An American journalist who wrote about Cory Aquino in the '80s debunked director Darryl Yap's false claim that the late president played mahjong with nuns from the Carmelite Monastery in Mabolo, Cebu City, as shown in his Marcos movie Maid in Malacañang.
After drawing criticism online, including from the Carmelite Monastery itself, Yap doubled down and defended his work. Last Aug. 2, the Facebook page of Yap's studio "VinCentiments" shared excerpts of "In the Grotto of the Pink Sisters," written by Anne Nelson for Mother Jones Magazine in January 1988. He highlighted the words "Pink Sisters" and "mah-jongg."
“WALANG MADRENG NAGMAMAHJONG? MAID IN MALACAÑANG. MADE IN KATOTOHANAN,” VinCentiments wrote in its post. “Narito po ang bunga ng research ng Team Darryl Yap. In this 1988 Magazine (from Page 19), mababanggit po ang pangalan ng pinakamalapit na Madre kay President Cory, her name was SISTER CHRISTINE TAN, mababanggit din po dito na siya ay nagmamahjongg.”
This, however, is outright wrong.
In her piece, Nelson detailed how Aquino frequented the Grotto of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, where the "Pink Sisters" are, to meditate and pray. Aquino eventually became close to a certain Sister Christine Tan.
Tan “came from a family of means” in Manila before choosing to become a nun in the 1970s, according to the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
“She (Tan) had worked for years in the worst slums in Manila, and made something of a vocation out of revealing their horrors to women from her own comfortable background,” Nelson wrote. “Her tranquil voice would take on a slightly chiding tone as she’d try to convince the perfumed ladies, taking the afternoon off from the mah-jjong circuit, that the breeding grounds for such misery in their country ultimately could threaten their own well-being, too.”
Nothing in the excerpt explicitly said, nor remotely suggested, that Aquino and the Pink Sisters played mahjong.
Yap appears to have conflated the passage describing the "perfumed ladies" who are "taking the afternoon off from the mah-jjong circuit" Tan was interacting with, and thought it was her who did so.
Nelson herself set the record straight and called out Yap, attaching excerpts of her own work.
"In my 1989 article on Cory Aquino (see attached) I wrote 1) she visited the Pink Sisters to pray; 2) she was a friend of Sister Christine Yap; 3) Christine Yap gave talks to affluent women who sometimes played mah-jongg," she wrote on Twitter Aug. 4. "No mention of Aquino or Yap playing mah-jongg."
In my 1989 article on Cory Aquino (see attached) I wrote 1) she visited the Pink Sisters to pray; 2) she was a friend of Sister Christine Yap; 3) Christine Yap gave talks to affluent women who sometimes played mah-jongg. No mention of Aquino or Yap playing mah-jongg. pic.twitter.com/9U2IAc40Vk— Anne Nelson (@anelsona) August 4, 2022
Nelson also cleared things up in an email exchange with a concerned citizen, who directly asked her about the issue. She also confirmed the accuracy of the exchange whose screenshots have since made the rounds online.
In replying to a certain "Elmer," she wrote: "If you read the actual text (that you included), my piece says that Cory Aquino visited the nuns for the purpose of meditation and prayer. It then says that Christine Tan spoke to ladies 'from her own comfortable background' who played mah-jongg about the problem of poverty in the Philippines."
This post accurately represents my message to Mr. Baldesano and my statement about my article.— Anne Nelson (@anelsona) August 4, 2022
"It sounds as though Mr. Yap read the piece too hastily, and conflated two sentences," she continued. "There is nothing in it that says that the nuns played mah-jongg, with Cory Aquino or anyone else."
In another email, Nelson told user "an115": "Darryl Yap clearly did not read my article with much attention, and misrepresented what I wrote."
"Please—no one who has ever set foot in the Philippines would refer to the Sisters as 'perfumed ladies'!" she said.
Several bodies have already called out Yap and debunked his erroneous pronouncements, including Aquino's daughter Ballsy Cruz.
Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia, an ally of the Marcoses, also defended the Carmelites, saying she stands with them and condemns "any malicious attempt to malign them."
Maid in Malacañang will supposedly give Filipinos a look at “the last 72 hours of the Marcoses inside the Palace through the eyes of one reliable source," according to Yap. Critics have since sounded the alarm over supposed whitewashing, but Sen. Imee Marcos said there won't be any as the movie only seeks to "give additional information to the public."