|UK actor Christian Bale,|
former child star and Exodus' Moses
I know it’s Christmas and folks hope to have a lot of goodwill and yuletide cheer after a series of harrowing months for us Filipinos, but as I was putting this blog together I caught a Philippine Star item that said that the APEC will tackle the hideous congestion at our ports, especially the Port of Manila, where some 82,000 containers have at one time piled up sky-high, un-moving. This problem has festered for months and months and many media people have written about it and the dampening effect on the economy---what with Filipinos abroad complaining about their balikbayan boxes that have not reached families here for the Christmas season, etc. Why does it have to take APEC to solve that problem for this government?
On the other hand, headlines said that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was tasked by President Aquino to clean up the National Bilibid Penitentiary of all the shenanigans of high-rolling convicts there. I’m sure many folks reading the papers today are wishing it weren’t Christmas, so they could scream at this idea of putting De Lima to that overhaul and clean-up job there, when she is the very cause of the DILEMMA in the NBP which is directly under her jurisdiction? The negligence and incompetence is just appalling and De Lima should be fired together with Bureau of Corrections Chief Franklin Bucayu.
Trust these two sensational stories to constitute a black-eyes again for the Philippines in the international world.
Anyway, back to Christmas and to set the right tone, despite all the incompetence and corruption of government and the country's miseries as a result, let’s borrow some assuring passages from beloved Pope Francis, who, in his general audience at this time last year in Rome, asked the faithful to reflect on “The Birth of Jesus, the feast of trust and hope which overcomes uncertainty and pessimism.” The Pope stressed that “the reason for our hope is this: God is with us and God still trusts us! He comes to abide with mankind, he chose Earth as his dwelling place---to remain with people and to be found where man passes his days in joy or in sorrow.”
Thus, as a result of Christ's birth and becoming like one of us, says Pope Francis, “earth is no longer only ‘a vale of tears;’ rather, it is the place where God himself HAS PITCHED HIS TENT, it is the meeting place of God with man, of God’s solidarity with men” (emphasis BOC's).
One of my favorite poets, St. John Paul II (yes, he was a poet since his student days as well as an artist, actor/ dramatist and author/composer before he even joined the priesthood) put the same sentiment differently. Then Krakow Bishop Karol Wojtyla, touring the Holy Land for ten days in December 1963, and walking all over the land rendered holy by Jesus as He moved, talked and ate with people from all over that place, was moved tremendously---and the future pope/saint expressed his emotions in poetry. Savor these beautiful lines from JPII: “You seek out people everywhere/But to seek everywhere/You had to stop in some place./This one is chosen by You.”
By the grace of God I’ll be off to Bethlehem at the start of what I aim to be an immersion in the Holy Land---Nazareth, Jerusalem, Jericho, Emmaeus, the Jordan, etc.---places where our Lord lived, preached his gospel, labored among the people and worked his miracles, and finally where he died on the Cross for the redemption of mankind. I visited the Holy Land in Holy Year 2000 with my family and I wanted to return one more time---perhaps with a deeper appreciation for the places Jesus had lived in and practised his ministry. I feel a lot different now from what I was in 2000, but life is always like that--- one does change in and re-visiting a place would not be the same. I look forward to a new experience in this most unique part of the world that, as St. JPII. said, “is chosen by You.”
I’ll take you all, my dear friends, with me through the postings I’ll be doing in FB, if you’ll follow me. I’ll be spending Christmas Eve in Bethlehem and apart from being able to worship at the very place where He was born over 2,000 years ago, it will be the experience of a lifetime for me. I’ll be there at the invitation of my friend and travel packager par excellence Arlina Onglao, whose pilgrimage tour we joined in year 2000, to catch even just a part the three-day international music festival that takes place right in Manger Square every year at this time. Afterwards I'll join her on her “Journey of Faith” tour through the rest of the Holy Land.
It will be quite cold at Manger Square, but this will be equalized by the fervor and faith of the folks from all over the world who’ll fill up the vast plaza fronting the Church of the Nativity. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for this writer.
As a way to prepare myself for this trip to the Holy Land, I made it a point to catch the film “Exodus (Gods and Kings”) that’s showing in many theaters in Metro Manila. It is a marvelous remake of the “Ten Commandments” of Charlton Heston and is just so excellent that I felt quite bad and sad that there were few movie-goers in the theater I went to. I'd like to encourage you all to watch this film, which is about the liberation of the children of Israel from bondage of slavery of 400 years in Egypt, and how, by dint of God's Salvation plan for his people, He preserved Moses, son of a Hebrew family, and prepared him for his role as the leader who led them out of bondage.
As Exodus is a remake of Ten Commandments, the new film makers took some effort to change some aspects. For example, unlike Charlton Heston booming by the Red Sea which begins to churn up into mountain walls of water, the crossing of the Red Sea in the new "Exodus" is low-key and less dramatic: its waters just ebb away to let the Israelites pass, but then in the distance a gigantic tornado-type column of water twists and then, after the Chosen People had passed through, the column unleashes itself on the Egyptian army. All the Egyptians are killed, except for King Rameses who survives all by his lonesome (can you believe this?).
Moses in this remake is not the towering booming leader that Heston portrayed him to be, but a humble guy, portrayed by English actor Christian Bale, who appears often unsure of what the Lord is leading him to at every turn---which makes this new Moses so human.
You folks really have to see this film for the splendor of the sets amid Egyptian pharaonic splendor and Cecile de Mille type cast of thousands. Then there’s the stark beauty of the mountains where Moses (portrayed with enormous sensitivity by Bale, a former child-star) keeps his periodic rendezvous with God, who’s portrayed as a little boy who looks like our Santo Nino here.
Do not miss the new Exodus and revel at the mélange of 21st century cinematic technique, timeless story of faith, trials, heroism, love and the whole gamut of human emotions. At Bonifacio Global, Exodus will show until Dec. 24, if I’m not mistaken.
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