Luckily, you don't have to settle for Holy Week movies that you (and your grandparents!) have seen over and over. Whether you're a Filipino who wants to reconnect with your roots, or a foreigner who has a good grasp of the national language of the Philippines, here are the best Filipino films you can watch in time for Easter.
Divine Mercy Sa Buhay ni Sister Faustina (Divine Mercy in the Life of Sister Faustina)
Starring: Donita Rose, Christopher De Leon, Liza Lorena, Paquito Diaz, Francine Prieto
Directed by: Ben Yalung
Summary: When Sister Faustina, a Polish nun, claimed that Jesus appeared to her to proclaim Him to the world as its savior, she was mercilessly ridiculed. Nonetheless, she was determined to fulfill her mission.
Even today, Filipino movies that star non-Filipino main characters are rare, so this film is particularly remarkable. Casting Donita Rose as the title character, Divine Mercy Sa Buhay ni Sister Faustina is a classic story of perseverance, redemption, and the importance of the 3 o' clock prayer habit.
Starring: Nora Aunor, Veronica Palileo, Spanky Manikan
Directed by: Ishmael Bernal
Summary: After having a vision of the Virgin Mary, a young woman from a poor, isolated village becomes a faith healer.
Considered one of the finest Filipino movies of all time, Himala swept many awards within and outside the Philippines: the 1982 Best Picture Award at the Metro Manila Film Festival, the 1983 Catholic Mass Media Awards, and the 1983 Bronze Hugo Prize at the Chicago International Film Festival, among others. With its insightful commentary on the role of faith in a society plagued by poverty and desperation, plus Nora Aunor's stellar performance as the main character, this film will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
Makiusap ka sa Diyos (Plead With the Lord)
Starring: Ruffa Gutierrez, Christopher De Leon, Gabby Concepcion
Directed by: Lino Brocka
Summary: Sister Dolores lived a peaceful nun's life, until a man rapes and impregnates her. Punished by her superiors for the incident, she leaves the nunnery to marry a man called Vince — only to realize that Vince has a dark secret of his own.
In the hands of a lesser director, the delicate subject matter of Makiusap ka sa Diyos would've been a mess. But Brocka manages to infuse his last masterpiece with nuance and insight, showing just how difficult it is for a woman in the Philippines to keep up with society's expectations of her.
Mga Mata ni Angelita (Angelita's Eyes)
Starring: Julie Vega, Gloria Sevilla, Amado Cortez
Directed by: Lauro Pacheco
Summary: A blind girl is given the eyes of the Virgin Mary, only to see how much suffering the world is really in. Instead of letting the suffering consume her, she chooses to search for her long lost mother, thereby changing the lives of everyone she meets.
As the movie that catapulted the late Julie Vega into fame, Mga Mata ni Angelita is a must-watch for fans of classic Filipino films. The movie was so successful, it inspired a TV series produced by GMA Network starring Krystal Reyes, Sheryl Cruz, Marvin Agustin, Tonton Gutierrez, Mark Herras, Isabel Oli, Paolo Contis, Carmina Villaroel, and Celia Rodriguez.
Starring: Coco Martin, Alessandra de Rossi, Angel Aquino
Directed by: Manny Palo
Summary: After the fateful eruption that covered Pampanga in lahar, a young man finds a coffin during a quarrying operation. The coffin happens to contain the body of a dead girl, who turns out to be a miracle in more ways than one.
Unlike most of the protagonists on this list, Sta. Niña's Marikit is no longer among the living. Still, the dead girl exerts a metaphorical pull on the people around her, as she becomes the center of a people's need to come to terms with their fate. This is especially apparent in Pol (Coco Martin), who struggles with a string of bad luck — like being torn between his wife and mother-in-law — and pins his hopes for a better life on the girl's corpse.
- The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille) - A classic must-watch for Holy Week in the Philippines. Based on the story of Moses, the movie stars Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, and Anne Baxter, among others.
- The Prince of Egypt (Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells) – Another, albeit animated take, on the Exodus story. Has a star-studded cast including Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Sandra Bullock. Music by Hans Zimmer.
Any other Holy Week movies you'd recommend, Filipino or otherwise? Sound off your recs in the comments!