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Surviving the flood

Religious leaders in the United States, it’s said, are “divided” over their verdict on “Noah,” a huge Hollywood blockbuster that tells the story of the biblical boat-builder. It is Noah, with the help of his family, who rescues humanity and much of creation from destruction after God decides to eradicate much of the world due to the sinfulness of Man. Guided by visions, Noah builds an Ark to house his family and pairs of animals to help them survive a great deluge that the Lord will be sending down, and repopulate the Earth anew.

The conflict among religious leaders revolves around concerns that the movie is not “Biblical” enough, since it introduces many elements (such as the names of Noah’s family members) that are not found in the brief Biblical telling. In the Middle East and other Muslim countries, “Noah” has been banned outright, mainly because of the Islamic injunction against a human portrayal of Biblical figures, including Noah.

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Certainly, those of us familiar with the outlines of the story of Noah—the building of the Ark, the pilgrimage of animals entering the Ark in pairs, the Great Flood, the significance of a dove with a tree branch in its mouth, and the emergence of a rainbow as a symbol of God’s renewed promise to humanity—will find many puzzling, indecipherable elements in the movie.

While those weaned on grade school biblical tales view Noah as a largely paternal figure, in the movie, Russell Crowe presents a more robust, masculine, and obsessive Noah, one convinced that his mission from “the Creator” is not just to save creatures from dying in the flood but also (spoiler alert!) to ensure that all of mankind will disappear when his youngest son passes away.

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Thus “Noah” is much darker, brooding and frightening than our childhood memories of this story. But it is also chock-full of thrilling special effects, action and passion—not the usual fare in so-called “bathrobe epics.”

I personally found the movie to be rather ponderous and slow-paced for my taste, but those in search of a more thoughtful and challenging treatment of Biblical stories will find a lot to chew on.

A special shout-out, too, to Emma Watson, portraying Ila, a survivor whom Noah adopts but on whom the central conflict turns when she becomes pregnant by Noah’s son Shem. I can’t think of any young female star who could have portrayed Ila with the same level of maturity, energy and gravitas as Watson, and it feels good to realize that for actors, there is life after Harry Potter, after all.

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Part of our “field trip”—an orientation on how the “4 Ps” program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development functions; followed by a “sensing journey” among some “4 Ps” families—was a “Festival of Success Stories” prepared by DSWD staff in Region 3.

“It’s just a simple attempt to tell the stories of our beneficiaries,” explained DSWD Region 3 Director Adelina Apostol. “We did not have enough money to spend on cameras and other equipment,” she recalled, “but with the help of academe in the region, and the use of cell phones, we were still able to produce these videos.”

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It’s an impressive-enough “festival,” showcasing 10 presentations prepared by staff in the provinces of Bataan, Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Aurora. Collectively, they titled the Festival “Pamilyang Pilipino: Itawid, Isulong, Itaguyod (The Filipino Family: Bridge, Promote and Support).”

Though widely varying in terms of production quality and clarity, the videos presented moving, elating, eye- and heart-opening stories of the families’ journey from “survival” to “subsistence,” to “self-sufficiency.”

Joining us were DSWD staff from all over the region, excitedly awaiting the film showing and cheering lustily before and after each video production.

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“Diploma” is narrated by a young man in Bulacan telling his mother’s story, her journey from a poverty-stricken youth who as a child would walk to and from school; and after having to leave school prematurely, struggled to provide for her family’s needs. But as a “4 Ps” mother, she is able to send her children to school, and with help from the National Housing Authority is qualified to own her own small dwelling, find a job through Tesda, and—wonders—is finally able to earn a diploma in education, qualifying as a teacher!

“Which is why,” says her son, the narrator, “she has inspired me to stay in school and seek a diploma for myself.”

From Aurora comes the story of a group of boys engaged in the hazardous work of harvesting coconuts, scampering up trees without safety gear or nets, and selling their harvest for P1 a coconut. But when their families join the “4 Ps” program, the boys are encouraged to leave their dangerous occupation, attend school regularly, and even begin to dream of working as policemen and soldiers.

“Gapas” meanwhile introduces Marilou Francisco, a single parent with two school-age children. She dreams of sending her children to college. But to do so, she realizes, she must leave the country and seek work abroad. “Masakit pero kailangan (Painful but necessary),” she states, while her boy and girl quietly sob behind her.

More hopeful is “Baon,” the story of Merly Dastor who, before her family joined the “4 Ps” was hard put to send all her seven children to school, sometimes sending them to walk to the nearby school without an allowance. But after joining “4 Ps” and becoming a parent-leader, Dastor avails of a loan to buy piglets and successfully raises the pigs with the help of her husband and children. The closing scene shows her happily sending off her children who cheerfully walk away with an allowance in their pockets.

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TAGS: ‘noah’, 4ps program, column, DSWD, review, Rina Jimenez-David
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