December 30, 2020 (7:36 PM)

3 min read


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Or so they say. Call it a blessing that I’ll no longer bother identify which parts in Joven Tan’s biographical ‘Suarez: The Healing Priest’ were from real accounts and which ones were inflated since some of its scenes such as that of a young anxious Suarez conjuring a flood in a nightclub demand viewers the same enormous amount of suspension of disbelief as its scenes where he is curing diseases side-to-side miraculously.

What should be an interesting life story on paper transubstantiated on film as a bland melodrama. Sprinkled with too many bishops, devotees, townspeople, families, etc. (which are two or three typecast actors more than necessary), the movie is disappointing in that the writers refused to include another notable controversy regarding his healing, missing the opportunity to tell a more compelling story and offer worthier insights on faith and belief.

Portrayed by a half-smiling John Arcilla (previously the hot-headed ‘Heneral Luna’), Fr. Fernando Suarez had lived quite a life. A chemical engineering graduate who became a faith healer in a Catholic priest hide, he gained popularity both in the country and abroad for his supposed abilities of healing and resurrecting the dead (making a paralytic walk again when he was 18 and reviving a woman after she was declared dead for eight hours, according to him), as well as amassing multitudes of disciples.

He was not without detractors however, them being the Church leaders themselves. Suarez started making headlines when some of his devotees fainted and died of exhaustion while lining up for his healing masses. In a heartbeat, his life with and without the garb was placed under media scrutiny. It was said he lived a luxurious life, loved tennis, and had some powerful friends. Alleged to have abused two minors, he nearly made it to the laundry list of sexual abuse cases by the Catholic clergy, but not until the Vatican cleared his name nearly two months before he lost his life while holding the racket.

Yet despite the movie including the allegations, the Suarez character was so easily redeemed and barely examined, the story of his unlucky devotees removed, that one could not help but call the biography film excessively self-serving. Towards the end we are shown testimonies of his cured ‘patients’ like a herbal product commercial, closing with the real Fr. Suarez praying over us through the camera (filmed before he passed).

The late James Randi, a renowned scientific skeptic who passed away two months ago once said that faith healers will never go away because people will always want the fantasy and the comfort. I may add that I believe their massive popularity in the Philippines reveals the country’s problems in healthcare and education. I’d even go as far as to say that releasing ‘Suarez in the middle of a pandemic is ill-timed and dangerous, most especially now that we need the public to listen to science and medicine. For a movie about healing, this might get some people sick.

End the silence of the gagged!

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