MOVIEGOER: How it all started

Published November 18, 2021, 6:53 AM

by Nestor Cuartero

Metro Manila Film Festival

Here’s hoping the 2021 edition of the Metro Manila Film Festival can redeem the local movie industry from its sorry state of dormancy, not bankruptcy. The announcement by the MMDA on Nov. 12 that the December festival shall be held in movie houses that, hopefully, shall be fully operational by then, speaks volumes of raised hopes among workers in the film world and its allied industries. In 2019, the MMFF grossed a total of P995 million at the box office.

As usual, eight entries were selected out of 19 films entered, and they will run from Christmas Day, Dec. 25, until Jan. 8, 2022.


The entries are:

A Hard Day, action-drama by director Law Fajardo, starring Dingdong Dantes and John Arcilla.

Big Night, comedy by Jun Robles Lana, starring Christian Bables.

Huling Ulan Sa Tag-Araw romantic comedy by Louie Ignacio, starring Rita Daniela and Ken Chan.

Huwag Kang Lalabas, horror drama by Adolf Alix, Jr., starring Kim Chiu, Jameson Blake, Beauty Gonzalez, Aiko Melendez.

Kun Maupay Man It Panahon, drama by Carlo Francisco Manatad, starring Charos Santos, Daniel Padilla, Rans Rifol.

Love at First Stream, romantic comedy by Cathy Garcia-Molina, starring Kaori Oinuma, Jeremiah Lisbo, Daniela Stranner, Anthony Jennings.

Nelia, suspense-drama by Lester Dimaranan, starring Winwyn Marquez and Raymond Bagatsing.

The Exorsis, horror-comedy by Fifth Solomon, starring Toni Gonzaga and Alex Gonzaga.


For the benefit of young people, let me walk you through the story behind the Metro Manila Film Festival as we know it today.

It all started in the city of Manila, this mother of all Filipino film festivals.

On June 24, 1966, the seed behind the blossoming of the 47-year-old MMFF was first planted in the city of Manila.

It was the summer of 1966. Inspired by his love for film and the arts, Manila Mayor Antonio J. Villegas launched the first Manila Film Festival (Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino), which allowed 10 Filipino movies an opportunity to run for 10 days in what were then considered as ‘English only theaters.’

These included first-run, downtown movie houses as Ideal, Odeon, Capitol, Avenue.

During those times, Tagalog movies were being shown in what were deemed as second-tier theaters like Life, Globe, Dalisay and Center along Quezon Boulevard in Quiapo.

Per Villegas’ grand design, the festival was to be held every year starting on June 24, coinciding with the celebration of the city’s foundation or Araw ng Maynila. A parade of stars, featuring a flurry of colorful floats carrying popular movie stars in full regalia, preceded the opening day.


Villegas’ action sent a strong message that harked of patriotism and love of the Philippine movie industry, which he wanted to boost. For the first time, for at least 10 days straight, no foreign films, mostly American, were shown in all Manila theaters to give importance to locally produced ones.

The movie house group protested initially, countering that they were under contract with foreign film distributors.

Villegas, however, was firm. He threatened not to issue business permits to theaters and film distributors who would not cooperate.

At the same time, he urged producers to come up with good movies, their best outputs, to show the theater owners, and the world, that Filipinos can make good movies. ([email protected])