As if to re-establish how Filipinos think and act based on principles and faith the same way Asia’s top film, “Himala” (which stars the unparalleled Ms. Nora Aunor), did; here comes “Sta. Niña”, a 2012 Cinemalaya entry.
Not surprisingly, Coco Martin and Alessandra de Rossi’s performances were exemplary, especially if you compare them to the young actors and actresses of today’s generation. I would commend Irma Adlawan’s performance, as well.
The plot was thick with perspectives and viewpoints from parents, politicians, and the Catholic church. And although it contains dialogues mostly, there was never a moment that could bore your mind or your heart. It is highly understandable that both my best friend (a movie critic) and I agree, too, that the last part — that culminating part that had no dialogue — was the strongest and undoubtedly the best part. I am never a spoiler, so I won’t say why. 🙂
Before, I would usually watch films alone and just discern the film’s meaning on my own. When I watched with friends, it would always be those light moves (read: chick flicks). The fact that I’m blogging about a film I watched sprung from the pleasant experience of having someone to discuss and/or debate with as regards a movie’s good and bad points. So, I’m thanking her from the bottom of my giddy heart.
Without re-telling the story, here are my two cents on this film:
1. Filipinos are desperate to find anything to cling on, for hope’s sake.
The throngs of people pushing their way to wipe the Black Nazarene’s face, the countless Filipinos praying at the Baclaran Church while they “walk on bended knees” (this was one of the scenes that touched Pope John Paul II during his first visit here), the observance of the Lenten season that has been coined gory by other nationalities (including the Passion Plays that re-enact Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross), thousands flocking to see the Blessed Virgin Mary’s apparition or ivory mannequins that shed blood as tears.
Being schooled the traditional Catholic way, this culture has been imbedded in my system. I’d dip my finger into the holy water fonts before I further get inside the church and make the sign of the cross on my forehead with my “now-holy” finger (my mother discouraged this because she said the water’s dirty). I’d prefer praying when there’s an altar. I was contradicting the very lessons I learned from the nuns and priests, that God is present everywhere and one doesn’t need to physically see or feel Him. Filipinos need to be assured that there is hope and they sometimes carelessly interpret signs and symbols to mean something else. But, fortunately, too, this strengthens their faith, blindly or not.
But is it the Church’s fault?
2. The Church falls short in its teachings.
Well, in private schools and bible studies, perhaps they enlighten the laity but not in usual, regular Sunday homilies. Growing up, I’ve heard mass every Sunday and in all the Church’s special occasions. I’ve always had missalettes (liturgy booklets) so I can read along during the the first two readings, Responsorial Psalms, and gospel. Parables and stories from the Old and New testaments are repeated. I don’t regret listening to the homilies because they’re good interpretations and application of the teachings but only when there is a glaring and pressing issue of national interest do the priests really expound on confusing concepts. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago boasts of having studied Theology but I think it’s time the Church give more faith in the Filipinos’ intellectual capacity. I’m not blind to the fact that the number of its churchgoers continuously decline year after year. How, then, do you give an in-depth explanation to an empty house? It’s funny how I put it now but, to keep up with the times and the unstoppable sprouting of new faiths; there has to be some sort of a marketing strategy, something to shake the sleeping faith.
3. Politics knows no religion.
In this film, you’ll see different people with different problems. Sure, an individual politician may be a devout Catholic or a strong believer of the Aglipay Church; but motives are hard to hide. It’s disgusting and amusing at the same time.
4. A curse gives birth to more curses more than a good deed brings blessings.
As if to literally mean that the pages of a book cannot be re-written, it’s safe to assume that everybody (not just the Filipinos) are quick to count what went wrong and look at the punishments and bad karma, first. Yes, we are grateful and thankful for the gifts of life but it appears that it’s easier to dig into a dark past than remember the good in an experience. If it isn’t other people’s mistakes, we blame the events, we blame our forefather’s bad luck, and we blame ourselves. Everyone needs to appreciate the beauty of moving on: it can’t be beautiful if nothing went wrong.
5. We explode like a volcano when we could’ve just let off some steam.
I’m sure a lot of Filipinos can relate to this but it is both a blessing and a curse that we endure pain — much too much pain — and pretend time and karma will correct it while we keep our silence. How many stories have I heard to show this? Our soap opera/movie lead roles are usually about good people who had to deal with a shitload of indecency and immorality before they fought back. And, oh, does the audience love it! It’s like reliving our ancestors’ days when they were under the Spaniards’ regime (or the other nations that followed) and we suffered tremendously before we declared it was time to fight for our independence. Fast forward to more than a hundred years and we still exalt in being the underdog that became powerful. Applied in other ways, it still boils down to lack of communication — expecting that the other person ought to know how you feel, that it’s too much drama to have to explain and address issues right off the bat. But, really, which is more dramatic?
A film is, indeed, good if it makes you look at yourself, your ways, your culture, your faith, your principles, your experiences. All of these I did when I watched Sta. Niña. Now, isn’t that worth calling a must-see. 🙂
**You can read the synopsis and watch the trailer here: http://www.cinemalaya.org/film_sta-nina.htm