Republikula ng Pilipinas

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-24 ng Agosto 2020
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Pulilan, Bulacan, Enero 2020.
Ang sabi nila
buhay ay parang isang pelikula
tayong lahat ang bida at artista;
kaya lalo nang malaking pelikula
at tiyak patok sa takilya
pelikula ng ating republika!
Siyempre, lahat ay pabida
gusto umeksena
hindi lang sa Palasyo at Kongreso
pati na rin sa mga paseo basta matao.
Ang nakakatawa pero bumebenta
lalo na sa mga tanga 
mga artista nagpipilit sa pulitika
mga pulitiko umaarte, nagpapabebe!
Dating pelikula ng ating republika
makasaysayan at makahulugan
maituturing na isang sining
nababanaagan maningning na liwanag
 katulad din ng pinilakang tabing
kapupulutan ng mga ginintuang aral
mga talastasan at eksena 
mula sa mga aninong gumagalaw;
nang magdeklara ng Martial Law
nagsimula rin ang kasalaulaan
ng pamahalaan maging sa sinehan
kung saan mga hubad na katawan 
 pinagpipistahan, kunwari'y film festival
ang totoo ay karnabal.
Nagwakas din at nagsara ang tabing
ng malagim na yugto ng kasaysayan natin
bagong simula ang dokyu ng EDSA
kinalaunan naging trahedya
pelikula ng republika, naging telenovela at komedya
nang maupo tunay na artista ng masa, 
nagreyna sa media at chika
puro artista, kaya dumagsa na rin sila
naging zarzuela pelikula ng ating republika
naglabo-labo at moro-moro, gumulo nang gumulo
kaya heto tayo horror na nakakatakot 
nakapangingilabot kadiliman 
at kasamaang bumabalot parang bangungot
hugot sa isang eksena ng pelikula na sana'y matapos na.
Ngunit kung titingnan
mga pelikulang horror walang laman
puro kabobohan at katangahan
dinaraan lang sa gulatan 
hanggang maging katatawanan.
Hindi ba't ganyang-ganyan 
ating lipunan at pamahalaan
isang malaking pelikulang katatakutan
na puro kabalastugan at kahangalan?
Kaya aking payong kaibigan, 
sa susunod na halalan
tanggihan, huwag nang pagbigyan 
mga artista sa pulitika, 
mga pulitiko na payaso!
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Valuing the human person always: A review of the series “Giri/Haji”

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 15 January 2020

From The Times.

Now streaming at Netflix is this excellent original 2019 BBC production, Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame), a Japanese story of two brothers set almost entirely in London seemingly inspired by French existentialist writer Albert Camus with closing scenes set in Paris.

Midway through the series, one notices right away the complexities or, absurdities of life that one cannot simply categorize it between “duty and shame”, or good and evil, right and wrong, black and white.

It is a series that hits our innermost core when we find ourselves in those gray areas of confronting what we believe as right and just versus the value of every human person that Camus beautifully expressed in his 1947 novel “The Plague”:

“A loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes an hour when one is weary of prisons, of one’s work, and of devotion to duty; and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.”

Albert Camus, The Plague

Like most Netflix series, Giri/Haji is rated 18+ for its violence, language, substance, and nudity but everything is done beautifully and artistically.

It is a masterpiece that shows some common threads among us humans regardless of our color and culture, gender and age, belief and language. How the creators were able to perfectly blend these all with the excellent cinematography, music, and fine prints into uncluttered and pure simplicity of Japanese Zen principles are a work of art and film genius.

Simple plot but very personal and universal

The plot is simple: an elder, straight brother is a cop with a younger brother who is a Yakuza member hiding in London after being presumed dead when he got the daughter of his boss pregnant. He staged his revenge in London where he killed a Japanese executive with the knife of his former boss that had sparked a war among Yakuza families in Tokyo that was going out of control. Cop-brother comes to London to bring his gangster brother back to Japan to atone for his sins so that peace is restored among the Yakuzas.

Along the way, the two brothers’ stories converged with the stories of three other main characters that provided the many uneventful twists to be united by the element of deaths in various forms and circumstances.

From Google.

Giri/Haji honestly confronts our basic issues of love and acceptance so lacking or taken for granted in our own families that lead to a host of so many other problems and situations like drugs and other crimes, infidelity and promiscuity, as well as homosexuality and sexual orientations.

What is so unique with the series is how it was able to take these sensitive issues as subjects to be seen in relation with persons, not as objects to be studied or examined apart from anyone that it becomes more of an experience, not just an entertainment.

Giri/Haji is so personal, you can feel yourself “slashed” so you experience the subjects’ pains and hurts, longings and desires, dreams and aspirations.

Like the samurai blade that can cut through almost anything, the series hits you at almost every turn that you find yourself laughing and weeping without realizing that along with the characters, you have also laid your soul bare for serious self-confrontation and examination about your very self and the people around you in the relationships you keep as well as skipped or taken for granted.

Death and new life

There is no glorification of evil and immoralities but Giri/Haji invites us to see these as realities in our imperfect world that must be seen more with our hearts than with our minds and convictions. The series contrasts the Western frame of mind of morals as codes to be followed to the minutest details that slashes even persons into categories with the Oriental point of view of seeing morality in the totality of the person.

How it is resolved in the end is amazing!

And despite its genre being crime and violence, I would still say Giri/Haji is so lovely, even quaint and as Japanese as it can be especially with the depiction of changing of seasons that peaked at autumn.

Despite the dark and gloomy nature of the topics of death in all of its forms, there is the radiance of hope always that will lead to new life. The series teems with other symbolisms and signs including great music selections that add intensity to its drama and tragedy that make us hope the new season comes soonest.

For the meantime, listen to the beautiful music theme of the Giri/Haji by British singer Tom Odell.

Take my mind
And take my pain
Like an empty bottle takes the rain
And heal, heal, heal, heal
And take my past
And take my sense
Like an empty sail takes the wind
And heal, heal, heal, heal

“The (unCatholic and unChristian) Two Popes”

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 23 December 2019

From Netflix.

As early as Friday night after my second Simbang Gabi Mass at 8:30, I have been wanting to react on social media against Netflix’s “The Two Popes”.

But I tried to control my self because I have only seen its first 30 minutes – and besides, it is a fiction story. So, in the spirit of fairness, I tried to finish the movie in three installments until Saturday afternoon before making any comments.

And I felt sad in having seen it at all.

“The Two Popes” is not entertaining. It is misleading without any strong elements to build on our faith and appreciate our religion. At its worst, despite its claim of being inspired by true events, the movie is unCatholic and unChristian.

From Google.

UnCatholic and UnChristian

Movies about religions and religious figures and personalities are always controversial by nature. But for as long as they follow the paths of honesty, sincerity, and truth, these movies eventually emerge as true expressions of art that can truly deepen one’s faith.

But “The Two Popes” at its opening scene is already disturbing and objectionable when it portrayed the Cardinals at the 2005 conclave as having animosity and rivalry among themselves in electing Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Yes, we priests including bishops and Cardinals are all humans like anybody else but no one among us would ever dare to aspire for the papacy. While it is true there are some priests who are into “careerism” in the diocesan level, everything changes starting with the episcopacy or the office of the bishop.

In fact, part of the problem why we have so many vacant dioceses in the country and the whole world is that many priests refuse to accept their appointment as bishops because of many fears that are so real that come with the immense responsibilities of the position. According to the Vatican, three out of every ten priests offered to become bishops decline the offer personally made by the Pope through his Papal Nuncio in every country.

How much more with the Papacy?!

In the movie, Pope Benedict toured Cardinal Bergoglio inside the Sistine Chapel and showed him the “crying room” where the newly elected Pope may stay and cry – yes – before finally accepting his election as Pope.

That alone is true but not the movie portrayal during the conclave that claim Cardinals aspiring to become the Pope. It is something preposterous and totally untrue.

Catholic World Report

What is very disturbing in “The Two Popes” is how it presented Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Bergoglio like “lowlife” lawmakers of congress gunning for the top post for prestige and power with their respective bloc members going around in hushed conversations with matching dagger looks at each other.

This is the movie’s weakest point: rather than being seen as something about deepening our faith in God and the institutional Church or any established religion for that matter, it played on “politics” in the guise of showing the flaws and frailties of two popes competing for position and fame.

You might say “it is just a movie” but, not everyone can rightly see whatever good intentions – if it really has – that the movie is trying to present.

Instead of enlightening the viewers in their faith to the Church in general, there was something sinister in the way it presented almost everyone except Cardinal Bergoglio.

Behind the movie’s beautiful cinematography and studio sets are “subliminal messages” as if inciting viewers to dismiss the Catholic Church and other religions because they are all the same – run by egoistic, power hungry people enjoying so many luxuries in life that the common masses could not even imagine to exist.

We priests are sinners and though there are some of us who have sold Jesus like Judas Iscariot for the price of wealth and fame, there are much too many who still work in silence and hiddenness and holiness bringing Christ to the people.

The Catholic Church has continued to exist since Christ’s ascension because the good shepherds like Jesus have always far outnumbered the rotten ones. Hence, those scenes repeated twice or thrice of Pope Benedict worried with his “popularity” are outrageously absurd!

The Catholiy abc Sun.

Bias against Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

The movie is supposed to show us how two great men of God, of divergent backgrounds and worlds apart, resolved their many conflicts within themselves and with others regarding their faith and ministry and mission in leading the Catholic Church.

Both actors, especially Anthony Hopkins did superb jobs in playing their roles.

The movie tried to show the triumph of the Divine in mysterious ways we can never explain nor understand using men of limitations and weaknesses.

What makes “The Two Popes” so unkind and unchristian is the fact that it is more about Pope Francis as the vida and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as contravida. It could have been better if the producers just centered on the present Holy Father as basis of their film and called it “The Pope”. Period.

How can it be a film about faith and religion when the plot itself is unfair and grossly biased against the supposed co-star who is also a Pope?

The movie is also unfair to Pope Francis who would surely never allow himself to be praised and exalted at the expense of the Pope Emeritus or any other person, whether in real life or fiction.

This for me is the most unkindest cut of all in this Netflix movie that fans the many wrong impressions fed on by media against Cardinal Josef Ratzinger since his being the Prefect of Sacred Congregation of Doctrine and Faith during the time of St. John Paul II.

Throughout the film, it is very evident at how the Pope Emeritus is put on the bad light as if he never cared at all about actual situations in the Church and in the world, from the sex scandals to issues on celibacy among other things because he is so absorbed in his intellectual pursuits in the world of books and the academe.

We are of Christ

In 1963, the American film “The Cardinal” was released, earning six Academy Awards and very positive reviews for excellently portraying Catholic religion amid issues of interfaith marriage, sex outside marriage, abortion, racism, and dictatorships set during the Second World War.

It was also inspired by true events based on the life of the late Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York.

Its music theme has become a classic piece too that we have all learned by heart while still in high school seminary.

I can still remember the film that showed in a very positive light the main character with all his flaws and shortcomings as a person, as a priest. No need to put other characters down just to underscore his goodness.

The film had a Vatican liaison officer in the person of the young German priest Fr. Dr. Josef Ratzinger who, after that movie, would be attending Vatican II as a periter or consultant to join the efforts in reforming the Church and make it more responsive to modern time.

Yes, the very same Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI portrayed in the Netflix movie as “ignorant” of the Beatles and of tango and of many other things of the modern world.

Netflix

“The Two Popes” ended positively with the “unlikely friendships” of Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio but still with its askewed presentation of the two holy men, of the people in Vatican, and of the Church’s members and leaders.

So unlike the classic “The Cardinal”, “The Two Popes” missed the essence of the papacy and of the Church as an institution and a body of believers – that Christianity is not about categories or labels as conservatives, progressives, or liberals: it is about our being of Jesus Christ alone.

It is deceivingly appealing to the senses but nothing really so profound about faith and Jesus Christ and his Church. With hindsight, though, after seeing the movie, the more I have come to love and admire Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for his love and faith in Jesus and the Church.

And Jesus told his disciples… “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me” (Mt.5:11).

Have a blessed Christmas!