Movies Of The Philippines

The Philippine movies is the youngest of the Philippine arts, and still is considered as one of the popular forms of entertainment among the Filipinos.

The advent of cinema in the Philippines can be traced back to the early days of filmmaking in 1897, when a Spanish theater owner named Francisco Pertierra screened imported moving pictures and showed them at No. 12 Escolta, Manila. The formative years of Philippine cinema, starting from the 1930s, were a time of discovering film as a new medium of expressing artworks. Scripts and characterizations in films came from the popular theater shows and familiar local literature. Nationalistic films were also quite popular, although they were labeled as being too subversive.

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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. American period 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 Cinematografo Parisien, located at No. 0 Calle Crespo in Quiapo. In 1903, Jose Jimenez, a stage backdrop painter, set up the first Filipino-owned movie theater, the Cinematograpo Rizal in Azcarraga street, in front of Tutuban Train Station.  In the same year, a movie market was formally created in the country along with the arrival of silent movies and American colonialism. 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.  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.  These novelty films, however, did not capture the hearts of the audience because they were about the foreigners.  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 filmmaking unit and laboratory from Pathe, and sent its chief photographer, the American, Charles Martin, 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 kinemakolor.  In 1912, New York and Hollywood film companies started to establish their own agencies in Manila to distribute films.  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.  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.  The first film produced by a Filipino is Samuel llagas’s Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden) in 1919. This film was based on a highly-acclaimed musical play by Hemogenes Ilagan and Pollux . Pre-war films were produced by wealthy Spaniards, American businessmen, and Filipino landlords and politicians.

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 the Philippine Literature. 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 to become movie themes. In 1929, the Syncopation, the first American sound film, was shown in Radio theater in Plaza Santa Cruz in Manila.  By 1930s, a few film artists and producers deviated from the norms and presented sociopolitical movies. Julian Manansala’s film Patria Amore (Beloved Country) was almost suppressed because of its anti-Spanish sentiments. During the same period, the first sound film in Tagalog entitled Ang Aswang, a monster movie inspired by Philippine folklore, was shown. But the film apparently did not turn out to be a completely sound film. Jose Nepomuceno’s Punyal na Guinto (Golden Dagger), which premiered on March 9, 1933, at the Lyric theater, was credited as the first completely sound movie to all-talking picture in the country. 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.  Despite fierce competition with Hollywood movies, the Filipino film industry grew relatively bigger. When the 1930s drew to a close, the Filipino film industry was already well-established and local moviestars acquired a huge fan-base.

Some popular movie stars of the pre-war era include: Brian Soria Fernando Royo Ben Rubio Rolando Liwanag Exequiel Segovia Ben Perez Teddy Benavides Manuel Barbeyto Ernesto la Guardia Jaime G. Castellvi Alfonso Carvajal Jose Troni Nardo Vercudia Andres Centenera Fermin Barva Fernando Poe Nati Rubi Etang Discher Patring (Monang) Carvajal Naty Bernardo World War II and Japanese occupation During the Japanese Occupation, filmmaking was suddenly put to a halt. The Japanese brought with them their own films, but this was not appealing to the local audience.

For this reason, Japanese propaganda offices hired several local filmmakers, including Gerardo de Leon, to make propaganda pictures that extoll Filipino-Japanese friendship. One of these propaganda films was the Dawn of Freedom, which was directed by Abe Yutaka and Gerardo de Leon. It was during this time that the popular comedy duo Pugo and Togo was renamed Tuguing and Puguing. This was because Togo sounded too similar to Tojo, the name of the Prime Minister of Japan during the early 1940s. During World War II, almost all actors depended on stage shows only, mostly on major Manila movie theaters, to provide for their livelihood.

Live theater began to thrive again as movie stars, directors and technicians returned to the stage. 1950s Bundles of 35-mm films of several old movies being kept by the Mowelfund at the Movie Museum of the Philippines in Quezon City. After World War II, the Philippine version of a war movie had 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 guerillas. The 1950s was the so-called first golden age of Philippine cinema, mainly because at this time, the “Big Four” studios (LVN Pictures, Sampaguita Pictures, Premiere Productions and Lebran International) were at the height of their powers in filmmaking, having employed master directors like Gerardo de Leon, Eddie Romero and Cesar Gallardo and housing the biggest stars of the industry that day. The “Big Four” has been also churning out an estimated total of 350 films a year. This number made the Philippines second only to Japan in terms of film productions a year, which made it one of the busiest and bustling film communities in Asia.

Nevertheless, Hollywood still has its grips on the Filipino audience mainly because all those 350 films are only shown in two theaters, namely Dalisay and Life theaters in Manila. The premiere directors of the era were (but not limited to): Gerardo de Leon Gregorio Fernandez Eddie Romero Lamberto Avellana Armando Garces Cirio Santiago Cesar Gallardo The biggest stars of the era were (but not limited to): Rogelio de la Rosa Jaime de la Rosa Carmen Rosales Jose Padilla, Jr. Arsenia Francisco Ben Perez Ben Rubio Fred Penalosa Rosa del Rosario Paraluman Oscar Moreno Carlos Salazar Manuel Conde Tony Santos


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 such as, a new sense of discipline, uprightness and love of country. Annual festivals was revived during this period, and bomba films as well as political movies critical of the Marcos administration were banned. In spite of the censorship, the exploitation of sex and violence onscreen continued to assert itself.

Under martial law, action films usually append to the ending an epilogue claiming that the social realities depicted had been wiped out with the establishment of the New Society. The notorious genre of sex or bomba films that appeared in the preceding decade was still around although it merely showed female stars swimming in their underwear, taking a bath in their chemise, or being chased and raped in a river, sea, or under a waterfall. Such movies were called the “wet look. ” One uch movie was the talked-about Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa (The Most Beautiful Animal on the Face of the Earth) in 1974 starring former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz. 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 during this era are as follows: Lino Brocka Tubog sa Ginto (1970) Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974) Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975) Insiang (1976) Ishmael Bernal Pagdating sa Dulo (1971) Manila by Night (1980) Himala (1982) Mike de Leon Itim (1976) Sister Stella L (1984) Peque Gallaga

Oro, Plata, Mata (1982) In 1977, an unknown Filipino filmmaker going by the name of Kidlat 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 De ocampo’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 gives recognition of the artistic and technical excellence of the performances of its workers and artists. Also, that same year, Viva Films began producing movies. 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 depicted this defiance in an implicit way in the ilm’s plot, wherein patricide ends a tyrannical father’s domination. In the same year, Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L. was shown on the bigscreen, and it was about oppression and tyranny. In 1985, Lino Brocka’s Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (My Country: Gripping the Knife’s Edge) depicted images of torture, incarceration, struggle and oppression. During this times, the Philippines ranked among the top 10 film-producing countries in the world, with an annual output of more than 300 movies. Contemporary period The dawn of this era saw a dramatic decline of the Philippine movie industry. Most Hollywood films had been dominating mainstream cinema even more, and fewer than a twenty quality local films were being produced and shown yearly.  Many producers and production houses later stopped producing films after losing millions of pesos,while two television stations steered towards the world of filmmaking. At the turn of the 21st century, a new sense of excitement and trend enveloped the industry by the coming of digital and experimental cinema, as well as the resurfacing of independent filmmaking.Late 1980s to 1990s.

At the beginning of this period, and even in the latter part of the preceding times, most Filipino films were mass-produced and sacrificed quality for commercial success. Storylines were said to be unimaginative and predictable, comedy was slapstick, and the acting was either mediocre or overly dramatic. Producers were antipathetic to new ideas, or risk-taking. Instead, they resorted to formulas that worked well in the past that cater to the standards and tastes of the masses. Teen-oriented films, massacre movies, and soft pornographic pictures composed a majority of the genre produced. Aside from fiercer competition with Hollywood films,the Asian Financial Crisis, escalating cost of film production, exorbitant taxes, arbitrary and too much film censorship, high-tech film piracy,and rise of cable television further contributed for the trimming down of production costs of film outfits that resulted to falling box-office receipts of domestic films, and the eventual precarious state of the local film industry. In 1993, a television station ventured into movie production. ABS-CBN’s Star Cinema produced Ronquillo: Tubong Cavite, Laking Tondo in cooperation with Regal Films. Five years later, another television tation, GMA Network, started producing movies. GMA Films released the critically-acclaimed Sa Pusod ng Dagat, Jose Rizal, and Muro Ami, which attained commercial success. 2000 and beyond Hailed as the fist real new wave of digital cinema, this decade saw the introduction of locally-produced animated features and the proliferation of digital films by independent filmmakers with international reach and caliber. While formulaic romantic comedies have comprised majority of mainstream releases, independent filmmakers spur a renewed interest in Filipino movies with mostly digital films.

Signs of rebirth of the Philippine cinema arose by way of films with themes about transformation. In 2002, Gil Portes released Mga Munting Tinig (Small Voices), a subdued film about a teacher who inspires her students to follow their dreams; the movie also made suggestions to improve the country’s education system. A year later, Mark Meily’s comedy Crying Ladies, about three Filipinas working as professional mourners in Manila’s Chinatown but looking for other ways to make money, became a huge hit.

Also that same year, Maryo J. de los Reyes made a buzz at various film festivals with Magnifico, a simple film with universal appeal about a boy who tries to help his family survive their hardships. DUDA (DOUBT) is an example of how a man driven by an idea for a film can succeed against all odds at creating a significant statement. Writer/Director Crisaldo Pablo used a cast of friends with some professionals and with the use of a Sony VX made the first full-length digital film ever shot in the Philippines.

Comments by Cris Pablo and some of the actors are in a ‘making of’ feature on the DVD demonstrate how much dedication to a vision played in this brave little movie. In 2006 and 2007, Filipino filmmakers began making digital movies.  Donsol, by director Adolf Alix, made waves with his debut digital film (which included underwater cinematography) set in Donsol, a fishing town that serves as sanctuary to rare white whale sharks. Other talents of note include Jeffrey Jeturian, Auraeus Solito, and Brillante Mendoza’s 2007 Filipino version of Danish Dogme and Italian cinema verite (Slingshot).

Lav Diaz is the leading figure in experimental Tagalog films. His works—including excruciatingly long epics about Filipino life (some of which run up to 10 hours)—often test the endurance of viewers. Although Filipino digital films are made in almost no time and with meager budget, they are strongly represented in international film festivals. Numerous works of a new breed of filmmakers had their films seen at the prestigious film festivals in Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Vienna and Rotterdam. Several others won prizes and awards in various film festivals around the world. Among the works include Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (2005) by Auraeus Solito, Kubrador (2006) by Jeffrey Jeturian, Todo Todo Teros (2006) by John Torres, Endo (2007) by Jade Castro, Tribu (2007) by Jim Libiran, just to name a few. In 2007, a Filipino short film entitled Napapanggap (Pretend) by Debbie Formoso, a recent graduate of MFA Master of Film Art at LMU Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles, had a successful run in a number of US film festivals.  Several other short films, including Pedro “Joaquin” Valdes’s Bulong (Whisper), as well as documentaries garnered international attention and honors. In 2008, Serbis (Service) became the first Filipino full-length film to compete in the Cannes Film Festival since internationally acclaimed director Lino Brocka’s Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (My Country: Gripping the Knife’s Edge) in 1984. Another milestone in the Philippine cinema took place that same year as local audience witnessed the first full-length animated film, Urduja, topbilled by Cesar Montano and Regine Velasquez as voices behind the lead characters.

The film was done by over 400 Filipino animators, who produced more than 120,000 drawings that will run in 1,922 scenes equivalent to 8,771 feet of film. A few weeks later, the Philippine movie industry took centerstage for the first time in the 6th Edition of the Festival Paris Cinema 2008 in France. About 40 Filipino films were shown at the said filmfest, with Star Cinema’s Caregiver (starring Sharon Cuneta) and Ploning (Judy Ann Santos) as opening films. Filipino actor, Piolo Pascual, was invited by Paris Mayor Delanoe and actress Charlotte Rampling earlier that year to grace the occasion. Before the closing of 2008, another full-length animated film graced the bigscreen, Dayo: Sa Mundo ng Elementalia, which was an entry in the 2008 Metro Manila Film Festival.  To encourage production of high-quality movies, the Philippine government started giving tax rebates on films. However, only nine of the 150 films produced from January 2003 to January 2006, received such a rebate. In 2001, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo asked town and city mayors to reduce the entertainment tax but only few of them did.  In order to build up and stimulate the film industry, some Congressmen and Senators recently have authored a number of proposals and legislations pending ratification by the Philippine Congress. Many of the bills seek to ease the multiple taxes on producers, theater operators and patrons. One of the bills, for instance, proposes to exempt from the 30-percent amusement tax on all locally produced movies classified by regulators as for “general patronage” or “parental guidance-13. ” Another bill seeks to exempt local producers from the 12-percent value-added tax (VAT) on imported filmmaking raw materials and equipment.