Since exploding onto the news in the fall of 2017, the #MeToo movement has built up impressive momentum. Thanks to Oprah Winfrey and her by now famous Golden Globes speech, it has spawned another hashtag, #TimesUp.
These movements are long overdue because of the breadth and depth of male exploitation of females. The extent of sexual harassment has been shocking, in some cases because of the large number of female victims at the hands of a single man, and in others because of the extent of depravity by the man. The sight of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein being led away in handcuffs and two female mainstream TV co-hosts talking about both their respect and their disgust for fellow co-host Matt Lauer is vivid. It has given impetus to these movements and brought about innumerably more disclosures.
Up to now, victims have been primarily Caucasian women like Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow who have come almost exclusively from the arts & entertainment industry or the media profession. While the legitimacy of these women and their stories is not being questioned, other aspects in this new reality of the sexes need to be raised.
W’AT ABOWT US is a factual documentary told from a diverse point of view. Women share their stories of vulnerability and shame which take place in diverse locations: from the home to the workplace; from the church to community settings. The incidents crossed the boundaries of abuse between sexual, physical, and emotional. The women also come from all the major cultural backgrounds, showing that this systematic harassment knows no barriers.
These women have found strength in coping, but often that is not enough. We want the positive takeaways of this documentary to be the continuation of the conversation of the #MeToo movement towards the education of the true root causes; to bring awareness of the diversity of the issue; to provide a safe space in victims’ journey of healing; and to minimize the recurrence of these stories.
Anita Sarda is a mom of two teens and has a corporate background. She has two degrees (double major honors and a MBA). She joined a top Fortune 50 company and excelled at it. Now she is an entrepreneur and helps people be empowered, protected, and finds way to build a financial legacy. She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is passionate about travelling, reading and her children.
The W’AT ABOWT US project helped Anita understand that she has a voice. It has opened up new horizons; specifically, she has been cast to play a wife and mother in an upcoming dramatic film that is eerily similar to her own story. Regarding her story being a gift, she says, “If what I went through helps one woman, then telling my story was worth it!”
Eahwahewi (Cindy Lynn Martin) is an Indigenous Haudenosaunee specifically of the Cayuga Nation turtle clan and a mother of 3 grown children. She was nominated in 2017 for the Woman of Worth program by L’Oreal Paris Canada, and is an international speaker on topics empowering our women and actively supporting the health of our environment. She is a founding member of the WEE Women of the Earth Empowerment group. It is focused on standing, supporting and sharing their gifts, talents, knowledge, while build a network of like-minded women.
Eahwahewi attended college at George Brown School in Culinary Management and Food & Nutrition Management and is also a graduate of the Indigenous Community Health Approaches of St. Lawrence College. She has been working in her community promoting traditional health since 1995. Among her presentations was one about the Reconnection Journey through the Tree Rings at a United Nations event. She is a trained Level 2 Fire Fighter and First Responder and was a volunteer for nine years in her community.
Her book about healing from her sexual assault is entitled Recover Rebuild Reclaim Self, the Empowerment of Eahwahewi. Her name means”Carrier of News.” Nya:weh
Cindy appreciated everyone who has come on board for the documentary, and feels we are a great team on our way to becoming a family. “It is a wonderful feeling supporting women who have had violence in their lives.” W’AT ABOWT US is showing ‘you are not alone. As to her gift in the season of giving being her story, she says, “By giving of my story, I have been gifted in return. Releasing this story has given me my
Kulbinder Saran Caldwell is a life coach, born in Canada and raised by parents who migrated from India, now married to a supportive white man. I am a work-from-home mom to a whole-wheat boy and adopted baby girl, devoted daughter and daughter-in-law, loyal sister, struggling step-mom, fiercely committed activist working with South Asian non-profits and an overall compassionate, non-judgmental person.
"Sometimes when you believe you have dealt with issues from a painful past, it’s only talk. There’s still something deep down that's still unresolved. By being involved in this documentary, I was finally able to say - YES, I AM REALLY HEALED. I'm a stronger person now, full of gratitude and seva (selfless service) to others. That's because I am not defined by what happened to me as a child when I was helpless, but by my actions and deeds of today. I have a good life and it’s what I deserve... with much to look forward to in the future while learning from, but not looking back at things that have come and gone. This holiday season, the gift I wish you and your loved ones are the lessons
of love - love thyself, spread love to the world and take in all that love has to offer!"
Laura Avolese grew up in a world filled with domestic abuse and violence. As an adult she came face-to-face with her own substance abuse. Looking into her children’s eyes, she knew she had to turn her life around. Today Laura’s a successful realtor, author, motivational speaker and life coach. What’s the secret to her positive transformation?
In Laura’s book Breaking Barriers, A Woman’s Journey to Finding Forgiveness, Personal Growth and Positive Transformation, she shares her incredible life story and reveals how she used forgiveness, spirituality, and determination to forge a happy life and successful career. Today, Laura is focused on helping others overcome their own struggles. You’ll find her teaching forgiveness at retreats and speaking at events across North America.
For her, the W’AT ABOWT US project has meant spreading out the meaning behind #metoo in different ways. When she was growing up, this subject was taboo for many societies, and it is hurtful that it still happens to some extent today. In terms of being part of the documentary herself, Laura says that some of her social media following are grateful to her for speaking out and are looking to the film for giving them hope. She is honored to be part of this project, and knows it has helped her heal. Giving the gift of her story, especially in a hard year financially, caused Laura to realize that there are still those who are worse. It was this realization that prompted her to purchase two expensive gifts for two children of an underprivileged family when there were others who could have given more easily.
Lee-Ann Thompson is a Professional Faith-Based transformation coach who enjoys working with women to help align their spirits, minds, and bodies enabling them to live completely whole assisting each heart to manage stresses in all aspects of life through exercise, nutrition, and mentorship. She is a fun-loving, spirit-filled adrenaline junkie who has proven that small movements can achieve great results.
Lee-Ann has used the W’AT ABOWT US project to look deeper into ‘who I am.’ She didn’t think her story was impactful when she was first approached, but found that her story ‘had many layers.’ She also didn’t visualize her story as gift until recently. She feels that because the women of the cast had internalized their feelings so much towards their past that it was a lot harder for their stories to come out. Externalizing this was a twofold gift; they could now complete their healing,
Melissa Helen Kimberley Hood survived battles in her 32 years of life, from bullying, molestation to severe domestic violence. She thrived to turn negatives into positives and is now a parent, caregiver and child advocate within education. She is the co-founder of C.A.P.E. building a centralized building for resources of agencies in one building and one website to help parents and children navigate through the education system.
Melissa was very nervous at the commencement of this project and without much confidence; she now feels self-assured. She is humbled by this experience, and has accomplished so much in the past year. She feels especially grateful that the documentary will advocate for those that still have no voice and are broken, whether they are women, children, or even men.
Palmonia Gordon is an Author, Communication and Speech Strategist as well as a Motivational Speaker. “I help people to understand the creative ability they have to design their life, by shifting their mindset and ordering what they truly desire, resulting in Growth, Action and Abundance.”
For Palmonia, this documentary is bringing about a shift; a shift in our mindset, a shift in our view of culture, a shift in keeping things secret. What was done behind closed doors should no longer remain there. (#shift)
She realizes her daughter has reached the age when “things started happening to me, I look at my daughter and I see the past in front of my face, and it is horrific. I am so grateful that this project shows that someone believes in us enough to create a safe space where we can connect and make this necessary film.”
Rachelle Cruz is a Toronto-based TV personality. She graduated from Ryerson University in 2008 and majored in TV/Radio Broadcasting. Her media career started in print with The Philippine Reporter. She is a TV correspondent for Balitang America, ABS-CBN News, North America Bureau, a global channel that caters to the Filipinos worldwide. Rachelle reports on issues and events that impact the community. She is also a segment producer for Lifestyle Network, showcasing Toronto events like fashion week and Christmas Market. In 2016, Rachelle created The It List, a lifestyle talk show that featured lifestyle, music, fashion, art, health and beauty. It ran two seasons on Filipino TV.
In 2015, Rachelle was nominated for the Notable Award in the Entertainment Category in Toronto. She was the host/ambassador for the Golden Balangay Awards 2017 and 2018.
“When I first wrote my Me Too story, I thought I would share my story and then walk away. But after receiving so much response because I am a public figure in the media/entertainment industry, there was a call to action from my end. I felt that I had to do something. That's why I started the Filipinas Speak Out advocacy campaign. This campaign's initiatives are as follows:
1. To raise awareness about the sexual assault/violence that is happening to women in our community.
2. To challenge the debilitating beliefs and mentality in our community and society as a whole that discourages women from speaking out.
3. To facilitate conversations/dialogues about this issue and this part of our narrative as a community and find ways to help women who have suffered from sexual assault/rape/violence through workshops, connecting them to culturally-sensitive intake centers; to create discussions for real policy changes.
So when there was an opportunity for me to share my advocacy through a different platform like this documentary, it only made sense to represent the women in my community. I am doing this for them, and I am following what God had asked me to do”.
Beverly Vergel is a seasoned Celebrity Star Maker and Mentor of 30 years. She is a Film and television producer, writer, director and actor. She is also a Certified Life Coach, Brand and Marketing Strategist, and a Philanthropist.
Beverly was born, raised, bred and built a successful career in the entertainment business. Her parents were the popular love team and screen idols in the 1950’s Cesar Ramirez and Alicia Vergel. She is also the younger sister of 1970’s-1980’s award winning and popular action star Ace Vergel in the Philippines.
In the 1990’s she was leading lady to the Philippine’s top action stars and comedy kings. Beverly became a household name as “Almira” in a 6-year all-time record-breaking TV soap opera titled “Mara Clara”.
Despite her success in show business, education was Beverly’s next passion. She was always studying something along the lines of her interest. In business, she has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Management, a Diploma in Human Resource Management and she took her master’s degree in Business Administration from the Ateneo Graduate School in Manila.
Her academic training and business acumen eventually lead her into the corporate world of television broadcasting. She was the Managing Director of ABS CBN Talent Center for workshops, training, curriculum design and modules for star development, performing arts and TV and film production. In 2007, Beverly was given awards for Best in Craft and another for Best in Business Acumen by ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation in recognition of her exemplary track record in mentoring stars and building business.
For various fields in the entertainment industry like writing, producing, directing, production design, fashion, modeling, personality development and acting for film, TV and theatre, Beverly has ensured to take classes only from the best in in their fields in Manila, Canada and Hollywood U.S.A. Her most recent were Samuel L. Jackson for acting, Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal) for writing, Martin Scorsese for directing and Steve Martin for comedy.
In Canada, Beverly completed trainings and experience for a variety of TV shows for Studio, Mobile and News Production at Rogers TV and Raindance Toronto.
As the director of “WA’T ABOWT US”, Beverly is passionate about helping people, making a stand, pushing for change, and making a difference. The same advocacy she espoused when she was the student council president in college.
Nakeisha Geddes is the Co-Founder and Director of Beyond Services – Choice Matters Inc. She is also vibrant inside and very engaging in her community. She organizes empowering conferences; mentoring workshops targeted the youth and women in her community.
Nakeisha has been working with individuals with Developmental Disabilities for fifteen (15) years and she is very passionate about her work and the people she supports. A strong advocate for fairness and equality, she oftentimes finds herself advocating for people who are not able to adequately represent themselves.
Nakeisha Geddes writing focuses mainly on her life experiences and she is passionate about ‘activating the best in you.’ She hopes to empower her readers with her writing, by motivating them to love themselves by changing their outlook of life.
Nakeisha is super excited about the documentary. She knows W’AT ABOWT US is going to change so much in the future for a lot of women. She says that we, the privileged change agents, have to understand that there are still a lot of cultural practices going on upon which we must hold those responsible accountable.
Sonny De Jesus has over 20 years of professional video editing experience in the media industry. His editing career started in 1996. Formerly, he was the Senior Video Editor in the biggest Television network that is ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation in the Philippines. Since he migrated in Toronto in October 2011, he has done numerous editing works for independent film projects and television shows. Sonny is adept in using linear and non-linear video editing facility. Avid Media Composer and Quantel Newsbox are his best editing application tools.
Over the years, he has edited shows in different platforms and genres such as talk show, music video, drama, comedy, documentary, variety show, news and current affairs, political ad campaigns, infomercials and audio visual presentations for corporate events. Sonny’s good sense of timing and visual awareness; his practical and creative skills; his ability to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines; his patience and concentration; all these combined with his technical and IT skills created in him the kind of broadcast editor that supports any production team in generating a coherent project that incorporates the storyline and personality of the actors.
Levi De Jesus started gaining her production skills and training in the entertainment industry in 1985. At first she was an actor in theatrical performances and eventually took the stage management role. After pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Communications, she worked part-time in TV commercials. Driven by her passion in production work, she was able to also do projects in television drama series as talent coordinator and later on as casting director for an international film. Through the network that she had built over the years, she eventually formed her own talent management agency that supplies talents for TV shows and film projects in the Philippines. Levi came to Canada in 2011, and joined Eagle Broadcasting Company as International Correspondent for Canada Bureau. She has also been part of two independent films produced in May 2016 and in January 2018.
Goody Cambay is a filmmaker, an artist and an entrepreneur. He owns Goody Cambay INC, and it’s known for destination weddings providing excellent visuals and creative coverage. He loves working with happy couples, friends and family. Goody is based in the Greater Toronto Area and his passion is mainly on fashion, commercial and events shoot. Goody is the official filmmaker for Samsung Canada.
Joe Sangco is a wedding and events cinematographer. He has been in the industry for 9 years and is the lead filmmaker and manager of C. Royals Studio, providing clients with creative and contemporary event coverage. His passion focuses on capturing special moments and turning those moments into a timeless memory. Joe is also known to be one of the first wedding and event cinematographers in Toronto to offer drone coverage and services, before the high demand and popularity of that market, making him one of the most experienced and knowledgeable in that area of the industry today. Joe has been highly sought-after to film internationally, allowing him to experience, capture and create timeless memories in different parts of the world.
Brennan Esteves is a Toronto based cinematographer specializing in docu-style film making and action sports videography. In 2016 he graduated from Humber Colleges Broadcast Television Program, with a scholarship for proficiency with the latest television production techniques. He has been able to take his 10+ years documenting skateboarding and apply those techniques to composing and capturing movement. He currently works as a Locations PA on film and television productions around the Greater Toronto Area and is a secondary shooter for Goody Cambay wedding films studio.
Dengiyefa Akene desires to bring Gods people through gospel music to an intimate atmosphere of worship through the gift of singing, writing and leading worship at his local environment and internationally. Dengiyefa has worked on many projects including a live recording in 2015, four single releases and an EP. His recent single Yahweh is trending in Africa and is in the top 10. Dengiyefa lives in Hamilton Ontario and is married to Victoria Akene and they have a daughter, Neriah Faith Akene.
“An endless passion for God, for worship, for music, for people, for life”.