Carmelite nuns, religious group respond to viral movie’s mahjong scene

August 2, 2022 - 6:58 PM
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Cory Aquino wth Carmelite nuns
Late former president Corazon Aquino with the Carmelite nuns in an archival photo posted by the Ninoy & Cory Aquino Foundation on July 17, 2022 on the occasion of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. "we remember how the Carmelite Nuns of Cebu took on the extraordinary task of protecting President Cory, on February 23, 1986—two days to the EDSA People Power Revolution," the foundation wrote.

“But this unity can only be built on truth and not on historical distortion.”

The Carmelite Sisters on Tuesday decried a dramedy’s depiction of them as nuns playing mahjong with the character of former president Cory Aquino set in the aftermath of the 1986 snap elections.

The Cebu-based monastery said it is aware of the pictures circulating online from the film “Maid in Malacañang,” a dramedy supposedly reenacting the Marcoses’ last 72 hours in the Philippines before fleeing to Hawaii.

The stills depict the character of Aquino as ordering the Marcoses to leave the country through a phone call and then playing mahjong, a social gambling game, with nuns.

In reality, Aquino was inclined to grant late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr‘s request to stay for at least two more days before flying to Hawaii.

However, her party was not warm to the idea.

Aquino then called US Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Bosworth to say that she could not grant Marcos’ request.

When the diplomat had called her back, it was to inform her that the dictator had left.

READ: Fact vs Fiction: Did Cory Aquino make order for Marcos family to leave Philippines?

The Carmelite Sisters, in a very rare statement, also slammed the scene of them playing mahjong. No one from the movie’s production team had approached them “to gather information on what really happened,” they said.

“Any serious scriptwriter or movie director could have shown such elementary diligence before making such movie. After all, many of those nuns in Carmelite Monastery of Cebu 1986 are still very much alive and mentally alert. Among them is Sr. Mary Aimee Ataviado, who was the superior at that time,” the nuns said in a statement released by a reporter.

Maid in Malacañang: Fact vs fiction
FACT VS FICTION: An comparative graphic by Facebook page Saints of Today as it posts the statement of Carmelite nuns expressing disapproval of their depiction with former president Cory Aquino playing mahjong in controversial movie “Maid in Malacañang.”

“The attempt to distort history is reprehensible. Depicting the nuns as playing mah-jong with Cory Aquino is malicious. It would suggest that while the fate of the country was in peril, we could afford to leisurely play games. The truth was that we were then praying, fasting, and making other forms of sacrifices for peace in this country and for the people’s choice to prevail,” they added.

The Carmelite Sisters said the pictures “trivialize” their contributions to restoring the country’s democracy at that time.

“We are praying for the unity of Filipinos. But this unity can only be built on truth and not on historical distortion,” part of their statement reads.

‘Contemplative or cloistered’ 

Religious organization Frater Rhexx backed the nuns and said they are “far from how the movie depicted them.”

It added that the Carmelites are “contemplative or cloistered” nuns “who stay inside the walls of the convent, offering their days and nights in prayer and silent contemplation.”

“These nuns took vows of chastity, poverty, enclosure and obedience. Let’s respect them! It’s the least we can do to thank them for offering their lives to pray for all of us every day,” the organization said.

What happened 

An account published by a news website says that Nancy, the wife of Assemblyman Antonio Cuenco, had called the nuns after receiving word that Marcos had a “shoot to kill” order against the widow.

According to the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, Aquino was the one who won the 1986 snap election at that time.

The widow was in Cebu to resume the Civil Disobedience Campaign against the Marcos regime. It includes boycotting businesses owned by the dictator’s cronies.

But when there was word to end her life, measures were done to protect her.

Sister Aimee, the superior, said that they let Aquino stay in the monastery since they “recognized her as the rightful president of the Philippines.”

Meanwhile, the director of the dramedy said there is “nothing wrong with mahjong,” in response to the Carmelites.

“Pampalipas-oras man o pangmagkakaibigang-laro,” he added.