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Fr. Jejemon

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I don’t usually go to the movies especially during Christmas because of the Metro Manila Festival which in recent years have not been showing anything worth while. This year I made an exception for “Fr. Jejemon” and the reason is because it is a Dolphy starrer. Aside from the controversy that surrounded the movie — something that I will have an occassion to write about here — I also expected to see whether Dolphy has developed another memorable character. Who wouldn’t forget John Puruntong of the “John en Marsha” series. The character even gave the name to those ill-fitting knee-length short pants men love to wear as “pambahay”. Then there is also “Pacifica Falayfay”, the gay transvestite from the 60’s, a character for which Dolphy won — if I am not mistaken — a FAMAS award (but which Dolphy refused to receive).

“Fr. Jejemon” promised a character that — in Dolphy’s role playing — would stand out in the annals of Philippine comedy. Or so I thought. After all, the name itself, Jejemon, made me imagine an old priest who is “nagbibinata”. The term “jejemon” connotes a teenager’s texting quirks and the sub-culture that gave expression to it. But Fr. Jejemon (short for Jeremiah Jerome Montes) wasn’t “nagbibinata”, just an old priest who is attuned to the young. And noble too. And that is perhaps one of the big disappointments in the movie — there is nothing comic about Fr. Jejemon.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen movies where priests are funny or placed in situations that are comic. In Italy, Guareschi’s character of a small town priest (Don Camilo) is a funny character especially when he goes head to head with the communist “sindaco” of the town (Peppone). Dolphy’s character was not comic but it could have been comic if placed in a really comical situation. But alas, the story itself gives minimal opportunities for situational comedy.

The main plot of “Fr. Jejemon” is straightforward. Fr. Jejemon is assigned as Vicar to a parish in a town (or barrio?) called “Parmbil” (it should have been Parambil but in its welcome sign, the “a” between “r” and “m” got dropped). But a rich landlord — Mr. P (for “Patron” since he is the town’s benefactor) — is planning to have a golf course placed where the parish church stands. At the same time, the sister of the old parish priest — Fr. Baby — fears that Fr. Jejemon would drive her and Fr. Baby away from the parish convent which they have called “home” for a long time. The first part of the story involves the conflict between Fr. Baby’s sister and the new priest. The second part is about the way Mr. P tries to drive away Fr. Jejemon from his town so that he can have his way about the parish church. In between these two parts of the story, scenes that were supposed to be funny were inserted.

The story of a church building that needs to be eliminated in the name of progress is not new. The same situation already appeared in an episode of “Leverage”, a TV series about a group of thieves and swindlers led by Timothy Hutton who help the weak and unprotected get back what is rightfully theirs from the powerful and the rich. In this particular episode of “Leverage”, the character played by Timothy Hutton, an ex-seminarian, helps a classmate, now a priest, save his church from getting destroyed to give way to an entertainment complex. There are funny scenes in the episode which involved a “miracle” concocted by the team of swindlers. But the group’s break came via the confessional box when the assistant of the businessman who wants the church destroyed confessed to the Leverage team leader about his boss’s tricks and involvement in the attempt to scare the parish priest away through violence.

The story line of “Fr. Jejemon” could have been funny if the main character was like a Mr. Bean, ego-centric and socially inept. But he was not. Instead he was noble, sensitive to people around him and to the issues in which the parish is involved. In other words, he is a good priest. If he had a serious quirk, like a fanatical devotion to the Church or a commitment that borders on insanity against the Devil and Sin, then Fr. Jejemon could have been comical. In fact, his only quirk is his devotion to his mom which is expressed in the way he relates to her picture. That isn’t funny, only mildly so and almost “cute.”

Since the story line isn’t funny, funny scenes were inserted into the movie. Two of these scenes — both involving communion — was excised from the movie. The reason given was that both scenes were offensive to the majority religion. Let me add that both scenes, even if not cut off from the movie, would not have made the movie funnier. One of the scenes involved a consecrated host being dropped into the cleavage of a communicant. Now this is one of the cases theology students discuss in the seminary. The case is formulated thus: what would you — the priest — do if the consecrated host dropped into the cleavage of a communicant? Answer: You ask her to go to the sacristy and there, away from the public gaze, ask her to extract the consecrated host. The scene is realistic and can happen if the priest is already arthritic. It is funny but irreverent.

The other scene involves the dentures of a communicant. The priest succeeds in putting the host inside the communicant’s mouth but when he pulls his hand away, the dentures of the communicant go with it. It is unrealistic since the host is normally placed on the tongue. Besides, there is also the possibility of receiving communion by the hands. The scene too, is irreverent, since it makes fun of the act of communion.

The other scenes that remained weren’t all that funny: cocks fighting in the bed of Fr. Jejemon, Mr. P spitting water into the face of Moy and this one doing the same thing on the other Moy (Ok so I smiled at this, but it wasn’t that funny), or the suspect in a killing hanging on a chandelier while the chief of police is talking with Fr. Jejemon underneath him (this one is “gasgas” na). The exorcism scene involving Vandolph and another of Dolphy’s sons made me chuckle but that was all it could elicit from me.

In other words, compared to Dolphy films I once enjoyed in the past, “Fr. Jejemon” was not funny, or at least mildly funny. Pacifical Falayfay made me guffaw; so did John en Marsha. “Fr. Jejemon” presented the life of a priest well, but did not succeed in tickling my funny bone. I find my adventures at Maenza with Fr. Pietro, an old and cranky friar, and his sister “La Gioconda” funnier. But that is another story.

Originally posted 2010-12-30 18:19:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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