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Lent: Sign up for “The Mission”

Guess who came to join us for the opening day of the Mariners’ four-day celebration of the Golden Year Foundation of Mariners Naga? An old friend cum doctor alternative, Dr. Susan Balingit, is now a medical consultant at the famous The Farm at San Benito in Lipa, Batangas, where every health service commands a lump sum. She came with a Bicolano multi-awarded composer-writer and musical director, Ferdinand Dimadura, with shared interests in culture, the arts, food, health, and wellness.

Over lunch, Ferdie invited us to watch his work of art, “The Mission,” onscreen that night with students as the audience at an open court in the nearby Holy Rosary Minor Seminary in Naga. Dok Susan told me Ferdie composed all the songs in the musical of a world-class caliber comparable to the Jesus Christ Superstar film. Well, I should be watching this and share.

That day, March 1, was a fast-moving twirl of events: a Thanksgiving Mass with the outgoing Archbishop of Caceres, His Eminence Rolando Tirona, at the school Quadrangle, followed by a hearty breakfast at the Mariners Tourism and Hospitality Institute (MTHI), with the staff, faculty, students and administrators, and special guests. Then, the Jimenez Mini Museum re-opened after the Inspirational Message from the Department of Tourism regional director Herbie Aguas.

Dok Susan is a medical doctor and a professorial lecturer with a love for the arts. She is passionate about creating community-based health and development programs using indigenous food sources to treat illnesses and promote health and wellness alongside disease prevention. It was good to see her again after a long time. Coming to Naga with Ferdie, an artist of international caliber, rekindled old common ties in health, wellness, food, and the arts. Bicolano culturati would undoubtedly boost the cultural connections of Mariners and the Tabang Bikol Movement to inspire more creative works and raise cultural awareness in the communities.

The Mission for Lent 2024

That night, Doc Susan, my husband Bobby, and I watched The Mission—the local version of the Passion and Death of Jesus—with Ferdie, who wrote and directed the one-and-a-half-hour film with production help from Archbishop Rolly Tirona of the Archdiocese of Caceres and the St. Raphael Parish of Fr. Wilmer Tria. Despite the uproar inside the gym, with students all slumped on the cold pavement, munching away their packed foods while watching, I think the film musical was a hit. The songs – composed and sung in English – were stunningly eclectic yet precise and rhythmic, as if one were reciting a poem. With subtitles on the screen, I quietly sang along with the actors as they delivered their musical dialogues.

When you’re new to filmmaking or creating a low-budget film, relying on volunteers for your cast and crew is often essential, and for Ferdie, that holds much water. Ferdie assembled the cast of the apostles, the women of Jerusalem and Gethsemane, Pontius Pilate, and Caiaphas from among inexperienced and ordinary-looking students, women, and workers in Camarines Sur who volunteered to sing and act. I was ecstatic when I learned that the lead star, Jesus Christ, was played by a student of Mariners Canaman from the marine engineering department, Ced Christian Paz of Buhi, Camarines Sur. Ferdie said the young Mariners student as Jesus was a revelation, and even Archbishop Tirona noted his special features as incredibly like Jesus.

Doubly laudable was that the film was set outdoors during the pandemic in 2021 when the whole world went in isolation, and people were wearing constant face masks. Wasn’t it a miracle that nobody in the group fell to the COVID-19 virus during the filming? Location shooting on the local grounds was around Camarines Sur to simulate the sites of the temples, fields, and natural waters in Panicuason and Pacol, the Capitolyo in Pili, and the imposing pillars at the Ateneo. The production used locations that almost matched the original Western Jesus Christ Superstar, predominantly filmed in Israel, showcasing the region’s captivating landscapes and historical sites. “The Mission” is a local copy of the Superstar rock film, but the portrayal and lyrics of the songs have a distinct Filipino flair. It is the first musical depicting the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus filmed with local homegrown volunteer artists on local sites.

Sign up at Mariners

On Saturday, March 25, at 8:00 a.m., the film musical will be shown on a wide-wall LED screen at Jaime’s Hall at Mariners Canaman in time for Holy Week free. Sponsored by the Office of the MPCF Chairperson, who is a strong advocate and supporter of culture and arts, the film showing is cosponsored by the Gender and Development (GAD)-Office of the President, the Community Extension Services Office (CESO), Women in Maritime (WIMA), Mariners Community Volunteers (MACOVO), Research and Development Office (RDO), Social Enterprise Development Project (SED) office, Ilaw ng Kababaihan, Bugkos Kabataan and the FCR Band that will make the viewing on wide screen a more delightful experience.

I am a consummate lover, practitioner, and supporter of the arts; in everything I do, I try to inject the power of creative interpretations to extract their social relevance. So, before the film is shown, the participating audience will sign up for the art forms through which they wish to express their reactions to the film, like a song, poem or tag, drama, interpretative dance, drawing, or rap. It should provide an excellent way to reflect on the film’s relevance to their lives at Lent.


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