What’s wrong with playing mahjong? This is the question coming from those who try to defend the movie “Maid in Malacañang,” a part of which shows would-be President Cory Aquino playing this table game with nuns. The director of the film says he is trying to portray Cory playing with friends. A priest, known for his loyalty to BBM, asks the same question in a post with a picture of nuns drinking beer. He says that nuns are entitled to some legitimate recreation.

Even if we put into bracket the issue of truth and accuracy, the comments are way off tangent. This defense betrays a failure to understand or even plain refusal to see the issue from a perspective other than one’s own. No sensible person would say that playing mahjong is wrong. The issue is whether it is proper for contemplative nuns to play mahjong, seemingly unmindful that the fate of the country was hanging in the balance. There was an ongoing coup attempt which could possibly turn out to be bloody. Millions of Filipinos were in prayer for a peaceful resolution. For contemplative nuns to be playing mahjong would be worse than Nero playing the harp while Rome was burning. In itself, playing the harp is good, or at least morally neutral. It is the context which makes it wrong.

Another defense is to call the whole movie historical fiction. One labeled it as such after saying that the nuns were “a little bit offended.” I have not earned any masteral unit in Literature but I dare say that such a label is far from accurate. In the genre of historical fiction does not twist historical facts, the writer studies a particular period of history, presents it accurately, and creates a story with history as the background. Good examples are “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell (with the American Civil War as the background) and “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy (with Napoleon’s invasion of Russia as the background). Some of the novels by James Michener and our own F. Sionil Jose would also be good examples, historical fiction does not twist historical facts. To call “Maid in Malacañang” as historical fiction would conveniently set aside the issue of malice.