A Celebration of Filipino Movies

May 11-17 Edition 

This story originally appeared  April 14, 2013 in Philippine Panorama

It is film scholar Isagani Cruz who virtually taught me to appreciate Filipino movies on deeper levels. I came across one of his works in the 90s: an out-of-print compilation of his film reviews in the '70s. I became more sensitive about the implications of a single scene, the nuances of a particular camera shot. 

The kaleidoscope of movie imagery is still with me. Even when I first learned to read and eventually wrote fiction as a teenager, I would see movies on my mind. I'm the director and "all the world's a stage." 

One of my short novels, Jukebox, has a scene in a dimly-lit third-floor motel room in Avenida, Manila; then the LRT train rumbles across the grilled windows. That "shot" is inspired by Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak by Lino Brocka; I wrote it so visually that my "cast" includes Coco Martin, Julia Montes and Anita Linda
My story for the 2012 Palanca Awards is the scene-obsessive coming-of-age tale of a young boy set in Ragay, Camarines Sur. I wrote Fisherboy: Imaginarily Directed By Ishmael Bernal when Dolphy was still alive. He "played" one of the central characters together with Jake Vargas, Robert Arevalo and Eddie Garcia

I write visually even when I did radio scripts for DzRH when I was still in Manila last year (I'm now based in Cebu), when Salvador Royales became my mentor and I found that legendary screen villain Luz Fernandez is really nice in person. One of my scripts, about a female healer deified by the people of a small village, is a tribute to Bernal's Himala, but with a twist: the healer, Leonora, came alive again. Another script, about a hostage-taker, is inspired by Brocka's Bayan Ko: Kapit Sa Patalim. The twist: the hostage's commitment-phobic boyfriend broke through the police barriers to say that he had finally decided to marry her, proposing here and there amidst the snipers.

I love Filipino movies; all the films of Cinemalaya and Cinema One Originals are on my blog 2Rivers. So I find it sad when I heard the loss of three of the greatest filmmakers in Philippine cinema in less than a year. 

But their achievements will remain forever.

"Most Deserving." 

Marilou Diaz-Abaya was born on March 30, 1955 in Quezon City. She directed her first movie, Tanikala (Chains) in 1980. Her last film was Ikaw Ang Pag-Ibig in 2011, a tribute to Our Lady of Peñafrancia. The masterpiece was Jose Rizal in 1998, the life of the country's national hero and the one of the greatest figures in history. Her movies are marked with social issues like political tyranny and violence against women

Watch "Rizal" THE FULL MOVIE

The movies she made "has won acclaim both in the Philippines and abroad for its high level of artistic achievement," goes the citation from the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes in 2001. "It is an ideal manifestation of the artistic culture of Asia, and so is most deserving of the Arts and Culture Prize." 

Cesar Montano, the star of Rizal and their other landmark team-ups Muro Ami (Reef Hunters) in 1999 

and Bagong Buwan (New Moon) in 2001, 

was with her when she died of breast cancer on October 8, 2012 at Saint Luke's Global. She was 57. He sang to her Don McLean's Vincent, a tribute to Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh

"I cried so hard, I had a hard time finishing," he recalls in an interview. "It was painful to see her go." 

"Just, Compassionate, Humble." 

Mario O'Hara was born on April 20, 1946 in Zamboanga City with Spanish-Irish-American lineage. His first movie as a director, the 1976 war epic Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God), is one of the greatest Filipino films ever made. 

Watch "Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos" THE FULL MOVIE

A story about O'Hara won't be complete without his other solid triumph: the 1984 Bulaklak Sa City Jail, based on the novel by Lualhati Bautista and starring Nora Aunor

Watch "Bulaklak Ng City Jail" THE FULL MOVIE

Coming full circle, the last movie he directed is another historical drama: the Cinemalaya 2010 indie Ang Paglilitis Ni Andres Bonifacio (The Trial of Andres Bonifacio), set in the revolution that gave birth to the country

A writer, filmmaker and actor, he had an outstanding record in three film careers, each one able to stand on its own. In his 1971 debut in Lino Brocka's Tubog Sa Ginto (Goldplated), his character Diego has the "easy arrogance," says film critic Noel Vera, and the "physical charisma of a young Brando." 

Most unforgettable is his screen-dominating leper character, Berto, in Brocka's 1974 classic Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Weighed and Found Wanting)

Mario O'Hara wrote two of the greatest Filipino films of all time: Tinimbang and another Brocka classic, the 1976 Insiang 

Watch "Insiang" THE FULL MOVIE

With his play Stageshow set to open that October, he died June 26, 2012 of leukemia at the San Juan De Dios in Pasay. He was 66, an icon of film, TV and theater. 

He "was, above all, just, compassionate, humble and accepting of others," says theater titan Floy Quintos. "Of all the actor-directors I have worked with, he was the one with the least ego."

"The Messiah." 

Celso Advento Castillo was born in 1943. His 1977 masterpiece Burlesk Queen launched Vilma Santos as a serious actress but the groundbreaking film was so controversial it rocked the nation. People were forcing him to return his Metro Filmfest awards for Best Director and Best Picture. Students rallied for him: "Hindi na po bale, direk, kayo naman po ang Messiah eh (It's okay, you're the Messiah anyway)!" 

Watch "Burlesk Queen" THE FULL MOVIE

Castillo's creative genius galvanized the industry with the 1971 black-and-white Nympha with Rizza; the 1974 Ang Pinamagandang Hayop Sa Balat Ng Lupa (The Most Beautiful Animal In The Face of The Earth) with 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz; 

and the "Softdrinks Beauties" movies Virgin People and Snake Sisters.

He defied genres: doing horror with the 1974 Patayin Sa Sindak Si Barbara (Kill Barbara With Fear) with Susan Roces;

and action with the 1976 Asedillo, one of the best films of the late great Fernando Poe Jr.  

He was also an actor, playing the formidable town mayor in Pepe Diokno's 2009 indie Engkwentro, loosely based on the Davao Death Squad. 

"The Kid" died of cardiac arrest Nov. 26, 2012, in his home in Siniloan, Laguna. He was working on his book Celso Ad. Castillo: An Autobiography and His Craft, his wife Ophelia said in a radio interview. 

"He wanted it to have a happy ending." 

Lino Brocka 

Ishmael Bernal Golden

Jonathan Aquino's Journal 

May 5, 2013 
7:29 p.m., Sunday 
Lahug City, Cebu 

Someone asked me for advice on how to be a writer. "Learning to love yourself," I said, "is the greatest love of all." We laughed. "Because," I continued, just when he thought it was facetious and irrelevant, "you have to dive deep inside yourself to be in touch with who you really are. An artist speaks only of truth; that's where his power lies, that's where his strength comes from. Only after finding your true self can you triumphantly express your true voice."


Huggybear's photo taken May 9, 2013, Lahug City, Cebu
Photos: ph.news.yahoo.com, smilingpockets.com, digitalpepspace.com
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