Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Filipino Movies: Ingenious or Ignominious?

The Filipino Movie industry has been around for more than a century.

In spite of this, Filipinos are still debating one thing: Are Filipino movies good or bad?

Our movie industry is riddled with too many contradictions that everybody has an opinion about them. Too good, too bad. Too progressive, too backward. Too intelligent, too banal. Too original, too clichéd.

Others think that it has a very bright future, but some believe that it is hopeless, doomed, and even dead.

But, what exactly are the problems of the Filipino Movies?

Let's scrutinize the people involved in our industry.


We have the best. They are well trained and very hard working. Even if you give them antiquated facilities, they will always manage to get by and do their job competently. No doubt, an old facility will show its limitations on film, but we must admire our technicians' patience, ingenuity and resourcefulness. Remember how Raul Silos, Sr. invented the Siloscope, a type of lens that projected a wide screen image, long before Hollywood invented the Cinemascope, a wide angle lens capable of projecting spectacular, bigger-than life films. And how do you think Francis Ford Coppola managed to create his award-winning film Apocalypse Now sans the help of the Filipino technicians? We can conclude therefore, that given the most modem facilities, our technicians could do an even better job.


Who says all our actors are lousy? Sure, we have lots of awful ones, but we also have a
great number that we can include in our crème de la crème list. It is a pity that many have passed away like Charito Solis, Pancho Magalona, Leopoldo Salcedo, Vic Silayan, Dindo Femando and Rita Gomez, but we have others who are still alive and kicking and they're very good. Rosa Rosal, Lolita Rodriguez, Hilda Koronel, Christopher de Leon, Vhong Navarro, Cesar Montano, Tommy Abuel, and superstars Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos, plus many, many more.


We have a very small number of Screenwriters. In 1981, the Screenwriters Guild of the
Philippines (of which I was a member) had only 61 scriptwriters working for the Filipino movies. In an industry that was producing at least 400 films a year, each
Screenwriter has to write 6.6 screenplays to fill the demand. We have good scriptwriters, but to produce 6.6 screenplays a year, can we expect a well written screenplay? Mind you, most of these scriptwriters are also writing for television dramas and working full-time in an office. In my case, I had to write at least 8 teleplays every week to avoid replays (which the sponsors hate). However, if you were working for a network owned by "You know who" during his regime, the network was able get away with many things. Case in point: when Alma Moreno became too busy with her film assignments, Alindog had replayed one episode ten times. When the show's sponsors finally complained, that was the only time the network did something and Charo Santos became a regular replacement for Alma Moreno.


Again, it's a pity that many good ones have left us, like Gerardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Ishmael Bernal and Lino Brocka, but we still have others who are as competent, like Eddie Garcia, Eddie Romero, Laurice Guiilen, Mariiou Abaya, Mario O’hara, Chito Roño and more. Of course we're not trying to discount the fact that we also have a stable of asinine movie directors.


Filipino Movies eve trendy.
No doubt, this problem is rampant. Whatever genre makes a killing at the box office causes every producer in town to jump on the bandwagon. Result: a glut of the same stuff being produced without regard to quality and uniqueness. Even titles are trendy. There was a time when long titles were in vogue. Every Filipino movie had a long title: DILIGIN MO NG HAMOG ANG UHAW NA LUPA (written by Diego Cagahastian); IBALIK MO ANG ARAW SA MUNDONG MAKASALANAN (written by Marina Feleo Gonzales); LUMAKAD KANG HUBAD SA MUNDONG IBABAW (written by Henry Cuino); Then the trend focused on one-word titles: BRUTAL (written by Ricky Lee); ATSAY (written by Edgardo M. Reyes); JAGUAR (written by Jose ”Pete” Lacaba). Then the word PUSO (heart) became so popular (as if we didn’t have enough of this in the 1950s): SINUNGALING MONG PUSO; DITO SA SKING PUSO; NARITO ANG PUSO KO; PANGARAP NG PUSO; And many, many more PUSO. I was in fact, waiting for someone to make a movie called: PUSO NG SAGING SA AKING KARE-KARE.

Filipino Movies refuse to learn.
Not all, but many people in our industry are in the so-called DENIAL STAGE. Like a cancer victim who asks initially: “Why me?” Many in the the Filipino film industry ask the same question.

An actor, for instance, would ask: “Why me?” If you tell him to attend an acting workshop. “What? You are telling me to study acting, me, the superstar? I became a millionaire from acting!” Yet ask him what a SWIMMING POOL TECHNIQUE is, and he wouldn’t know the answer.

A director may ask: “Why Me?” Because he refuses to learn his craft better. He thinks
that he knows everything. But try asking him the difference between Montage and Mise-en-scene and he'll look at you as if you're an alien f.o.f.s. (fresh off flying saucer) and that you must be eradicated immediately.

When screenwriters gather, it's natural for everyone to talk about his or her latest project. And when you bring up the idea of conducting a seminar- workshop for screen writing, a screenwriter will ask (and you guessed it right) "Why me?" "I've been doing this job for 100 years, what do I need a seminar for?" But try asking him the difference between a Purpose accomplishment story and Purpose abandonment story and he wouldn't have the slightest idea.

Filipino Movies are constricted.
No doubt, this is the pits. The late Film Director Gerry De Leon once said of the Philippine Censors: "Pusakal" (Ruthless). And I totally agree. They have been like this since the 1940s. There was a time when the Philippine Board of Censors for Motion Pictures required every writer to get an approval first of his story before he or she could negotiate with any film producers. Of course it required an approval fee. If they reject your material, the fee is forfeited! Where in the world can you find such censorship? You’re right, only in the Philippines.

And now, the censors are dipping their fingers everywhere. They even have the power to SUSPEND a performer from appearing on TV if that talent had said something that the Censors think was not supposed to be said. Sonafabitch! I would hate to be working on Philippine TV these days.


The Filipino Movies should stop being trendy and being a copycat.

Let's be more creative. Let s stop imitating Hollywood. It's not bad to pick up good things from Hollywood (such as learning how to use the latest facilities to improve the "look" of our films). MOON CHILD (Itanong Mo Sa Buwan) by Chito Roño proved that we can also make Filipino Movies with superior technical quality. For instance, let's quit being fascinated by Michael Douglas' FATAL ATTRACTION that we made Aga Mulach had the same fatal attraction with Vilma Santos in SINUNGALING MONG PUSO.

The Filipino Movies must accept the fact that learning is a continuing process.
A person, including a filmmaker, will always learn something new if he updates himself on new things. The trouble with many people in the our film industry is they tend to shrug their shoulders on new things.

The Filipino Movies must be liberated.
Enough is enough. The Board of Censors must just be there to CLASSIFY films and not to be the nation's holier-than-thou guardians of every Filipino's morality. Let the filmmakers explore the subject of their films with all the freedom they need.

And finally, we confront the question: Are the Filipino Movies ingenious or ignominious?

In my own opinion, most Filipino Movies nowadays are bad. But, we can do something to improve them. However, I'm afraid it will remain an industry of irony, just like the country itself: too much rain, too much sun; Too much enlightening, too much superstitions; Too many palatial houses, too many people living in the dump; Too much patriotism, too much braindrain; Too much hate, too much love. And this is summed up by a Tagalog expression that goes: Sala sa init, sala sa lamig. (Ill-suited to the heat, ill-adapted to the cold). •


Anonymous Rey said...

I haven't been watching Filipino movies in a long while. Maybe because I haven't found one worth sitting for two hours and feel good after it.


January 2, 2008 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger kc cordero said...

thank you for linking me. mabuhay ka!


January 3, 2008 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...


I can't blame you for being disilussioned about our local films. If changes don't happen soon, our movies might end up like the way our komiks industry had succumbed to the inevitable end.


Thank goodness you didn't have a conniption for linking your site without your permission :)

January 3, 2008 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger Teddy Pavon said...

Whats a 'Swimming Pool' Technique?

One reason why Pinoy Cinema is because of how strong the influence a producer has on a film. While not necessarily adept in film or scriptwriting, since they hold the money, whatever they say goes. Even if you write an award winning script, if you don't tweak it to suit the producer's fancy, they'll just find someone else who would do the dirty work.

January 3, 2008 at 11:34 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Hi Ted:

You're absolutely right. Our movies are somewhat akin to komiks. The publishers have the funds and they always try to dictate the writers and the illustrators.

But guess what? If you insist as an artist and let them see that what you want to do will put the industry on a higher pedestal, they actually listen sometimes. You lose some, you win some, but the most important thing is to nudge them from time to time. As artists, we have to keep pushing the envelope, because if we don't, the industry will end up way deep down the gutter.

Now, you may not have heard of the "swimming pool technique" but most probably you've heard of Konstantin Stanislavsky (1863- 1938)?

His process of character development, the "Stanislavski Method", was the catalyst for METHOD ACTING, the most influential acting system on the modern stage and screen.

Method acting confronts the question of: To feel, or not to feel.

In method acting, the actor "goes inside" the mind of the character he is portraying, hence the "To feel" aspect.

In mechanical acting (which is solely based upon techniques - as in there is a technique how to cry, how to laugh, how to get mad, etc.). A very good example of a non-method actor is KARL MALDEN of the STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO TV series. He is a very good actor, he will play his role 365 days a year very competently, yet he does not "go in" unlike MARLON BRANDO who "goes in" to think like the character.

We can say therefore, that in Method acting, the actor BECOMES the character himself, and therefore, there are more nuances, surprises, sometimes even shock value – because the audience sees the character as a unique entity and therefore unforgettable. Try to recall how Marlon Brando played the demigod in APOCALYPE NOW and you'll realize how MEMORABLE that character is.

The "Swimming pool technique" is one exercise that every method actor does before tackling a character. You stretch out in a couch (as if you're in a floating device in the swimming pool), and you begin to tense your head, down to your neck, shoulders,arms, hands, chest, stomach, crotch, thighs, legs, feet, then toes. Using this exercise, your body becomes more flexible when you move around to act. This is the equivalent of "Voicing" that singers do to prepare their voices for a concert.

Another good discipline for an actor is Martial Arts and swimming. They'll make your body quite flexible.

And since the tools of an actor are: VOICE and BODY, doing the swimming pool technique and martial arts will take care of the body side. For the voice, you lie down on the floor, place several books on your tummy, and you speak and must make the books move. This is how you practice speaking using your diaphragm, and not your throat like most people do.

Acting is a serious preoccupation. And it is very disheartening when our local actors don't bother to learn their craft. I can name names who uses the method acting in local films: the late Vic Silayan, Lolita Rodriguez, the late Charito Solis, Tommy Abuel, Nick Agudo, Angie Ferro, the late Pancho Magalona, the late Sarah Joaquin (Itim - with Charo Santos), and Cecille Guidote (now Alvarez).

The likes of Christopher de Leon, Bembol Rocco, Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos and Manoy Eddie Garcia – they're all mechanical actors, but very competent. Can you imagine if they decide to go the Stanislavsky way?

January 4, 2008 at 12:25 AM  
Blogger Robby Villabona said...

One major flaw in Aklas Isip's critique of your article in Randy's book is that rich works of literary art (including comics and film) do not flourish under a repressive regime. I have not in fact seen any correlation between the richness of a society's artistic output and the degree to which they have a liberal democracy.

Just take a look at the 1000 greatest films of the web site "They Shoot Pictures, Don't They" ( and you'll see that among the list are films from the USSR, Iran, Hungary, Poland, and others during they years these countries were under repressive religious or Communist rule.

January 5, 2008 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

That's exactly what my point is.
His research should be more thorough, that he shouldn't accept one written article he had read as the ultimate representation of the fact in question. Check what were written worldwide and based your conclusion from it.

Indeed, during the Martial Law years, some Filipino movies produced were quite good and many of them were based on komiks serials.

Aklas Isip seems to be too literal, that when I only included 5 samples of good komiks writing, he twisted it by saying that five samplers are not good enough. I gather that what he really wants me to do is make the list of ALL the good ones, no matter if the number reaches 100 or so.

January 5, 2008 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Well also blame the red-neck uneducated masses who embrace this sh!t.. and spend their money on crap. thats why the Filipino movie industry is still at (infant-stage).. maybe after 20 years when the red-neck mediocre masses have died-off will the movie industry start its progress.

May 6, 2008 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 6, 2008 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...


It seems to me that when the filmmakers or komiks creators extend their hands to the masses, lift them and lead them to a higher pedestal, the masses end up liking what they see. As an artist, you might encounter some difficulty initially, but the more you expose the nasses to new heights, the more they become accustomed to higher consciousness.

If you're an artist and a practitioner in both films and komiks, have more patience.

There is an old saying in Spanish: "la paciencia todo lo alcanza"
patience conquers everything.

Keep creating good quality work whatever it is that you love to do.

May 6, 2008 at 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL....I couldn't stop laughing when I read this.....Seriously, what's with the titles anyway..... You know you are plenty frustrated with what's happening in our entertainment industry( movie,music, etc) when you scour the internet looking for articles like these to tell yourself ... Di ka nag-iisa....
Hope someone will end this stupid charade and finally say nuff is ENOUGH!!!!

April 17, 2012 at 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it was manuel silos who invented the siloscope not raul silos sr.

November 2, 2013 at 10:16 AM  

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