Noah – A movie review

“He speaks to you. You have to trust that he speaks in a way that you can understand.”

If you are expecting a peaceful, colourful, biblical story of your childhood, do not go see Noah, the 2014 movie.
Noah (Russell Crowe) is a good family man who is disturbed by dreams about the destruction of the world. He seeks his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) who tells him that the Creator has chosen him for a special task. “He speaks to you. You have to trust that he speaks in a way that you can understand.” What he understood was man has become so wicked that the Creator wants to annihilate humanity and he has to save the innocent. He builds an ark, with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), his three sons Ham (Logan Lerman), Shem (Douglas Booth), Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson). As the ark they are building nears its completion, with the help of the Watchers, heavenly beings doomed to the earth because of their disobedience, various animal species enter the ark. Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) arrives with his followers demanding they be allowed on board. The rains come in torrents, and the flood waters rise with the animals and Noah’s family safe in the ark, but the drama does not end.

Check out CBCP CINEMA rating here

Noah is a biblical epic, but it is a dark, brooding opus typical of Darren Aronofsky (see Black Swan, etc.). Aronofsky combines good biblical research, masterful storytelling and effective CGIs: the miraculous forest, the animals coming in droves to the ark, the terrifying but majestic waters of the Flood! Cinematography is at times visually stunning. The actors do not disappoint either. Russell Crowe inhabits Noah’s skin and exhibits his versatility as a tender father, a driven hero, a villain fighting his own demons, and trying to fulfil his mission as he understood it. Jennifer Connelly complements Crowe with her presence and heart. Anthony Hopkins still manages to deliver a believable Methuselah. Emma Watson and the young actors adequately portray their roles. Aronofsky takes a story we all know and presents it in a language 21st century men and women can grasp. He has been accused of taking so much liberty with the Bible account. His critics forget that the story of the flood was passed on from one generation to another orally before it was ever written with all the embellishments at each retelling.

Aronofsky’s latest work is a Noah story for adults because it challenges you to think. The recurring flashback montage of creation confronts the viewer with the wickedness of humans. And this wickedness, this sin, is shown as the cause of all the sufferings in the world, personified by Tubal-cain and his army. Noah comes face to face with this evil reflected in his own heart. And yet he has been given the sacred trust to care for the earth and to serve the justice of the Creator. So focused was he on obeying this mission that he is willing to sacrifice not only himself but everything, including the love and lives of his family. Although God is never mentioned in the film (he is called Creator), he is present and involved in the lives of his people: he guides, provides for and saves them. Despairing of what he thought was a failed mission, Noah discovers the Creator as a God not only of justice but of mercy and second chances, of forgiveness and new beginnings.

The overtly environmentalist message is another criticism. But what is wrong about the reminder to “take only what we need”? Can we not see the rape of nature currently happening in this day and age? Are the extreme violence in the fight scenes and intense emotional confrontations in the movie alien to our reality? Or is it because we do not want to listen? We so bombard our ears, our eyes, our minds, our hearts with what we want that we cannot perceive the new life offered to us: peace, freedom, joy? Maybe, this is the flood story that we need to hear.

Would that Ila’s words to Noah resonate in the hearts of all: “He chose you for a reason. The choice was put in your hands for a reason.”

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Want to know the secret of getting the right man for you?

stjoseph

An image of St.Joseph at the reception of Don Bosco retreat house in Batulao.

As a teenager, I had the usual angst and fears, thrills and insecurities. There were crushes and suitors, and a lot of confusion. Not to mention ambitions, dreams and desires. I didn’t know what I really wanted to be or do with my life.

A very wise lady told me:

You want to know
the secret of ‘getting’
the best husband?
Pray to St. Joseph,
and ask him
to give you the man
who is truly
the right one for you.

It wasn’t really difficult taking her advise since we belonged to the parish of San Jose de Trozo (is that St Joseph of the Log in English?). We sang in the parish choir every Sunday, or at least once a week. Also, walking to school everyday, we would pass by the church to greet Jesus. Secretly, I started whispering to St. Joseph: “Give me the best husband, OK?”

Did it work?

You bet! He not only gave me a good husband. He gave me the Best. Ever!

Thank you, St. Joseph for being a constant companion in my youth, and for showing me what true love is – JESUS!

Happy Feast of St Joseph, everyone!

Have you received any graces through St. Joseph’s intercession? I’d love to hear them!

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Starting Over Again. A movie review.

Napanood mo na ba ang Starting Over Again? Heto po ang aking masasabi tungkol sa box-office hit na hanggang ngayon ay pinipilahan pa rin:

Ang Starting Over Again ay kwento ng bawat isa na nagmahal, nangarap, nagsikap, natakot, nagkamali, nasaktan, umasa, nagpatawad, nagbago, at muling nagmahal. Ipinapakita nito na kailangan ang pagpupunyagi upang maabot ang iyong mga pangarap at kadalasan hindi lang sakripisyo ang katapat nito.  Minsan itinatanong natin, “Magpapakatanga ba ako sa pag-ibig? Gagawin ko ba ang lahat, kahit isakripisyo ko ang sarili at prinsipyo, para sa mahal ko?”

Full review

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Choices, classes and the Snowpiercer. A movie review.

Global warming has reached its peak and the earth’s days are numbered. In July 2014 nations opt for a drastic solution: to use CW7, a chemical substance once sprayed into the atmosphere will halt global warming. The temperature falls but the consequences are disastrous. A real ice age exterminates all the inhabitants of the earth, burying the world in a tomb of ice and snow. It is now 2031 and the only surviving remnant of humanity is represented by the passengers of the Snowpiercer, a high-speed train that has been running around the world for 17 years, powered by a revolutionary and unstoppable energy that provides perpetual motion. The train is a microcosm of human society and is divided into classes. The poor are relegated by force in the last carriages, malnourished and abandoned, while the rich stay in the front cars, and live in luxury and comfort. To keep this balance is extremely delicate and unrest is brewing from the tail end. The movement is led by Gilliam (John Hurt), a former Wilford engineer, and his young right hand, Curtis (Chris Evans). Helping them are Tanya (Octavia Butler), whose son was forcibly taken away to the front car, Edgar (Jamie Bell), Curtis’ best friend, and Namgoong Minsun (Song Kang-ho) security expert who designed the locks on the train. Curtis plans to storm his way to the front car where the elusive Wilford (Ed Harris), inventor and holder of the power train, resides.

Full review

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Pedro Calungsod, a movie review

Pedro_Calungsod_Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir is a biographical picture of the second Filipino saint who is put to death for his faith. Pedro Calungsod (Rocco Nacino), a young catechist, leaves his Visayan native soil to join Spanish Jesuit priest Fr. Diego de San Vitores (Christian Vasquez) for a mission to the Marianas Islands (Guam) in 1668. Trained as a catechist, Pedro assists Fr. Diego de San Vitores in baptizing the Chamorros, preaching the Good News of salvation amid doubts, paganism and disbelief. Together with other catechists and priests, the missionaries face the challenges and dangers of life in the missions, particularly the antagonism of the natives. Undaunted by setbacks and the death of their companions, Pedro and Fr. Diego continue their missionary work throughout the islands. In the end, both of them give up their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

Check out full review at CBCP CINEMA.

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When was the last time you told someone about Jesus?

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Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded seating and flamboyant decorations, which have become a ubiquitous symbol of Philippine culture and art. (cf. Wikipedia)

How often do you ask yourself the above question?

Do you, ever?

I must admit that even though this is supposed to be my job description, I somehow miss to make it as a daily intentioned and concrete choice.

This morning, I left the convent after Mass for a meeting, my mind focused on the agenda. I took a jeepney and sat beside a 5-year-old girl who was with her grandmother. We chatted and I asked if she’s been to Mass. She looked at me. Her face a question mark.

Hmm… How do I tell her what the Mass is? OK. “Do you know Jesus?” I asked.

The same look.

Oh dear! What shall I say?

I looked at her and her eyes seemed to say, “Tell me more, please!”

So I told her about Jesus and how he loves her. That he is God. That he lives in her and in everything. And that she can speak to him and he will listen. And that it is his birthday on Christmas, that is why we celebrate it. This made her smile, and I saw a front tooth missing.

I had to get off the jeep and take another one to my destination. I hugged the little girl goodbye and said a silent prayer that she’ll get to know Jesus more.

As I got on the second jeepney, a family greeted me and immediately started conversation. While we waited for other passengers I learned that the 9-year-old girl is the daughter of the couple and that the two boys are her cousins. They are on their way to a shopping mall because it’s her birthday. They’ll go to Mass later in the day.

The jeepney starts to move and the kids tell me their names. They all want to be chefs but have never tried boiling water or cooking anything. It’s amazing how friendly and how at ease they were telling their stories. We passed by their school and the 7-year-old boy says he can read.

“Have you read the Bible,” I asked? I remembered the Bible for Kids app I downloaded recently and showed it to them. Eagerly they read In the Beginning, aloud and in unison, with me coaching as they stumbled upon unfamiliar words, while we passed through the streets of Makati.

“This is really nice,” the boy said, thoroughly pleased with his reading. I encouraged them to read the Bible and to know more about God. Then I had to alight from the jeepney and proceed to our meeting place.

I had a fruitful and inspiring meeting, thanks Ms D, and also for the treat.

It is only now while I ponder about this day that I remembered what happened this morning and realized how replete with opportunities is daily life to witness to Jesus. He can use people who are preoccupied with other things (like me) to say a few words about him and share his Word even on a jeepney. It just shows he is the One in charge. Imagine what he can do if we were fully conscious and attentive to his will! Who knows what will happen to those kids? Let’s say a prayer for them, shall we?

St Francis is often quoted telling his friars, “Preach the Gospel everywhere and when necessary use words.”

Have you ever experienced witnessing to Jesus without you fully realizing what was happening?

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Advent. Yolanda. And a skype interview.

indian_treeHow did you begin Advent 2013?

I had plans – books to read, daily practices, some prayers and little ways to make the waiting for Christmas more meaningful, etc. Well, God had other plans. Just as we don’t know when a new leaf will come, turn its color or fall off the branch, so we do not know what He has in store for us every single day.

On the first day of Advent, I was on Italian TV in the religious program A sua immagine, In His Image, being interviewed, via Skype, about typhoon Yolanda and how it affected our community in Tacloban and the rest of the country. What a privilege to speak for my sisters and for our Filipino people!

The interview was short because there was not enough time, and the connection was fluctuating. I wish I knew Italian better and expressed our gratitude to the whole world for the tremendous support and solidarity. Here’s the link to the news article (in English) on the FSP International website and the video on RAI TV.

Since the interview is in Italian I thought you might want to know the questions they raised and my responses. Here goes:

HOW ARE YOU LIVING AT THIS TRAGIC MOMENT?

We Filipinos are a people who know and understand suffering, and we know joy. As Father Horacio dela Costa, a Filipino Jesuit wrote, we have two jewels: our faith and our music. We know that no suffering is permanent, and we raise this up to God who is a compassionate Father. Because of this we can smile and sing whatever the circumstance.

Many of the survivors we had the privilege to meet said over and over again, “Thank you, Sister! Thank God!” they are grateful to be alive, to be the recipient of such care, concern and love from all over the world.

In these times it is moving to see the spirit of Bayanihan come alive. It is a term that does not translate into any other language. It means carrying the crosses each other, helping one another, serving those who are in needs. It is not something you learn in school. It is a way of life, a natural characteristic that is incorporated into the DNA of every Filipino:

  1. You must have heard of the prisoners who have chosen to go without a meal for three days so that the money can go as food for the survivors.
  2. Or the child beggars who gathered the alms they received to share with the people of Tacloban.
  3. Or the old lady who, having only half a packet of milk powder, gave this as her contribution knowing that infants and children would need it.
  4. Or a religious community who chose to forego the small Christmas gifts they receive so that they can be given to those who need it most.

These are but few examples of how Filipinos are living through this catastrophe. In the midst of destruction, devastation and death, Filipinos live their faith, in joy and in love expressed in service to others.

libreria7

Part of the book center. Notice the Bibles that were supposed to be distributed to the families as part of our Jubilee Project “Biblia sa Bawat Pamilya”

WHAT DAMAGES DID YOU SUFFER?

We have a small community of 4 sisters in Tacloban. All contents of the book and media were damaged. And we really feel so sorry because the Bibles that were supposed to be distributed to the poor were all reduced to pulp. And then all the equipment for the radio and TV apostolate were rendered unusable. Part of the roof of the convent was blown away, and for now, the house is not livable. The three sisters who were traumatized by this catastrophe are now in Manila for recuperate but they want to go right back to the people.

WHEN DID YOU BEGIN TO ACCOMMODATE PEOPLE? HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT IT?

We did not host people because we do not have the possibility; our house is small. Instead we welcomed our lay employees who have lost their homes. They are still there now.

HOW DID YOU ORGANIZE YOURSELVES? HOW DID YOU EAT, SLEEP, WASH, ETC…?

Before the super typhoon, a benefactor sent us a 50 kilo bag of rice. We also bought some things more, thinking that the typhoon will last 3-5 days. On the second day, SSP and diocesan seminarians coming from Samar brought us water and food. All these we shared with other hungry families. We also distributed the candles from the bookstore because there was no electricity until now.

convent4There was also a papaya tree that fell on the roof, so we picked both the green fruit for vegetables and the ripe ones for fruit. We also gathered the leaves of the malunggay/moringa tree from the garden to make a bit of soup.

For washing, we gathered rainwater, because it was always raining. And then they found an artesian well nearby but there was a mile of people lined up to fetch water.

There was only a small place in the house where it is not leaking, and this is where the sisters found shelter.

When the food was almost consumed, the heavenly Father provided for our needs. We received food and water from our friends, relatives of our sisters, the Pauline Cooperators and the priests who are our neighbors also came came to visit us.

equipment_RTV2

All the equipment for the radio and TV apostolate were submerged in sea water and mud.

WHAT ASSISTANCE HAVE YOU RECEIVED?

Thanks to the Holy Father and to all of you for your prayers and solicitude. Thank you for the prayers that sustained us and for the help of all our Pauline Sisters throughout the world, particularly the General Government.

Many generous people brought relief goods to us and requested that we channel these to the survivors. We too renounced whatever we can to contribute money, clothes,etc. everything that may be of help to our brothers and sisters who lost everything. We coordinated with Caritas Manila and Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan of the Jesuits and helped them prepare the packs of goods. We also cooperated with the Department of Social Welfare and Development of the government not only in the preparation of food parcels but also to welcome the survivors arriving in Manila from Tacloban and Samar. We were there to offer them a comforting word, an assurance of our prayers and our presence when they came down from the plane after such a terrible experience.

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Survivors as they are welcomed at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.

THE FAITH OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE IS A GREAT TESTIMONY TO ALL OF US. HOW DO YOU LIVE IT? IS PRAYER THE FORCE THAT SUSTAINS YOU?

I think that the Faith is the milk we sucked from our mothers’ breast. And this is the great gift that we rediscovered in this Year of Faith, particularly after all the calamities we faced. It is prayer and our faith that has given us strength, made us steadfast and joyful despite all the sufferings caused by the earthquake and super-typhoon. Your solicitude and love for us in this time of great need is the tangible embrace of the Father who never abandons his children.

No, it is not only the faith of Filipinos, but the faith of all peoples, Catholics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. Faced with a calamity of this magnitude they are able to forget their differences and be brothers and sisters to each other. If this is not faith, I do not know what it is.

So, in the name of all the Filipino Daughters of St Paul and all our people, we thank you from the depths of our heart for your participation in our pain and sorrows, and for all the help you have extended to us, both spiritual and material. But it doesn’t end here, because the survivors need to rebuild their lives: they need houses, schools, hospitals, work, courage and many other things besides. I echo the appeal of St Paul to the Christians of Galatia: “Let us not grow weary of doing good because at the proper time we will have a good harvest.”

Thank you so much!

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