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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.

Apr 6, 2023



GROWING up in the 50s and 60s, the observance of Holy Week is so different from the way we do it today. 

Back then, on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Black Saturday, every business establishment closed down in deference to the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But now, times have really changed as some malls, supermarkets and even restaurants are open even on Good Friday.  

Then, TV stations do not operate while radio stations play only solemn classical music. Now, it’s business as usual. 

We remember some movie companies then would produce faith-based movies as their special Lenten presentations. 

We saw the lives of many saints being filmed then. Premiere Productions’ People’s Pictures offered “Santa Lucia” in 1956 starring Edna Luna (the original Dyesebel) as the saint who gouged her own eyes as a sacrifice for not renouncing her virginity and Christian faith.  

Another memorable Premiere Holy Week presentation is “Santa Rita de Cascia”, the first starring role of Rosemarie Gil in 1958 as a former wife who became a saintly nun and patron saint of the impossible. 

At LVN Pictures, they had “Dimas” with top matinee idol of the 50s Rogelio de la Rosa as the Biblical thief who was crucified along with our Lord Jesus Christ.  

With Sampaguita Pictures, they made omnibus movies with several stories with religious themes assembling their top stars of that era in one movie, like “Limang Misteryo ng Krus”, “Pitong Pagsisisi”, “Sa Hardin ng Diyos” and “Pitong Kalbaryo ng Isang Ina”. 

One of the most memorable Lenten films was “Marcelino Pan y Vino”, starring child actor Danilo Jurado as the orphan boy, Marcelino, who grows up in a monastery and befriends the statue of the crucified Christ that comes to life. Later on, Danilo will appear in an omnibus horror flick as Anak ni Satanas.

But the most unforgettable for us is “Kalbaryo ni Hesus”, made in 1952 by Lebran Productions. We cannot forget Johnny Monteiro then as Judas, with Norma Blancaflor as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the top contravida then Carol Varga as Mary Magdalene, and Jennings Sturgeon as Christ, directed by Carlos Vander Tolosa. 

It’s just too bad that we don’t have existing copies of these movies anymore, unlike in Hollywood where they were able to preserve their old films. 

Religious Hollywood movies we have seen include “The Ten Commandments” (shown for more than one year at Galaxy Theatre), “Song of Bernadette” (about the miracle at Lourdes), 

“Ben Hur” (there’s a remake but the original starring Charlton Heston is so much better), “King of Kings” (with Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus), “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”, 

and the most recent being “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson which became a worldwide hit in 2014.

Even now, Christian films are still being made by Christian filmmakers in the U.S., like those made by the Kendrick Brothers, Alex and Stephen. 

They have some very watchable films about couples whose marriage are on the rocks but saved by deepening their faith, like “Fireproof” and “War Room”. Also worth watching are the action-drama “Courageous”, the father-son relationship film “Show Me the Father” and the inspirational “Overcomer”.