[Blueboard] Funeral Homily for Ms. Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Filmaker, Artist and Mentor

Jesuit Communications 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 
7-9, 10b-12

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
website: www.jescom.ph

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