MEMBERS of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites based in Mabolo, Cebu City have condemned the new trailer of the controversial film “Maid in Malacañang” that showed a group of nuns playing mahjong with the late President Corazon Aquino right after the Edsa People Power Revolution broke out.

“God forgive them. That’s totally fake news,” an official of the order told SunStar Cebu late Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, which was also the 13th death anniversary of Aquino.

The official, who declined to be named, was one of the nuns who had sheltered Aquino in Cebu on Feb. 22, 1986, the day the Edsa Revolution that ended the Marcos dictatorship broke out in Manila.

The director of the controversial film, however, defended the depiction, saying there was nothing wrong with the recent trailer showing Aquino playing mahjong with nuns.

In a statement posted on his official Facebook page VinCentiments on Tuesday, Aug. 2, “Maid in Malacañang” director and writer Darryl Yap said the scene where Aquino and the nuns play mahjong was meant to show them just passing time and having a game between friends.

“Wala rin pong masama sa ‘Mahjong’ pampalipas-oras man o pangmagkakaiibigang laro,” Yap said.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia did not agree.

In a statement late Tuesday, Garcia said: “I stand with the Carmelite nuns of Cebu. And I condemn any malicious attempt to malign them.”

Yap’s statement came after the sisters of the Carmelite Monastery in Cebu sent a statement to Cebu media on Tuesday morning, Aug. 2, decrying a scene of the controversial movie as “historically distorted” and made without consulting them.

Sr. Mary Melanin Costillas, prioress of the Carmelite Monastery in Mabolo, said that while the habits of the nuns shown in the movie were not similar to their habits, the events shown in the trailer were an “allusion” to Aquino’s encounter with the Carmelite sisters on the night of Feb. 22, 1986.

“The nuns are not 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,” Costillas said.

She added that no one from the movie’s production approached them to gather information on what really happened.

Costillas said many of the nuns who were with Aquino at the time were still alive and actively serving the monastery, including Sr. Mary Aimee Ataviado, who was the superior at the time of the revolution.

Malicious, reprehensible

Costillas called the scene in the movie trailer where the nuns play mahjong with Aquino “malicious” and a “reprehensible attempt” to distort history.

“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. While in our prayer, we were constantly in fear that the military would come to know of the whereabouts of Ms. Cory Aquino and would soon be knocking at the monastery’s door. 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 to put an end to a dictatorial regime. Indeed, we were ready to defend her at all costs,” Costillas said.

Costillas said the pictures of Aquino and the nuns playing mahjong trivialized their contribution in restoring democracy in the country, adding that the Cebuano faithful have sought their help to pray for 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 were taken as authentic representation of what really happened, they would put into doubt the trust the people have placed in us,” she added.

“Lastly, we are praying for the unity of Filipinos. But this unity can only be built on truth and not on historical distortion,” Costillas added.

Aquino, a victim of electoral fraud in the Feb. 7, 1986 snap election called by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was in Cebu to call for civil disobedience through the boycott of companies owned by Marcos cronies.

When then Assemblyman Antonio Cuenco got wind that Marcos had issued a shoot-to-kill order against Aquino, he and his wife Nancy hid the future president in the Carmelite Monastery in Barangay Mabolo. Aquino left the monastery around 11 a.m. the next day to fly to Manila.

Not necessarily accurate

Msgr. Joseph Tan, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cebu, urged the public not to treat the movie as though it was real.

Tan, who was requested by the Carmelite nuns to speak on their behalf, told reporters at noon Tuesday, that the film “is clearly a fictional rendition of history. We called it historical fictionalization.”

“It may be based on the events that took place in history, but there is always a certain amount of poetic license, so much so that the details may not necessarily be as accurate as actually unfolded in history,” Tan said.

“Just take this movie for what it is, as a form of entertainment and realize its genre is one of theater of the historical fictionalization of the events of history,” he added.

Why consult?

Director Yap, in his statement, urged the nuns to watch the film.

In a photo that served as a continuation of the statement, Yap said there was no need for them to consult the nuns.

“Tungkol po sa point ni Monsignor (Joseph) Tan at ng Carmelite nuns, na hindi ko po sila kinunsulta sa eksena -- hindi ko po kasi naisip na kailangan,” Yap said.

“Gaya po ng sinabi nila, hindi naman po nakabrown, at walang binanggit na ‘Huy mga Carmelite Sisters, ano na?!’” he added. (Like they said, the nuns were not wearing brown.)

Yap added that he would rather consult “Valak,” the demon nun known for its appearance in the horror movie “The Conjuring,” if he wanted to get points on how to make his film.

“Hihingi ako ng advise kay Valak, kung paano, kailan at kanino siya kumunsulta,” Yap added.

“Maid in Malacañang” tells the story of the late dictator’s last three days in power before he was deposed during the People Power Revolution.