January 30, 2023

I have the least intention of watching “Maid in Malacañang.” I thought it would be a waste of time.

When I read its review in one of the entertainment sections of a leading daily, I was not impressed at all. To my discernment, it is one of those political movies released to build up the character of the family of the current administration which, in the past, have been maligned and questioned for the wrong reasons.

Hence, for whatever value it may have, I deemed that movie is only a passing entertainment for those who may want to be nostalgic about the EDSA revolution. No, no. Not even my wife who has a passion for movies can persuade me to watch the movie. But, that was before the furor.

A day after the premier of the “Maid in Malacañang,” a bishop from Cebu, in conjunction with nuns from a particular denomination in the same area, came out scathing, calling it an “abomination of the truth”.

In his sermon, the bishop called on all Catholics and other civic-minded citizens to boycott the movie because it is a distortion of history. He labeled it as a “revisionist movie” that seeks to mislead the people on what really happened during those most critical moments of the people power movement. Oh yeah!

What I heard is that what is being protested is a segment from the movie that depicts former President Cory Aquino playing mahjong with several nuns. Save for this single alleged incident as portrayed, there is no other matter that is being questioned.

Certainly, this mahjong scene does not define the movie. In fact, I dare say that it is probably not the center piece and was not intended to play a major role in its production. It is a collateral segment intended to add a cinematographic effect to an otherwise monotonous show. It is done all the time in the “reel world.” But the bishop and the nuns think otherwise. They have made an issue about Cory Aquino playing mahjong with the nuns, sisters they call them, and declaring that it is not fit for public consumption.

This protest against a single and isolated segment in the movie, therefore, piqued my curiosity, as surely it did millions of other Filipinos. The result? It made the movie a box office hit. According to reports, it became an overnight sensation grossing over P40 million on its second day. People who have watched it are talking about it, urging us who have yet to watch to go watch. The more people talk about it, the more curious others, including me, become. Without even realizing it, I am now dying to watch Maid in Malacañang. I want to see why that mahjong scene is so controversial that even a Bishop would boldly say in his sermon to boycott the movie.

What is there about mahjong that makes a movie “boycottable?” What is it about the Aquino family that all movies about them should project them as saintly? I was told the movie is about the last 72 hours of the Marcos family inside Malacañang Palace before they were exiled in Hawaii. It is a story about the people power revolution from the point of view of the Marcoses. It is a recollection by Sen. Imee Marcos of what they did and what they said during those fateful moments.

In the spirit of free expression, shouldn’t the movie take its own course? I see nothing censurable in it. If it does not conform to the truth, let the people judge it. If finally we feel it is not believable, it gives us no reason to disrespect it. After all, is not truth like beauty? Both lie in the eyes of the beholder. If this is the Marcos’ version of their truth, should we not respect it as much the same manner that we respected the version of the truth for the past 36 years that history was told from the flip side of the coin?

Neither the producer nor the director is answering the accusations of the Bishop and the sisters. Why would they? The bishop and the nuns inadvertently became conspirators in making the movie a best seller. The sisters and the bishop provided a free advertisement on behalf of the producer, director, actors and actresses who played a role in the movie.

For this, they should be thanked. Their ploy to discourage the people from watching Maid in Malacañang clearly backfired on them.