Popular piety as bridge of faith and culture explored in “Fiesta” documentary

This Holy Week, witness how the beauty and mystery of our faith as a people come alive in our vibrant religious expressions in Fiesta: Ang Makulay na Pananampalataya ng mga Pilipino, airing at 10:30 pm on April 3 (Black Saturday), over GMA-7.

A very special documentary program presented by Jesuit Communications Foundation (JesCom) in cooperation with the Manila Cathedral, Fiesta captures the grandness and fervor of colorful festivals and processions that Filipinos are known for all over world such as the Sinulog in Cebu, the Peñafrancia fluvial parade in Bicol, and the Black Nazarene procession in Quiapo, as well as unique popular devotions like the pabasa, senakulo, and salubong that have been solemnly observed by grassroots communities  for countless generations.

According to Fr. Emmanuel Alfonso, SJ, executive director of JesCom, Fiesta is a pioneering documentary that is “perfectly timedfor the celebration of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.” He reveals that the production staff worked tirelessly for two years in filming some of the most beloved religious festivals and folk traditions across the country.

Aligned with the liturgical seasons, Fiesta captures the various religious practices that highlight the calendar of the church – from Advent to Christmas to Lent and Easter, as well as the Filipino people’s perennial devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in all her various titles and the various feast days of their patron saints.

“We wanted to create a documentary that will not only highlight the beauty of Christianity but also of how intrinsically linked it is to the Filipino culture,” explains JesCom creative director Pauline Mangilog-Saltarin.  “Fiesta is our gift to the Catholic Church and we hope it becomes a great resource for those who want to know more about the Catholic faith.”

Originally set to air last year, the project was not spared from the impacts of coronavirus restrictions. The producers had to wait for a more opportune time to share this labor of love with the viewing public.

With strict health protocols still in place, it has been a year since devotees have been able to participate in the country’s most beloved festivals, which are usually marked by enormous crowds and days of fanfare. This is an unprecedented occurrence in the life of the Filipino faithful who are known to continue observing traditional religious devotions zealously through periods of war, drought, and pestilence.

This realization fueled JesCom’s desire and commitment to air Fiesta in time for the commemoration of 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines –  as a way to help revive the Filipinos’ indomitable spirit of celebration and piety by reliving these festive and unifying moments within the safety of their homes.

Featuring over two dozen religious festivals and traditions across the country, Fiesta is a testament to how popular piety finds itself in the heart of Christian worship and how they can lead us to a deeper understanding of the Christian message.

With its lively visuals enriched by annotations from various scholars in theology, religion, and Philippine culture, Fiesta’s roster of resource persons is led by no less than the former Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, in his last local interview before leaving for Rome to assume his post as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

“We are pleased to collaborate with JesCom as part of the 500 Years celebrations in the Archdiocese of Manila,” says Manila Cathedral rector Fr. Reginald Malicdem.  “Jesuit Communications films are truly much awaited events,” he adds. “Having worked with them before, we are sure that Fiesta will truly be an important contribution to our colorful faith story.”

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