Past controversy involving healing priest almost drove John to back out of biopic | Inquirer Entertainment

Past controversy involving healing priest almost drove John to back out of biopic

By: - Reporter
/ 12:50 AM December 17, 2020

John Arcilla

John Arcilla admitted that he got “cold feet” and almost backed out from playing the “healing priest” Fernando Suarez after doing his research and stumbling upon a past controversy involving the clergyman.

He was referring to the sexual misconduct case filed against Suarez for allegedly molesting minors in 2014—an accusation he was absolved from by the Vatican in January this year.


“When I was waiting for the script, I looked him up and saw the controversy … I wanted to back out; I suddenly got cold feet. I thought, ‘I don’t want to be a mouthpiece to justify other people’s issues,” John related in a group interview for “Suarez: The Healing Priest,” an entry in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).


“I wanted to come up with an alibi to turn down the project without putting my word of honor into question,” John added. “It was a difficult situation for me.”

But at the same time, the seasoned character actor didn’t want to jump to conclusions without meeting Suarez in person. He wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. And so, he requested a story conference with the priest.

He hoped to study the priest’s demeanor, he said. But his real goal was to hear Suarez’s side.

“But when I arrived there, the atmosphere was positive. What I saw in him was a normal person telling stories—not the larger-than-life figure delivering homilies,” he said of Suarez, who was popularly known for leading a ministry of healing and holding healing Masses and retreats, both here and abroad.

“He didn’t use his words or charisma. He didn’t try to justify himself. He wasn’t defensive. I saw honesty and sincerity in him, which made me embrace the project,” he related.

Dante Rivero (left) and John Arcilla

It also helped that the news of Suarez’s acquittal came a week after the film’s script was finished. “He was vindicated and acquitted by the Vatican,” John pointed out. “I felt I was vindicated, too, because I embraced the project out of trust in what I saw and heard from him.”


Directed by Joven Tan and produced by Sarangola Media Productions, the biographical film delves into Suarez’s discovery of his “gift for healing” at the age of 16, and how he used it for the welfare of others. Suarez was invested in the creative process early on; it was actually him who chose John for the role, because he was a fan of the actor’s performance in the historical biopic “Heneral Luna.”

However, Suarez will never get to see the final product. In February this year, just as work for movie was about the wrap up, the priest died of myocardial infarction while playing tennis.

“While I was doing the film, I feel I was getting closer to him as a friend—even now in his absence. It was in experiencing Fr. Suarez’s life and saying the words he said that made me more aware of who he is,” he related. “He loved being a priest. For him, his vocation and the responsibility attached to his priesthood was the most precious gift God had given him,” he said.

“He was aware of his charismatic and healing ability, but believed that those abilities came from God,” he added. “He said that he was just a channel, and he didn’t claim his ability as his own.”

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

John believes that he offers a timely and relevant message. “Our world is in crisis. There is social unrest in parts of the world, including our land. People are getting anxious and sick; sad and hopeless … It’s time for introspection and to listen to the stillness of our core as humans,” he pointed out. “We can find God in our stillness, in our core.”

TAGS: John Arcilla

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.