With her latest film project Yellow Rose now available for streaming online starting this month, Lea Salonga said the film touches on sensitive issues like what it feels like to be an illegal Pinoy immigrant abroad. The story centers on an undocumented alien named Rose who has dreams of doing country music despite the threat of deportation.
“I guess it’s hard to talk about illegal immigration because I don’t want to out anybody. I think everybody knows at least one person that has been through this and you understand the stress and the pressure and the fear and it’s very, very real. The fear of getting discovered, of getting found out, the fear of losing face if they ever get a deportation letter. The fear is real and it’s very much portrayed in Yellow Rose so I think a lot of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans that have seen it recognize what that is and how real that is. And so are able to feel a great deal of empathy for what Rose and her mother have to endure during the course of the film,” Lea shared.
Even though she is a green card holder herself, Lea said she has thankfully never had anyone in her family experience being threatened with deportation.
“Well most of my family immigrated to the US and to Canada legally. But there are whispers and hushed conversations about who got in the country legally but overstayed. I think everybody knows at least one person who has gone through that immigration experience. I have a green card and I gained it via a pathway called being an alien of extraordinary ability and my immigration lawyer took advantage of that pathway. And so, I was able to gain residency in the US thanks to that and thanks to Miss Saigon because it was such a high-profile musical. It didn’t take too much convincing for immigration authorities to give me my green card which I have to renew every ten years.”
Also starring in the film are Pinay actresses Princess Punzalan and Eva Noblezada who play mother and daughter that experience hardships as undocumented residents. Lea explained that this experience is not just unique to Pinoys.
“You have this preconceived notion of what American is supposed to look like and Filipinos tend to not fit into a box. I remember when I was a kid, if you were American, for me either you were white or you were black. That was what I knew. When in actual fact being American means there is a spectrum. You can be descended from an immigrant family that came in from Ireland or Russia or Poland or Germany. you can be descended from, and this is from my experience after having worked on other shows, from a Japanese immigrant family or a Filipino immigrant family or Chinese or you look like the vice-president of the United States where she is black and South Asian. So, to look like an American is to basically be any color. It’s the one thing that’s interesting say about being a Filipino where it’s not necessarily what you look like that identifies you as a Filipino. It’s how you sound, there’s either a cadence with how you speak, it’s a carriage with how you carry yourself. I don’t know what it is. When I’m in the US and it doesn’t matter if it’s mestiza or morena or what, that person is descended from Filipinos. You can quite easily identify. So that’s something I hope will be an experience for the United States as well. That you can say you’re an American and nobody will even flinch,” she explained.
Yellow Rose is now available for streaming on KTX.ph, iWantTFC, Cignal Pay-Per-View and Sky Cable Pay-Per-View.