Some may know that there is a stereotype in Philippine films. They say that films made in the Philippines look cheap compared to the ones they see from international films. This became apparent as western films got more attention than local films, according to the trends shown in cinemas active during the time. Portes’ ‘Merika proved to be different as the Filipino audience were amazed at the film’s production. Perhaps people were drawn into this film because it was shot in America.
Like many other films of that time, Portes’ ‘Merika was about the average Filipino. This film was centered on the lives of Overseas Filipino workers or OFW. Portes contradicts the glamorous idea of working in America in his film. During that time, many Filipinos would work abroad to support their families. Going abroad was idealized as people thought that that was the only escape from the Philippines’ declining economy and messy politics. Portes breaks this illusion by showing what happens across the border, and how OFWs feel being far from something comfortable, safe and familiar. The main character is homesick and lonely abroad, despite living a decent life that is far from her former life in the Philippines. Her boredom is portrayed by how she meekly passes by attractions such as the Empire State Building or the Trump tower, which usually inspires people. She becomes uninspired because of how long she has lived in the city. She becomes numb to the routine she is stuck with abroad, as she yearns to go back to her home country. However, she cannot afford to do so. The only thing that keeps her going are letters from her friend who tells her about seemingly mundane things happening in Manila. For her, it reignites her passion and her desire to go back home despite not knowing what that will mean for her future.
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