As early as January 2020, the Office of Evangelization through Social Communication has started preparations for the annual Siete Palabras which has always been broadcast live for the past 26 years. The line-up of the seven preachers was already complete in February. But in the midst of all the preparations for Siete Palabras 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the entire Luzon area under “enhanced community quarantine” (ECQ) on March 12, 2020. Two days later the Catholic Church suspended Masses in parts of Metro Manila, after the government announced it is placing the capital region on lockdown due to the novel coronavirus.
Because of the recent development, a live broadcast of Siete Palabras from Sto. Domingo Church will not be possible this year. The usual live format of the program will have to be revised. There will be no more choirs and prayer leaders for each word. Music videos which were mostly produced by the Dominican Students Media Center (DSMC) will be used instead of the choir. The entire cast of the program has been reduced to the two hosts and the seven preachers. Some of the preachers who will be coming from outside Metro Manila, and as far as Indonesia, expressed their sentiments regarding the challenges that the “lockdown” may pose with respect to travel restrictions. It was then that the Provincial Social Communication Team started meeting online, through Viber, to come up with alternative plans on this year’s broadcast of the preachers’ reflections on the seven last words of Jesus. The team considered three options: first was to go on with a pre-recorded program; second was to broadcast a replay of a past program; and third was to cancel this year’s broadcast altogether. The team (headed by Fr. Jose Martin Sibug, OP – Promoter for Evangelization through Social Communication and Executive Producer of Siete Palabras 2020, with members Fr. Victor Clarence Marquez, OP, Fr. Christopher Jeffrey Aytona, OP, Bro. Jun Banaag, OP and Vic Alcuaz) voted that we go on with a pre-recorded program.
As the days draw near Good Friday, the day of the program’s broadcast, the rules on enhanced community quarantine got stricter and the Social Communication Team actually considered the idea of “preach from home” to be recorded on their own by the preachers, using whatever basic gadgets they have. But the members of the production team thought that the recorded materials from the preachers might not be good for broadcast in terms of its quality. And so, three weeks prior to the date of airing, we have to make adjustments in terms of the line-up of preachers, how to produce the recorded program, where and how to shoot the video recording of the preachers. Finally we had to scrap the idea of “preach from home” and go on with the video recording of the preachers at the Perpetual Adoration Chapel of Sto. Domingo Parish.
Two days were allotted for the video recording of the preachers and the hosts. An entire week was devoted to post production work and video editing which was done by Dino Dimar, a Dominican volunteer and an alumnus of UST College of Fine Arts and Design. Dimar was also the videographer and art director of the program. Bro. Jerone Geronimo, OP and Bro. Fergie Joshua Lasugas, OP were chosen as the hosts of the program. The seven preachers were:
Fr. Paul Reagan Talavera, OP – Parish Priest of Santisimo Rosario Parish in UST
Fr. Carlo Del Rosario, JCL –Parochial Vicar of San Fernando de Dilao Parish, Paco, Manila and a member of the Dominican Clerical Fraternity of the Philippines
Fr. John Stephen Besa, OP from the Convent of St. John Lateran, Intramuros, Manila
Fr. Carmelo Arada, Jr. – Parish Priest of Our Lady of Penafrancia de Manila Parish, Paco, Manila and a member of the Dominican Clerical Fraternity of the Philippines
Fr. Napoleon Sipalay, Jr., OP – Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines
Fr. Rolando Dela Rosa, OP from the Convent of Sto. Domingo, Quezon City
and Fr. Virgilio Ojoy, OP from the Convent of St. John Lateran, Intramuros, Manila
The theme of Siete Palabras 2020 is “Kausapin ang Diyos, Pag-usapan ang Diyos…Tungo sa Pagkakaisa”. It was based on “Dialogue Towards Harmony”, the theme of 2020 as the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples. The script for this year’s program was written by Rizalino Pinlac, Jr. and Fr. Victor Clarence Marquez, OP. Rizalino Pinlac, Jr. a former lector of Sto. Domingo Church and an alumnus of UST Communication Arts also directed the program. A special music video which featured priests, religious and church workers working hand in hand with front liners in this battle against Covid-19 was made by Bro. Ariel Adolfo, OP and Bro. Reginald Zamora, OP. The song of the music video “Breathe on Me”, is from the album of Inggo 1587 entitled Lead Me On and was performed by Fr. Giuseppe Pietro Arsciwals, OP., who also composed the song.
Siete Palabras 2020 was aired over television network GMA7 and simulcast over radio station Radyo Veritas 846 and other member networks of the Catholic Media Network on April 10, 2020, Good Friday from 12:00pm to 3:00pm. It was also available on the internet through video streaming on the Facebook Page of the Dominican Province of the Philippines Official.