THRILLMAKER: MMFF scandals and intrigues: A lookback

Published December 28, 2020, 1:00 AM

by Joee Guilas

Now that the outcome of the 46th annual Metro Manila Film Festival is finally out of the bag, with last night’s staging of the virtual Gabi ng Parangal, showbiz insiders eagerly await the consequent reactions from various groups involved in this year’s competition.  For years, the MMFF awards night, has always been a rich source of intrigues, scandals and even lawsuits, which actually make the yearly tradition not just truly colorful but also something to really look forward to.

The post-recognition night issues and conflicts that usually arise, take on some consistent patterns, which we will now look back to in this article.  One incident is something that is to me, quite funny, so I’d rather start with it right away.


Thirteen years ago, back in 2007, the awards had to be concluded in less than an hour.  Breaking Gabi ng Parangal tradition, festival organizers decided to simply announce the winners, dropping the reading of the nominees’ names for each category. In what was an event organizer’s nightmare of a situation, the program was rushed and cut short, to give way to a concert of singer Lani Misalucha in the same venue, on the same night.


The word “deserving” is, of course subject to the taste and standards of the beholder, or of the one “experiencing”  the piece of art.  Throughout the filmfest’s history, the word “deserving” has been a totally overused and abused word, not just for those who fail to bring home awards but, on two occasions, from the organizers themselves.  

During the 12th Metro Manila Film Festival in 1986, the organizers decided to not hand out the first and second Best Picture awards as well as the Best Story and Best Screenplay recognitions.. Tingting Cojuangco who sat as one of the jurors, later revealed that: “No one of the seven entries deserved these awards…” She likewise expressed concerns over the state of the Philippine movie industry at that time. 

In similar fashion, in 1994, the six major awards: Three Best PicturesGatpuno Antonio J. Villegas Cultural AwardsBest Director, and Best Screenplay, were not given as the Chairman of the Festival Board announced that “none of the entries was deserving.”


Still on the big “D” word:

In 1977, late great Lino Brocka walked out of the awarding ceremonies when Celso Ad. Castillo‘s Burlesk Queen  won eight of the ten awards including the Best Picture award during the 3rd Metro Manila Film Festival.  Right after that, Brocka reportedly threw invectives at Rolando Tinio, who was the chairman of the panel of judges of the festival.

A repeat of a director’s walkout happened in 2005, when director Joel Lamangan hurriedly left the awarding venue after losing to Jose Javier Reyes.  Lamangan failed to win the Best Director for Blue Moon against Reyes’ Kutob.  In the same year, Regal Films‘s Lily Monteverde openly declared her disappointment as she lamented that some winners in the festival were “undeserving.”

In 2001, during the 27th Metro Manila Film Festival, Best Actor winner Cesar Montano, expressed his dismay that his film, Bagong Buwan did not receive the Best Picture award. He states: “For me, Bagong Buwan is still the best picture. No offense meant, but for others, Yamashita may be the best picture. Kanya-kanya ‘yan. Wala nga lang kaming trophy. Bibili na lang kami ng trophy sa Recto.”


The word “undeserving” is naturally thrown at those who eventually bring home the trophies.   

in 1983, many were shocked after Coney Reyes won the Best Actress award for the movie Bago Kumalat ang Dugo and Anthony Alonzo was given the Best Actor award for the same movie, as they bested acting greats Charito SolisPhillip Salvador, and Vic Silayan, who were all in the movie Karnal.

In 1988 during the 14th Metro Manila Film Festival, stuntman and character actor-turned-filmmaker Baldo Marro won the Best Actor for Patrolman film, which also won him the Best Director award. Despite being a total unknown before the festival, he defeated prizewinning director Chito Roño of Itanong Mo Sa Buwan.  The twin wins caused an uproar from well-meaning critics and regular local film observers.

Just as controversial was the decision of the judges to name the first-timer Ara Mina the Best Actress for her role in Mano Po, in 2002, beating multi-awarded Vilma Santos, who was in Dekada ’70.


Commercial appeal is one of the major criteria in choosing the finalists and winners in the annual filfest—or is it?  That actually depends on a particular year’s organizing body.

In 2006, Octoarts Films and M-Zet Production’s Enteng Kabisote 3: Okay Ka, Fairy Ko: The Legend Goes On and On and On was declared the Best Picture after festival organizers changed the criteria for the award by giving more weight to “commercial appeal”. 

The rules were, however, reversed when in 2016, the festival’s Executive Committee announced the top 8 entries for the 2016 edition. Different from past years, the movies of the certified box-office drawers Vice Ganda & Coco Martin‘s The Super Parental GuardiansVic Sotto‘s Enteng Kabisote 10 and the AbangersRegal Entertainment‘s Mano Po 7: Tsinoy and Vhong Navarro‘s Mang Kepweng Returns were rejected in that edition, in favor of supposedly high-quality indie films.  That year’s box-office results ended up truly underwhelming.

Let’s now see if any new developments from last night’s awards night will make it to this list in the coming days and weeks.