Carmel nuns speak out against lies in film


Sister Mary Melanie Costillas, OCD, and her congregation of Carmel nuns in Cebu have spoken out about what they feel is a malicious lie in the movie Maid in Malacañang, involving them and the late President Cory C. Aquino.

The scene in the said film shows the Carmel sisters playing mah-jongg with Cory at the height of the breakaway coup of Juan Ponce Enrile and Gen. Fidel Ramos happening in Manila.

The truth is, Cory with youngest daughter Kris,  Ramon Mitra (later to become speaker of the House), her brother Peping Cojuangco (now deceased), and her best friends from Cebu, Tony and Nancy Cuenco, sought refuge from the supporters of then President Ferdinand Marcos in the sanctuary of the Carmel convent. Cory felt safe with the nuns and it was the first time the convent allowed males to stay within their holy walls! The prioress at that time was Sister Aimee Ataviado.

It was also a dangerous situation that the nuns placed themselves in. They were “targets” too for harboring Cory but they stood their ground and welcomed her and her party to the convent.

 “The attempt to distort history is reprehensible. Depicting the nuns playing mah-jongg with Cory is malicious,” says Sr. Costillas. “It would suggest that while the country was in peril, we could afford to leisurely play games. The truth was that we were praying, fasting, and making other forms of sacrifices for peace in the country and for people’s choice to prevail.”

After her presidency, Cory visited the Pink Sisters (Carmel) convent in Tagaytay and my husband and I were blessed to have been invited to go with her. It was a beautiful visit and she gave a talk to the congregation, reiterating her gratitude for their prayerful support.   

It’s so disheartening why some people have to resort to making up falsehoods to diminish the reputation of some people for their own intentions. I remember the late columnist of another paper (who was handicapped) bragging in his column how he often played mah-jongg with President Cory in Malacañang during her presidency.

This was a lie as Cory never played mah-jongg in the Palace. Her daughter Ballsy just came out with a statement for that fairy tale to rest and the sad part is this particular columnist never recanted his lie. 

In the case of the Carmel nuns, the lie about them and Cory is deliberately evil. As they also pointed out, most of the nuns are still alive. The very least the filmmaker could have done was to ask them if such a scene ever transpired.

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The death of former president Fidel V. Ramos earlier this week marked the end of an era. FVR helped changed the course of Philippine history by breaking away from Marcos and, later, by refusing to join the coups mounted against President Cory by the rebellious RAM soldiers egged on by Juan Ponce Enrile.

Fidel V. Ramos stood behind his president and this was a vital factor in her decision later on who to anoint as her successor—then House Speaker Ramon Mitra, a loyal ally, one of Ninoy Aquino's close friends, or General Ramos?

Against the advice of many of her seasoned political- allies, Cory chose the general and campaigned for him as much as her schedule allowed her. She made it clear to her close-in media she expected us to do the same for “steady Eddie.”

“We need a president like Ramos after our term,” she declared to her inner-circle. Well, FVR won and delivered a good government and emerged after his presidency as a statesman.   

FVR was a gentleman and a jovial friend. He was strict about his work and called everyone in his staff to work according to his standards. He will be missed. My family has a special bond with him and his predecessor as he and Cory were marital sponsors to our daughter Sandee's wedding to Andrew Masigan.