A documentary at the Regina International Film Festival captures the journey of a Regina, Saskatchewan resident, to help Filipino children deal with trauma.
The documentary, Balikbayan: From victims to survivors, premiered in Edmonton and won an Audience Choice Award. The film is now part of the Regina Festival.
One of the promises Jon Jon Rivero made to his father before the latter died in 2002 was that he would visit the Philippines, which they could not do at the time due to financial difficulties.
About four years later, Rivero had the chance to travel to the Philippines with a hip hop Filipino performing arts group that combined both contemporary and folk music and dance. “And it changed my life,” Rivero said Morning edition.
He noticed children trying to get the troupe’s attention after performances. Some had no clothes but had an eager spirit.
“Some of them made head spins on the concrete. And honestly, I was just blown away. They teach me a lot more about resilience than I could ever learn through my hip hop and, you know, my privileged life, ”he told Morning Edition.
Occupational therapist and hip-hop dancer, Rivero in 2007, joined Streetlight Philippines, which runs an orphanage. Rivero began providing music instruction and guidance and went back every few years with a team of volunteers, including his wife, Paula Audrey River, a certified trauma specialist and author.
He felt that was what his father and mother wanted him to do.
WolfCop producer Bernie Hernando suggested making a documentary, and they took several trips to the Philippines to film.
Wj Typhoon Yolanda / Haiyan hit the central Philippine Islands, Rivero learned that most of the children he worked with survived, but he was told by Streetlight that the children needed dancing and singing to help with their trauma.
Rivero decided the youth’s resilience and the strength of the Philippines as the focus of the documentary. He continued filming trauma workshops from 2014 to 2019.