POPE FRANCIS AND SAF 44: LIFE-CHANGING TRANSITIONS IN SHOWBIZ, RADIO AND TELEVISION
by Pablo A. Tariman
An outpouring of love and compassion.
An outpouring of grief and discontent.
All these sum up the national mood in January when Pope Francis arrived for his first Philippine visit and when a clandestine Maguindanao operation ended in the death of 44 young members of the Special Action Forces (SAF) of the Philippine National Police.
The first saw a sudden shift in programming on radio and television and magnified many times over on face book.
So-called inspirational songs and their pious composers reigned all over the air lanes with inspirational diva Jamie Rivera and Fr. Manoling Francisco suddenly in demand as special guests in nearly all talk shows on radio and television.
DZMM was deeply in a prayerful mood as it aired more supplication on the air apart from its usual 3 o’clock prayer.
The subject of mercy and compassion plus the power of love and forgiveness were the motif all over the air lanes and television.
ABS CBN’s soap offerings had subtle message on the importance of love and reconciliation in “Exchange Gift” featuring KC Concepcion and Paulo Avelino with the boy playing their son about to write to Pope Francis to ask help for his parents’ marriage in distress.
KC admitted she had her share of low moments in 2014 but she thought it was for the good to help her realize new beginnings are in store for her in 2015.
Maja Salvador and Gerald Anderson shared the joy of giving, there is deep spiritual anchor in the day-time soap, “Oh My G,” and there is palpable lessons on turning a new leaf in the case of the teenage father in “Bagito.”
Writer Ricky Lee who penned “Nasaan Ka ng Kailangan Kita” told this writer one must be sensitive, one must have imagination and one must have empathy to succeed as TV and screen writer.
He doesn’t relish describing relationships in terms of characters being labeled as “illegal wife” and “kabit.”
Pointed out Lee: “In this life, people love and care and I want my characters to show just that without the social stigmas that go with those relationship. So I am quick to remind my pool of writers no labeling of characters and relationships please.”
The morning show “Kris TV” had the host asking guests how many of their prayers were answered so far.
On the week Pope Francis arrived, the entire country was glued on radio and TV and became part of the papal mass celebrated in Tacloban airport and Rizal Park.
In the crowd was former first lady, Imelda Marcos, who was quoted as pro-poor.
The faithful was on tears every time the Holy Father said something on the power of love and compassion.
Reporters ran out of words to describe the crowd’s euphoria over the Holy Father and ended up in tears when they came face to face with the holy figure.
Kara David of Channel 7 and Lynda Jumilla of Channel 2 found themselves face to face with the Holy Father and sharing a stormy flight from Manila to Tacloban and back. You would think they were ready for the nunnery after that encounter.
Meanwhile, national adoration shifted from Daniel Padilla to the 22-year-old seminarian Kenneth Rey Parsad who sang the responsorial psalm for the Holy mass that Pope Francis celebrated at the Manila Cathedral.
When the Pope ended his 5-day visit, it was as if the country has finally re-discovered Shangri-La.
Alas all these came to pass when the SAF 44 met their untimely death in Maguindanao and became known as the Fallen 44.
It was a time of national shock. Grief and anger were all over the air lanes and TV and the great divide happened in showbiz world.
On Instagram, Kris Aquino unfollowed Judy Ann Santos and other showbiz personalities for their unkind comments on her brother.
The most vocal of them all was actor Jomari Yllana who called the Chief Executive the most stupid president the country has ever had.
The wailing and the tears of the families of the Fallen 44 eclipsed the characters in “Nasaan Ka Nang Kailangan Kita” who were seen endlessly crying in the rain in one sequence.
Meanwhile, radio commentators – notably Ted Failon and Noli de Castro — were close to storming Malacanang Palace over issues of insensitivity and command responsibility.
In another development, suddenly it was Kris Aquino versus Juana Change (a.k.a Mae Paner) who figured in bitter national exchange through T-shirt graffiti.
Movie scribe Lolit Solis tried her hand at sarcasm by writing that the Chief Executive couldn’t possibly miss the Heart Evangelista-Chiz Escudero wedding as it was already in his presidential schedule (meeting the massacre victims wasn’t) and got quoted by a broadsheet writer.
By and large, the visit of Pope Fancis and the tragic fate of the SAF 44 turned showbiz programming and personalities upside down.
The shift was apocalyptic.
The prayerful mood on TV and air lanes suddenly turned ugly and full of recriminations.
Quiapo devotee and broadcaster Noli de Castro unabashedly cried while covering the Pope’s visit and he cried again while announcing the names of the victims of the latest Maguindanao massacre.
The show “Aquino and Abunda” suddenly shifted from prime time gossip to solemn offering as singer Jed Madela took turns singing inspirational songs for the Fallen 44.
For now, the showbiz landscape reflects the country in another transition.
While ABS CBN’s “Dream Dad” continued to have adoring following, the so-called Father of the Nation is about to be disowned by the children he virtually abandoned in time of national grief.
As to when the winter of discontent will end, only the latest political developments can tell.
Someone wise once said that the showbiz world has to be manipulated to make it more interesting because most people’s lives are boring.
Pope Francis and the Fallen 44 changed all that.
It started with an outpouring of love and ended in an outburst of infamy.
Indeed, one can learn a lot in real life as we can in showbiz and how national scenarios terminate showbiz friendships and loyalties.
Like it or not, the Pope’s visit and the story of SAF 44 are rich materials for film and TV adaptations.
The sudden outburst of emotions from all parties will make for a stirring outline for a film about victors and victims.
As Stanley Kubrick said, “A film is — or should be — or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.”