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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Dec 21, 2020



JOHN ARCILLA hit the jackpot when he played a real life character in “Heneral Luna”, a critical and box office hit that won him several awards. 

He now gets to play another real life character in “Suarez, The Healing Priest”, the true story of Fr. Fernando Suarez. 

John started with theater then branched out into films like “Ligaya ang Itawag Mo sa Akin”, his first break on the big screen, and “Kuwaresma”, where he was paired with Sharon Cuneta. 

Last year, two of the films he starred in were topgrossers: “The Panti Sisters” in the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino and “Miracle in Cell No. 7” at the Metro Manila Filmfest. Now, he has an entry once again “Suarez”, where he plays the title role. 

At the press preview, John was teary eyed after the screening. 

“Iyak ako ng iyak kasi naaalala ko si Fr. Suarez,” he says. “When the movie was first offered to me, I don’t know much about him, so I googled him and when I learned na he’s involved in a controversy concerning a sex scandal, I almost backed out. 

"But I requested to meet him in person muna, then I will decide. I want to hear the truth from him directly. So sa storycon, he talked about it, but he wasn’t defensive at all. 

"I liked his attitude na total submission to his faith and his vocation as a priest. He said: ‘Bahala na ang Diyos sa akin. I know he will not forsake me.’ I felt his sincerity of total surrender kay Lord. Napakatotoo niya, very positive na tao.”

He was so impressed he asked Fr. Suarez what’s the best way to portray him on screen. 

“Sabi ko, how can I portray you on screen, puro ka positive. How can I make your character more interesting? Didn’t ever come to a point na gusto mo ng sumuko sa mga akusasyon sa’yo? 

"But in the movie, it’s shown that God must be favoring him kasi he met so much resistance from the other priests. 

"He was sent away for disciplinary action, for rehabilitation, at pagdating niya doon, bumagyo, natanggal ang buong bubong noong venue na parang tutol ang langit sa ginagawa sa kanya. I also watched videos of his homilies and it’s really mesmerizing.”

He must have been so shocked when Fr. Suarez suddenly collapsed while playing tennis and passed on February 7, 2020. 

”Lahat kami, sobrang shocked. The film was only about 90 percent finished then. He appears as himself in the final sequence of the movie and he was the one who requested na unahin na siyang i-shoot doon. Parang farewell niya. 

"But he has seen the rushes at pangarap niya talaga, mapasali ito sa summer filmfest last April, na hindi natuloy because of the pandemic. I’m sure he’s glad na kasama kami ngayon sa Metro Filmfest. 

"When he met, I asked him to pray over me and he touched my head at nakita ko yung face ni Jesus. That helped in healing whatever issues we had in our family. I hosted a reunion in Palawan where 70 members of our family attended at naging very positive ang result noon for everyone. ”

He says Fr. Suarez died on February 4, just three days before his 53rd birthday. 

“Usapan namin, kakanta ako sa birthday niya, but hindi na nangyari. Iyak ako nang iyak while watching the movie as I’m so happy to be a part of his journey. He’s from Taal and when we were shooting the film, naabutan pa kami ng Taal eruption in January. 

"About the scandal, he was vindicated because the boys who accused him recanted their testimony and he was then cleared by the Vatican. I felt na vindicated din ako when I accepted the movie. Andami niyang taong natulungan, makikita nyo when you watch the film.”

He’s glad to play a positive character like Fr. Suarez after being hated by the public for his villain role in “Ang Probinsyano”. How do people react when they see him in public? 

“They call me as my character, si Tito Renz or si Hipolito. Siempre, may nagsasabing buwisit na buwisit sila sa’kin, but I think, people now, tanggap na nilang acting lang yon. Maski mga bata nga, nagpapa-picture with me kapag nakikita nila ako, so they know I’m just playing a role.”

It’s good he finished “Fr. Suarez” before the corona lockdown was imposed in March. 

“Kasi after that, puro lock in taping na kami sa ‘Ang Probinsyano’ on location sa Batangas. Naka-fifth lock in taping na kami. After each taping, bakasyon kami ng two weeks before we do another lock in taping again.”

Aside from “Suarez”, John has two other movies in the can: “On the Job 2” with Dennis Trillo for Erik Matti and “A Hard Day” with Dingdong Dantes. 

Don’t miss John’s fine portrayal of the late priest in “Suarez, The Healing Priest”, which you can download on Upstream.ph for only P150.00. Next, we’ll do a full review of the movie.