Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Extinction of Virginal Roles

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I found this article while flipping through the morning paper, in the showbiz section of all places. It's definitely worth a read. Also, something absolutely humiliating happened to me today. Please pray that I may forget all about it soon. You may also read it through the website of The Philippine Star, which printed the article.

The extinction of virginal roles
by Butch Francisco, The Philippine Star

Today is the feast day of the Immaculate Conception and this is a major holy day of obligation in the Roman Catholic Church calendar. Here in the Philippines, Catholic schools don’t hold classes on Dec. 8 and all over the country a lot of fiestas are being celebrated in various parishes dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Also expect churches to be bursting at the seams today because devotees will be trooping there to hear mass from morning till evening.

Among Filipinos who lived through the brutality of the Second World War, Dec. 8, 1941 is one date they will never forget because that was the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor
(although it was only Dec. 7 in America that time).

In this predominantly Catholic country Dec. 8 should always have a personal significance because most school children receive their First Holy Communion on this day. I had mine Dec. 8 and the days leading to that was important because of the preparations: Purchasing the all-white attire and the black bowtie, the photo session at Bob’s studio — plus the daily practices on how to properly open the mouth to receive the Body of Christ. I hope I don’t sound sacrilegious, but I consumed packs after packs of paciencia — that tiny round cookie — a week before the actual First Communion just to get the ritual done right.

But outside of the fact that Dec. 8 is the communion anniversary for most of us (I don’t even know of anyone who celebrates that), this day is important because of our devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Maybe if I had the power to change my date of birth, I would have preferred to have my birthday on Dec. 8. The truth is, my mother actually started having labor pains on this day — around late afternoon — but I refused to come out of this world until practically 24 hours later.

It was a difficult delivery (sorry, Mom!) and my mother made sure I was aware of that while I was growing up. The story was that my head had already popped out, but my block of a body got stuck because obviously I was already top-heavy even at birth.

When I finally came out (head and body), it was already way past the feast of the Immaculate Conception, but was still in time for the feast day of Our Lady of Loreto. My parents, however, still didn’t bother to attach a Marian name to mine — unlike Lorna Tolentino and the late Rudy Fernandez, who named their son Renz Marion because their youngest child was born on Sept. 8, the birthday of the Blessed Mother.

Among the girls, a lot of Connies — from Concepcion — are celebrating their birthday today. And the Immas, too — although they should have been Inmas since the correct Marian term is Inmaculada Concepcion and not Immaculada Concepcion.

I am not sure if parents today still name their Dec. 8 born baby girls Concepcion — or the misspelled Immaculada. Perhaps they find the name too old-sounding by now — although they should remember that this is in honor of the Virgin Mother.

Times have really changed. Stage, movies and television hardly carry religious themes these days. While ABS-CBN airs daily the soap May Bukas Pa, which imparts moral values, I am honestly not comfortable referring to our Christ Savior as Bro.

And since we’ve stopped recreating religious tableaus in the entertainment landscape, there is no casting for Virgin Mary roles anymore. To begin with I can’t even think of a name among young female stars today who would fit the role.

In the past, we’ve had Norma Blancaflor (in Ang Messiah where a one-year old Tirso Cruz III played Baby Jesus), Gloria Romero (on stage and in films), Boots Anson-Roa (the late Rita Gomez would always kid her that she had all her children by immaculate conception), Charito Solis (in a Christmas episode of the old ABS-CBN’s drama series The Charito Solis Show) and even comedienne Aruray (I believe in a stage show when she was so much younger).

But what became of our young actresses? They’re not necessarily immoral, except that they have to be interesting to the public to stay in the race. It’s not their fault, except that some don’t listen to Ricky Lo’s perennial advice to celebrities: “Behave! Behave! Behave!”

Is media responsible for erasing the virginal image of most of these women? In a way, yes, because most movie reporters now have become so comfortable asking single female celebrities if they are still virgins — a no-no in the past and supposedly even in today’s polite society (but that population has considerably shrunk).

But you can’t blame everything on media. I believe it’s in the changing of the times — and technology: Cell phones where lascivious acts that are supposed to be kept private are recorded and shared with the whole world via MMS.

With all the competition, everyone should have something new to offer. In the process, values and sense of decency are sacrificed. An actress who can’t maintain lead status has to go sexy — with matching breast augmentation to flaunt around.

Unlike in the days when it was the norm for women to remain virgins until their wedding night, the female race of today gets embarrassed to admit that at age nearing 30, “they’ve never been kissed and never been touched.” It’s like a stigma to still be virginal at 25 for women nowadays. I can’t exactly pinpoint who is spreading this false notion, but truly we are sending the wrong signal to the public and to the young people.

Again, I am not moralizing because I can never talk about that with authority and conviction. But as a media person, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to remind young women — and the young men as well — that there is nothing wrong about being pure, chaste and immaculate

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