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Opinion

Play now, no mahjong in heaven

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

I have not seen "Maid in Malacañang" nor do I intend to watch it. But I do not see how that can prevent me from commenting on the furor the movie has generated. Besides, while my not having seen the movie indeed curtails my ability to make conclusions on matters of fact, it does open up my leverage to dwell on realms of the possible, which can be endless.

The main controversy that couches the movie, which is about the last 72 hours of the Marcoses in power, involves a short scene toward the end where Cory Aquino, after telling someone at the other end of a phone call to get the Marcoses out of the country, returns to a mahjong table and resumes playing with a group of nuns in white habits. All hell broke loose over this scene.

Most people assumed this alluded to Cory's stay with the Carmelite nuns of Cebu at the start of EDSA on February 22. But the Carmelites have brown habits, not white. And if Cory had to seek refuge at their monastery out of fear for her life, surely it would not be humanly possible for her to play mahjong or anything entertaining. But if the scene alluded to February 25 in Manila, then the circumstances would be different.

If Cory had just been on the phone in that scene with orders to get the Marcoses out, then it must have been February 25 in Manila with the person on the other end of the line being US Ambassador Stephen Bosworth. That day was happier for Cory. She was the new president and the Marcoses were on the way to exile. If she wanted to play mahjong or any other relaxing game, this was possibly the most conducive day.

This is not to say she did. But it was possible. Cory was known to play mahjong. Maybe the film's director just used his artistic license to show the celebratory mood of the moment. For me, I would rather have Cory depicted playing mahjong in celebration than traipsing around the room with nuns doing the "Dance of the little swans" from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake".

As to nuns playing mahjong, who knows? It is a fact, though, that some priests play mahjong, among other games. So if some priests play mahjong, can nuns really be far behind? I do not know how to play mahjong but those who know tell me it is a relaxing game. Unless you play with bets, in which case, I was also told, the games can stretch overnight and it can become a drop-dead game.

I do not subscribe to the idea that nuns, just because they are nuns do not, cannot, and must not play mahjong or any other innocuous relaxing game. It is only when you inject malice that a game can become malicious. In fact, I would rather have nuns play mahjong as a recreational activity than have them seduced by communist ideas and go out in the streets protesting anything and everything there is to protest.

I would rather have nuns laugh and giggle in innocent banter as a break from the serious spirituality they have chosen to dedicate their lives than have them desecrate the church, my church, by turning it into a political launching pad for their favored political candidate. Having a little harmless fun is far more acceptable than the angry and scandalous manner with which religion has been politicized.

It is good that the movie has exploded into our consciousness for it has brought forth deep-seated feelings about things we thought must never be discussed in the open but which, once released, gives us an idea of what freedom truly means. In this life, we are all still very much human. No gods or saints here. No sacred utots waft the air. Let no fingers point in anger or for shame. We are all the same. Til Kingdom Come.

MAID IN MALACAñANG

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