Tag Archive: filipino movies


*****First of all, allow me some time to patronize and congratulate myself for the timely resurrection of this blog. I can’t believe that it has been two and a half years since my last post – my fault entirely. For a time I thought that I had lost my passion for writing. I never considered myself a disciplined writer. Hence, it is only now that I’m playing catch-up!*****

(First of 4 Parts)

When any Filipino film buff is asked to do a rundown of the best Philippine movies of the second golden age and beyond (the second golden age is a term coined to refer to a rather sporadic exhibition of local films from 1974 onwards that are characterized by a strong sociopolitical message or those that exhibit innovative techniques when it comes to filmmaking), one would always recite the Cannes film noirs of Lino Brocka (Maynila, Insiang, Jaguar, among others), the cyclical films of Ishmael Bernal (Nunal sa Tubig, City After Dark, or Himala), or the intriguing allegorical works of Mike de Leon (Kisapmata, Batch ’81, Kakaba Kaba Ka Ba?). Perhaps the list would also have a sprinkling of films by Peque Gallaga, Eddie Romero, and Celso Ad Castillo.

The showstopping works of these filmmakers are great indeed. Truly, these films reflect an important milieu in our history as a nation, and they have withstood the test of time. There’s no question there.

However, a number of equally brilliant films have unjustly been off the radar of the average film buff. These films are not as celebrated by film critics and film lovers alike. They are often absent in the perennial “Top 10/20/50 lists of most notable films.” And if these films are ever included in such a list, they often occupy the tailend notches in the ranking.

They say that the Filipinos love to champion the underdogs. And true to form, this article aims to celebrate the most underrated Filipino films from the 1970’s up until the present time. Any such list is always subjective, obviously. But there is no denying that these films ought to be remembered and discussed as much as the other cinematic greats!

The films are listed in chronological order according to the movie’s year of production:

1. Pagdating Sa Dulo by Ishmael Bernal (1971) – This writer cannot believe that a leading website that consolidates an exhaustive list of Filipino film classics did not have this film in its Top 100! Absurd, indeed! Bernal’s debut film is one of those that tackle the art of filmmaking. This movie-within-a-movie focuses on the lives of a taxi dancer and her lover as they are catapulted to stardom – making a mess of their personal lives in the process. The film is unforgettable not only for the tour de force performance of Rita Gomez, Vic Vargas, and Eddie Garcia but also for the poetic screenplay and assured direction of Bernal, who was still a rookie on the director’s chair during this time. Brocka made a similar film a few years after called Stardoom, but it ultimately pales in comparison to the Bernal’s arthouse hit. Who would ever forget the final scene where the characters of Gomez and Vargas ascend the stairs of the moviehouse – their faces showing a bewildered, questioning then defeated look.

2. Sino’ng Kapiling, Sino’ng Kasiping by Eddie Romero (1977) – Romero’s intimate study on the psychology of marriage and infidelity boasts of strong performances especially from Daria Ramirez and Lito Legaspi. Excellent characterization lends utmost credibility to the film’s portrayal of couples who realize that their respective marriages have hit a dead end. The well-written script underscores every person’s need for a sense of purpose and affirmation. Sadly, the film’s excellent acting, well fleshed-out characters, and excellent screenplay were not complemented by the film’s rather dismal technical elements, especially the lousy camerawork.

3. Hubad na Bayani by Robert Ylagan (1977) – This film established Robert Arevalo (Ylagan is his real surname) as an equally good actor/director. To say that this is an important film would be a huge understatement. Set during the 1920’s, it depicts the miserable lives of peasant families who are terrorized by landlords, brainwashed by fanatical cults, and drawn to fight for a cause by rebel groups – depicting an emerging nation brewing with social ferment. The depiction of rural Philippines as a feudal and agricultural wasteland of oppression and injustice is truthful and carefully studied. The ensemble cast is excellent and the film’s scope still rings true up to this day. Behn Cervantes made a similar film the year before which he called Sakada. However, Cervantes celebrated work appears too theatrical, slow, and preachy for the contemporary viewer. Here is where the merits of Ylagan’s film lies. Though far from perfect technically, the film as a whole looks and feels more organic, in sharp contrast to Cervantes’ “street-activist” aesthetics.

4. Ang Tatay Kong Nanay by Lino Brocka (1978) – This is perhaps one of Dolphy’s finest films. The Philippines’ comedy king will forever be credited for originating the flamboyant gay in Philippine Cinema – long before Vic Sotto, Roderick Paulate, and Vice Ganda came into the picture. This dramedy stars Nino Muhlach, Philippine Cinema’s child wonder of the 70’s. Dolphy, on the other hand, plays foster father to Muhlach’s amusing and cutesy character. His love for his son and his desire to give his son a normal family life has led him to conceal his true sexual orientation from the inquisitive boy. When he is finally outed towards the end of the film, the concluding scenes will forever be remembered as one of the most poignant and touching finales in Philippine cinema – and in a Dolphy film at that! Dolphy’s pioneering depiction of gays as flamboyant and histrionic is balanced by the film’s quieter moments. Brocka here powerfully merges commercial appeal and artistic integrity. The end product is funny, grounded, affecting, and believable.

5. Ikaw At Ang Gabi by Danny Zialcita (1979) – Not until it was later found out that this film was carbon copied from the American miniseries Torn Between Two Lovers, this excellently crafted melodrama features commanding performances from Dindo Fernando and Chanda Romero. An adult tale of failed relationships and broken marriages, this film sort of foreshadows Jerrold Tarog’s innovative Sana Dati. Love in this film that was made towards the end of the 70’s is portrayed in a very unromatnicized manner. It is not in the sweeping saccharine declarations of affection. Rather, it is found in the little things – in acceptance, forgiveness, and the commitment to give it one more try. Sappy concepts it may seem but thankfully, the film does not dissolve in too much pathos. Technical elements are all outstanding (relative to Philippine melodramas that are often convoluted, manipulative, and overdetermined) – from the cinematography to editing to musical scoring.

Pagdating sa Dulo-71- photo- Vic Vargas-Rita Gomez- Eddie Garcia-sfimgresimagesIkaw at ang Gabi-79- Beth Bautista-DindoF-sf Sino'ng Kapiling Sino'ng Kasiping-77- photo-sf

Favorite Films From The 90’s

Hi everyone!

Apparently, it is my rundown of my favorite films of the 80’s that has garnered the most views in my blog. Thanks everyone for messaging and for commenting.

At some point, many are correct when they say that the 80’s (especially the first half) was indeed a landmark era for Philippine Cinema, both in quantity and quality. Ironically, the repression of the Marcos regime also ignited the blooming of a national cinema that discussed the pressing issues of the times. Veiled or outrightly exposed, the notable Filipino films of the 80’s truly depicted a turbulent era in Philippine history and reflected a much talked about social milieu for the movie audiences to see.

But soon enough, things started to nosedive.

The 1986 EDSA Revolution may have restored democratic rule in government but did very little in temrs of uplifting the social and economic conditions of many Filipinos. In the FIlipino film, the Aquino government accomplished ZERO when it comes to improving the quality and industrial conditions of a much-patronized artform. Hence, the golden age of the early 80’s would end sometime in 1986. It can be said that the unabated crass commercialism of Philippine Cinema and its stunted artistic growth would continue way into the decade that followed.

And that is the topic of this long overdue blog post.

The cinematic output of the 90’s would really pale in comparison to that of the preceding decade. For one, the 90’s saw the deaths of two very important pillars in Philippine Cinema—national artist Lino Brocka, who perished in a car accident in 1991, and fellow national artist Ishmael Bernal, who succumbed to a sudden heart attack in 1996. On the other hand, other luminous directors of the past decade such as Mike de Leon, Laurice Guillen, and Celso Ad Castillo, went on inactive status and only made films sporadically.

Another thing is the continued dominance of the Hollywood film when it comes to box office performance. We often see Filipino films unashamedly copying Hollywood plots, storylines, and for crying out loud—-even characters and whole titles for that matter! Producers also stuck woth tried and tested formula films that were sure to make money at the tills.

It is in this manner that most of the notable films appearing on this list have a few things in common. One, they are undoubtedly compromised works. Some films may ride on a popular genre (melodrama, action, love story, the youth film, sex film, etc.), while others capitalized on the so-called “star system” in order to recoup their capital. Few from the films on this list actually made money, but nevertheless, these films are fortunate because they were directed by gifted filmmakers who learned how to compromise between commercial appeal and artistic integrity. Save for the last film by Mike de Leon, none of the films from the 90’s that appear on this list is worthy to be called a “classic.” Nevertheless, they deserve mention because they are symbols of hope that a well made film could still be made amid a monolithic system of films made to dumb down the masses.

1. Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina by Gil Portes (1990)- This brave film was a box office nightmare. Nora Aunor essays another powerful performance as a mother who leaves her son to her bestfriend to become a political rebel. It is very interesting how the home, politics, motherhood, citizen, friendship, family, and the dichotomy of classes all come to play in this engaging and intriguing social melodrama. Aunor essays another powerful and affecting performance but actress Gina Alajar is also excellent. Gil Portes’ direction though is upstaged by the gravity of Ricky Lee’s script which is truly reasonant and relevant for the times.

2. May Minamahal by Jose Javier Reyes (1993)- Heavily attached to the romantic comedy formula, May Minamahal is gifted with topnotch scriptwriting from writer-director Jose Javier Reyes. A rehash of the rich boy poor girl format, the film rises above mediocrity thanks to convincing characterization, taut editing, and controlled acting. This film, which earned millions at the tills, shows how disciplined Jose Javier Reyes is as a director in the sense that he ner goes overboard. Aga Muhlach, Aiko Melendez, and Ronaldo Valdez turn in memorable performances.

3. Sana Maulit Muli by Olivia Lamasan (1995)- This is probably the forerunner of the OFW films that followed years after this intelligent melodrama came out (1995). The film tells the struggles of two Filipino young professionals in California, who also happen to be lovers, played excellently by Lea Salonga and Aga Muhlach. Everything seems to work in this commercial film. Intelligent scripting, assured direction, affecting performances especially of its lead actors, above average cinematography, astute editing and scoring, and competent sound. Olivia Lamasan is a good director in the sense that she uses the romantic movie foil to communicate relevant issues to her audience. Her 2004 film Milan, is another testament to her insightful storytelling.

4. Bakit May Kahapon Pa by Joel Lamangan (1996) – Another brave film done in a Brocka-ish manner, Bakit May Kahapon Pa is another story of a political rebel, a daughter of a peasant who goes to the city to seek revenge against a greedy and corrupt military man and his entire family. The images in this film seem to come out straight from the headlines —massacres, farmers losing lands, rural violence, corruption in the military, and the seeming apathy of the urban rich to the plight of the masses. Aunor gives a rather heavy handed but convincing performance.

5. Madrasta by Olivia Lamasan (1996) – This is the film that made Sharon Cuneta an actress. It is truly amazing how Cuneta discards the acting conventions and predictable roles that had prevented her growth to a truly competent actress. This controlled melodrama is the story of a woman who had to balance her roles as stepmom, wife, and career woman. A feminist film directed by a female director, the film made a killing at the box office, with the gamble paying off for Cuneta, who made this film outside her mother studio.

6. Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa by Chito RoÑo (1998) – Another feminist and melodramatic film, the film tells the story of Lea Bustamante, a social worker and a mother of two kids from two different men. This entertaining but important film examines the role of women in Philippine society. Hence, roles are questioned, prejudices are junked, and men are placed in the periphery. This film benefits from a keenly observant script by Lualhati Bautista, the excellent acting of its actors especially Vilam Santos, Carlo Aquino, and Serena Dalrymple, and the competent direction of Chito Rono.

7. Bayaning Third World by Mike de Leon (1999) – This film is perhaps the “Film of the Decade.” A deconstructionist and post modern film, the film received little patronage from the moviegoing public due to its “arty” structure and the very intellectual handling of the material. An investigation on the heroism of Jose Rizal, Bayaning Third World is the director’s answer to a centennial Rizal film that was full of factual errors and shallow historical research. Shot in black and white, the film boldy violates many conventions in filmmaking – temporal and spatial limitations, characters talking directly to the audience, film genres discarded altogether, and black and white photography at the close of the twentieth century. This film is probably the best film to come out of Philippine Cinema since Lino Brocka’s “Orapronobis.”