Thursday, March 13, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Pinay actress Sunshine Estores balances career, family life in South Korea

By JONATHAN HICAP, Manila Bulletin
Bucheon, South Korea – Filipina Sunshine Estores landed her very first acting part as a troubled expat in the hit Korean drama “Melody of Love,” during her first audition ever, October last year.
Sunshine considers it a great blessing, especially since the last few years have been quite a struggle for her and her Korean husband, Kim Dong Seop.
Sunshine Estores

The couple had been trying to make ends meet after her husband was duped by a stranger who used his name to buy cell phones in Korea. The stranger disappeared along with his promise to give Sunshine’s husband a commission of 400,000 won (about P16,000). They ended up paying 4 million won (P160,000) to the cell phone store for a year.
Sunshine describes their struggles as “pang-MMK,” referring to the Filipino drama series “Maalaala Mo Kaya,” which features real life stories.
Last October, she read a Facebook post by Filipino-Korean DJ Gennie Kim about a talent search to be conducted by a Korean agency.
Sunshine Estores (Photo by Jonathan Hicap)

Sunshine Estores with her husband (Photo by Jonathan Hicap)
“People told me that I have the looks so I submitted my photo,” Sunshine told Bulletin Entertainment in her first media interview.
Her husband then got a call from the Korean Multicultural Group, a talent agency for foreigners in Korea, about an audition for a drama series.
The series of auditions began with Sunshine battling it out with four other people for the role that mirrors her own life: that of a foreigner who has a Korean husband and child.
“I was chosen by the director,” Sunshine said.
The same director picked her anew during the second wave of auditions.
A third set of auditions was scrapped by the director, who finally cast Sunshine in the role.
“Melody of Love,” which has been airing from Monday to Friday since November on Korean TV channel KBS1, has become the country’s top-rating daily drama.
It also stars Dasom of girl group SISTAR, Baek Sung-hyun, Kim Hyung-jun of boy band SS501, Hwang Sun-hee and Kwak Hee-sung.
Sunshine plays the role of Maijoori, a Filipina who is married to a violent Korean man whom she would leave behind, taking her daughter Lee Ja-Hye (played by actress Jo Su-Min) with her. She finds work as a waitress in a restaurant to support her daughter, who despises her because she’s not Korean.
Sunshine related how difficult the whole experience was for her due to the language barrier.
“It was really hard because I had to understand what the Korean director was saying,” she said.
However, she praised the cast, saying, “They were okay. They were very kind to me.”
Sunshine said filming for the drama would last until late at night. Her husband accompanies her to all her filming schedules and they would sometimes bring their three-year-old baby with them.
Sunshine appeared in 14 episodes of the drama.
After “Melody of Love,” Sunshine is now inundated with offers from many other productions.
“Dere-derecho na po ako ngayon (I will keep on with my acting career),” she said.
A fork in the road
Being an actress was not in Sunshine’s plans. Before “Melody of Love,” Sunshine focused simply on being a housewife and raising her baby.
She and her husband met in the Philippines in 2008. He was a working student aiming to become a pastor when he brought Korean students to learn English at the Emmanuel Christian School in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
At the time, she was taking summer art classes at the same school. “We developed feelings for each other,” said Sunshine, who became the man’s first girlfriend.
They decided to get married in February 2010 in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro. In April of the same year, the couple migrated to South Korea, where they had their baby in November.
She became an English tutor for a short time but decided to focus on her family.
The cell phone scam happened in May 2010, just a month after they arrived in Korea.
“Kasi wala na po kami nang mapagkunan ng pera. Naglilihi ako noon kaya kumapit na siya sa offer nung tao,” Sunshine said.
They went to the police but they could not file the proper charges since they didn’t have any information on the person’s identity.
Her husband also became a cartoonist but the company he worked for didn’t pay him for illustrations he did for books. They decided not to file charges.
“Gagastos pa po kami kapag nagkaso kami,” she said, noting they were already hard up financially living on their own.
“Nawalan kami ng pambayad kaya pinaalis kami,” Sunshine said.
They are now living with her mother-in-law in Bucheon, a city about 25 km from Seoul.
Her husband, who now works as a security guard at a building in Seoul, is still paying for the loans he acquired when he was still a student.
Despite the hardships she and her husband have been facing, Sunshine said she is hopeful that their situation will get better in the future.
“Hindi po ako nawawalan ng pagasa. My part na napapasuko na ako pero positibo ako sa lahat ng bagay. Kapag sumuko walang mararating kaya dapat magpatuloy kahit gaano kahirap dahil hindi habang panahon mahirap ang mararanasan natin. Kahit nahihirapan ako, hindi pa rin ako sumusuko at hindi ko naisipang iwanan ang asawa ko dahil mahal ko sila ng baby ko,” Sunshine said.
Link to my original article on Manila Bulletin online:

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