Preserving our film heritage

Published August 26, 2020, 10:30 AM

by Jojo Panaligan

JUST A THOUGHT:“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”Christopher Reeve


Nora Aunor in ‘Himala’ (YouTube/Screengrab)

SAVING FILIPINO FILMS: Hope the closure of ABS-CBN will not end our quest to restore good old Filipino movies.

The network’s Sagip-Pelikula effort has seen the restoration of 185 films throughout its nine-year run, starting in 2011.

Among the film classics that ABS-CBN has restored and fully digitalized are Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala,” PequeGallaga’s “Oro Plata Mata,”Mario O’Hara’s “Tatlong Taong WalangDiyos,” Eddie Romero’s “Ganito Kami Noon…Paano Kayo Ngayon?,”Mike de Leon’s “Batch ’81,” starring Mark Gil.

Laurice Guillen’s “Salome,” Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s “Karnal,” Lino Brocka’s “Tinimbang Ka NgunitKulang.”

The oldest movie restored by ABS-CBN is “IbongAdarna” (1941), directed by Vicente Salumbides.

Film restoration, in the words of network emeritus Gabby Lopez, is one of the legacies of ABS-CBN.


Joel Torre in ‘Oro, Plata, Mata’ (ABS-CBN Film Restoration Twitter)

NATIONAL FILM HERITAGE: Good to hear that the Philippine Film Archive (PFA), a division of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), continues to protect our national film heritage.

The PFA has already restored nine titles and is currently restoring two films. 

Two of its recent acquisitions, courtesy of the University of the Philippines Film Institute (UPFI),

are “Noli Me Tangere” (1961), in original print, by Gerardo de Leon and “Bayan Ko: KapitsaPatalim” (1984) by Lino Brocka.

Both de Leon and Brocka are National Artists for Film.

The UPFI Film Center in 2019 turned over to PFA 1,024 film reels for archiving, scanning, digitization, and possible restoration.

Restoration of films through digital technology is expensive. Leo Katigbak, head of ABS-CBN’s film restoration division, estimates the cost from million to as much as 10 million pesos per movie.

FDCP chair Liza Dino says there are even Russian titles in the acquired collection from UP.

From April to June 2020, the PFA was able to complete the rewinding, transfer, and inventory of the films.

Plans for the UPFI gems include digitizing the collection, migrating it to a new medium, and generating access copies for the public.


COSTLY UNDERTAKING: Restoring old, damaged films—some of them classics—is one gargantuan task. Restorers are faced with film damage as warping, light to medium deterioration, slight blockage.

  Subject for disposal are films with  melted images.

   As it were, the country has lost hundreds, thousands of our films, many of them cinematic gems, to fires, floods, other natural catastrophes, or plain and simple neglect.

    Lost forever are many of the films produced by Sampaguita Pictures, Premiere, LVN, Lea Productions, Virgo Films, AM Productions (by Amalia Fuentes), Tower Productions, NV Productions (Nora Aunor), JE Productions, FPJ, and many other production houses. Tower produced many of Nora’s amateur films.

Lea Productions, for instance, produced film gems like “Stardoom,”“Santiago,”“TubogsaGinto,” all three by Lino Brocka. The Blas family-owned company was also behind the landmark films “Maruja” (Susan Roces) and several other films that starred Amalia Fuentes, such as “Rowena” and “Adriana.”

Lea honed and developed great actors as Dante Rivero, Hilda Koronel, Jay Ilagan, Boots Anson Roa, Alicia Alonzo, Liza Lorena, Raul Aragon.


AMALIA WAS FIRST: AM Productions, the first movie production company established by a Filipino actress, came up with such high-value films as “May Lalaki Sa Ilalim ng Kama Ko,”“Lulubog,”“LilitawsaIlalim ng Tulay,”“PwedeAko, Pwede Ka Pa Ba.” All of these are missing.

And so were the films made by Juan de la Cruz Productions in the early ‘70s and Cine Filipino. Films like “Isang Gabi, TatlongBabae,”“Bawal: Asawa Mo Asawa Ko,”“Divorce: Filipino Style,” all three by Elwood Perez. They changed the course of Filipino movies.

Unforgettable are the love triangle films of Virgo Productions that combined the acting prowess of Eddie Rodriguez, Lolita Rodriguez and Marlene Dauden, the precursor of today’s infidelity triangles. The trio made box office hits out of titles like “KapagPuso’ySinugatan,”“Kasalanan Kaya,” etc.

It all started when Larry Santiago Productions gathered the three drama superstars in their first picture ever, “Sapagka’tKami’y Tao Lamang.”

The films produced by these production houses are the missing link in our appreciation of Filipino culture through film.The restoration of films from other eras gives today’s generation of Filipinos and moviegoers in general a certain perspective about the stories we tell and the human condition obtaining at certain points in our history.

Film restoration thus fulfills its role in bridging the gap between past and present, a gift to the youth of our country and for future generations to come.