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Filipino-American filmmaker Christine Ramos empowers marginalized communities

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Christine, the daughter of 80s Filipino singer and actress Florence Aguilar, moved to the US at a young age along with her family in search of a better life. Since then, she has spent her life navigating who she is and where she fits in as a Filipino immigrant in the US. 

Years passed, and she joined the US Navy and started a family, eventually marrying Orlando Jay Ramos and having their daughter Dylan Ramos

Like many women and mothers, Christine faces countless challenges and difficult decisions in life. Despite serving in the US Navy, which was not her initial dream but a practical choice for stability, Christine always held onto the hope of pursuing her true passions on the side. However, everything changed when she became pregnant and realized she was now responsible for a new life. Putting her dreams on hold, she devoted herself to raising her daughter and providing her with the needed support and guidance. 

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In 2010, she returned to the Philippines with her family to facilitate some business, connect with her roots, and try to pursue a career in filmmaking. For nearly a decade after graduating from film school, Christine tried to immerse herself in the industry in California, honing her skills while being a full-time housewife. Little did she know that her big break would come knocking back from the Philippines, her homeland.

In 2021, Christine began working on a documentary film titled #SamaDilaut, which sheds light on the plight of the Sama Dilaut, an indigenous sea community in the Sulu Sea facing issues such as statelessness, discrimination, and forced migration due to environmental degradation. Through the film, Christine wanted to raise awareness about the importance of ocean conservation and advocate for the rights and welfare of marginalized indigenous communities.

Christine brought her vision to life with the support of her friends — human rights defender Rhadem Musawah and Liza Florida of Eight Billion Project — and the Indigenous Children Learning Center (ICLC) in Tawi-tawi Island. The film premiered in 2023 at Shangri-La Cinema in the Philippines, hosted by the Royal Embassy of Belgium, and has since garnered recognition in many countries around the world, winning four major awards at festivals in Germany, at the International Film Festival The Hague in the Netherlands and Canada at the International Women’s Film Festival. 

In one of her public speeches, Christine said, “Our goal in creating this film was to spark vital conversations that could genuinely impact the Sama Dilaut community in the Sulu Sea, mobilize support in finding solutions through education and awareness. Statelessness, a seemingly simple word with deeper meanings, often leads to multiple and intersecting marginalizations of many communities around the world.”

Given that this is Christine’s first documentary film project, a stark departure from her usual narrative film work, she noted that she had mixed emotions swirling within her as she faced the unknown world of documentary filmmaking, unsure of how audiences would receive her vision and how it would impact the communities she was featuring. Despite the uncertainty, she followed her heart, determined to showcase the powerful voices of the Sama Badjau communities and shed light on their untold stories.

Christine’s dedication to amplifying the voices of marginalized communities has not gone unnoticed. Recently, she has been invited to speak at conferences and events, including the recent World Conference on Statelessness in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where Human Rights Commissioners from Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines came together for the Memorandum of Understanding on Finding Durable Solutions to the Statelessness Issues in Sabah. Christine, in her speech, highlighted the importance of addressing the statelessness issues faced by the Sama Dilaut and other indigenous communities worldwide.

Through her work, Christine is not only advocating for social and environmental justice but also empowering others to use their platforms for positive change. She serves as an example of how one person can make a difference through storytelling and activism.

In celebration of International Women’s Month, Christine’s story stands as a powerful testament to the strength, resilience, and boundless potential of women around the world. With her daughter Dylan about to graduate from college, Christine understands that she is not only achieving her own dreams but also clearing a path for future generations of women to pursue their own. From one dream to another, women support women.

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