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Celebrating 100 years of Philippine Cinema with Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino

July 21, 2019

It may be the youngest artform in the Philippines, but there can be no doubt that the moving pictures of the silver screen that is film has evolved into the most popular creative expression of all.

Introduced in the country only in 1897 when two Swiss businessmen opened the very first movie house Cinematografo in Manila, Filipinos easily picked up the word “cine” to refer to their newest form of entertainment in film.

At the beginning, only foreign films were shown at Cinematografo ranging from silent movies to talkies, and black and white to the age of technicolor. Outpacing its predecessors both in public acceptance and accessibility, Filipinos quickly fell in love with the artform with viewers trooping to the cinema from all walks of life.

Given this early history, however, can movie fans conclude that even then, foreign films dominate this newly established industry in the Philippines? When and how did the Filipino movie come about?

According to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), it was Jose Nepomuceno who realized the promise of cinema to become the first Filipino to venture into the creative trade. He saw cinema, however, not only as a profitable possibility for entertainment, but more significantly a unique medium with which to document the unfolding development of the Philippines as a nation.

Film Development Council of the Philippines Chairman Liza Diño CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Eventually christened the “Father of Philippine Cinema,” Nepomuceno was a successful photographer before he made the transition to moving pictures. His first step toward this direction was to open the production company Malayan Movies in 1917. Under the outfit, the very first Filipino-produced film came to be titled “Dalagang Bukid” (“Country Maiden”). Starring legendary vaudeville actress Atang de la Rama, the movie was released on September 12, 1919.

But among Nepomuceno’s ensuing productions, it was “Noli Me Tangere” (“The Social Cancer”), based on national hero José Rizal’s Spanish-language novel of the same title, which history dubbed as his masterpiece and is considered one of the greatest films in Philippine cinema history.

Meanwhile, as Malayan Movies continued to thrive, a number of new studios followed in its stead between 1934 to 1941, by Filipinos and for Filipinos. And with the dawn of the American period in the country, the industry began looking to Hollywood as its benchmark in producing movies.

Nevertheless, a uniquely Filipino art form emerged, mirroring the realities of everyday folk, be they romantic, heartbreaking, funny or surreal, thereby keeping Philippine Cinema alive a hundred years and counting.

Centennial Year

Pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 622 Series of 2018, the Centennial Year of Philippine Cinema was declared in honor of the first Filipino-produced and directed feature film “Dalagang Bukid” by Nepomuceno.

The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) has been designated as the lead agency for this momentous celebration, with its official dates slated from September 12, 2019 to September 11, 2020.

“The one hundred years of Philippine cinema is a once-in-a-lifetime celebration in honor of the journey of this incredible art form and cultural marker. Film is part of every Filipino as one of the most accessible and affective mediums that tell our stories, struggles, victories, and our growth as a people,” said FDCP Chairman and CEO Liza Diño in announcing the national celebration.

“We look forward to commemorating Sandaan, as we call this celebration, not just with our fellow government agencies, but with all sectors of society. We encourage each and every Filipino to join us continue the legacy of our cinema and look forward to the next hundred years,” she added.

And so, with Diño’s infectious passion to promote, celebrate and propel Philippine cinema toward its true potential, she has ably led the agency in a series of events all in anticipation of the centennial celebration.

Months before September, the FDCP had already launched and organized the Sandaan Conferences, a series of lectures and talks in partnership with organizers of local and regional film festivals in the country, where movie workers, stakeholders and the public alike had the opportunity to raise various issues that plague the industry. More importantly, these conferences did not leave the problems identified as problems, but conclusively devised solutions that had the approval of the range of parties concerned. [“Cinemas to show new films on Fridays,” The Manila Times, June 26, 2019]

Still to come, of course, is the biggest celebration for Sandaan where FDCP, in partnership with the National Cinema Association of the Philippines, will mount the third edition of the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP). The PPP is a week-long film festival where brand new quality genre Filipino films will be screened for one week in all regular cinemas nationwide. This year, it will be held from September 13 to 19 with an opening event on September 12.

‘Pamilya, Pagkakaibigan, Pag-ibig’

As in past years, there will be no foreign films screened during the PPP [w[with the exception of specialty cinemas]o give the entire nation the opportunity to enjoy an all-Filipino movie lineup.

A festival dedicated to the mainstream audience, the PPP further intends to showcase a diverse variety of elevated genres covering family-oriented movies, romantic comedies, horror, fantasy, historical titles and art house films that emulate Filipino sensibilities and culture, while at the same time displaying commercial and even global appeal.

The FDCP held a grand launch for PPP 2019 on July 11 at Sequoia Hotel in Diliman, Quezon City and unveiled the 10 full-length movies that made the cut for nationwide screening. The past two editions only saw eight movies comprising the festival.

Guided by the theme “Pamilya, Pagkakaibigan, Pag-ibig,” the 10 movies are divided into seven feature films in competition and three films under the “Sandaan” showcase.

“For the information of the public, we actually began celebrating the 100 Years of Philippine Cinema for the last three years because in 2017, itinalaga ng cultural institutions natin na dapat noong unang naitatag ang unang production company na Malayan Movies, we already celebrated the hundred years of the industry. After all, if we’re to be very accurate, dito naging ganap na industriya ang pelikulang Pilipino,” Diño further said at the grand launch.

“But in terms of our official Presidential Declaration, signed by our President Rodrigo Duterte, September 12, 2019 marks the celebration of the 100 years of Philippine cinema. We were very lucky dahil akmang-akma po at saktong-sakto po sa celebration ang PPP this year. So FDCP is very busy sa mga ginagawa naming activities and events para naman po maging memorable what the 100 years is all about,” she continued.

“But more than celebrations, ang goal ng FDCP ay hindi lang maging memorable ang 100 years of Philippine Cinema through our celebration but in doing a lot of meaningful activities para mapangalagaan hindi lang ang ating pelikula pati na po ang ating mga manggagawa. So this year, nag-umpisa ang PPP in coming up with policies that will really ensure and nurture the Philippine film industry so that the next 100 years of Philippine Cinema will not just be about producing films but making sure that the environment na ginagalawan natin, na pinaggagawaan natin ng pelikula ay nakakatulong hindi lang sa mga manonood kundi para sa manggagawang pelikulang Pilipino.

“Kaya sana po, we’re here because we’re celebrating these wonderful films that we have this year, but I also hope to enjoin everyone that as we move forward in creating these policies, sana po suportahan ninyo kami at huwag ninyo kaming iwanan dahil I assure all of you that the FDCP together with our legislators, our supporters from all government agencies are working together para tingnan ang sitwasyon ng buong industriya ng Pelikulang Pilipino ngayon at makagawa ng paraan para tulungan tayong lahat at iaangat pa ang ating industriya sa susunod pang isang daang taon,” Diño added.

Grants and goals

The titles selected for PPP 2019, which are already in advanced stages of development or production, will receive a co-production fund of up to P2 million (P1 million-worth of production equipment and up to P1 million-worth of either co-production or marketing and distribution grant) as approved by the FDCP.

For selected entries that are already finished films or films in post-production stage by independent production companies, the co-production fund due is up to P2 million (P1 million-worth of publicity and promotion from sponsors and up to P1 million-worth of finishing funds or marketing and distribution grant).

“This year, saktong-sakto rin po ang mga napili naming pelikula para i-celebrate kung ano po ba ang 100 Years ng Philippine Cinema sa atin. Dahil kahit saan mo tingnan, kahit pagbali-baliktarin mo ang klase ng pelikulang ginagawa natin, laging may elemento ng ‘Pag-ibig, Pamilya at Pagkakaibigan’ na sinasalamin ang pelikulang Pilipino. I’m proud to say that this year, our lineup of films really reflects the essence and significance of our theme,” Diño enthused.

According to Diño, the films selected for this banner year underwent careful curation by PPP’s selection committee to ensure the materials for screening are best aligned with the FDCP’s goals.

They are a diverse and colorful crop of films that will not only entertain moviegoers but also pay homage to the journey of Philippine Cinema in the last 100 years as indicated in the festival rules.

“I have been a personal witness to all the submissions this year and I can honestly tell you they all have potential. For that I am grateful and proud to call out the filmmakers who have put in the hard work and precious time to tell their stories the best they can,” Diño noted.

To give credence to the 2019 selection, the FDCP chair made it a point to introduce the members of the PPP Selection Committee at the launch, namely directors Carlitos Siguion Reyna, Sheron Dayoc, Jose Javier Reyes and Lee Briones, and Movie and Television Review and Classification Board member and President of the Quezon City Film Foundation, Manet Dayrit.

“No matter what stories they tell or how different they are from one another, these movies are the very stories that bond us together as a people. We hope that our audience, not only in September but all through the year and the many years to come, will keep supporting Filipino filmmaking, with its passionate artists and workers, who breath and live Philippine cinema,” Diño ended.

Today, The Sunday Times Magazine lends a hand to the FCDP in presenting the 10 official Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2019 featured films in the hopes of rallying the public to support the hundred year-old tradition of Filipino filmmaking.

‘Cuddle Weather

Director: Rod Marmol

Production Companies: Project 8 corner San Joaquin Projects and Regal Entertainment

Cast: Sue Ramirez and RK Bagatsing

Logline: It was love at first sound when Adela Johnson (Ramirez), an experienced prostitute, met Ram (Bagatsing), a newbie call boy, as they had loud paid sex separately in adjacent motel rooms. Their mentor-mentee set-up seems like a dreamy porn film… until one of them begins to want more than just loveless lovemaking.

‘LSS (Last Song Syndrome)’

Director: Jade Castro

Production company: Globe Studios in association with Dokimos Media Studios Inc. and Ben & Ben

Cast: Gabbi Garcia, Khalil Ramos and Ben & Ben

Logline: Sara and Zak, an aspiring musician and a yearning son, find themselves in a series of almost-but-not-quite romantic encounters as they follow an upcoming indie-folk band.

I’m Ellenya L.’

Director: Boy 2 Quizon

Production companies: Spring Films, N2 Productions and Cobalt Entertainment

Cast: Iñigo Pascual and Maris Racal

Logline: Ellenya’s world is of a typical millennial, one that revolves around the social media. Having the dreams of becoming the next big vlogger, she ventures on creating video contents with the help of her family. Will fate pave way for Ellenya L. to achieve her dreams or will it lead her to the rocky roads of life?

‘The Panti Sisters’

Director: Jun Robles Lana

Production companies: The IdeaFirst Company, Inc., Black Sheep and ALV Film Productions

Cast: Paolo Ballesteros, Christian Bables and Martin del Rosario

Logline: Three gay sons are called back by their estranged and terminally-ill father and given an offer they can’t refuse: a P300 million inheritance in exchange for each of them giving him a grandchild.


Director: Adolfo Alix, Jr.

Production companies: Noble Wolf, ABAJ Film Productions, Swift Productions and RSVP Film Studios

Cast: Anita Linda, Gina Alajar, Laurice Guillen, Jacyln Jose, Elizabeth Oropesa, Ricky Davao and Enchong Dee

Logline: Doña Atang, a once celebrated film producer from the earlier years of Filipino cinema, celebrates her 100th birthday. For her wish, she wants a reunion with all the actors and staff that she has worked with in the past.

Watch Me Kill’

Director: Tyrone Acierto

Production company: Cine Bandits Entertainment

Cast: Jean Garcia, Jay Manalo, Junyka Santarin and Rodolfo Muyuela

Logline: A ruthless assassin’s plan is interrupted when she discovers that the man she needs to kill has more to hide than expected.

‘Lola Igna’

Director: Eduardo Roy, Jr.

Production companies: ERT Productions and EMBA, Inc.

Cast: Yves Flores, Meryll Soriano, Ma. Isabel Lopez and Angie Ferro

Logline: Lola Igna is a foul-mouthed and stubborn woman who is eager to die but her neighbors are hung up on her winning the title “the oldest living grandmother in the world.” Her long lost great-great-grandson, Tim, is an aspiring vlogger who wants to latch on to her now-famous grandma but ends up giving her a new reason to live.


Director: Andoy Ranay

Production companies: T-Rex Entertainment and Black Sheep

Cast: JC Santos and Arci Muñoz

Logline: Rome and Ethan have been together for 14 years. When the two begin to feel that their relationship has gone stale, they explore the idea of going open.


Director: Dondon Santos

Production company: CINEKO Productions

Cast: McCoy de Leon, Jameson Blake, Paulo Angeles and Mark Oblea

Logline: A series of good times, bad times cherished bonding moments which will make them all realize the value of love, friendship, family and life.


Directors: Hubert Tibi and Maria Ranillo

Production companies: Nuances Entertainment Productions and PRO. PRO

Cast: Gloria Sevilla, Suzette Ranillo and Vince Ranillo

Logline: Rica (in her 50s), after working abroad, comes home to stay with Choleng (85 years old), her ageing mother, until she finds new work. She learns what her mother has done all the years when she was working abroad.

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