“Holy Week Movies/TV Series of My Youth” (from manila-beyond blog site)

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 “Holy Week Movies/TV Series of My Youth” (ARTICLE COURTESY OF: MANILA-BEYOND BLOG SITE, link: http://manila-beyond.blogspot.com/2011/04/holy-week-moviestv-series-of-my-youth.html)


Tomorrow, 17 April 2011, is Palm Sunday, the start of the Holy Week in the Christian World. As you may very well know, I grew up in the Philippines observing the solemnity of the Holy Week, whether I be in Manila, my birthplace, or in San Fernando, Pampanga, where I would spend my summer vacations as a child.
Holy Week in the Philippines during the late 1970s was a lot more quiet than how it is now. For one, cable TV was not really a household staple, which means that in the olden days you will see near zero programes on any TV channel on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Black Saturday. No such thing as HBO, AXN, CNN, and other round-the clock programmes. If you do have some luck in finding something to watch on television, it would either be a mass, a religious talk show, or TV series that either commemorate the life and times of Jesus Christ or are religious inspired.
As a child, I spend most of my summer vacations in the beach or in the highlands. However, in the Holy Week, we were either at home in my childhood apartment in Caloocan (one of the cities that make up Metro Manila) or at the ancestral home in Pampanga. Our family is not exactly very religious, but going out during the Holy Week for the sake of having a getaway holiday is quite unheard of in our household.
I definitely remember 3 outstanding Holy Week movies/TV series which I enjoyed watching as a child. In recent years I would flip channels and somehow pine for these kinds of old films that are classic. Personally these movies that I used to see every Holy Week of my childhood are ethereal, and while anyone can buy the DVDs or watch them on YouTube, I sure wish they could be shown on TV as well.
Imagine yourself to be in Manila, circa late 1970s, one Maundy Thursday. You sit in front of the television set and turn it on. Chances were that you will see any one of these films:
1. “EL CRISTO DEL OCEANO” (“The Christ Of The Ocean”)
A very old film, shot sometime 1970 in Spain. It is about an orphan who was cared for by a fisherman who eventually was lost at sea during a gale. The story eventually revealed that the statue of the Christ, found floating in the beach (hence, the Christ of the ocean) and placed in the church, would be found lying on the platform, detached from its crucifix, in spite of the fact that the said crucifix was new and expensive-looking. Said orphan met a man named Emmanuel at the beach, who showed the boy the cross where the statue of the Christ should be. This cross turned out to be remnants of the boat of of the boy’s adoptive father. After some disagreements, the priests were finally convinced that the wooden cross should be put in use when they noted that the statue no longer detached itself from the cross. Apparently, as will be revealed in the film, the man Emmanuel was The Christ. The orphan eventually discovers that he was not an orphan at all: his mother came to fetch him from the church at the end of the film.
It was kind of difficult to find a synopsis for this film online, so I constructed the gist out of memory. When I was a child, I would watch this film on TV from a distance, because I did not want my mother to see me cry (LOL). I simply love this beautiful film.

An even older film. The original Spanish version was shot sometime in the 1950s. What I remember was the Filipino version that starred a young Romnick Sarmenta. This film clip is from the original version, though.
The film is about an orphan boy who was adopted by the monks. This boy grew up to be quite mischievous, but things changed when he chanced upon the statue of Jesus Christ on the cross when he ventured in the attic of the monastery in secrecy. Marcelino started bring bread and wine to the statue: the statue would come to life and take the food brought to him. The monks soon noticed that bread and wine in the kitchen would decrease, and, having seen the boy yet sneak out another supply, they followed him to the attic. It was at this point that the boy, having been pensive the whole time, confessed to the animated statue of the Christ that he would like to see his mother, and the mother of the Christ. The Christ cradled the boy in his arms and told him to sleep. The monks, who were spying through the cracks on the wall, were stupefied by this sight, and by the time they had the guts to open the door, they found Marcelino dead, lying in the arms of the statue of the Christ.
I first saw this film (which was actually released as a mini-series) in the moviehouse, and even as a child, I thought that it was so grand. Later on this was shown on television in segments. Many years and many actors who played Jesus in various venues later, I still believe that Robert Powell is the best actor to have ever played Jesus. The story is actually a combination of the accounts on the life and times of Jesus (from Nativity to Resurrection and beyond) by the four authors of the Gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The film was such a huge project made up of a powerhouse cast: Robert Powell, Olivia Hussey, Anne Bancroft, James Earl Jones, Laurence Olivier (wow), and was shot in location in Tunisia and Morocco. You can read about the details here.
In the past, I watched all three films every Holy Week, until the networks pulled them out. I can no longer remember when this was. What can definitely say, though, is that these three films were an integral part of my Holy Week in Manila during my growing up years, and that their themes and cinematic aesthetics will always remain classic and will surely withstand the test of time.

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