‘Tell me why’ reckons with the dark side of Filipino Catholicism


August 28, 2020

By Eric Francisco

Dontnod’s newest game nimbly explores the church’s deep roots in Filipino-American culture.

It wasn’t so dramatic when I left my faith.

12 years of Catholic education simply took its toll, leaving me with confusion, apathy, and fatigue instead of fulfillment. Rampant abuse throughout the church and the unrelenting persecution of LGBTQ communities made leaving easy. I just woke up one day and decided it wasn’t for me.

What I can’t change is my ethnicity. I am the American child of Filipino immigrants. Not unlike Irish and Italian families, Catholicism is rooted in the Filipino way of life. Ask any of us: Leonardo’s The Last Supper triggers memories of the family dining room. (Growing up, I was extra careful to not knock over one of these with a plastic lightsaber.)

When you’re Filipino, “leaving” Catholicism doesn’t mean the cultural values and expectations of Catholicism leave you. That infamous Catholic guilt manifests differently when mixed with filial piety. The possibility of disappointing parents who raised you triggers anxiety as you prioritize their satisfaction over your independence and well-being. Throw in “God is watching” and you have is a deadly cocktail of shame, emotional paralysis, and an inability to move past mistakes.

Which is why I’m so awed over a new video game that accurately depicts the toxicity of these values in a distinctly Filipino way and presents them as an opportunity for tolerance, forgiveness, and change.

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