Filipinos working away from their families face unspeakable misery, and this leads them to become vulnerable and open to scammers seeking to dupe them out of their hard-earned money.
Yet the most telling are those con artists who take advantage of their loneliness to get that fast buck, by luring them into fake online relationships. This misfortune befell the hardworking Sheila (Dimples Romana), a Filipino domestic helper in Hong Kong, who fell for the purported charms of catfishing foreigner.
In the Maalaala Mo Kaya episode “Sobre” aired on February 20 as part its month-long Valentine’s offerings, Sheila met a person online just to ease her misery and find comfort in as she faced maltreatment in the hands of her employers.
She sought work in Hong Kong after her husband Jose (Ketchup Eusebio) fell ill and accumulated debts. And despite the abuse, she endured her sufferings just to make ends meet for the family. But in the face of her ordeal, she ended up lonely and depressed, and worse, was suspected by Jose of having an affair.
Finding a way out of her sorrow, she explored the world of social media just to find solace. A person named “Dave Byrnes” sent her a friend request, which she accepted. Their online relationship fostered, and while she was hesitant at first, friends telling her those ties are harmless and serve as a way to fill her need for “companionship,” albeit virtually.
The photos that bore the image of her online lover show a dashing, handsome figure any girl would fall for—charms that left her smitten, providing much comfort amid the burdensome work, problems back in the Philippines having a rebellious son, and seemingly uncaring husband for her feelings. She would take issue on her husband for being nonchalant after receiving her hard-earned money for not uttering a word of thanks for it.
Sheila would then hear something she really wanted in a conversation with Dave—telling her that once she would go the next level in their relationship, he would not make her work, give her anything she wants, while he alone would support her. Dave said he would make her his “queen.”
As her discord with Jose led her to avoid him, as he sought assistance in paying for more debts, she would then receive a message from her virtual lover, not in the same romantic tone that eased her feelings previously. He is now distraught and desolate, telling her he had met a car accident and needed to undergo an operation to remove shards of glass from his body. He would ask her money for the procedure, since he claimed he was in Turkey and could not have access to his frozen accounts in the US. She would oblige and remit the money to her “love,” who accepted the smaller amount she can only offer.
Dave would then ask more amounts from Sheila, purportedly for medicine and other expenses, which he said he would pay back once he returns to the US. Sheila would bend over backwards, such as borrowing money from a fellow OFW, just to send money to Dave. She even considered using the money she keeps in an envelope, but she would decide against it in the end. But when he would frantically ask for more money in a call, claiming that his daughter had died suddenly, Sheila realized his monetary demands were too much, now refusing his request and telling him that they should put their relationship to a halt. This left him disappointed and he hang up on her.
When Sheila told a friend about Dave being unreachable for days, she would lend her phone with a dating app, which Dave may be using and should allow her to easily contact him. And when she opened the app and searched for his name, a different “Dave Byrnes” appeared showing not the photo of a white male with striking features that she has always known him to have, but of a black guy she never seen before. Sheila was furious realizing that she was fooled all this time, demanding that “Dave” pay back all the money she gave him. He would then hang up on her, with Sheila breaking down in tears.
After the experience, Sheila would then regret being unfaithful to her husband with her actions, while admitting she still finding the strength to reveal and confess her wrongdoing to him. But she has since warned other Filipino workers to be wary of the love scam she fell for.
A cautionary tale for OFWs, MMK “Sobre” offers an identifiable, gripping narrative that really brings the message across. Director Elfren Vibar brought out moving dramatic elements to make it as effective as possible—from stirring dramatic performances to a moving, emotionally piercing script.
While we are all impressed with how the cast figured in the episode, including Ketchup Eusebio bringing out his exceptional acting chops and Gillian Vicencio’s prodigious ability to deliver an impactful portrayal even in a minor role, it has truly been a dramatic showcase for Dimples Romana. Dimples proved she is a stellar, brilliant actress of note with her deep, riveting portrayal of Sheila. Her performance shows the scale and gamut of her thespic craft, from the wily yet classy antagonist that invaded pop culture to a pitiful victim remorseful for her wrongful ways.