The sisters of the Carmelite Monastery in Cebu have slammed the controversial movie Maid in Malacañang for its depiction of its nuns playing mahjong alongside a fictional version of former president Cory Aquino in a rare statement.
Maid in Malacañang is a movie directed by Darryl Yap that purportedly tells the Marcos family’s version of events during their last days at the Malacañang Palace at the height of the People Power Revolution. The Marcoses fled the palace and remained in exile in Hawaii until the death of ousted former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Historical reports show that the Carmelite sisters agreed to shield former President Aquino in their monastery for her safety as they recognized her as the legitimate winner of the 1986 snap elections against Marcos Sr.
The Carmelite sisters said they were aware of stills from the film circulating on social media depicting the late President Aquino playing mahjong with nuns. “The nuns are now wearing our brown religious habit. But if these pictures are portraying the events of February 1986, then the allusion to the Carmelite Order in Cebu is too obvious for anyone not to see,” Sister Mary Melanie Costillas, Prioress of the Carmelite Monastery, wrote.
The nuns said no one from the Maid in Malacañang team reached out to get their version of events. “Let it be known that no one responsible for the production of the movie came to us to gather information on what really happened. Any serious scriptwriter or movie director could have shown such elementary diligence before making such (a) movie. After all, many of those nuns in the 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 Carmelite sisters said they oppose the movie’s attempt to revise history. “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 praying, fasting and making other forms of sacrifices for peace in this country and for the people’s choice to prevail.”
Sister Costillas shared that the nuns at the time were fearful that the military would know of Aquino’s whereabouts and come to the monastery, and shed light on the gravity of the situation. “We knew the dangers of allowing Ms. Cory Aquino to hide in the monastery. But we also prayerfully discerned that the risk was worth it, as our contribution put an end to a dictatorial regime. Indeed, we were ready to defend her at all costs.”
The sisters say the infamous Maid in Malacañang scene trivializes their contribution to restoring democracy and cast doubt on the trust devotees have placed in them. “Over more than seven decades, Cebuanos have asked us to pray for their intentions. With the grace of God, we take this vocation to pray for and with the people in all seriousness. But the pictures would imply that while the country’s fate was in the balance, we mindlessly were simply playing games. Thus, if these pictures would be taken as authentic representation of what really happened, they would put into doubt the trust that the people have placed in us.”
Catholic organization Frater Rhexx has backed the nun’s position, saying in a statement that the Carmelite sisters were “far from how the movie depicted them, [and] are contemplative or cloistered—nuns who stay inside the walls of the convent, offering their days and nights in prayer and silent contemplation. They do not interact with the outside world except by necessity—the reason why we often see them behind window grills. It’s a significant sacrifice for faith.”
“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 added.
Meanwhile, the Carmelite sisters said they prayed for the unity of all Filipinos, adding, “but this unity can only be built on truth and not historical distortion.”