“We go where the Church needs us”


(Speech delivered by Prior Provincial Fr. Dionisio Selma, OAR during the 1st Recoletos Film Festival organized by USJ-R and the Recoletos Communications, Inc. (RCI) at the SM Seaside City Cebu Mountain Wing Atrium last March 26, 2017)


[To the organizers and sponsors of this 1st Recoletos Film Festival: the Recoletos Communications, the University of San Jose-Recoletos, and SM-Seaside City-Cebu; to all the participating groups from all over the Philippines and the panel of judges; and to all of you—brothers and sisters: GOOD AFTERNOON.]

“We go where the Church needs us”—these are words of our Father, St. Augustine, that remain valid up to today. And this becomes our principle of engagement in the various areas of apostolate since the beginning of our existence as Augustinian Recollects, or Recoletos. From our monastic life (in Spain), we became missionary. That’s why Recoletos can be found in 19 countries worldwide. In the Philippines, we arrived in 1606, and we were assigned to difficult places far from Manila. Among these was Cebu where we worked since 1621. This means, in 2021, which is barely four (4) years away, Recoletos de Cebu will be celebrating its 4oo years of evangelizing presence in this Province.

And this 1st Recoletos Film Festival is part of the pre-Quadricentennial program.

“We go where the Church needs us”—because we believe that is where the Holy Spirit leads us to sow the seeds of the Gospel. Before, we simply worked in the parishes and mission areas. True, decades after its foundation, the Recoletos were involved in teaching, but that was informal and catechetical in nature. Only in the last century did our educational apostolate evolve into establishing formal institutions, like USJ-R (Cebu), UNO-R (Bacolod), or San Sebastian College-Recoletos (Manila, Cavite, and Canlubang)….

 Our schools have become fertile seedbeds as well as potent vehicles of propagating the values of God’s Kingdom to our stakeholders. As an example: this initial and “small-scale” attempt at holding the Recoletos Film Festival is partly due to the joint efforts of the USJ-R community, particularly its Department of Tourism and Journalism, to share in fulfilling the mission of announcing the Gospel and denouncing what is contrary to the Gospel.

“We go where the Church needs us”—because the Church wants us to be relevant in our response to the signs of the times. Admittedly, this is the first time that the Augustinian Recollects (or the Recoletos) embark on this highly technical sort of “apostolate”, I should say, although filmmaking and film-showing would fall under the general category of “communications apostolate”. This is the reason why I approved that the Office of the Recoletos Communications co-sponsor this endeavor.

On this account, I am reminded by the wisdom of Pope Francis who said: “It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal” (2016 World Day Communications).

God has programmed us to determine what is truly good and what is not, as we try to “re-present” through filmmaking the inescapable realities around us. In this meticulous effort of re-presentation, we take note of the spiritual, moral, and artistic concerns, and to hit the common values that we all share—whether you are Catholic, believers of another stripe, or simply people of goodwill.

Therefore, from the point of view of a Catholic institution that sponsors and supports such a film festival, it is a red flag to promote, either explicitly or implicitly, anything the militates against the standards of faith and morals, such as vigilantism, adultery, premarital sex, abortion, illegal drug use, etc.

In fact, in the guidelines for this film festival, participants are reminded to: (1) avoid portraying obscene shots and messages, (2) observe cultural sensitivity, (3) avoid harming people and animals during production, (4) violate intellectual property rights…

In other words, in every film (from the moment of its conception to its production, and to its exhibition/presentation), the moral and spiritual values underlying it must not only be linked to, but, above all, take precedence over, purely cinematic considerations.

This is the evangelizing dimension of the Recoletos Film Festival.

Outside and without this boundary, we commit, what Pope Francis calls—“the three sins of the mass media” (cf. Address of Pope Francis to the Workers and Directors of TV2000 on December 15, 2014). These “three related yet distinct sins” are: “misinformation, slander, and defamation”. Since slander is a “spoken” defamation, the third sin would refer to the “written or printed” defamation, or libel.

Misinformation is when we tell half-truths only, or concerned of being tactical in communication which is artificial and a form of dishonesty. On the contrary, let our communication—through film—be “parrhesia”, a Greek term to describe the Spirit-filled force behind the preaching of Christ and the Apostles which struck the hearts of unbelievers and brought them to faith in Jesus.

Slander (or spoken defamation) is committed particularly by those with tendency toward brevity in which complex matter is reduced to “short encapsulations” that erase all nuance and depth, doing violence to the original idea. It is not just about being “lost in translation”, but also being “lost in condensation”.

Defamation—or, in this particular case, libel, is worried about “making headlines”. Half-truths and soundbyte mentality are contributing factors. As an antidote to both kinds of defamation, the Pope recommends: “One must speak to the whole person: to the mind and to the heart, so that [people] learn to see beyond what is immediate, beyond the present moment…”

Finally, let us consider this Recoletos Film Festival as a showcase of both art and faith. In the language of Pope-emeritus, Benedict XVI, this could be a “via pulchritudinis” or “way of beauty” in which the combination of art and faith is valued as “our commitment to the men and women of our time to proclaim the Gospel, to proclaim the God who is Beauty and infinite Love” despite the lights and shadows happening daily in our world today.

While in the near future there shall come out specific guidelines and standards that set RFF apart from other film festivals, for now it is my ardent hope and prayer that this 1st experiment  will develop, with God’s blessing and your support and participation, into a creative force that “[will instill] in both the filmmakers and the audience the values of critical thinking and social responsibility” and, at the same time, “a path [that will] guide the mind and the heart to the Eternal, to elevate [us all] to the heights of God”.

My advance Congratulations to all of you for a job well done. May God bless you

CEBU CITY--As Josenian filmmakers gain recognitions in film festivals outside the campus, the University of San Jose-Recoletos administrators thought it was about time to give them an opportunity to showcase their works in their home turf.

That is why USJ-R, through the Department of Journalism and Communication (DJC), held the first ever Recoletos Film Festival in partnership with the Recoletos Communications Inc. (RCI) of the Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR), last March 26, 2017.

“Let us consider this Recoletos Film Festival as a showcase for both arts and faith,” said Prior Provincial Fr. Dionisio Selma, OAR in his speech during the program held at the SM Seaside City Cebu Mountain Wing Atrium.

RCI is the agent of evangelization and social transformation of the Order using the new media.

Dr. Nestor Ramirez, DJC chairman, said the department collaborated with Fr. Reynaldo “Boyax” Jaranilla, OAR, RCI president, to be able to put up a film festival for Josenians filmmakers as some of them are already making a name for themselves in local film fests.

Dr. Ramirez was referring to the recent exploits of Josenian filmmakers in this year’s Sinulog Film Festival where the best film and second best film awards were bagged by Josenians.

“Portal 40” directed by Josenian instructor Philip Lapinid IV won the festival’s top prize. Lapinid also won best director.

Meanwhile, “Sugilanon ni Lukas” by Josenian student filmmaker Niño Justin Tecson won second best film. Tecson’s other short film, “No Seguir”, bested 200 other entries to win the C1 Minute Top Student Film Award of Cinema One Originals film fest in Nov. 2016.


1st Recoletos Film Festival

The maiden edition of the Recoletos Film Festival went nationwide in scope as it attracted 29 short film entries from all over the country, said event organizers.

Mark Q. Lifana, a Broadcast Communication graduate of Dumaguete City’s Foundation University, bagged home the top prize as his entry “Bugas” (rice) won the best film award.

The film, which also won best editing, showcased the ironic truth in the life of a farmer who provides rice for the people but could not even provide for his own family.

Fr. Jaranilla said filmmaking is “probably the best venue we have to pursue our work of new evangelization.”

“The festival went beyond our expectation than simply sounding off our eagerness to prepare Recoletos constituents in harnessing their talents in filmmaking,” he said.


(See photo gallery for the full list of winners of the 1st Recoletos Film Festival)

Best Film: “Bugas” written and directed by Mark Lifana of Foundation University, Dumaguete City

Best Director: Kurt Fick for his short film “Piyong”

Best Cinematography: Earl Yap for “Experimental forest”, University of San Carlos

Best Musical Score and Sound Design: “Experimental forest”, University of San Carlos

Best Screenplay: “Sugilanon ni Lukas”, USJ-R

Best Actor: Dwight Devora of “Sugilanon ni Lukas”, USJ-R

Best Actress: Ashly Love Marzon of “Eyeglasses”, USJ-R

Best Editing: “Bugas”, Foundation University of Dumaguete City

Best Production Design: “Pochero”, USJ-R

Special Citation Award: “Memoria” of University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos


TAYTAY, PALAWAN--Four days of buoying up in the sea, with three stop-overs, and equipped only with some provisions, the needed technology to guide the voyage (CPs, GPS, map, compass), and prayers, Fray Joel “Notnot” Naranja OAR, together with 8 lay companions, aboard the boat named after St. Ezekiel Moreno, dared to cross the sea waters from the southeastern part of Negros to Casian island in Taytay, Palawan.

It was May 10, 2016 when Fray Naranja brought St. Ezekiel from his former chaplaincy (under the patronage of San Vicente Ferrer) in Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental to his new assignment in San Isidro Labrador Parish in Casian.

The said chaplaincy was an apostolate area under the Recollect community in Valencia, Negros Oriental where Fray Naranja was a member, and now the appointed prior of Recoletos de Casian community.

The crew were composed of three (3) other men: Tocles as the captain, Melecio as boat carpenter, and a certain Boboy as boat helper. Five (5) women saw to the needs of the entire odyssey. Two of them were from Apo Island’s Chapel Pastoral Council (CPC) officers and three were members of the Mother Butler’s Guild from the Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned in Valencia, Negros Oriental.

The beginning of the journey at 10AM from Malatapay in Dauin was smooth and uneventful when suddenly, a technical problem occurred. The group cast anchor at Tambobo Bay in Siaton, still in Negros Oriental, for an emergency repair. Sailing resumed after, and they arrived in Bayawan City in late afternoon, where they spent the night.

 Early the following day, May 11, at around 5 o’clock, the “little church” proceeded towards Maricalum Bay of Sipalay, Negros Occidental, crossed Panay Gulf that is shared by the islands of Negros, Guimaras, and Panay, until, at 1PM, they reached the silent town of Anini-y at the southern tip of Antique province. They rested here, replenished their provisions, and strategized their plans for the next challenging leg of their voyage.

 Again, they woke up very early of May 12 and left at 5AM en route to Cuyo. Father Notnot recalled how they were blest with good weather and a serene cellophane-like cobalt waters that carpeted the open sea to Cuyo archipelago. They landed in the población of Cuyo at 12 noon of that day. They underwent the usual inspection and interrogation as part of the standard operating procedures. They passed the grilling, thank God.

They stayed there, enjoyed the sightseeing of the similar sceneries they had back in Negros, and waited for the break of dawn to start afresh the last and the most exciting chapter of their travel.

On May 13, feast of Our Lady of Fatima, at 5AM, they bid goodbye to Cuyo and sailed towards their destination.

At long last, with grateful relief, they docked at 1:30 PM in front of the convent, after around 8 hours of navigation. St. Ezekiel would become a big help for local missionaries assigned in Casian especially during seasons of big waves and strong winds. Boasting of a passenger capacity of 50 persons, St. Ezekiel became the biggest of the four seacrafts for interisland mission works of the Recollects who came “again” here in 2009. (The other boats in this Recollect waterworld are the St. Nicholas which is medium-sized and can accommodate around 20 passengers, a two- to three-seater outrigger named Our Lady of Consolation, and a “dyonkong” which is the smallest and the fastest and used especially for emergency cases.

Three days after, on May 16, the parish in Casian celebrated its 7th patronal fiesta and the Recoletos community (composed of Fray Naranja, Fray Charlie Orobia as parish priest, and Fray Ken Oliver Lao as procurator), its 7th founding anniversary.

ANTIPOLO CITY—More than 36 religious “alumni” of the Pre-novitiate program of the OAR Province of Saint Ezekiel Moreno graced its 20th anniversary with a two-day period of prayer, reflection, and fellowship.

The celebration was opened in the morning of March 9, 2017 by Fr Emilio Edgardo Quilatan, OAR, the official church historian of the Province, with the presentation of the thumbnail history of the Pre-Novitiate. He said that the Program welcomed its auspices in 1998 to 11 candidates of whom six completed the formation cycle and two were ordained to the OAR priesthood.

Fr. Romeo Ben Potencio, OAR and Fr. Roweno Eugenio Hamo, OAR were the pioneers. The former was the first to be ordained among the so-called alumni in 2005 while the latter was just recently ordained.

Fr. Dionisio Selma, OAR, prior provincial, presided the thanksgiving mass. In his introduction he encouraged the brothers to pray for the recovery of Fray Philip Rollon, OAR (one of the Pre-novitiate program alumni) who met a car accident on his way to celebrate a funeral mass.

During the homily, the prior provincial focused his reflection on two significant points, namely, remembrance and gratitude. Remembrance of the memories of the past, and gratitude to people who shared their life and resources in the Pre-novitiate especially the two Pre-novice directors who have already gone back to heaven, Fr. Loreto Cesar Dacanay, OAR and Fr. Alberto Avanzado, OAR.

Two other erstwhile directors, namely, Fr. Regino Bangcaya, OAR, the first pre-novice director and Fr. Nicolas Salamanca, the third pre-novice director and now a diocesan priest of the Cubao diocese, also attended the celebration.  

Before the final blessing, Fr. Roland Cepe, OAR, the present pre-novitiate master, gave thanks to the participants on behalf of the SEMONORE community.

 An exhibit displayed in Bahay Lingkod-Recoletos guided the alumni in their journey back to the past. This exhibit unveiled memories of the pre-novitiate program in the past twenty years. Picture throwbacks, video presentation, art works and pre-novitiate trivia cramped the entire space of the building’s first floor. The room was filled with noise and laughter as the alumni browsed over their old pictures and recalled the stories behind them.     

At 12:00 PM, lunch followed. After a short rest, the participants readied themselves for the basketball game. They were divided into two groups—Recoletos of Luzon and Recoletos of Visayas. In a four-quarter duel of about an hour and a half, the Recoletos of Luzon team was declared the winner.

The first day of the anniversary celebration culminated with a get-together at the Villa San Ezekiel in Brgy. Pansol Calamba City, Laguna. The 50 seater-bus of San Sebastian transported the alumni from Antipolo to Laguna. They stayed overnight in the resort. They celebrated each other’s presence with sumptuous meal, videoke, swimming, more chats, and card games.    

The next day, March 10, 2017, the celebration continued. Many of the participants took advantage of the remaining hours to relax their bodies in the fresh and cool water of the resort’s pool.

At 11 o’clock in the morning, the participants assembled at the resort’s lobby for the closing liturgy—the Holy Mass presided by the newly ordained and one of the pioneer pre-novices, Fr. Eugenio L. Hamo, OAR. The short homily of Fr. Hamo recapitulated the very purpose of the anniversary celebration— gratitude.

After lunch, the delegates went home with new memories to keep and another anniversary celebration to look forward to.

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