, impulsive and easily infatuated with women, sees himself lounging on the sofa with fellow migrant and love-for-the-week, Cecilia (Alessandra de Rossi). Dado, being the family man, goes further, and imagines spending time with his family back home on the couch.
While they see within it the simple pleasures of life, this appreciation is sharply contrasted with the cold, distant relations between the locals. The sofa is just a way for the pair to feel a little more like they are home. But the point is so lost amongst the locals that even a news reporter starts hounding them about the significance of the sofa. The parallels the film draws are blunt, but nevertheless effective.
Before Dado and Manuel chanced upon the sofa, Pinoy Sunday dedicates itself in showcasing – as much as it can – a day in the life of a Filipino migrant worker in Taipei. The usual suspects of difficulties are brought up, while also taking the time to showcase a dynamic community and a side of the city hardly seen on film. Similarly, it also touches on sensitive issues that presents its characters as more than a bumbling, mismatched duo.
Despite being a family man, Dado decides to be in a relationship with another migrant worker, Anna (Meryll Soriano), which he does call off eventually. However, the complex emotions behind this delicate situation is left unexplored in the film, which does feel like a missed opportunity given the performances. Agbayani imbues his character with a constant sense of unease and nervousness, coming off natural and flawed enough to flesh out both Dado’s shortcomings and strengths.
Quizon nails the infectious energy of Manuel’s recklessness and tenacity through quick-witted retorts and wild gestures, but also sentimentally unveils the character’s vulnerable side as the pair’s journey comes to an end. Together, their winning chemistry and comedic timing kept me glued throughout the film’s brief hour.
Technical wise, Pinoy Sunday’s emphasis on colour creates a visually pleasing experience. The quaint, bright red couch delightfully clashes with the sunstruck yet dulled monotones of Taipei’s streets. Pastels are emphasised as well, heightening the goofiness of the pair’s endeavour. Yet, this technical tone never infiltrates into the film’s poignant moments, allowing the emotions to shine but leaving just enough room for positivity to triumph.
Pinoy Sunday is a surprisingly layered insight on migrant life told through a pair’s peculiar adventure. It is with this sole focus where their experiences naturally spring, and with its absurd tone that highlights the indomitable spirit of migrant communities around the world.
The film is now available for streaming on Netflix.