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History Of Philippine Cinema Essays On Love

Lino Brocka (second from the right) directing MANILA IN THE CLAWS OF NEON.

Noel Vera

Lino Brocka is possibly the best known and arguably most loved filmmaker the Philippines has ever known. A fine dramatist (having come from the tradition of theater), he often inspired understated performances, fine cinematography, and strong scripts from his collaborators, bringing the various elements together in films that spoke with urgency to whatever strife (whether personal or political) the Filipino people faced at that moment. In his melodramas (and with only a few exceptions he worked exclusively in melodrama), he exposed the emotional heart of the Filipino people. I’ve made the argument before that the heart of the Filipino is basically melodramatic, and that these films represent melodrama at its finest, that Brocka’s sense of realism and urgency (you get the sense that he shot these pictures just outside the theater and delivered them, still steaming, straight to the big screen) helps sell these melodramas as absolute truth. Outspokenly political (in the ‘80s he would often postpone film shoots until the night, so he could attend anti-Marcos rallies in the day) and openly gay, he is, as filmmaker Khavn de la Cruz noted, “the ultimate icon of Philippine cinema.”

Brocka has developed or worked with artists and actors (Mel Chionglo, Peque Gallaga, Tikoy Aguiluz, Mike de Leon, Mario O’Hara, to name a few) who have gone on to become major filmmakers in their own right, at one point or another adopting or reacting against his brand of melodramatic realism. He’s shaped generations of filmmakers who may have not worked with him but have seen his films: Raymond Red, whose Palme d’Or-winning short ANINO (2000) was directly inspired by MAYNILA SA MGA KUKO NG LIWANAG (MANILA IN THE CLAWS OF NEON, 1975); Jeffrey Jeturian, whose FETCH A PAIL OF WATER (1999) is a tragicomic variant on Brocka’s slum dramas; Brillante Mendoza, whose internationally renowned TIRADOR (SLINGSHOT, 2007)—and, for that matter, his entire filmography to date—is Brocka realism set to an edgier, more contemporary rhythm. Filipino and foreign critics proclaim Brocka as the greatest film director of the Philippines.

Even filmmakers who refuse to declare an artistic debt to Brocka betray his imprint; Lav Diaz’s kilometric works, for example, do their utmost to avoid Brocka-esque melodrama, choosing a more contemplative, less commercial running time and tone; John Torres’ experiments with melancholic autobiographical film essays do away entirely with the conventional narrative Brocka favors; Raya Martin’s pictures possess a playful silent-film lyricism not found in Brocka. Each defines himself by what Brocka isn’t, offering their own backhanded tribute to the significance of his works. “Lino Brocka is embedded in the culture; you can’t escape him,” said Diaz during an informal roundtable discussion with Martin, Khavn, and Kidlat Tahimat done for Viennale’s Brocka retrospective last year. “We don’t copy him; we just salute him.” As Khavn noted, “Even his lesser work, his melodramas, are important. They have become part of our psyche.”

Brocka made over 50 films, many of which are now impossible to screen due to a lack of decent prints. He worked in many genres—neo-realism, melodrama, noir, political critique—often even in the same film. He did not experiment much, but he knew how to hold your attention, and to drive home a point.

STARDOOM (1971) is an early melodrama about a showbiz mother driven to raise her handsome young son to stardom at the expense of the less attractive older brother. JAGUAR (1979) is arguably Brocka’s finest noir, a thriller about a youth who becomes a rich man’s “guardia,” or bodyguard, in the hopes of improving his own social status. Brocka’s pair of overtly political dramas are based on scripts by activist Jose ‘Pete’ Lacaba: BAYAN KO (MY OWN COUNTRY, 1989), about a printing press strike, is one of the few films made during the Marcos administration that dared to deal with the regime’s unjust social conditions; ORAPRONOBIS (FIGHT FOR US, 1989) is possibly the only Filipino narrative feature to explicitly condemn Marcos’ extremely popular successor, President Corazon Aquino. Both are basically agitprop, but agitprop of the finest kind: simple and intense, endowed with a sense of urgency few other filmmakers can match. His lurid MACHO DANCER (1988), possibly his best-known film in the West, was a film festival hit, complete with endless scenes of homoerotic dancing, but included within the constant flesh on display is the fascinating subplot of one dancer falling hopelessly in love with his fellow dancer. That’s one thing about Brocka: no matter how commercial or hurried the production, he couldn’t help but insert something heartfelt and substantial.

Of Brocka’s four finest films little can be said that hasn’t been said before. BONA (1980) is a masterful portrait of self-martyrdom, of a middle-class girl who subjects herself to suffering and humiliation to be with the small-time actor she adores. It’s movie love in extremis, and at its most grotesque. MANILA IN THE CLAWS OF NEON is arguably his best-known work, the allegorical journey of a provincial boy from countryside to city, from innocence to corruption, from heaven to its exact opposite. TINIMBANG KA NGUNIT KULANG (YOU HAVE BEEN WEIGHED AND FOUND WANTING, 1974) is Brocka’s social epic, a tapestry of caricatures lampooning small-town life that at the same time reserves its pity for the community’s outcasts. INSIANG (1976) can perhaps be considered Brocka’s OTHELLO: a young woman, her mother, and her mother’s lover live in the seething cauldron that is Tondo, Manila, their loves, lusts, jealousies and hates forming a volatile mix that proves dangerous, even fatal.

Here they are, Brocka’s films, warts and all. It’s easy to parody him—the shrieking and hair pulling is straight out of the radio dramas Brocka and his audience grew up with in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. Less easy, perhaps, is to recognize his significance in today’s more cynical, more escapist times. That said, I believe he still has something to say to us: that we are all martyrs of our circumstances, I suppose, that we often support the status quo above and beyond what is sensible or even rational, only because we have never learned how to do anything better. But eventually there comes a certain point, a certain word or gesture or cue of any kind, when our patience will end, our silent forbearance snap, and we will lash out; heaven help, then, whoever (whether a person, a group, or a government) stands at the receiving end of our long-repressed anger.

—A writer and programmer based in the Philippines, Noel Vera is the author of CRITIC AFTER DARK: A REVIEW OF PHILIPPINE CINEMA (2005). His blog can be found at

Cinema of the Philippines
No. of screens747 (2013)[1]
 • Per capita0.9 per 100,000 (2013)[1]
Main distributorsStar Cinema 27.1%
UIP 17.0%
Disney 16.1%[2]
Produced feature films (2013)[3]
Number of admissions (2013)[4]
National films11,800,000 (30.4%)
Gross box office (2013)[4]
Total$194 million
National films$59 million (30.4%)

The cinema of the Philippines (Filipino: Pelikulang Pilipino or Sine Pilipino) began with the introduction of the first moving pictures to the country on January 1, 1897 at the Salón de Pertierra in Manila. The following year, local scenes were shot on film for the first time by a Spaniard, Antonio Ramos, using the LumiereCinematograph. Early filmmakers and producers in the country were mostly wealthy enterprising foreigners and expatriates, but by September 12, 1919, a silent feature film broke the grounds for Filipino filmmakers. Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden), a movie based on a popular musical play, was the first movie made and shown by Filipino filmmaker José Nepomuceno.[5] Dubbed as the "Father of Philippine Cinema", his work marked the start of cinema as an art form in the Philippines.[6]

Even with the problems currently facing motion pictures around the world, movies are still considered as one of the popular forms of entertainment among the Filipino people, directly employing some 260,000 Filipinos and generating around ₱2 billion revenues annually.[7]

The Film Academy of the Philippines established its own national film archive in October 2011.[8] Furthermore, their annually held Luna Awards honor the outstanding Filipino films as voted by their own peers. Meanwhile, the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino hands out the Gawad Urian Awards, which is well-known due to its credible choices of winners. Currently, Box Office Mojo compiles box office performance for local and foreign films in the country.


The formative years of Philippine cinema, starting from the 1930s, were a time of discovering the film genre as a new medium of art. Scripts and characterisations in films came from popular theatre and familiar local literature. Nationalistic films were also quite popular, although they were labeled as being too subversive.

The 1940s and the war brought to the Philippine cinema the consciousness of reality. Movie themes consisting primarily of war and heroism had proven to be a huge hit among local audiences.

The 1950s saw the first golden age of Philippine cinema,[9][10] with the emergence of more artistic and mature films, and significant improvement in cinematic techniques among filmmakers. The studio system produced frenetic activity in the local film industry, as many films were made annually and several local talents started to earn recognition abroad. Award-giving bodies were first instituted during this period. When the decade was drawing to a close, the studio system monopoly came under siege as a result of labor-management conflicts, and by the 1960s, the artistry established in the previous years was already on the decline. This era can be characterized by rampant commercialism, fan movies, soft porn films, action flicks, and westernspin-offs.

The 1970s and 1980s were turbulent years for the industry, bringing both positive and negative changes. The films in this period now dealt with more serious topics following the Martial Law era. In addition, action and sex films developed further, introducing more explicit subject matter. These years also brought the arrival of alternative or independent film in the Philippines.

The 1990s saw the emerging popularity of slasher movies, teen-oriented romantic comedies, as well as sexually explicit adult films, although slapstick comedies still draw a large audience. Genres of previous decades had been recycled with almost the same stories, and love teams, which had been popular in the past, have reemerged.[10]

The Philippines, which as one of Asia's oldest film industries, remains undisputed in terms of the highest level of theater admission in Southeast Asia. Over the years, however, the film industry has registered a steady decline in movie viewership from 131 million in 1996 to 63 million in 2004.[11][12] From a high of 200 films a year during the 1980s, the country's film industry was down to making a total of 56 new films in 2006 and around 30 in 2007.[11][12] Although the industry has undergone turbulent times, the 21st century saw the rebirth of independent filmmaking through the use of digital technology, and a number of films have once again earned international recognition and prestige.


Origins and Early Development[edit]

On 1 January 1897, the first four movies, namely, Un Homme Au Chapeau (Man with a Hat), Une scène de danse japonnaise (Scene from a Japanese Dance), Les Boxers (The Boxers), and La Place de L' Opéra (The Place L' Opéra), were shown via 60 mm Gaumont Chrono-photograph projector at the Salon de Pertierra at No.12 Escolta in Manila. The venue was formerly known as the Phonograph Parlor on the ground floor of the Casino Español at Pérez Street, off Escolta Street. Other countries, such as France, England, and Germany had their claims to the introduction of publicly projected motion picture in the Philippines, although Petierra is given this credit by most historians and critics.[13]

Carlo Naquera, a Spanish soldier from Aragón, was able to import a LumiereCinematograph from Paris, including 30 film titles, out of his savings and the financial banking of two Swiss entrepreneurs, Liebman and Peritz.

By August 1897, Liebman and Peritz presented the first movies on the Lumiere Cinematograph in Manila. The cinema was set up at Escolta Street at the corner of San Jacinto Street. A test preview was presented to a limited number of guests on 28 August and the inaugural show was presented to the general public the next day, August 29, 1897.[13] Documentary films showing recent events as well as natural calamities in Europe were shown.[10]

During the first three weeks, Ramos had a selection of ten different films to show, but by the fourth week, he was forced to shuffle the 30 films in various combinations to produce new programs. These were four viewing sessions, every hour on the hour, from 6:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M. After three months, attendance began to slacken for failure to show any new features. They transferred the viewing hall to a warehouse in Plaza Goiti and reduced the admission fees. By the end of November, the movie hall closed down.[13]

The next year, to attract patronage, using the Lumiere as a camera, Ramos locally filmed Panorama de Manila (Manila landscape), Fiesta de Quiapo (Quiapo Fiesta), Puente de España (Bridge of Spain), and Escenas Callejeras (Street scenes), making him the first movie producer in the Philippines. Aside from Ramos, there were other foreigners who left documentary evidences of their visits to the Philippines. Burton Holmes, father of the travelogue, who made the first of several visits in 1899, made the Battle of Baliwag; Kimwood Peters shot the Banawe Rice Terraces; and, Raymond Ackerman of American Biography and Mutoscope filmed Filipino Cockfight and the Battle of Mt. Arayat.[13]

American period[edit]

Film showing in the Philippines resumed in 1900 when a British entrepreneur named Walgrah opened the Cine Walgrah at No.60 Calle Santa Rosa in Intramuros. The second movie house was opened in 1902 by a Spanish entrepreneur, Samuel Rebarber, who called his building, Gran Cinematógrafo Parisino, located at No. 80 Calle Crespo in Quiapo. In 1903, José Jiménez, a stage backdrop painter, set up the first Filipino-owned movie theater, the Cinematograpo Rizal in Azcarraga Street (now C.M. Recto Ave.), in front of the Tutuban Railway Station.[13] In the same year, a movie market was formally created in the country along with the arrival of silent movies and American colonialism.[10] The silent films were always accompanied by gramophone, a piano, or a quartet, or when Caviria was shown at the Manila Grand Opera House, a 200-man choir.[13]

In 1905, Herbert Wyndham, shot scenes at the Manila Fire Department; Albert Yearsly shot the Rizal Day Celebration in Luneta 1909; in 1910, the Manila Carnival; in 1911, the Eruption of Mayon Volcano; the first Airplane Flight Over Manila by Bud Mars and the Fires of Tondo, Pandacan and Paco; and, in 1912, the Departure of the Igorots to Barcelona and the Typhoon in Cebu.[13] These novelty films, however, did not capture the hearts of the audience because they were about the foreigners.[10]

The Philippine Commission recognized early the potential of cinema as a tool of communication and information, so that in 1909, the Bureau of Science bought a complete film-making unit and laboratory from Pathé, and sent its chief photographer, the American, Charles Martin,[14] to France to train for a year. When Martin completed his training, he resolved to document, in motion pictures, the varied aspects of the Philippines.

In 1910, the first picture with sound reached Manila, using the Chronophone. A British film crew also visited the Philippines, and filmed, among other scenes, the Pagsanjan Falls (Oriental) in 1911 in kinemacolor.[13] In 1912, New York and Hollywood film companies started to establish their own agencies in Manila to distribute films.[13] In the same year, two American entrepreneurs made a film about the execution of Jose Rizal, and aroused a strong curiosity among Filipino moviegoers. This led to the making of the first Filipino film, La vida de Jose Rizal.[10]

By 1914, the US colonial government was already using films as a vehicle for information, education, propaganda and entertainment. The Bureau of Science tackled subjects designed to present an accurate picture of the Philippines before the American public, particularly the US Congress. By 1915, the best European and American films were shown in Philippine theaters. When World War I (1914–1918) choked off the production of European studios, Manila theater managers turned to US for new film products. With the variety they offered, American films quickly dominated the Philippine film market.[13]

The first film produced by a Filipino is José Nepomuceno's Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden) in 1919 based on a highly acclaimed musical play by Hermogenes Ilagan and León Ignacio.[10] Early filmmakers, even with meager capital, followed some of the genres provided by Hollywood movies. The main sources of movie themes during this period were theater pieces from popular dramas or zarzuelas. Another source of movie themes at that time was Philippine literature.

During the 1920s when the Germans and Russians dominated the artistic development of the film and its techniques (Examples are The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - 1919, Nosferatu - 1922, and Battleship Potemkin - 1925), Filipino-Visayan filmmakers such as Max Borromeo, Florentino Borromeo and Celestino Rodriguez collaborated in making El Hijo Disobediente (The Disobedient Son) in 1922. This black and white silent picture could have been one of the earliest noted films from the Southern Philippines. The year 1929 marked the advent of talking pictures, but only in 1938 did the Visayan Film Industry have its first "talkie" entitle Bertoldo Ug Balodoy (Bertoldo and Balodoy) written by Piux Kabahar, which was followed by Mini (Fake; 1940), and Gugmang Talagsaon (Rare Love; 1940) by Virgilio Gonzales. In Cebu, the first movie houses were built by the Avila Clan: Ideal Theater (1911), Cine Auditorium (1922) and Cine Oriente (The old Teatro Junquera).[15] In Iloilo, the first cinema or movie house was built in 1922. Other early cinema or movies houses include the oldest still existing and operating movie theater in Iloilo, Cine Palace and Cine Eagle both built in 1928.

In 1929, the Syncopation, the first American sound film, was shown in Radio theater in Plaza Santa Cruz in Manila inciting a competition on who could make the first talkie among local producers. On December 8, 1932, a film in Tagalog entitled Ang Aswang (The Aswang), a monster movie inspired by Philippine folklore, was promoted as the first sound film. Moviegoers who remembered the film attested that it was not a completely sound film.[13] José Nepomuceno's Punyal na Guinto (Golden Dagger), which premiered on March 9, 1933, at the Lyric theater, was credited as the first completely sound, all-talking picture in the country.[13]

In the 1930s, a few film artists and producers deviated from the norms and presented sociopolitical movies. Ironically, the people who helped the film industry develop and flourish were also the same people who suppressed its artistic expression by inhibiting movie themes that would establish radical political views among the Filipinos. Instead, love and reconciliation between members of different classes of people were encouraged as themes.[10]Julian Manansala’s film Patria Amor (Beloved Country) was almost suppressed because of its anti-Spanish sentiments and they created a high-budget film about classical war titled Dugo sa Kapirasong Lupa (Blood Patch), the first time a local film is made concerning about the First Sino-Japanese War.

Carmen Concha, the first female director in the country, also ventured into filmmaking, and she directed Magkaisang Landas and Yaman ng Mahirap in 1939 under Parlatone, and Pangarap in 1940 under LVN.[16]

Despite fierce competition with Hollywood movies, the Filipino film industry survived and flourished. When the 1930s drew to a close, the Filipino film industry was well established, and local movie stars acquired huge followers.

Some popular movie stars of the pre-WWII era include:

World War II and Japanese occupation[edit]

During the Japanese Occupation, filmmaking was suddenly put to a halt. As was the case in Japan's other colonial and occupied film markets, Japanese film companies took over the local exhibition venues replacing films from the Hollywood and the region with Japanese films for propaganda. Japanese films had been imported into the Philippines since the late 1930s but without great success. Japanese-sponsored film production in the Philippines continued until 1945 but was limited mostly to newsreels and educational films.

Although the Philippines never became a center for feature film production under the Japanese, it was a strategically important market for Japan. First, unlike Manchuria, where the Japanese literally had to construct a film industry, the Philippines already had many large, well-equipped motion picture theaters that were well-stocked with significant Hollywood product. Many confiscated films were exported back to Japan to train its filmmakers. Production facilities were better in the Philippines than any other market in the Japanese empire with the exception of Shanghai. This was another reason why such Japanese film companies as the Nanyo Film Association (南洋映画協会) and Film Distributors (映画配給者) each established branch offices in Manila in 1942. Further, due to the long period of American influence, the local film community boasted a significant number of people who had worked in Hollywood during the silent era and had considerable experience.[17]

In 1944, Toho Studios sent director Abe Yutaka to Manila to produce the first of what would be the only two feature films to be entirely shot on location by the Japanese. Ano hata o ute (あの旗を撃て) aka Dawn of Freedom told the story of the Japanese victory at the Battle of Corregidor and the U.S. military's hasty retreat from the islands. The film presented the Japanese as Asian liberators who came to free the Filipinos from decades of colonial oppression that began with the Spanish and continued with the Americans. The film was shot in Japanese, Tagalog, and English and was written for the screen by Tsutomo Sawamura, co-directed by Gerardo de Leon (uncredited), and co-starred Fernando Po and Leopold Celecdo. The other Japanese-produced feature film shot in the Philippines was Tatlong Maria (1944).[18] At the same time, the comedy duoPugo and Togo, popular for satirizing Japanese occupation in the Philippines,[19] was renamed to Tuguing and Puguing because of Togo name's closeness to Tojo, the name of the Prime Minister of Japan during the early 1940s. However, perhaps out of deference to the substantial local Japanese population, film censors were sensitive to Japanese complaints about negative representations of Japanese in U.S. films screened in the Philippines and aggressively cut scenes depicting Japanese soldiers committing atrocities in Thunder in the Orient (1939) and Fight For Peace (1939) years before Japanese military occupation.[20]

During World War II, almost all actors depended only on stage shows on most major Manila movie theaters as livelihood. As a consequence, live theater began to thrive again as movie stars, directors and technicians returned to the stage.

Postwar 1940s and the 1950s: The First Golden Age[edit]

Post-war Visayan Cinema and its resurgence[edit]

In the Visayas after the second world war, a resurgence of Visayan films came about through Lapu-Laapu Pictures, which produced Timbu Mata (1948), starring Eva de Villa and Lino Ramas and Damgo ni Adan (Adan's Dream), produced by Rudy Robles. Then came Mactan Films which produced Tahas (Mission; 1950), starring Luz Celeste and Dakay; Mat Ranillo was in this film. Then Balud (Wave; 1950) which starred Luz Celeste and Mat Ranillo. Another independent picture, Sa Kabukiran (In the Mountains; 1948), was also produced during this time.

By 1951, Azucena Productions was established by the Arong Family (owners of Rene and Liberty Theaters). They produced Princesa Tirana (Princess Tirana), 1951 with Mat Ranillo and Gloria Sevilla (her first feature title role after she was discovered through a declamation contest at the University of the Visayas) as lead players. Their first feature together made such a box office success in the Visayas and Mindanao that other features immediately followed: Leonora (1951), Pailub Lang (Be Forebearing; 1951), Utlanan (Border; 1952), Handumanan (Memoir; 1953), Inahan (Mother; 1952), starring Mat Ranillo and Caridad Sanchez; Antigan (1952) with Virgie Postigo and Arise Roa; Carmen 1 and 2 (from the famous radio drama in Cebu; 1953), Paabuta Lang Ako (Wait for Me; 1953), Gloria Kong Anak (Gloria My Child; 1953), and Gihigugma Kong Ikaw (I Love You; 1954). Mat and Gloria then became synonymous to Visayan pictures, and since then were called as the King and Queen of Visayan Movies.

In 1953 a film entitled Sangang Nangabali (Broken Branches), produced by Cebu Stars Production broke box-office records in the mid-1950s. Cebu Stars Productions (owned by the Tojong Family) had earlier produced Dimakaling (1952) and Mga Anak Intawon (Oh, Poor Children; 1953). Other independent Visayan films produced at this time were: Mapait Ang Balaod (by Arturo Blanco; 1953), Bugas Mais (Corn Rice; by Arturo Blanco; 1953), Kapintas Sa Kinabuhi (Hard Life; 1953), (Cebu Stars Productions with Esterlina and Rebecca Torres), Pit Senor (Hail Senor) and San Tilmo (1953), (Barba Productions), Ang Siloy (1953) (with Nora Hermosa and Rebecca Torres), Huni sa Gugma (Where Is Love; 1953), Dadansoy (1953) and Inahan (Mother; 1954).

Mutya and VM Productions (formed by Natalio Bacalso - former Cebu assemblyman) entered Salingsing sa Kasakit (Partner in Pain), directed by Bacalso, in the 1955 FAMAS derby and won the "Best Child Actor Award" for Undo Juezan. These movie outfits also produced some memorable features such as Ungo Sa Parian (Witch In The Parian); Remember Erlinda;Rosita; Politika (Politics); and Mutya sa Saging Tindok (Muse of Saging Tindok). Garbosa (Proud; 1957) and Matam-is Ang Pagpaubos (Too Sweet to Suffer; 1957) were also released during this time.

Mat ang Gloria finally got married off-screen (in real life) and formed S-R Productions in 1954. The company's initial projects were Paradista (1955) and May Luhang Nahabilin sa Baybayon (A Tear Fell on the Shore; 1955) and even as they moved on to make Tagalog movies in Manila, they still continued producing Visayan movies like (It is the Palm That Commands) with Flash Elorde and Edita Clomera; Palad Ta Ang Nagbuot Lungsod Sa Buenavista (Town of Buenavista; 1969), and Hain Ang Langit (Where is Heavean?; 1969), with Gloria Sevilla and Mat Ranillo and Von Serna - this is Mat's last movie. Badlis sa Kinabuhi (The Line of Life; 1969) was entered in the 18th FAMAS Awards and got 12 nominations out of 14 categories. Gloria Sevilla won Best Actress, Frankie Navaja, Jr. won Best Child Performer, and the late Mat Ranillo got a posthumous award (Mat Ranillo had earlier died in a plane crash in 1969). The film (Badlis) was the Philippine entry to the ASEAN Film Festival in Indonesia, and was showcased under the informative division of the Berlin Film Festival (the film was dubbed in English in Hong Kong and retitled "Destined"). In 1970, Badlis Sa Kinabuhi and Palad Ta Ang Nagbuot were released in their original Visayan versions in Metro Manila and made good at the box office. Ang Bayan (The Country), 1970 was also produced at this time.

The 1970s saw the emergence of more Visayan talents in the Tagalog film industry. Actresses such as Chanda Romero, Caridad Sanches, Alma Moreno, Tessie Sevilla, Rebecca Torres, Aurora Villa, Eva de Villa, Rosita Fernandez, Virgie Postigo, Virgie Solis, Olivia Solis, Cora Real, Diana Arong, Luz Celeste, Annabelle Rama, Suzette Ranillo, Lady Ramos, Pilar Pilapil, and others stepped into the limelight. Male leads (to name a few) were Bert Nombrado, Ber Lopez, Tony Delgado, Riel Ylaya, Lino Ramas, Arturo Blanco, Arturo de Castille, Frankie Navaja Jr, Tony Cruz, Undo Juezan, Felix de Catalina, Arsie Roa, Warfi Engracia, Kadyo Roma and Romy Kintanar (who is now a sports commentator). Directors Leroy Salvador, Fernando Alfon, Talyo Bacalso, Sat Villarino, Gene Labella, Leox Juesan, Cesar B. Cesar and Emmanuel H. Borlaza also originated from the south. Borlaza directed Alma Bonita (with Chanda Romero and Ernie Garcia) and Paypay Placid (Fan of Placid), Diadem Films, (with Pepito Rodriguez, Lilian Lain, Alice Mendez, and Justo C. Justo). Other films that were produced at this time were Medalyon Nga Bulawan (Medalyon Na Ginto), produced by Annabelle Rama, starring Bert Leroy, Gina Pareno, Jerry Pons, Charlie Davao, Johnny Delgado, Raul Aragon, Alice Mendez, and Yoyoy Villame; (with Nobo Bono, Jr. and Tessie Sevilla); Mayor AndalBatul of Mactan (Battle of Mactan), JRJ Productions, starring Chanda Romero, Eddie Peregrina and Alice Mendez; Anino sa Villa Lagrimas (Shadow of Villa Lagrimas), starring Chanda Romero and Ernie Garcia; Bulawan Sa Lapok (Gold in the Mud), starring Alicia Alonzon, Bert Leroy Jr., Tommy Abuel and Dindo Fernando; Antonio Solitaryo and Mga Milagaro sa Santo Niño (Miracles of Sto. Niño), Magnolia Films both directed by Sol Gaudite; Aliyana, 1974; and Ikaduhang Bathala (Second God), 1974.

Gloria Sevilla remarried in 1971, and together with her husband Amado Cortez (of the Padilla clan) went on to produce another Visayan film entitled Gimingaw Ako (I Long For You), 1974 (which was shot entirely in Cebu City and directed by Amado Cortez starring Gloria Sevilla, Suzette Ranillo, Bert Nombrado and Inday Nita Cortez). This film won the FAMAS "Best Actress Award" for Gloria Sevilla and "Best Supporting Actress Award" for Suzette Ranillo. Naghila Ako Sa Kahilum (Crying Silently) also came about within the year. Other independent productions were: Diego Salvador, 1973; Ang Pagbabalik ni Diego Salvador (The Return of Diego Salvador), 1974 with Von Serna; and Sabrin, 1975 with Chanda Romero and Rebecca Torres.

Visayan film producers continued trying to revive the Visayan movies in the mid-seventies by filming in the 16mm format and transferring the material to 35mm for theatrical release. Films such as Ang Manok ni San Pedro (St. Peter's Rooster), 1975 and Itlog Manoy Orange (The Orange Egg Vendor), 1976 were originally shot in 16mm. This less costly process, however, did not prevent the Visayan film industry from finally going into a dormant stage. The Tagalog film industry was just at an upswing at this time, prompting Visayan producers to venture into television production instead.

It was not until 1991 that another Visayan film project was brought to the big screen. Eh Kasi Babae (Because She Is a Woman) starring Pilita Corales, Yoyoy Villame and Manilyn Reynes was produced, then followed by Matud Nila (They Say; 1991) (Bisaya Films, Inc. produced by James R. Cuenco, Jr.). This starred Gloria Sevilla, Mat Ranillo III, Suzette Ranillo, Dandin Ranillo, Juni Ranillo, Pilar Pilapil, Jennifer Sevilla, Mark Gil and Pinky Marquez. Matud Nila also marked the last film directed by Leroy Salvador.

It is noteworthy to mention that there is a very large population of Visayan-speaking movie goers in Metro Manila, and that a great percentage of Tagalog movie stars and TV/movie personalities (singers like Pilita Corales, Vina Morales, Manilyn Reynes, Dulce, Verni Varga, and other directors and producers are originally Visayan). It is also interesting to note that most Visayan films revolve around the "love story-drama-comedy" genre which inevitably reflects the lifestyle and culture of the southern Filipinos. This genre, apparently has the most popular appeal to a great majority of the Filipino viewing public today, making "drama-love story-comedy" films sell the most at the box office. It is in this light that the viewing public should not lose hope in seeing more Visayan movies in the future - that is, if all these Visayan talents and producers put their sense together and realize that Visayan Cinema might even be the answer to the long-awaited Filipino film revolution - with the way Tagalog films are being made nowadays, who knows - Visayan films might just be the saving grace of the regressing Filipino film industry.

The Golden Age and Contemporary Era of Tagalog Cinema[edit]

After World War II, the Philippine version of a war film emerged as a genre. The audience were hungry for films with patriotic themes. Films such as Garrison 13 (1946), Dugo ng Bayan (The Country’s Blood) (1946), Walang Kamatayan (Deathless) (1946), and Guerilyera (1946), narrated the horrors of the war and the heroism of the soldiers and guerrillas.

The 1950s was labeled as the first golden age of Philippine cinema. Four big production studios (LVN Pictures, Sampaguita Pictures, Premiere Productions and Lebran International) were at their peak in filmmaking, employing premier directors like Gerardo de León, Eddie Romero and César Gallardo while contracting the biggest stars of that period. The Filipino film industry was one of the busiest and bustling film communities in Asia, releasing an average of 350 films a year making Philippines second to Japan in terms of film productions a year.

The premier directors of the era were (but not limited to):

The biggest stars of the era were (but not limited to):

The four biggest production studios produced most of the notable films of Philippine cinema during this era. In 1951, the movie Roberta of Sampaguita Pictures which featured leading child stars was the hit. LVN Pictures, under the leadership of the Doña Sisang de León, not only specialized in super productions, rural comedies and musicals, but also produced socially-relevant films such as Avellana's Anak Dalita (1956), Tony Santos's Badjao (1957) and Manuel Silos's Biyaya ng Lupa (1959). Sampaguita Pictures mainly produced high-gloss, glamorous pictures such as Maalaala Mo Kaya (1954). On the other hand, Premiere Productions released most of the action films of the decade, such as Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo (1952), Salabusab (1954) and Huwag Mo Akong Limutin (1960).

High production values on the motion pictures during this era produced movies that gained international acclaim. In 1952, Manuel Conde's Genghis Khan became the first Asian film to be shown at the Venice and Cannes Film Festival, a feat that would not be repeated until the 1970s. Inspired by Conde's picture, Hollywood remade Genghis Khan in 1956 as The Conqueror with John Wayne as the lead star "The Conqueror", from RKO Radio Pictures. And also of Columbia Pictures' film "Genghis Khan" in which Omar Sharif portrayed in the title role in 1965.

In 1956, Anak Dalita won the Golden Harvest Award (Best Picture) of the prestigious Asia-Pacific Film Festival. Actress Lilia Dizon, was presented with the Best Actress Award by the prince of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk, for the film Kandelerong Pilak in the 1954 Asia-Pacific Film Festival. Leroy Salvador was also recognized in his performance as Best Supporting Actor for the film Huk sa Bagong Pamumuhay (1953) in the same film festival.

During this era, the first award-giving body was also established in 1950. The Maria Clara Awards of the Manila Times Publishing Corp., was composed of film publicists and writers who voted for the exemplary achievements of Filipino motion pictures in a calendar year. In 1953, the María Clara folded up to give way to the establishment of the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS), the Philippines' equivalent to the United States' Academy Awards in prestige.

During this period, Filipinos saw Hollywood's first full length picture in living Technicolor. Soon after, Filipino local producers started presenting full-length pictures in color despite some technical deficiency, one of which was Prinsipe Amante (Prince Amante).


This era is characterized by rampant commercialism with James Bond and Western knock offs, and in the latter 60's, the so-called bomba (soft porn) pictures. It was also the era of musical films produced mostly by Sampaguita Pictures and their discovered talents.

The studio systems came under siege from the growing labor movement, which resulted in labor-management conflicts. The first studio to close was Lebran followed by Premiere Productions then LVN. Those production studios were replaced by new and independent producers like Regal Films, which was established by Lily Monteverde in 1962.

The decade also saw the emergence of the youth subculture best represented by the Beatles and rock and roll. As a result, certain movie genres were made to cater to this trend. Fan movies and teen love team-ups emerged, showing Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos, along with Tirso Cruz III and Edgar Mortiz as their respective screen sweethearts. In addition, movie genres showing disaffection to the status quo during the era were also popular. Action movies with Pinoycowboys and secret agents as the movers of the plots depicted a "society ravaged by criminality and corruption".[10] Another kind of youth revolt, implying rejection of adult corruption, came in the form of movies featuring child stars. Near the end of this decade, another movie genre that embodied a different form of revolt took center stage. Soft porn movies, more popularly known as bomba films, increasingly became popular, and these films were described as a direct challenge to the conventions, norms and conduct of the society.

Even in the period of decline, several Philippine films that stood out. These include the following films by Gerardo de Leon:

During this period, Filipino filmmakers were more successful in presenting some full-length pictures in living Eastmancolor, one of which was Ito ang Pilipino by J.E. Production. This movie was produced and starred by Joseph Estrada.[13]

1970s to early 1980s: Second Golden Age[edit]

Touted as the second golden age of Philippine cinema, this was the period of the avant-garde filmmakers. At the turn of the 70s, local producers and filmmakers ceased to produce pictures in black and white.[10][13]

In 1972, the Philippines was placed under the martial law, and films were used as propaganda vehicles. President Ferdinand Marcos and his technocrats sought to regulate filmmaking through the creation of the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures (BCMP). Prior to the start of filming, a finished script was required to be submitted to the Board and incorporate the "ideology" of the New Society Movement such as, a new sense of discipline, uprightness and love of country. Annual festivals were revived, and the Bomba films as well as political movies critical of the Marcos administration were banned.[10]

Maharlika was a 1971 film banned by then-first lady Imelda Marcos because it starred actress Dovie Beams, who was allegedly Ferdinand Marcos’ mistress.[21] The producer of the film was Luis Nepomuceno, son of Filipino filmmaker Jose Nepomuceno. The company that produced the film went bankrupt, as the banned screening prevented them from recouping production costs. In pity, Imelda Marcos offered loans to the company through government banks. However, the bank would then go on to foreclose the film company.

The film portrayed the story of Ferdinand Marcos’ life in the Philippine Military. There have been allegations that the film was propaganda intended to portray Marcos as a war hero who fought against the Japanese in World War II.[22] Although the film was banned, it was allowed to make its cinematic debut in 1987, after the EDSA Revolution.

In spite of the censorship, the exploitation of sex and violence onscreen continued to assert itself. Under martial law, action films usually append an epilogue like claims that social realities depicted had been wiped out with the establishment of the New Society. The notorious genre of sex or bomba films still existed but in a milder, less overt way like female stars swimming in their underwear or taking a bath in their chemise, labeled as the "wet look." An example of the trend was the 1974 hit movie Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa (The Most Beautiful Animal on the Face of the Earth) which featured former Miss UniverseGloria Díaz and filmed in the famed Sicogon Island in Carles, Iloilo.[10]

In spite of the presence of censorship, this period paved way to the ascendancy of a new breed of directors. Some of the notable films made by these new crop of filmmakers were:

In 1977, an unknown Filipino filmmaker going by his pseudonymKidlat Tahimik, made a film entitled Mababangong Bangungot (Perfumed Nightmare), which won the International Critic’s Prize in the Berlin Film Festival that same year. Out of short film festivals sponsored by the University of the Philippines Film Center and by the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, young filmmakers joined Kidlat Tahimik by distancing themselves from the traditions of mainstream cinema. Nick Deocampo’s Oliver (1983) and Raymond Red’s Ang Magpakailanman (The Eternal, 1983) have received attention in festivals abroad.

In 1981, as mandated by Executive Order No. 640-A, the Film Academy of the Philippines was enacted, serving as the umbrella organization that oversees the welfare of various guilds of the movie industry and gave recognition to the artistic and technical excellence of the performances of its workers and artists.[23] The same year, Viva Films was established and began its rise as a production company.

During the closing years of martial rule, a number of films defiant of the Marcos dictatorship were made. Films such as Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Karnal implicitly depicted this defiance in the film’s plot, wherein patricide ended a tyrannical father’s domination. In the same year, Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L., a movie about oppression and tyranny was shown on the big screen. In 1985, Lino Brocka’s Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (My Country: Grip the Knife’s Edge) depicted images of torture