The importance of community is never more apparent than during difficult and uncertain times. Perhaps no one knows this more than three Filipino nurses at Mt. Sinai Hospital who opened a Filipino restaurant in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. They’re the subjects of the Alpha Female+ Grant-winning project created by documentary duo Anne Lagamayo (@annelagamayo) and Tiara Chiaramonte (@tiarachiara). Through interviews and imagery, Anne and Tiara tell the inspiring story of an immigrant community’s strength and determination to bring Filipino cuisine to the rest of the world while on the frontlines of a pandemic.
See the power of community in the inspiring Alpha Female+ Project created by grant winners and documentary duo Anne Lagamayo and Tiara Chiaramonte.
“I grew up in a stereotypical Filipino-American household,” explains Tiara, “where almost every woman in my family was a nurse and cooked incredible food. But despite being surrounded by amazing Asian food, from authentic Taiwanese soup dumplings to the richest Pho Tai broth in Southern California, Filipino food was difficult to find aside from a few restaurants in enclaves. I’ve always wanted to make something that delved into the fact there are millions of Filipinos in the U.S., but so few restaurants that share our culture. So when Anne shared the story of Bilao and these nurses founding an authentic Filipino restaurant in the pandemic, it really connected all the dots of my heritage. I feel so lucky to tell their story.”
“We made this film because we felt very strongly about two separate issues that happened to coalesce into one story - the slow breakthrough of Filipino cuisine in America and the huge contribution of Filipino nurses to this country, especially during this pandemic,” says Anne.
While the pandemic offered unique challenges to creating the short documentary film, like shortened shooting schedules and having to wear masks/use long zoom lenses during interviews, they did their best to overcome them through plenty of planning and pre-production. Even with the less-than-ideal circumstances, being able to share this story was important to the documentary team.
“The most gratifying part of making this film,” explains Anne, “was being able to feature these extraordinary nurses who not only do so much as hospital frontline workers every single day, but also spread their love of Filipino food and culture in New York City. Food critics have been predicting the breakthrough of Filipino cuisine into the mainstream for years, but it hasn’t quite happened yet. And so covering the success of this restaurant in the midst of the unlikeliest circumstances has been incredibly gratifying. We both loved filming the comfort food we grew up with, that we associate with the feeling of home. And of course we also loved eating it during our break!”
“My favorite thing about being a filmmaker is having the ability to give a voice to people who don’t always have one,” says Tiara. “Also, I was always embarrassed to eat Filipino food around my friends because it was so foreign, and I love making it look absolutely delicious.”
See more of Anne Lagamayo's and Tiara Chiaramonte's work on their Alpha Universe profile and create your own public Creator Profile HERE. You can also contribute to the Alpha Female+ Community by joining the Alpha Female Facebook group, following @sonyalpha and @sonyalphafemale on Instagram and tagging your posts with #sonyalphafemale for a chance to have your work featured.