with all its silence and stillness, i was already preparing myself to see intimations of ghostly creatures while watching the first quarter of aparisyon. imagine that feeling when you're watching a horror film, anticipating that the evil ghost will be shown anytime so that you won't get the jolt of your life. or at least just a little shock. that was how i felt. but when it ended, the combined force of all pinoy horror films (except shake rattle and roll 1, hehe!) ever produced was no match to the emotional tremor aparisyon provided. after all, it was all about guilt and sin contrasting with the supposedly sinless setting of a convent.
adorasyon is a cloistered convent set somewhere in rizal. headed by mother superior (fides cuyugan-asensio), the nuns are tasked to do a particular chore and are expected to be in deep silence and unbroken meditation and praying. sr. vera (raquel villavicencio) takes care of administrative duties while sr. remy (mylene dizon) goes out to sell the convent's herbal products. one day, sr. lourdes (jodi sta. maria), a novice was downed by severe toothache so remy was asked to accompany the novice nun to the town's dentist. this after remy knew of his brother's disappearance after a visit from her mother and younger brother. from then on, she attended regular meetings of activists in the town center with lourdes in tow. one night, on their way back to the convent, a group of bandits stopped the two nuns and raped lourdes.
the strength of aparisyon is in its haunting contrast of binary oppositions… a cloistered convent kept from any outside influences but was still affected by the milieu the bigger society was in; a nun devoid of any earthly desires being raped and getting pregnant in the process and the same nun thinking of having an abortion. the very convent the nuns were in should have shielded them from violence but the exact cloister prevented them from "doing the right thing" when that single act of violence happened. first, remy was able to escape but left lourdes in the hands of the rapists. this even when she was the reason why they were not able to go back right on time. as it was told, both mother superior and vera witnessed the incident but chose to remain silent throughout lourdes' ordeal. maybe because of self-preservation but one would initially felt that both senior nuns might have stopped the bandits from succeeding but eventually decided not to act on it. mother superior event went as far as preventing any investigation to take place reasoning that opening the convent would break the monastic routine. vincent sandoval, the director, was successful in leaving a mark of contrasting themes. the convent was supposed to be invulnerable from sins but the ordeal lourdes was in proved that even the most prayerful individuals are not immune from committing grave indiscretions.
redemption was especially hard to achieve. even when prayers are said many times over, the nuns seemed not to find peace and atonement. in one of the powerful scenes, remy allowed lourdes to slap her over and over. no words were ever said between the two but this scene was one of the film's strongest points. jodi sta. maria and mylene dizon are two competent actresses who deserve more important roles than playing fidgety characters on TV. vera (villavicencio also did a wonderful job here) did the traditional penitensya route by wounding herself to atone for her sins, sins of omission. but it was mother superior, despite her never-ending composure, who seemed not to have found inner peace even when she was deep in her meditation. cuyugan-asensio inhabited the self-control and self-assured mother superior but was intensely ruined by her guilt. when she was mistakenly seen as the devil by the previous mother superior now suffering from alzheimer's disease, her fragility became apparent.
guilt. aparisyon is all about guilt and the choices one makes in order to repent or atone for their so-called sins... or in some individuals, the choices they did not make. a silently potent film, a great work from sandoval and the cast.