Thursday, October 14, 2004

SILENCE

A Reflection on the movie The Crime of Father Amaro

The story opened with Father Amaro, a young newly ordained minister assigned by their Bishop to a parish currently with Father Benito, traveling. The assignment serves as a preparing ground before he enters seminary school for further studies.

Amelia, a sweet young lady, daughter of Sanjuanera, fell in love with Father Amaro at first glance. Her interest to the young priest was uncovered to her boyfriend Ruben by Dionisia, an ordinary, religious and very observant old woman. At the confessional, Amelia revealed to Father Amaro her sensuality, of touching her body with the image of Jesus in her mind. She asked Father Amaro if it is a sin, finding no other words to say, he said yes.

The four corners of Sanjuanera’s restaurant witnessed the romantic moments between Father Amaro and Amelia. Where their eyes speak louder, revealing their innermost feelings and their bodies move hesitantly and controlled. Yet, the love (or lust) that penetrates their senses grew deeper and intense as time passes and circumstances find ways on how two hearts can meet and unleashed the feeling kept hidden in the eyes of the people in the community. In the church, a kiss ends the long wait.

Father Amaro looked for a place where Amelia and he can meet privately. In the place of Martin, the sacristan, he finds a hive for his plan. He made people believe that he is preparing Amelia to be a nun. Thus, freely they can meet.

The dilemma faced by Father Amaro became evident when Amelia informed him of her pregnancy. Father Amaro looks at the situation as a threat for his vocation and for his service to the people. Father Amaro prayed for a miracle from Virgin Mary. Finding no immediate solution in the midst of bothered hearts and confused minds, they end up agreeing to abort the baby. Amelia died due to uncontrolled bleeding and Father Amaro officiate her burial with a notion spreading in the community that Ruben made her pregnant and Father Amaro the Good Samaritan.
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The movie reveals situations and issues which we often avoid discussing. The story uses ordinary people signifying the real world that we live in. It opens a new window for us to look into and ones and for all, see the long been covered malice, malaise and entanglements inside the holy place which needs to be addressed and exposed.

I like Dionisia in the story. She listens carefully in every sermon priests are rendering in every service. She is trying her best to comprehend the message behind the flowering words of the minister. Dionisia is a keen observer and sensitive individual. She can sense feelings and she apply what she learns in the church to the community though people looked at her as heretic. She regarded the ostia as the Body of Christ that heals, bread that ends hunger, provides nourishment to tired body and holy indeed to be respected. I like the scene in the movie where a group of young children have ostia gotten somewhere and are spreading jam to taste. The children are at one side of the church’s main door where people come and go. Only Dionisia took action and stopped the children from what they are doing, informing them of the essence of the bread. Sometimes we don’t bother on simple, tolerable things, yet this is an important moment that serves as an avenue for learning and discovery that are essential for character building of a child.
Poor people, deprived of being respected and listened to, who have their homes build from scraps, who are worried of a meal to sustain their body for a day, people who are often misunderstood and considered threats to the community’s peace and order for airing their concern and understanding on issues loudly in the streets.

Pssst….Dionisia!

People who are considered object and utilized for the benefit of the wealthy and in power.

Dionisia, I heared that you knew someone…..

These are the individuals Dionisia represents in the story. They learn best how to live their lives in the midst of struggle. They are spirited and determined to face challenges ahead. Their body had suffered so much pain that develops calluses, a mechanism of the body to immune the surface to pressure and abuse. These people whose actions are of less importance; they are all over, yet their presence are often ignored, victims of injustices and human rights violation; enslave by poverty caused by people who are selfish, thirsty of wealth gained in expense of others.

Most of them are in the door steps of our churches, begging. Some are in the streets finding comfort and shelter under bridges, condemned buildings and sidewalks. Some are behind bars due to crimes they have not committed. Some find means by engaging themselves to prostitution. Some are dying due to starvation while others are deprived of medical assistance due to lack of money.

Who will understand them? To whom they will get their perseverance and hope to continue on this kind of life, which they don’t choose to be like? Who will guide them and help them out of the pity that they’re into? Who will inform them of the good news? Who will uplift their spirit in the midst of problems that slowly eating their courage and determination to continue the journey? To the ministers of the church, whom they believe have a heart to charity? What if the minister who supposes to impart examples for them to follow, the ones who are teaching the words of God for salvation, is the same person who doesn’t care for a life of a child, whose birth entails individual reputation and shame? What if persons whom they respected, are abusers themselves? Just like what Father Amaro did. He threatens a newspaper firm with regards to the rebuttal the church prepared in response to accusations, which the church denied.

The appearance of Dionisia in the story is not only relevant for the revelation of dark secrets of influential people in the community. The message beyond Dionisia’s portrayal of a sensitive, old woman, knowledgeable of scandalous information is her silence. On the burial service for Amelia, she sat beside Gordo, the mayor of Los Reyes, with her expressive eyes centered to the officiating priest, Father Amaro. For the fact that she connived with the priest in exchange of a money to abort the baby, she is sitting there as stigma to the sacredness of the ceremony. She chooses to keep silent. She nursed the truth in the bosom of her fear and personal interest. Her silence is an epitome of usual decisions chosen by ordinary people caught in the situation between truth and life. Her silence is a manifestation of the continuation of the sickness diagnosed yet ignored, thus worsening.

When are we breaking the silence? How long are we going to hide concerns needing to be addressed and cured? How many more innocent lives be wasted for the sake of reputation and prestige? How long can we endure the pain of the past asking for freedom and justice? When are we be able to resist the voice that is stopping us to expressed ourselves? When?


Aileen dela Cruz Isidro-Carbonell

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