While the Filipino people should be strongly encouraged to support the local film industry, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute, tsismis and distortion of real events are presented as historical fact, and disrespect, insults and lies as a form of entertainment. In particular, I refer to how the film Maid in Malacañang not only wrongly, but also very mischievously and with total disrespect reenacted, in her second teaser and in the film, former president Corazon Aquino and the contemplative nuns with mah jong.
Senator Imee Marcos, the creative producer, argued that Maid in Malacañang is a work of truth, not of historical revisionism…. So, as much as possible, everything is accurate and historically correct. (Maila Ager, Applicant, August 3, 2022). She then encouraged everyone to watch the movie first before commenting.
To be fair, I’m writing this reaction comment after watching the official trailers and teasers, and the movie (so I can be more objective), director Darryl Yap’s lengthy interviews with Boy Abunda, Ka Tunying, etc on YouTube, and do my own research, consultation and analysis.
I watched the feature film at SM San Lazaro, Cinema 3 on August 4, 2022 at 1:45 p.m., thanks to the City of Manila’s limited free admission policy for senior citizens. Without intending to degrade the brilliant acting, creative cinematography, and provocative direction, among others, I will only comment in this article on two particular scenes from the film that I find unjustly disrespectful to the late President Cory Aquino and how the nuns contemplatives were falsely and maliciously linked to mah jong, which in the minds of many Filipinos, is still a form of “gambling”, and to do so at the height of the three-day people power revolution is very ridiculous. Below are the two scenes from the film that are clearly, to say the least, based on distorted historical events, a lack of diligent research, and poor judgment.
In a play in Malacañang, one of the maids recounted events unfolding outside the palace, not only at EDSA, but also in Cebu, where Cory was, when Enrile and Ramos defected. The maid went on to tell that Cory went to a monastery to play mah jong with the sisters.
It is the first time that the word mah jong was mentioned in the film. It’s pure tsismis and a malicious one. Did one of the maids actually recount the event that way, and from what source, or was it just the addition of a wacky cameo from the director with the Marcos’ approval?
The fact that President Cory was in Cebu and took refuge in the Carmelite Monastery was factual and supported by credible evidence and statements from the Carmelite nuns, the Sisters of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. But go there to play mah jong was a blatant lie.
Why did the director put words in the maid’s mouth? It is an insult not only to the integrity of the nuns, but also to that of our servants or our kasambahays, as if to grant them the right to spread lies or provide false news, and to be held less accountable for their words and deeds. Was this part of the film merely a promotional strategy and appeal to our OFWs, with the intention of enticing them to come and enjoy the latest gossip, a distorted form of entertainment, before these fabricated lies are forced into the psyches of unsuspecting moviegoers as “historical truths? Thank you to our beloved contemplative Carmelite nuns who have the integrity and moral courage to expose and defend the truth.
It is a combination of Maid in Malacañang official trailer and its second teaser, where Cory is depicted frantically shouting into the phone the words “Get them out of the Philippines!” while the nuns quietly play mah jong.
In this second scene, which is shown towards the end of the film, Cory is mischievously depicted as playing mah jong with a group of sisters dressed in white with pink linings, and supposedly, Cory telling the US Ambassador to the Philippines, Stephen Bosworth, “Get them out of the Philippines.”
In the book, People Power: An Eyewitness Story. The Philippine Revolution of 1986 (written by Monina Alarye Mercado, Reed Business Information, Inc. 1986 p. 240), Cecilia Muñoz Palma, the first female associate justice of the Supreme Court, wrote: “Tuesday evening I was with Cory at his sister’s house, Josephine Kings. There, Cory received the phone call from US Ambassador Bosworth….
Director D. Yap insists he got his information from Juan Ponce Enrile, without providing convincing and credible evidence. Was Enrile with Cory and Judge Palma at Miss Reyes’ house when Cory spoke with the US Ambassador? It is, however, incredible that this event happened or could happen within the walls of a monastery. The film’s setting also shows a serious irreverence and disrespect towards religious sensibilities with a group of nuns playing mah jong, while in the background is an altar with two lit candles and the statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Fatima and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Such a scene in the film must be the product of a wild and strange imagination and an evil intention. Indeed, what an incredible researcher! This is an insult to the intelligence of the Filipino people. Or was it intentional on the part of a sadistic director who likes to hurt people and provoke them so he can get more attention and the movie becomes more profitable? Yap can make a deceptive and convenient excuse by pointing out that the nuns in this second scene are not referring to Carmelite nuns because the nuns weren’t wearing the brown habit, but a white habit with pink linings, and Cory was already at Manila when his telephone conversation with the ambassador took place. But Yap is not out of the woods yet.
Kristofer Purnell, AB Communication graduate of Ateneo de Manila University and content producer for Philstar’s Lifestyle and Entertainment section, in his article, “Giselle Sanchez Slammed, Cory Aquino Mahjong Scene ‘Research’ Explained(published by Philstar on August 3, 2022) attempted to provide a possible “research-based” but flawed explanation for the inclusion of the mah jong stage in the second teaser.
The subsection of the article, “Yap backs mah jong stage,” caught my attention and interest. Purnell writes: “Yap published on the Facebook page of his studio VinCentiments excerpts from the article by American journalist Anne Nelson, ‘In the cave of the pink sisters’, from Mother Jones Magazine.… The director pointed to part of Nelson’s article which said that Aquino had frequented the Grotto of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and had become close to a sister Christine Tan who often played mah jong with her sisters. Purnell provided the link to the article but gave his readers the freedom to do their own research. He continues that “Yap then claimed that the Carmelite nuns were just reacting, as he said Aquino was in Manila when the Marcos fled the country, not among the Carmelite Order of Cebu.”
Because the article linking the contemplative nuns Sisters-Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (SSpSAp), who are commonly known in the Philippines as the “pink sisters”, has been mentioned as the source of the scene where nuns were shown performing. mah jong, I checked the website and carefully read the 10-page article titled “Into the cave of the pink sisters. Cory Aquino’s Test of Faith” (Anne Nelson, Mother Jones Foundation for National Progress, San Francisco, CA, January 1988, pp. 19-24, 49-52).
The filmmaker or his researcher must have obviously misread or misunderstood the article. Although critical of the Aquino administration, Ms. Nelson remained highly respectful of President Cory Aquino and the Pink Sisters. They are the “fragrant ladies, taking the afternoon from the mah jongg [sic] circuit”, which are clearly linked to mah jongand not to the late President Cory Aquino, nor to Sister Christine Tan, who is not a pink sister, nor to the nuns.
In an interview with Mr. Boy Abunda, director Darryl Yap said that a “trademark” or “formula” for attracting people is to provoke them: “All my films should provoke, should be controversial…. I want to hurt people talaga (really) for them to pay attention. Because in our time, if you’re hurt, you can’t forget. But he also said he found a way “to stay unharmed when I hurt others”. (Youtube, The interviewer introduces Darryl Yapunpublished, August 4, 2022)
Why did this film attack the silent and contemplative nuns, who would rather stay in the convent and pray than testify in court against lies, malevolence and the distortion of reality? And if the inclusion of the two scenes in the film is just to entertain the audience, then it’s tasteless, ridiculous, and offensive. Blessed are those who are persecuted for the truth.
Is the film’s narrative really Maid in Malacañang or and Done with wickedness? – Rappler.com
Prof. Joaquin R. Ferrer Jr., SVD is a member of the Society of the Divine Word and currently serves as the Philippine Central Province (PHC) Education Secretary and SVD Spiritual Animation Team Leader . He was a longtime missionary in Japan, serving in the parish, migrant and educational apostolate.