In most things we do, we choose to always come from a place of love and compassion. But, when someone gravely sinned against us and those dear to us, we tend to reappraise this principle. Sometimes we set aside the good in us, and sometimes we try to understand our wrongdoer better. But how tight can someone in a battle between her heart and mind’s judgment hold onto forgiveness and radical love?
Radical Love: Cherry Pie Picache’s pathway to forgiveness
A Filipino documentary film feature called Radical Love narrates actress Cherry Pie Picache’s journey to forgiveness. In her fulfillment of the scenes, she takes the viewers to the meaning of the radical love she found as she goes through the grieving process of her mother’s death.
ABS-CBN News worked with Pie for the documentary for two years. And along the process, the project encountered a lot of challenges. They almost did not proceed with it as Pie went through another wringer. Her mind was having a hard time understanding what her heart urged her to do: forgive her mother’s assailant.
In a robbery gone awry, Pie’s helpless mother lost her life
In 2014, the actress’ 75-year-old mother, Zenaida Sison, was found lifeless in her house. The offender was her trusted beauty helper, Michael Flores. 12 hours had passed before the incident was discovered. It was when Pie called Zenaida on a rainy night and failed to get a sigh back. She immediately felt that something bad might have happened to her.
Losing a loved one is, in itself, painful. Even more, it was indescribable for Pie and her family when she was brutally taken away from them. The actress was unable to work for a year after the incident.
“Forgive us our sins us we forgive those who sinned against us”
The irony wasn’t lost on Cherry Pie, an anti-death penalty advocate. For 13 years, she was active in the prison ministry. So, it hit her hard when it happened to her mother.
“I’ve been helping the prison volunteers, those who take care of our prisoners. When that happened, I stopped volunteering. I refused to give all kinds of support and communication,” Cherry Pie shared.
The line, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sinned against us,” eventually made see her through the faith-crushing ordeal. However, it was not as easy as it seemed because the crime involving her case was far from venial.
Nevertheless, when the actress’s faith went through a tough test following the incident, it was by that line from the Lord’s Prayer she found the glimmer of light.
“I still sin and fail Him every day. I realized how can I possibly ask for forgiveness when I cannot forgive and when there’s so much pain and hatred in my heart?” Pie said.
Realizing she wanted to take out the inherent goodness in her heart by forgiving the assailant of her mother five years after, Pie would also face a lot of hesitations. She kept asking God to take over the long and hard process.
“I must admit that looking back, bumabalik yung galit, yung sakit. Actually yung thought na gusto mong maghiganti.”
What also helped her to gain enough understanding of the dark side was confiding with her spiritual mentors. She then decided to give talks to different parishes and organizations about forgiveness. These introduced her pathway to forgiveness.
From different perspectives: The unglamorous act
The documentary featured several perspectives. While members of Pie’s family respect her act of forgiveness, it isn’t a sentiment that most of them support. Her brother, Erwin Herrera, couldn’t do the same but still supported Pie. In a shared conversation with Pie, he would tell her, “It was you, not me. You have this advocacy, belief, and inner sanctuary, but I’m not.”
The director of the documentary, Joey Reyes, who couldn’t believe such a thing was genuinely a person’s motive, also shared his perspective in the documentary.
“I never imagined Cherry Pie to have that in her heart because I know I don’t. It must take a tremendous amount of thought, emotions, and love of God to be able to do that.”
Michael Flores in disbelief of Pie’s bold move in an enlightening perspective of coming to terms with her grief
The assailant told the story of his journey of realizing his sin and accepting that he had once done an evil act. It included his cognizance of facing the consequences of it. At first, it didn’t help him, perhaps hardened further by the cruelty and ruthlessness of his deeds seemed like he wasn’t eager to seek forgiveness.
“May times na ano… di ako makatulog (at) makakain. Lalo na kapag nakakakita ako may dalaw na feeling ko ka-edad niya tapos parehas niya ng gupit. Naiisip ko si mother ‘to.”
Incredulous of the act, Michael thought Cherry Pie was out of her mind. At some point in the docu, he said he didn’t expect her to forgive him after what he did to the family matriarch.
“Hindi nga ako humihingi ng tawad sa kanya noon kasi iniisip ko kung ako ang ginawan niya ng ganito hindi ko siya papatawarin. Ganun rin ang tingin ko sa kanya,” he said.
When the actress finally came face-to-face with Michael, it was hard for her to pull off her ultimate act of kindness. “Kinuha mo mommy ko,” Pie told him as she sobbed quietly.
“Diyos…,” she later added, in between tears, as if explaining to the broken man how she managed to find solace in forgiveness.
Her pathway to forgiveness through giving talks made her discover that it was restorative justice she was doing – the restoration of her healing as a victim and the reformation of the offender.
Pie was grateful for the platform. It was an opportunity for her to share inspiration. Because of God’s grace, she was able to restore and help one human get back to his dignity. So, for the rest of his life, even though he’s suffering the consequences of the evil he has done, Michael will be able to return to God with his dignity intact because he was basically made good and deserves a second chance.
She was not coming from the idea of romanticizing the act and just letting the evil-doer escape from the consequences.
It’s called radical love because it is uncommon or not easy to do and give. It’s radical. Pie’s journey was difficult. It is difficult to continue to love somebody who has hurt her and her loved one so much.
“Ngayon na pinatawad na kita sana patawarin mo na rin yung sarili mo. Tsaka sana magkaroon ka ng confidence na pinatawad ka na ng Diyos.”
“Kahit napatawad na kita kailangan mo pa rin ituloy yung consequence ng ginawa mo,” Pie’s last words to him, leaving the prison.
To this day, Michael Flores is in Muntinlupa Jail, serving the repercussions of his act. The Lord honors the Law of the land. Still, justice must be served.
Micas pursues writing and photography as a hobby and as an instrument to feature the life of people often ignored in society. She aspires to be a journalist and an all-around cool girl someday. She's in the process of making herself eloquent in writing and speaking.