“Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir” may have failed in the box office and in getting trophies during the 25th Annual Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), but producers do not consider making a film out of the life and martyrdom of the first Visayan saint a bad investment.

The movie, directed by Francis O. Villacorta and produced by HPI Synergy Group, sought to educate Filipinos on the new saint’s sacrifices and persecution in defending and spreading the Catholic faith.

It narrates how young Jesuit missionaries, accompanied by lay catechist Pedro Calungsod (Rocco Naccino), was led by Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores (Christian Vasquez) in sailing to Guam to introduce Catholicism to the native Chamorros.

In a review on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) news website, writer Kris Bayos wrote that St. Pedro Calungsod was shown as a passionate young man whose primary goal was to bring God to the natives.

The film should help the audience realize that “sainthood is for everybody—including those who are young and simple yet faithful,” Bayos said.

Ida Tiongson, producer of the one-hour-and 47-minute film, echoed Bayos, saying the film portrayed the martyr as a young person facing typical teenage issues.

“Father Diego, who acted [as both] his father and mentor, straightened his belief that he is a young man who should also learn to enjoy life,” she said in an email to the Varsitarian.

The saint’s life was short and simple, but reminds Catholics, especially the youth, that they are capable of being martyrs in their own way.

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Profit-oriented films vs. evangelization

The film did not get any award despite being nominated for Best Sound, Best Music Score, Best Production Design, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Actor. It also trailed behind other films in terms of earnings.

Tiongson said the film was competing well with other MMFF entries in terms of viewers, but exhibition was suddenly cut to just 19 theaters from 45.

“Unfortunately, cinema owners understandably opted to rather show movies [where] they would earn more. They could have continued showing ‘Pedro Calungsod’ and still could have made a modest profit, but opted to get phenomenal profit by cutting us four films,” she said, also referring to other festival movies given limited screening.

However, Tiongson said the film did not fail in its core mission, and it would continue to become relevant even after the MMFF.

“The other movie outfits were all complaining about awards, demanding from MMFF and [complaining about] MMFF jury discrimination, among others, [but] we were at peace because we believe God is on our side,” she said. “We can continue to help in evangelization in months and even years to come.”

Through an endorsement letter to Catholic schools by Bro. Narciso Erguiza, Jr., president of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, Tiongson said different schools and communities had requested special screenings.

“We have people wanting to book us already for Holy Week and the St. Pedro Calungsod Canonization anniversary. We also have a TV network wanting to meet us also to discuss purchase of [the] film rights.”

Prepsters take debate crown

Some might think the movie was a “bad investment,” but Tiongson said she simply wanted to inspire the youth through the life of St. Pedro Calungsod.

“We knew it was going to be difficult from the start but [we] took the risk. Our group felt that if we did not earn, then it would be like tithing for us,” Tiongson said.

Calungsod was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21, 2012, making him the second Filipino saint. Angeli Mae S. Cantillana and April Joy E. Dy


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