Forgiveness truly is the most difficult virtue to impart as we would forget the worst wrongdoing committed against us in our intention to move on with our lives in peace.
This is among the pillars of our faith in God, with religious leaders and vicars constantly reminding us of its sublimity and practicality as it helps us handle the pains that we bear out of the ordeals that came out of it. But putting it into practice is utterly burdensome, as we deal mostly with ourselves in appeasing our anger, having the heart to carry the hurt and heal ourselves of it, and eventually forget, all in the aid of faith.
In the Maalaala Mo Kaya episode “Bible” on Saturday, January 24, we witness the drastic turnaround of the once street thug and gangleader Bert (Nash Aguas) to become a church pastor who excruciatingly personified the virtue of forgiveness.
Bert is the son of a feared and respected barangay captain (Bart Guingona), who raised him to become tough and merciless. While he did look up to him for his braggadocio, it didn’t take long before he and the rest of his family would fall victim to it. His father would leave them for another woman, and this left him in tatters, making him and the rest of his siblings fend for their family.
This led to Bert making a living selling ice candy, facing the brutality and harshness of life on the streets. Just like his father, Bert became the fearsome, ruthless brawler who would take down anyone in his path. Yet, when he saw a fellow vendor, Dodong (Francis Magundayao), being roughed up by a pair of hooligans, he would beat them to a pulp. This started their close friendship, with Bert learning that he and Dodong share a lot in common, especially having their fathers absent in their lives, and being quite close and protective of their mothers.
A day came when Bert was told to rush to a hospital to see his ailing mother, only to find out that she died. He would blame himself for not being by her side as she suffered and further took his father to task for not even caring about it. Amidst it all, there was still Dodong, who would cheer him up and encourage him to move on.
But when an uncle offered him to oversee a food and refreshments stand in another place in exchange for financing his schooling, Bert took it to forget the pain of losing his mother. But this meant also leaving Dodong behind, which his loyal and best friend bewailed, lamenting that there would no longer be anyone to protect him. When he settled in his new location tending his uncle’s business, he would time and again think of Dodong and how his friendship meant to him.
Then another tragedy struck. Bert would then hear the news of the heinous crime that befell his father, when unknown assailants barged into his house and shot him to death. While he hated his father for leaving his family, he said he would avenge his father’s death.
While his brother knew who might have killed him, they kept mum knowing how it would trigger Bert even further. But Bert would still try to find the perpetrators and in so doing sought to find Dodong, who was now nowhere to be found.
Amidst all the anger and loathing for those who took his father’s life, vowing to soon exact revenge on them, Bert would find a consoling figure in his brother Rey (Jomari Angeles), who had since become a Bible teacher and a church pastor. Rey would discourage Bert in his attempt to join the military as this would further enflame his anger and worsen his violent behavior to those who have wronged them, especially those who killed their father. Rey asked him, why not just forgive them and this would not be for those who did the crime, but for himself to achieve inner peace. But Bert would have none of that and insisted to become a soldier to make him even well-equipped to exact revenge.
Bert would then face his most formidable opponent, not even his brute strength could overcome—a life threatening illness. When he was brought to a hospital due to his bout with dengue, Bert would encounter near-death. At this point, he would see the light, literally and figuratively. After recovering, Bert and Rey met again, with the latter asking him about the experience. Bert told him that he saw how God taught him to embrace and follow the light amidst all the darkness, encouraging him to lead a new life without the anger and hatred that dictated his life.
Since then Rey helped Bert reform his outlook and beliefs, and brought him to Bible classes. With Rey’s guidance, Bert also became a pastor in the community, evangelizing the Word of God to even his former enemies in the streets, who would further respect him not as a fearsome figure but as a saving grace.
One day, as Bert was strolling by his friend’s Dodong’s place, he noticed him in the vicinity on a drinking spree with friends. He approached him, telling him how happy he was to see him again after so long, yet despite the joy felt seeing him again, Dodong was grim and desolate. Bert asked what was wrong, but Dodong asked him if he could be excused since he had things to do. But Bert insisted that he tell him what was wrong.
Dodong then made a confession that would break Bert into bits. He said he was part of the gang who killed his father in their attempt to steal the wage money he allotted for his business. Bert shook in anger hearing Dodong, who said that even as he tried to stop his gangmates from victimizing his father, they still carried out the killing since they would target him and his mother next if it didn’t happen. Bert would then explode in fury over Dodong’s admission, telling him how he really wanted to find and take revenge on those who murdered his father and tried to even look for Dodong for consolation and help in doing so, but it was his best friend all along who was among those who killed his father. This totally made him livid and furious at a remorseful Dodong, even trying to throw a punch at him, but he would then control his anger, and pacify himself, reminiscing how their genuine friendship mean a lot to him. Above all, his faith in God has now fully taken over his life, and this made him tell Dodong, “Pinapatawad kita,” adding that any anger or hatred would not bring his father back to life and that it was enough that the image of his dead father would remain in their conscience forever.
Bert would still invite Dodong over to his house and tell him that he will prepare a hearty meal for them to celebrate their reunion. When that day came, Bert waited for Dodong to arrive, but his trusty, ever loyal friend never came. Bert would soon learn that Dodong still went with his gang and tried to rob a passenger bus with a soldier as a passenger, in which an “encounter” ensued. Dodong had been killed in the incident, again leaving Bert in tatters, thinking that he could have done more in persuading Dodong to lead a new life, and saving him from his demons. But Bert said Dodong remains in his thoughts and prayers and that his late friend continues to encourage and motivate him as a pastor and hontai judo instructor.
Indeed, MMK “Bible” shows how such an honorable, helpful virtue takes much inner strength and deepest faith, and not brute force, to make it real. Superb elements in the production, such as the masterful direction of Dado C. Lomibao, made it even more impactful and affectual, especially with the brilliant performances of the cast.
Francis Magundayao showed a believable and relatable personification of a clueless, gullible individual, who depends on others for strength, direction and meaning, even with his delightful and fun persona. While he may personify weakness, he defines it with a genuine, natural characterization that actually teaches people to go the other way.
Nash Aguas again shows his immense, intense dramatic depth as an actor, really fathoming the pitfalls and complications of his character. His powerful portrayal is very much felt by the audience and gives a resounding, piercing impact onscreen. We can truly figure out the personal grudges and inner conflicts he faced in his eventual reformation, from a being an “eye-for-an-eye” brawler to an amiable, forgiving pastor.
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