Santa Teresa de Avila: On the reel face of Amalia Fuentes
Pit M. Maliksi (The Philippine Star) - October 11, 2019 - 12:00am

Watching Santa Teresa de Avila on the big screen has left an indelible mark on the humility and sacrifices of revered saint Santa Teresa de Avila — whose feast day we commemorate on Oct. 15th  every year. Furthermore — in the estimation of most people and mine — Amalia Fuentes is supremely beautiful in the gallery of female Asian movie stars — who just left us in this world to stay evermore in the bosom of our Creator in Heaven.

Let me spell out a little origination…                                                                                     

When I first learned that Amalia was to portray the role of Santa Teresa de Avila, even an avid fan in me wondered how a liberated, free-tongued woman, who struggled to paint a picture of grace even under hurried circumstances by herself, would reconcile with the role of a saint.

Then again, the fact that she underwrote this film under her own AM Productions, it was one big stride for her spiritual maturity and advancement as actress-producer. That she expended a whale of money filming in Spain where Santa Teresa’s story took place, and that a religious genre such as Santa Teresa de Avila is harder to sell in the film market, was a big gamble for her.

Let me come to the context of the movie than its form:

The movie took on the side a glimpse of Santa Teresa’s turbulent life along the way to sainthood.

In her teens, Teresa became vain and temperamental. When her mother died, she had come down to spiritual reading, and was greatly moved by the letters of St. Jerome, that she decided to enter the Carmelite Convent in Avila at the age of 20, against the will of his Jewish father. Shortly in two years at the convent, her health deteriorated and she became invalid, but devoted her time in mental prayers. When she recovered, she led the work to reform the Carmelite ways of life through penance, piety, austerity and meditation on the sacred humanity of Christ — her vocation for the reparation of the sins of mankind. 

Despite poor health and great difficulties, Teresa remained valiant, courageous and fearless as any man, spent her remaining life establishing 16 more convents and a monastery for men by the authority of Pope Paul IV, at the same time writing a number of spiritual books. From her written autobiography in 1611, she gained another name Mother Teresa of Jesus. She was born on Oct. 4, 1515, died in 1582, and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1622. Her feast day is celebrated every Oct. 15th espousing her call for all of us here on Earth to lead humble lives and do more sacrifices for our sins and the sins of humanity, particularly on the onslaught of modernization, hyper-accelerating technology and moral liberality at this day and age.

Let me bring near the artist and her patrons…

With that mission as righteous as rousing the spiritual sense and sensibility of film viewers by producing Santa Teresa de Avila, Amalia’s moral contribution in the film industry gained much respect. It came to be as pleasant, that Santa Teresa de Avila — my favorite Amalia Fuentes movie — was equally patronized beyond expectations. 

Perhaps, I could be the youngest loyal patron of Amalia’s movies courtesy of my cousin Ate Gerone — a die-hard fan of Amalia until today. As a little kid, my jaws would drop and my eyes grow wide to see her alive on the big screen. We never failed to watch no matter how serious or frivolous her films were, except her self-produced Ibulong mo Sa Hangin because I won’t dare seeing her as a blood-starved rabid-fanged vampire — the role that gave Amalia her first FAMAS Best Actress award. Were it not that, her most dramatic scene for me was in Mars Ravelo’s Rowena, when she shouted from a distance — “Don’t touch that!” to Dante Rivero who tinkered with the piano of her ill-fated love Romeo Vasquez. It was a flash of acting brio on screen — fiery, electric yet soulful and forlorn.

Let me round out with Amalia, the actress and her saint Santa Teresa de Avila…

But then, all the past bravura acting of Amalia became an overall reversal of the pious, the subdued, the passionate Amalia as Santa Teresa, her most sensible first-rate portrayal, which has similarly sealed my claim that inwards the veil of the most self-sacrificing and devoted Santa Teresa de Avila — is the most beautiful face ever to grace the Philippine silver screen. It came to mind that once, Amalia was popularly noted — the Elizabeth Taylor of the Philippines and the first Asian commercial model of International Lux Corporation.

Above all, getting to know more of Santa Teresa de Avila from the book, led me to admire her sainthood in great measure the way her true-to-life movie took me to adore the beauteousness of Amalia in great earnest. For us followers, Santa Teresa and Amalia are the two beautiful women at most — Amalia Fuentes in the eyes of the Philippine cinema, and Santa Teresa de Avila in the heart and soul of Christian faith.

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