Sine Halaga, a new platform for beautiful stories, depicts Filipino values in contemporary films

Education transcends traditional means. The world itself is a huge classroom. With the advent of technology, learning has become more accessible, fun, and easier. Movies are among the learning tools with the greatest potential, even in the Philippines, which was considered a major filmmaking center in Asia only 70 years ago, as represented by the National Artist for Film Manuel Conde, who sat at a screening of his movie Genghis Khan at the Venice Film Festival in 1952 together with the world’s foremost filmmakers of the time.

Filipinos have an undying love for entertainment, for soap operas and drama, to a point that the country is touted as the “nation of teleseryes.” Film, therefore, is a perfect format to educate the Pinoys.

Historically speaking, Philippine cinema was among the busiest, most bustling film industries in Asia. The Philippines would release 350 titles per year, second only to Japan in terms of film production in the 1950s. This period is known as the “Golden Age” or “Contemporary Era of Tagalog Cinema.”

Before that, the Filipino film scene had already been flourishing with movies that tackled current events, societal issues, and even Philippine folklore. Cinema, back then, was more meaningful, substantial, also artful.

FROM TIMES THEATER TO THE WORLD STAGE A scene from Manuel Conde's internationally acclaimed Genghis Khan

Mainstream Tagalog movies took a huge dip in viewership in the early 2000s. Hollywood dominated the theaters. With the fall of local commercial films, independent cinema rose. To this day, some of the best quality Filipino films, thematically and content-wise as well as in terms of international validation, are indie.

Independent filmmakers spurred a renewed interest in local movies, flipping the script of what was thought to be a dying industry.

One major project of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is the Cinemalaya Film Festival, an annual competition that not only helps aspiring filmmakers make a name for themselves, but also strengthens the presence of Filipino indie movies in the country and abroad. Its most current edition is drawing to a close, ending on the first week of September.

Following the month-long event is another film fair, also by the NCCA. In partnership with the Negros Cultural Foundation (NCF), the Sine Halaga Film Festival has been launched recently. This online festival presents 12 locally-made films that highlight Filipino morals, customs, and practices.

The COVID-19 health crisis has underscored how integral the role personal, social, and cultural values play in our individual and collective quest for survival, progress, wellbeing, and happiness. This observation is what sparked the idea to create Sine Halaga. It focuses on 19 values that Filipinos hold dear, identified by the NCCA through a two-year research they had conducted. These principles include both personal and social values such as resilience, happiness, life and purpose, good governance, love for country, honesty, and integrity, to name a few.

The 12 movies were carefully curated from 100 entries through a film selection jury that consists of film critic and educator Tito Valiente, NCCA Committee on Cinema chair Rolando Tolentino, filmmakers Jeffrey Jeturian, Roy Iglesias, and Sari Dalena, National Study on Filipino Values author and lead researcher Arvin Villalon, and his co-author Jose Soliman Jr.

‘Streaming films online is an effective way of reaching the younger generation to empower them with values that are positively Filipino.’

These titles are available for viewing all year long for free on the NCCA Learning Resources Hub website and Vimeo On Demand.

Bakit ako Sinusundan ng Buwan by Richard Legaspi

Black Rainbow by Zig Madamba Dulay

Dandansoy by Rod Arden Condez

Hadlok by Ralston Jover

Looking for Rafflesias and other Fleeting Things by James Allen Fajardo

Lorna by Noel Escond

Masalimuut Ya Tiyagew Ed Dayat by Jan Carlo Natividad

Mina's Family History by Christopher Gozum

Sa Balay ni Papang by Kurt Steven Soberano

Salog ning Diklom by Jordan Jose Dela Cruz

Ugbos ka Bayabas by Manie Magbanua Jr.

13 Feet by Carlo Obispo

LOCAL FILM ADVOCATE Multidisciplinary artist and celebrated filmmaker Elvert Bañares serves as the film festival director of Sine Halaga (John Julian Muñiz)

“Our filmmakers, our artists were able to convey authentic and inspiring Filipino stories guided by the values that mark a resilient nation,” says NCCA executive director Al Ryan Alejandre. He emphasizes how volunteerism, compassion, and fellowship through countless community and personal initiatives prove essential in the recovery of the nation.

Meanwhile, according to Tito there is always something new to learn from films. “The particular art form is a very strong and potent force of change,” he explains. “The goal here is to be able to tell a good story and send a positive message while harnessing the strength of cinema.”

Beyond a regular film fair, Sine Halaga comes with an added component; the features will be used in schools as educational materials. “What makes it unique from other film fests is the films would be used as a tool to teach Filipino values,” says the film festival director Elvert “JV” Bañares.

BUHAY AT TUNGUHIN Dandansoy is about a 78-year-old aswang and a young man who helps her find a mystical lake

Other plans tied to the festival this September are live community screenings under different local government units of Pangasinan, Iloilo, Rizal, and Naga. A satellite screening at the Philippine consulate in Frankfurt, Germany is also in the pipeline.

“ believe that streaming the films online is an effective way of reaching the younger generation to empower them with values that are positively Filipino,” says director Bañares.

This goes to show that film is an indispensable part of our lives. It provides an indelible image of life that shapes the way we make sense of ourselves and the world. As fashion and film icon Audrey Hepburn once said, “Everything I learned I learned from the movies.”

Sine Halaga films can be streamed via Vimeo on Demand. Just choose the movie you want to watch, click rent, and look for the apply promo code option. Type “sinehalaga” all in lowercase, then hit the watch now button.