Disclaimer: The article is an original composition copied from an Undergraduate Research entitled : “CINEMALAYA AS A VENUE FOR FILIPINO INDEPENDENT FILMS: An Assessment” written by Juveren Jonald B. Mendoza. All details are based from collected data from different books and online sources. For the complete source kindly check the Research at CENTRO ESCOLAR UNIVERSITY LIBRARY. Additional information were added and few remarks are corrected. Thank you and enjoy reading.

The Filipinos are born artistic when it comes to any form of art. One of which is film making, despite the fact that it is one of the youngest art form as contemporary to photography, it still serves as one of the best entertainment portal that Philippine Media industry has to offer. If history will be traced back, film was introduced to the Filipinos during the First World War. The first of which was delivered to the Philippines in 1896. The set of technology was sold to Senor Pertierra, who then produced a film entitled “Espectaculo Scientifico de Pertierra” (Pertierra Science Show) which showcased still-appearances of his work by light projection. A real movie was introduced to Filipinos by two Swiss businessmen in the year 1897 in the form of silent film. They presented documentary films and calamities in Europe. Consequently the attempt of flourishing it in the Philippines did not succeed because of the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. It is only in 1912 when the film industry was given such importance when two American filmmakers filmed Rizal’s Life and presented it to the Filipinos.

film industry was given such importance when two American filmmakers filmed Rizal’s Life

Filipino Film development moved forward as Jose Nepomuceno,considered the Father of Philippine Movies, started creating “Dalagang Bukid” (Country Maiden) by Hemogenes Ilagan and Leon Ignacio. in 1919. It was followed then by several films that delineate the state of the Philippines.

Julian Manansala the Father of Nationalistic Films created “Patria Amore” (My Beloved Country) in 1930’s. In connection to this, he was the first to put up the Malayan Movies the first Filipino Movie Studio. It is in Manansala’s time that the industry thrived and flourished.

Gerardo de Leon followed Manansala by making the movies “Tres Marias” (Tatlong Maria) in 1941. It was written for screen by Tsutomu Sawamura from Jose Esperanza Cruz’s novel. This was a way for the Japanese to use film as a form of propaganda.

Japanese used films as a form of propaganda

The short stay of Japanese in the country made the industry flourished. In the burgeoning demand of Filipinos to watch films depicting their struggle on the recent wars the industry started to enter its Golden Age as films like Garrison 13 (1946), Dugo ng Bayan (The Country’s Blood, 1946), Walang Kamatayan (Deathless, 1946), and Guerilyera (1946) incarcerated their attention.

the burgeoning demand of Filipinos to watch films depicting their struggle on the recent wars the industry started to enter its Golden Age

1950 was the start of the Golden Age in Philippine Cinema because of the cinematic breakthrough and achievement of further artistry in the field. After Lamberto Abellana’s “Anak Dalita” (The Ruins, 1956) the theme and stories moved from stories of recovering from remnants to a new assortment of stories. Sampaguita Pictures and LVN started to put up their own set of actors, directors and technicians, offering new stories for the unending hunger of moviegoers for entertainment. These two was followed abruptly by Premiere and Lebran. They are considered the “Big 4” which offered line up of films for watchers producing one film after another.

Number of award giving bodies started to emerged as the film industry grows. Manila Times Publishing Co. set up the Maria Clara Awards. In 1952, the FAMAS (Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences) Awards were handed out.

Internationally we stayed up the chart as Philippines was established as the “Filmmaking Capital of Asia”.

Venice Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival both acknowledged Manuel Conde’s “Genghis Khan” which was accepted for screening.

1960 the big four started to crumble as Lebran and Premiere closed followed by Sampaguita Pictures and LVN. The Big 4 was replaced by independent film productions like Regal which was founded by Lily Monteverde. The uprise of rock band like The Beatles started the need of young moviegoers for a twist in genre of Filipino films. Stories depicting to rise as few love teams emerged one of the most popular were that of Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos with there partners Tirso Cruz III and Edgar Mortiz respectively. Ending the decade “Bomba Films” started to rise as the schools and streets are barricaded and protest starts for the delimination of crime and injustice. However films like that of Gerardo de Leon’s “Noli Me Tangere” (Touch me Not, 1961) and “El Filibusterismo” (Subversion, 1962), “Huwag mo Akong Limutin” (Never Forget Me , 1960) and “Kadenang Putik” (Chain of Mud, 1960) are still worth mentioning.

This was also the time where youth clamored for change on the status quo answered by Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law.

Films During Martial Law was screened by the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures (BCMP). A finished script is to be presented to the said board prior to the filming.

The board insisted that the ideas of the so-called New Society be incorporated in the films being produced on those times.

THE WET LOOK Cinema replaced the ’bomba films’. The viewers being stimulated by the old bomba films, producers find ways on how to present nudity in a way that won’t surpass the board’s censoring. This started the showing of bomba stars bodies in pools while swimming, in a camiso while taking a bath and scenes like rape in river, beaches and even the waterfall started. One example was the famous film “Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa” (The Most Beautiful Animal on the Face of the Earth) starred by Former Beauty Queen Gloria Diaz.


Lino Brocka started his directing career for the movie “Tubog sa Ginto” in 1970. “Insiang” (1976), “Jaguar” (1979) and “Bona” (1980) were shown at Cannes Film Festival were few of his works. However “Maynila sa Kuko ng mga Liwanag” 1975 was one of his most famous creations.

Ishmael Bernal wrote and directed his first film “Pagdating sa Dulo” (At the Top) 1971. Ishmael directed most the films that focused on women, some of which are “Working Girls I and II”, “Hinugot sa Langit” and “Relasyon”. Other films includes “Nunal sa Tubig” (A Speck in the Water) and “Aliw” (Pleasure).

Mike de Leon was the producer of Brocka’s “Maynila sa Kuko ng mga Liwanag”. His first film was “Itim” (Black) in 1976 which won him best director in Asian Film Festival in 1978. His films includes “Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising” in 1977, “Kakabakaba Ka Ba?” in 1980, “Kisapmata” in 1981 and “Sister Stella L.” in 1984.

Peque Galaga was one of the directors who rised during this period his works includes “Binhi” in 1973, “Oro, Plata, Mata” in 1982, “Shake, Rattle & Roll” entitled “Manananggal” in 1984 and “Scorpio Nights” in 1985.

1980’s – 1990’s

This period was the start of the decline of the Philippine Movie industry. Numbers of production houses started to close because they started losing millions in the process. Hollywood films started to enter the commercial films.

Two of the country’s biggest TV networks started to establish their own. ABS-CBN’s Star Cinema produced “Ronquillo:Tubong Cavite, Laking Tondo” in cooperation with Regal Films, “Asero”, “Ama, Ina, Anak”, and “Madrasta” were few of their films. On the other hand GMA networks produced films like “Sa Pusod ng Dagat”, “Jose Rizal” and “Muro Ami”.

2000 and Beyond

As commercialism in the industry rise, films with the theme of transformation and hope started to rise.

The rebirth caught some light when films like “Mga Munting Tinig” (Small Voices) by Gil Portes, “Crying Ladies” by Mark Meily and “Magnifico” by Maryo J. de los Reyes saw the rebirth of giving life to creativity in themed films.

Though independent films was not new it started to popularized. From its founder named Kidlat Tahimik who won the International Critic’s Prize in the Berlin Film Festival for his movie “Mababangong Bangungot” (Perfumed Nightmare) in 1977 the independent cinema started to enter the scene. Nick de Ocampo’s Oliver (1983) and Raymond Red’s “Ang Magpakailanman” (The Eternal, 1983) also received attention in festivals abroad. However these type of films started to gain honor on international community. The films tend to show what Filipino films really are. “Duda” (Doubt) by Crisaldo Pablo was the first full length digital film in the Philippines. “Donsol” by Adolfo Alix followed the digital film making and even went to the extreme as he shot scenes underwater.

International film recognitions were given to various Independent Digital films like Berlin Film Festival, Cannes, Asian Film Festival, Montreal and evan Academy Awards and Oscars. Films like “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” by Auraeus Solito in 2005 which was the Philippine’s official entry for the 2007 Academy Awards, “Kubrador” by Jeffrey Jeturian in 2006 won International Critic’s award in Moscow Film fest, Ms. Gina Pareno won as best actress for Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asia and Arab Cinema. Other films include “Endo” by Jade Castro and Jim Libiran’s “Tribu” both in 2007. In 2008 Brillante Mendoza’s “Serbis” was the first full length film to compete in Cannes Film Festival after that of Brocka’s “Bayan Ko Kapit sa Patalim” in 1984. Recently “Ploning” by Dante Nico Garcia was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the 81st Academy Awards.

With its struggle to cope up with its contemporary abroad and with big production houses like Hollywood, Philippine Cinema continues to flourish every angle to cope with its neighboring countries, one proof is the first Filipino Animated films “Urduja” and “Dayo: Sa Mundo ng Elementalia”. Thus we all hope that we think Filipino first despite it lacks some of the special feature we want from foreign movies.

But creativity wise and story wise we are ahead of everybody.

note: this is a summarized version of Philippine Cinema’s History for more information please visit http://www.aenet.org/family/filmhistory.htm for most information are based on his writings.


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