[Blueboard] Funeral Homily for Ms. Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Filmaker, Artist and Mentor
jcf at admu.edu.ph
Fri Oct 12 11:02:08 PHT 2012
*Funeral Homily for Ms. Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Filmaker, Artist and Mentor*
Delivered by René B. Javellana, S.J., Chair, Board of Trustees, Jesuit
and Associate Professor in Fine Arts, School of Humanities
LoyolaSchools, Ateneo de Manila University
10 October 2012, Wednesday
Chapel of the Immaculate Conception
LoyolaSchools, Ateneo de Manila University
First Reading: Whether alive or dead we belong to the Lord. Romans 14
Gospel: Come, you whom my Father has blessed. Matthew 25 31-46
*It*is with great sadness and a sense of immeasurable loss that we bid
goodbye to Marilou Diaz-Abaya, known to many as Direk. But it is also
with a sense of relief that after a period of about five long years, she
is finally relieved of the burden of illness. Although we would have
wanted her to be longer with us, so that she could share her wisdom,
creativity, and fortitude---shown by her wit and humor that remained
with her until the very end---we are relieved that her days of physical
pain have passed.
*We*are also thankful, that by facing death bravely and calmly,
accepting each new day as God's gift, she has left us a lesson how to
live our own lives to the full.
*But*this evening I do not wish to dwell on themes of loss and sadness,
beyond what I have said thus far, but rather I wish to remember Marilou
as truly a gift to our lives---or more specifically, to my life. I want
to remember Marilou in the process of creating what would be her legacy,
an enviable corpus of 21 feature films, two unfinished ones, and scores
still in her heart and head. Not to mention her works for television. I
want to remember her as artist, filmmaker, teacher, mentor and friend.
*My*life and career crossed with Marilou's because both of us were
faculty members of the Ateneo's Department of Communication. Then, Com
was in a building detached from the rest of the Ateneo, which we loved
to call Com Kingdom or The Island. In contrast to the rest of the
Ateneo, the mainland. Fr. Nick Cruz who is with us at the altar this
evening, Ateneo's resident guru of film and MTRCB member, shared that
kingdom with Marilou and I.
*Later*, Marilou and I would both sit in the board of Jesuit
Communications, the Jesuit's media apostolate. Her incisive and
well-thought comments, the fruit of many years of work in media and
cinema, at our board meetings were always welcome.
*But*it was as faculty of Communications that I had my deepest exchanges
with Marilou. Over coffee or lunch at the department, she would speak
about her plans, the future dream projects she had in mind.
*One *day, she knocked at my office and said that she wanted to do a
film on Mindanao but she knew very little. So I said why don't you read
these. I had a small library in my office so I pulled out James Warren's
Sulu Zone and I said to her, read this, I will lend you some other books
to read. Which I did. I lent her a scholars' throve of books: Majul,
Scheurs, and the translation of Pastells. I also said that if she wanted
to read Spanish, there was Combes book on Mindanao and Barrantes'
Guerras piraticas. Like a good student, Marilou read all. And when I
would meet her in the department, she would ask a question or two, which
often ended up in a long conversation. She was getting to know Mindanao,
because in her mind Bagong Buwan was taking shape.
*One*day she asked me, "Should I read the Koran?" I said "Why not? If
you want to know the Muslims you have to read their sacred book. Also
read commentaries on it."
*Sometime*later, as Marilou was discovering the beauty of the Koran and
the parallels with the Gospels---yes, Jesus and Mary, the Angel Gabriel
were mentioned, Marilou asks me "What if I lose my faith?" Because I was
busy preparing for my next class, which was to begin in 15 minutes, I
gave a curt reply, I said "No you won't."
*Later*, when I met her again I said "Don't worry we will be here to
pound that faith back into you." And that was that.
*I*knew Marilou was deep into the development of Bagong Buwan (2001),
when she said: "I know you taught in Mindanao, do you have any contacts
there?" She had already done her homework of establishing a network in
Mindanao but she needed more names. So I said: "Just two. But I think
you will find them very helpful and treasure chests of information,
contacts and so forth. Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI at Notre Dame U and Ms.
Margie Moran Floirendo. Fr. Mercado or Fr. Jun is a respected scholar of
Islam and has many contacts in Mindanao, even with the MNLF. When I
worked with him in the late 70s, we called him Padre Bungot, because he
wears a beard. All he needs is a headgear and he could be an MNLF
commander. And Margie, she runs Southern Mindanao Foundation, she can be
a big help." And that was that.
*Both*contacts turned out to be exactly and more than expected. Through
Margie, Marilou came to know Iso Montalvan, whose farm in Bukidnon
served as Marilou and her crew's retreat after many days of work, which
brought them deep into the Liguasan Marsh.
*These*personal encounters showed me something of the Marilou's
character and her work habits as an artist.She said that a filmmaker
shares something within, something of herself. But if there is nothing
within, there is nothing to share. This was theme she repeated again and
again in her classes.
*For*her filmmaking involved her total person. If her trilogy, Brutal
(1980) Moral (1982) and Karnal (1983) could speak eloquently of women's
plight in a patriarchal society, under martial law, it was because the
theme came from a heart sensitive to the plight of others.
*If*there was a film project in which she wasn't well versed, she took
pains to read and study and to involve herself in the life and setting
of her film. She was meticulous in her research and immersion, and a
stickler about authenticity. She even casted a pug for the film José
Rizal (1998), because in the only known authentic picture of Rizal's
execution, the military detail that morning of December brought their
mascot to Luneta---a pug.
*She*taught that same care and thoroughness in filmmaking to her
students and to concretize her vision and extend it beyond her own life
she opened MADAFI in 2007 with studios in Antipolo, Greenhills and New
*Her*involvement with life and with people did not end with film. She
took an active role in the dialogue between Christians and Muslim, the
fruit of her work in Mindanao. And while deeply involved in mentoring
the clergy and seminarians of the Archdiocese of Pampanga, she helped
the archdiocese set up a studio and media center. Her successful program
Men of Light was well received in Pampanga.
*She*directed a Christmas special for JesCom, Maging Aking Muli, set in
Pampanga and filmed in Betis church, the crown jewel of Pampanga's
colonial churches. This film, about a young deacon preparing for
ordination, grew out of her friendship with the Pampanga clergy,
especially the seminarians and priests. Her life fed her films, as her
films fed life.
*When*JesCom reaped the bronze in the Telly Awards of 2007, JesCom was
justly proud because its work was chosen among 14,362 entries submitted
worldwide. We could not have done it without Marilou!
*In*2001, Marilou received the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize. The citation
singled out her ability of "harmoniously blending entertainment, social
consciousness, and ethnic awareness." This was the hallmark of her opus.
*When*Marilou was preparing for her Bagong Buwan and during the years of
struggle with cancer, there was a word that kept echoing in my mind, and
that was EPIC. Marilous work was "epic" so was her struggle with illness.
*She*stood in the best tradition of "auteur film," where the film grows
out of the filmmaker's life. Where filmmaker shares in the tasks of
scripting, directing and designing. She stands in the tradition of the
best of artists, where art is not just technique and skill but an
expression of the artist's inner life. From their dreams, visions,
hopes, fears, disappointments, hard work and industry, artists weave the
fabric of their opus. In the true artist, the work and person cannot be
separated, because the fabric is woven from the strands of the artist's
*"Epic"*that is what Marilou's works are. They are not quick productions
shot in a week, post-prod another, then sold to the gullible crowd. Her
works involved study and research, immersion, involvement, lots of
conversation and communication. Imagining, conceptualizing, returning
again and again to the drawing board, that was her. Thus, her works are
textured not simplistic or merely sensational; yet very accessible. I
believe that time will prove them to be true classics.
*Her *life was equally epic, the last episode, being the most dramatic
and difficult. But the moment she faced the burden of illness and the
prospect of death squarely, she was in charge. When chemotherapy would
wear her body down, she would go to Sacred Heart Novitiate to rest and
revive her inner strength. In stillness, she would recharge herself. She
said she was a crypto-Jesuit, because she had made St. Ignatius'
Spiritual Exercises several times.
*Marilou*must have a sense that 2012 was going to be her last year. She
wrote to me as chair of JesCom's BOT that she wanted to donate her
papers to JesCom and that she wanted students to benefit from them. I
said JesCom gladly accepts your donation and a few weeks ago her papers
arrived at JesCom, filling more than two dozen Balikbayan boxes. We have
yet to catalogue and go through her donation, a task ahead, which I am
sure will bring back memories.
*I*learned that she was slowly disposing of her excess baggage donating
furniture to Sacred Heart Novitiate, for instance. She was preparing to
travel light. The only things she brought with her when she passed away
on the evening of Monday 8 October, was her deep faith, wit, fortitude
and many endearing qualities that have brought us all close to her
heart. And her love for her friends and family carried her through. And
as she wished on her last day on earth, she was accompanied by the
prayers of family, friends, colleagues, co-workers, students and many
whose lives she touched.
*Salamat,Direk*. Wrap na ba?
Jesuit Communications Foundation, Inc.
Sonolux Bldg., Seminary Drive,
Ateneo de Manila University,
Loyola Heights, Quezon City,
Direct Line: (632) 426-5926
Trunk Line: (632) 426-5971 to 72 loc. 123
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