Jon Jon Rivero is the co-writer and co-director of the documentary Balikbayan: From Victims to Survivors.
The film premiered in Edmonton last October and focuses on themes of trauma, resilience and Rivero’s Filipino heritage. Balikbayan is a Tagalog word meaning “person who is returning to their homeland.”
“This film has been 13 years in the making and it’s a tremendous honour for us to bring it to Saskatchewan,” Rivero said.
“Our entire team is from Saskatchewan, so we are ecstatic to be selected for RIFFA 2021 and able to share this experience with our family and friends back home.”
The idea behind the documentary came after Rivero, an occupational therapist and trauma specialist, visited his parents’ homeland of the Philippines in 2006.
Rivero said visiting the Philippines and helping the less fortunate was a promise he made to his late father. He made the trip with a performing arts troupe.
“That trip lit a fire inside me. I knew I had to go back and it changed my life forever,” Rivero said.
Rivero founded the Balikbayan Project after he returned to Canada. Since then, he has gone back to the city of Tacloban nine times and has brought other family members and friends to volunteer.
Their work became crucial in the wake of typhoon Haiyan in 2013, offering trauma support and disaster relief.
“I’m looking forward to sharing our journey with people of all generations and cultures with our Saskatchewan premiere,” Rivero said. “I hope to inspire people to celebrate their own authenticity and to use their own stories to create positive change in the world.”
The RIFFA takes place virtually from Aug. 10 to 14 and can be watched on its website.