FILM IN THE PHILIPPINES

FILM IN THE PHILIPPINES

Most films made in the Philippines are in Tagalog. Sex and violence are major themes in films, which are often adaptations of American screen productions. American films are popular and readily available, and so high-quality Filipino films have been slow to develop. First run Hollywood films are available on the streets in the form of cheap, pirated DVDs.

The first film to be shown in the Philippines was shown in 1897. Over the years, Filipino films have ranged from silent movies to talkies; black and white to color. Nationwide, there are more than 1000 movie theaters. Early in the 1980s, it was estimated in Metro Manila alone, there were around 2.5 million moviegoers.

Award-winning and well-respected Filipino directors include Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Laurice Guillen, Olivia Lamasan, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Ishmael Bernal, Joel Lamangan, Jose Javier Reyes and Lino Brocka (deceased). The Filipino film "100" directed by Chris Martinez won the Audience Award at the 2008 Pusan International Film Festival.

There is a strong local film production industry in the Philippines. Although very long (three hours) Marilou Abaya’ "Rizal", made in 1998 to coincide with the Centennial celebrations of Philippines Independence is well worth watching. "Bayan Ko (My country)" was made by Lino Brocka, arguably the most renowned and accomplished Filipino film director. Many of the films are produced in the Filipino language and concentrate on peculiarly Filipino film genres of comedy (such as the movies of Nora Aunor or Yoyoy Villayame), stories of frustrated love and action movies a-kindred to "Kung Fu" movies.

Film Censors in the Philippines

Films in the Philippines are screened and censored by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). Some of the decisions have spark controversy such as the censorship of sex scenes in three Oscar-winning films, including Shindler’s List, and the Spanish film Belle Epoque.

Philippine President Arroyo was criticized for using her office to ban a sexually explicit movie passed by censors but condemned by the Catholic church. The film, Live Show, was about people who performed sex acts before audiences. The chief censor quit and artists actors and directors joined human rights and military groups to protest the ban as a curb on the freedom of expression and defended the film as social commentary on poverty not a pornographic film.

The effort to ban the film was led by powerful Cardinal Sin. Film viewers may have been deprived of seeing the film at theaters but they could pick it up on the streets in the form of cheap, pirated DVDs.

Martin Scorsese's “The Last Temptation of Christ” was banned in the Philippines for its 'blasphemous' content. “The Da Vinci Code” banned in Manila in 2006 (See Below).

Early History of Philippine Cinema

Filipinos started making movies in 1919. However, it would be important to know that the film industry in the Philippines began through the initiative of foreign entrepreneurs. Two Swiss entrepreneurs introduced film shows in Manila as early as 1897, regaling audiences with documentary films lips showing recent events and natural calamities in Europe. Not only that but the arrival of the silent films, along with American colonialism, in 1903 created a movie market. But these film clips were still novelties. They failed to hold the audiences’ attention because of their novelty and the fact that they were about foreigners. When two American entrepreneurs made a film in 1912 about Jose Rizal’s execution, the sensation they made it clear that the Filipino’s need for material close to their hearts. This heralded the making of the first Filipino film. [Source: aenet.org/family/filmhistory <>]

The credit of being the first Filipino to make a film goes to Jose Nepumuceno, whom historians dub as the “Father of Philippine Movies”. Nepumuceno’s first film was based on a highly-acclaimed musical play of that day, Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden) by Hemogenes Ilagan and Leon Ignacio. In those early years of filmmaking, enormous capital was needed to keep up with the Hollywood industry. Despite its weak points, Hollywood provided the Philippine film industry with examples that the early filmmakers followed. It is not surprising that many of those same genres set so many years ago still appear in contemporary Philippine films. But it was difficult to match Hollywood style in those days with the meager capital set aside for the developing film industry. Ironically, the same people who helped the film industry develop as a form of expression were the same ones who suppressed this expression. <>

The early years of Philippine film, starting from the 1930s, were a time of discovering film as it was at that time still a new art form. Stories for films came from the theater and popular literature being, as they were, “safe”, with the filmmaker being assured of its appeal. Nationalistic films were also in vogue despite early restrictions on films being too subversive. Early film producers included “wealthy Spaniards”, American businessmen and Filipino landlords and politicians. It is not surprising that…pre-war Philippine movies…were inhibited from expressing their views that might question the establishment and were encouraged instead to portray the love and reconciliation between members of different classes…

Starting with Dalagang Bukid, early films dug into traditional theater forms for character types , twists and turns in the plot, familiar themes and conventions in acting. This set the trend of Philippine films based entirely on immensely popular dramas or sarswelas . Besides providing ready materials, this device of using theater pieces ensured an already existing market. From the komedya of the sarswela, the typical Filipino aksyon movie was to develop. The line dividing the good and the bad in the komedya was religion with the Christians being the good and the Moors representing the bad. In present movies, the line that divides the two is now law or class division. The sinakulo or the passion play was the root of the conventional Filipino melodrama. The Virgin Mary became the “all-suffering, all-forgiving Filipino Mother” and Jesus was the “savior of societies under threat and the redeemer of all those who have gone wrong”. Another source of movie themes was Philippine literature. Francisco Baltazar and Jose Rizal, through the classics for which they were famous, have given the industry situations and character types that continue to this day to give meat to films both great and mediocre. <>

Finally, by the 1930s, a few film artists and producers dared to stray from the guidelines and commented on sociopolitical issues, using contemporary or historical matter. Director, actor, writer and producer Julian Manansala’s film Patria Amore (Beloved Country) was almost suppressed because of its anti-Spanish sentiments. This earned him the honor of being dubbed the “Father of the Nationalistic Film”. Its own share of movie audience and acclaim for local movie stars were signs that the movie industry from 1919 to the 1930s had succeeded. Despite the competition coming from Hollywood, the film industry thrived and flourished. When the 1930s came to a close, it was clear that moviegoing had established itself in the Filipino. <>

Filipino Films During World War II

The Japanese Occupation introduced a new player to the film industry – the Japanese; and a new role for film – propaganda: “The Pacific War brought havoc to the industry in 1941. The Japanese invasion put a halt to film activity when the invaders commandeered precious film equipment for their own propaganda needs. The Japanese brought their own films to show to Filipino audiences.” The films the Japanese brought failed to appeal to audiences the same way the Hollywood-made movies or the locally-made films did. Later on, Japanese propaganda offices hired several local filmmakers to make propaganda pictures for them. One of these filmmakers was Gerardo de Leon. [Source: aenet.org/family/filmhistory <>]

The war years during the first half of the Forties virtually halted filmmaking activities save for propaganda work that extolled Filipino-Japanese friendship, such as The Dawn of Freedom made by director Abe Yutaka and associate director Gerardo de Leon…Less propagandistic was Tatlong Maria (Three Marias), directed in 1944, by Gerardo de Leon and written for the screen by Tsutomu Sawamura from Jose Esperanza Cruz’s novel…Despite the destruction and hardships of the war, the people…found time for entertainment; and when movies were not being made or imported…they turned to live theater…which provided alternative jobs for displaced movie folk. The war years may have been the darkest in film history…”

This period turned out to be quite beneficial to the theater industry. Live theater began to flourish again as movie stars, directors and technicians returned to the stage. Many found it as a way to keep them from being forgotten and at the same time a way to earn a living. In 1945…the film industry was already staggering to its feet. The entire nation had gone through hell and there were many stories to tell about heroic deeds and dastardly crimes during the 3 years of Japanese occupation. A Philippine version of the war movie had emerged as a genre in which were recreated narratives of horror and heroism with soldiers and guerillas as protagonists…audiences still hungry for new movies and still fired up by the patriotism and hatred for foreign enemies did not seem to tire of recalling their experiences of war. <>

The 1940s and the war brought to Philippine film the consciousness of reality which was not present in the preceding films. Filmmakers dared to venture into the genre of the war movie. This was also a ready market especially after the war. Movies such as Garrison 13 (1946), Dugo ng Bayan (The Country’s Blood, 1946), Walang Kamatayan (Deathless, 1946), and Guerilyera (1946) , told the people the stories they wanted to hear: the heroes and the villains of the war. The war, however, had left other traces that were less obvious than war movies that were distinctly Filipino. As Patronilo BN. Daroy said in his essay Main Currents in Filipino Cinema: “World War II left its scars on the Filipino’s imagination and heightened his sense of reality…”

Golden Age of Philippine Films in the 1950s

The 1950s were considered a time of “rebuilding and growth”. But remnants from the preceding decade of the 40s remained in the form of war-induced reality. This is seen is Lamberto Avellana’s Anak Dalita (The Ruins, 1956), the stark tragedy of post-WWII survival set in Intramuros. The decade saw frenetic activity in the film industry which yielded what might be regarded as the first harvest of distinguished films by Filipinos. Two studios before the war, namely Sampaguita Pictures and LVN, reestablished themselves. Bouncing back quickly, they churned out movie after movie to make up for the drought of films caused by the war. Another studio, Premiere Productions, was earning a reputation for “the vigor and the freshness” of some of its films. This was the period of the “Big Four” when the industry operated under the studio system. Each studio (Sampaguita, LVN, Premiere and Lebran) had its own set of stars, technicians and directors, all lined up for a sequence of movie after movie every year therefore maintaining a monopoly of the industry. The system assured moviegoers a variety of fare for a whole year and allowed stars and directors to improve their skills. [Source: aenet.org/family/filmhistory <>]

Critics now clarify that the 50s may be considered one “Golden Age” for the Filipino film not because film content had improved but because cinematic techniques achieved an artistic breakthrough in that decade. The 1950s was a time when films matured and became more “artistic”. The studio system, though producing film after film and venturing into every known genre, made the film industry into a monopoly that prevented the development of independent cinema. <>

This new consciousness was further developed by local and international awards that were established in that decade. Awards were first instituted that decade. First, the Manila Times Publishing Co. set up the Maria Clara Awards. In 1952, the FAMAS (Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences) Awards were handed out. More so, Filipino films started garnering awards in international film festivals. One such honor was bestowed on Manuel Conde’s immortal movie Genghis Khan (1952) when it was accepted for screening at the Venice Film Festival. Other honors include awards for movies like Gerardo de Leon’s Ifugao (1954) and Lamberto Avellana’s Anak Dalita. This established the Philippines as a major filmmaking center in Asia. These awards also had the effect of finally garnering for Filipino films their share of attention from fellow Filipinos. <>

Decline of Philippine Film in the 1960s

If the 1950s were an ubiquitous period for film, the decade that followed was a time of decline. There was “rampant commercialism and artistic decline” as portrayed on the following: In the 1960s, the foreign films that were raking in a lot of income were action pictures sensationalizing violence and soft core sex films hitherto banned from Philippine theater screens, Italian “spaghetti” Westerns, American James Bond-type thrillers, Chinese/Japanese martial arts films and European sex melodramas. To…get an audience to watch their films, (the independent) producers had to take their cue from these imports. The result is a plethora of films…giving rise to such curiosities as Filipino samurai and kung fu masters, Filipino James Bonds and…the bomba queen.[Source: aenet.org/family/filmhistory <>]

The 1960s, though a time of positive changes, brought about an artistic decline in films. The notorious genre of bomba was introduced and from that day forward has been present in the Philippine film scene ever since. The studio systems came under siege from the growing labor movement which resulted in labor-management conflicts. The first studio to close was Lebran followed by Premiere Productions. Next came Sampaguita and LVN. The “Big Four” studios were replaced by new and independent producers who soon made up the rest of the film industry. <>

The decade also saw the emergence of the youth revolt best represented by the Beatles and the rock and roll revolution. They embodied the wanting to rebel against adult institutions and establishments. Certain new film genres were conceived just to cater to this “revolt”. Fan movies such as those of the “Tita and Pancho” and “Nida and Nestor” romantic pairings of the 50s were the forerunners of a new kind of revolution – the “teen love team” revolution. “Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos, along with Tirso Cruz III and Eddie Mortiz as their respective screen sweethearts, were callow performers during the heyday of fan movies. Young audiences made up of vociferous partisans for ‘Guy and Pip’ or ‘Vi and Bot’ were in search of role models who could take the place of elders the youth revolt had taught them to distrust”

Another kind of youth revolt came in the form of the child star. Roberta (1951) of Sampaguita Pictures was the phenomenal example of the drawing power of movies featuring [these] child stars. In the 60s this seemed to imply rejection of “adult corruption” as exposed by childhood innocence. <>

The film genres of the time were direct reflections of the “disaffection with the status quo” at the time. Action movies with Pinoy cowboys and secret agents as the movers of the plots depicted a “society ravaged by criminality and corruption” . Movies being make-believe worlds at times connect that make-believe with the social realities. These movies suggest a search for heroes capable of delivering us from hated bureaucrats, warlords and villains of our society. The action films of the 1960s brought into the industry “ a new savage rhythm that made earlier action films seem polite and stage managed.” The pacing of the new action films were fast as the narrative had been pared down to the very minimum of dialogues. And in keeping up with the Hollywood tradition, the action sequences were even more realistic. <>

Filipino Bomba Film Genre

Another film genre that is perhaps also a embodiment of the revolt of the time is the bomba genre. Probably the most notorious of all, this genre appeared at the close of the decade. Interestingly, it came at a time when social movement became acknowledged beyond the walls of campuses and of Manila. [Source: aenet.org/family/filmhistory <>]

In rallies, demonstrations and other forms of mass action, the national democratic movement presented its analysis of the problems of Philippine society and posited that only a social revolution could bring genuine change. The bomba film was a direct challenge to the conventions and the norms of conduct of status quo, a rejection of authority of institutions in regulating the “life urge” seen as natural and its free expression “honest” and “therapeutic”

Looking beyond the obvious reasons as to the emergence of the bomba film, both as being an exploitative product of a profit-driven industry and as being a “stimulant”, it can be analyzed as actually being a “subversive genre”, playing up to the establishment while rebelling and undermining support for the institutions. <>

Even in the period of decline, genius has a way of showing itself. Several Philippine films that stood out in this particular era were Gerardo de Leon’s Noli Me Tangere (Touch me Not, 1961) and El Filibusterismo (Subversion, 1962). Two other films by Gerardo de Leon made during this period is worth mentioning – Huwag mo Akong Limutin (Never Forget Me , 1960) and Kadenang Putik (Chain of Mud, 1960), both tales of marital infidelity but told with insight and cinematic import. <>

Philippine Films during Martial Law in the 1970s and 80s

The 1970s and 1980s were turbulent years, bringing positive and negative changes. From the decline in the 60s, films in this period now dealt with more serious topics following the chaos of the Marcos regime. Also, action and sex films developed further introducing more explicit pictures. These years also brought the arrival of alternative cinema in the Philippines. [Source: aenet.org/family/filmhistory <>]

In the 60s, the youth clamored for change in the status quo. Being in power, Ferdinand Marcos answered the youth by placing the nation under martial rule. In 1972, he sought to contain growing unrest which the youth revolt of the 1960s fueled. Claiming that all he wanted was to “save the Republic”, Marcos retooled the liberal-democratic political system into an authoritarian government which concentrated power in a dictators hand. To win the population over, mass media was enlisted in the service of the New Society. Film was a key component of a society wracked with contradictions within the ruling class and between the sociopolitical elite and the masses. <>

In terms of comparisons, the Old Society (or the years before Martial Law) became the leading symbol for all things bad and repugnant. The New Society was supposed to represent everything good – a new sense of discipline, uprightness and love of country Accordingly, the ideology of the New Society was incorporated into local films. <>

Marcos and his technocrats sought to regulate filmmaking. The first step was to control the content of movies by insisting on some form of censorship. One of the first rules promulgated by the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures (BCMP) stipulated submission of a finished script prior to the start of filming. When the annual film festival was revived, the censors blatantly insisted that the “ideology” of the New Society be incorporated into the content of the entries. <>

The government tried to control the film industry while keeping it in “good humor” – necessary so that the government could continue using film as propagandistic vehicles. So despite the censors, the exploitation of sex and violence onscreen continued to assert itself. Under martial law, action films depicting shoot outs and sadistic fistfights ( which were as violent as ever) usually append to the ending an epilogue claiming that the social realities depicted had been wiped out with the establishment of the New Society. The notorious genre of sex or bomba films that appeared in the preceding decade were now tagged as “bold” films, simply meaning that a lot more care was given to the costumes. <>

Martial Law declared in 1972 clamped down on bomba films as well as political movies critical of the Marcos administration. But the audience’s taste for sex and nudity had already been whetted. Producers cashed in on the new type of bomba, which showed female stars swimming in their underwear, taking a bath in their camison (chemise), or being chased and raped in a river, sea, or under a waterfall. Such movies were called the wet look. One such movie was the talked-about Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa (The Most Beautiful Animal on the Face of the Earth, 1974) starring former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz. <>

However, the less-than-encouraging environment of the 70s gave way to “the ascendancy of young directors who entered the industry in the late years of the previous decade…” Directors such as Lino Brocka, best remembered for his Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila, In the Claws of Neon Lights, 1975), Ishmael Bernal, director of the Nora Aunor film Himala (Miracle, 1982) and Celso Ad. Castillo, whose daring works portrayed revolt, labor unionism, social ostracism and class division, produced works that left no doubt about their talent in weaving a tale behind the camera. <>

Another welcomed result that came from martial rule was the requirement of a script prior to filming. This was an innovation to a film industry that made a tradition out of improvising a screenplay. Although compliance with the requirement necessarily meant curtailment of the right of free expression, the BCMP, in effect caused the film industry to pay attention to the content of a projected film production in so far as such is printed in a finished screenplay. In doing so, talents in literature found their way into filmmaking and continue to do so now. <>

Philippine Films after Marcos

It can be justified that immediately after Marcos escaped to Hawaii, films portraying the Philippine setting have had a serious bias against the former dictator. And even while he was in power, the militancy of filmmakers opposing the Martial Law government especially after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983, accounts for the defiant stance of a number of films made in the closing years of the Marcos rule. [Source: aenet.org/family/filmhistory <>]

Films such as Lino Brocka’s Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (My Country: Gripping the Knife’s Edge, 1985) were defiant, not in the sense of it being openly stated by in the images of torture, incarceration, struggle and oppression. Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Karnal (1984) depicts this in a different way in the film’s plot wherein patricide ends a tyrannical father’s domination. Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L. (1984), was a typical de Leon treatment of the theme of oppression and tyranny. <>

In 1977, an unknown Filipino filmmaker going by the name of Kidlat Tahimik made a film called Mababangong Bangungot (Perfumed Nightmare). The film won the International Critic’s Prize in the Berlin Film Festival that same year. Kidlat Tahimik’s rise to fame defined the distance between mainstream cinema and what is now known as independent cinema. Beginning with Tahimik, independent cinema and films became an accomplished part of Philippine film. <>

Out of short film festivals sponsored by the University of the Philippines Film Center and by the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, young filmmakers have joined Kidlat Tahimik in the production of movies that, by their refusal to kowtow to the traditions and conventions of mainstream filmmaking, signify faith in works that try to probe deeper into the human being and into society. Nick Deocampo’s Oliver (1983) and Raymond Red’s Ang Magpakailanman (The Eternal, 1983) have received attention in festivals abroad. <>

Filmmakers like Tahimik, Deocampo and Red are examples of what we call “alternative filmmakers”. Alternative or independent filmmakers are products of film schools where students are exposed to art films without “the compromises of commercial filmmaking”. <>

Contemporary Philippine Film

Despite our completion of 100 years of cinema in the Philippines, the same problems plague us now just as it had when film was still a relatively new art form. The phrase “poorly made” is fitting to describe the quality of films being churned out by the film industry year by year. There have been few exceptions to the rule. [Source: aenet.org/family/filmhistory <>]

Presently, films are primarily made for profit, lacking any qualities to redeem itself. Studies show that Hollywood films, with its high technology and subject matter, are being preferred over local films. It is no wonder – for films now are “too profit-oriented…[with] corrupting morals and…dubious values…sticking with formulaic films”

Genres that have been present for the past few decades are being recycled over and over again with the same stories. The teen love teams of the fan movie are still present with incarnations of love teams of yesteryears. Now instead of “Guy and Pip” are “Judy and Wowie”. The bomba film is still present, now having grown more pornographic and taboo. The film Tatlo (1998) comes to mind with its subject matter of threesomes. In Filipino slapstick or komedya, Dolphy has been replaced by younger stars. But even if the films of today have not been quite up to par, “Filipino movies…wields an influence over the national imagination far more intense that all the others combined.”

Presently, we are seemingly engaged in a vicious cycle – of genres, plots, characterization and cinematic styles. We are unconsciously, or rather consciously, imitating, copying from the much more popular American films. And when we are not copying, we are reverting back to the same old styles. From the massacre movies of late, the teen-oriented romantic-comedies and the anatomy-baring sex flicks which are currently so popular, it seems Philippine cinema is on a down spiral. Still, some films been successes and not only financially. Diaz-Abaya’s Rizal (1998), as an example, was a success both commercially and critically. Hopefully, Philippine cinema in the new millennium would produce films as good and better than the ones before it.

Filipino Chop Chop Films

Many popular films in the 1990s were grisly dramas, based on real crimes, called "chop chop" films. One of the most famous "cho chop" films— “The Vizconde Massacre: God Help Us”—starred Aquino, the daughter of former president Cory Aquino and sister of present president Benigno Acquino III. It was based on the true story of 47-year-old woman and her two daughters, who were raped and stabbed to death by gang of drugged youths lead by Hubert Webb, the 29-year-old son of an influential senator. Charges against Webb were dropped when the senator produced documents that stated his son was abroad at the time of the murder, but later a young businesswoman confessed that she was with the men on the night of the murders. A servant for the Senator later said she washed the son's clothing. The son and seven friends were charged with multiple murders but the senator was not charged. Another popular movie was a thinly-veiled rip-off of the Lorena Bobbit story called "Loretta: The Woman Who Cut Off Happiness.” Kris Aquino reportedly turned down the roll after told her mother in no uncertain terms to do so.

Elyas Isabelo Salanga wrote in the Philippines Entertainment Portal: “The Vizconde massacre made headlines in the Philippines in the '90s and started a trend in filmmaking. Besides the horror itself, the suspected perpetrators included high-society figures. Movie producers and directors rode the wave of public outcry by creating true-to-life films based on such heinous crimes. “The Vizconde Massacre: God Help Us” is 1993 movie based on the brutal murder of the Vizconde family members—Estrellita, Carmela, and Anna Marie Jennifer—on June 30, 1991, in their home at BF Homes Parañaque. The case became controversial due to the alleged involvement of Hubert Webb, son of former senator Freddie Webb; and Antonio Lejano, son of actress Pinky de Leon and nephew of actor Christopher de Leon. [Source: Elyas Isabelo Salanga, Philippines Entertainment Portal, August 5, 2008]

“The controversy caught the attention of director Carlo Caparas, who made his movie apparently in support for the aggrieved, as the title suggests. Shot entirely where the heinous crime took place, the movie strongly projected reality. For example, Kris Aquino as Carmela Vizconde acted out the victim's final moments while being stabbed to death. Kris subsequently starred in other massacre films, making her the "Massacre Queen" in showbiz. A year after the box-office success of The Vizconde Massacre, Carlo Caparas gave moviegoers a fresh sequel, “The Vizconde Masacre 2: God Have Mercy On Us” (1994). The sequel tells the untold chapter of the Vizconde massacre.

In another chop chop film— “The Lipa Massacre: God Save the Babies!”— Vilma Santos portrayed Mrs. Helen Arandia, wife of an Overseas Filipino Worker in Saudi Arabia. The Star for All Seasons starred with John Regala, Joel Torre, and then-child actors Charina Scott and Angelica Panganiban in this 1994 movie. While boarding a plane back to the Philippines, Mr. Ronald Arandia (played by Joel Torre) was shocked when he saw his murdered family on a newspaper's front page. The killer (John Regala) visited Mrs. Arandia at their home in Lipa City, Batangas, and brutally murdered her and her two daughters, aged 8 and 6. The film directed by Carlo Caparas won Best Picture and Best Director at the 43rd Famas Awards (1994).

“The Elsa Castillo Story: Ang Katotohanan”— directed masterfully by Laurice Guillen— popularized the term, "chop-chop lady." Starring Kris Aquino and Eric Quizon, the 1994 movie became an instant hit in the box office due to the engaging storyline and, of course, Kris' mounting popularity. Another movie of the same title, directed by Edgardo Vinarao that same year, starred Lorna Tolentino, Matt Ranillo, and Mark Gil. Based on the real life events of Elsa Castillo, the movie focuses on the tragic love triangle involving the married couple and the illicit affair between Elsa and her divorced lover. The husband found them out and, in a fit of rage, butchered his wife. Hence the term, "chop-chop."

“The Lilian Velez Story” is based on the murder of a famous actress by her leading man. Salanga wrote: “The popularity of massacre movies dug up an old case involving actress-singer Lilian Velez. Lilian, who gained popularity as a film actress for LVN Pictures after World War II. She was the leading lady of actor Bernardo "Narding" Anzures in tha films, Binibiro Lamang Kita, Ang Estudyante, and Sa Kabukiran. The success of these prompted LVN Pictures to change Lilian's leading man, and Bernardo Anzures was replaced by Jaime de la Rosa. Bernardo became thoroughly distressed, for he harbored an "obsession" for Lilian, reports said. On the night of June 26, 1948, Bernardo visited Lilian unexpectedly at her Quezon City home and stabbed her to death. A housemate who attempted to help Lilian was also killed. Bernardo was arrested, tried, and convicted for the murders. He later died in jail due to tuberculosis; his motive for the killings never established. Forty-seven years after the crime, in 1995, it was dramatized by Sharon Cuneta (Lilian Velez) and Cesar Montano (Bernardo Azurnes). Although the case was long past, moviegoers were still hyped up by the star quality of Sharon and her portrayal as Lilian

Blood Island Films and Filipino Horror, Sci-Fi Films from the 1960s and 70s

There were a a number of schlocky horror and science fiction films that came out of the Philippines in the late 60 and 70s. Filipino director Eddie Romero made several of them with American teen idol John Ashley, who died young having a fatal heart attack on the streets of New York City in a car. According to filmscoremonthly.com: “They called it the blood series. Hemisphere release these films and made good money on them. “Brides of Blood” (1967-68) was the first in the John Ashley series of movies and the first he made in the Philippines. It was was a hit for hemisphere pics, so they made more. John who was a real cool nice guy made seven films in the Phillipines from 1967 to 1973, all genre films— “Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1969), “Beast of Blood” (1970), “Beast of Yellow Night” (1971), “The Twilight People” (1972), “Beyond Atlantis” (1973) and the Woman Hunt (1973). [Source: filmscoremonthly.com]

Blood Island Films refers to a series of low-budget films made in late 1960's and early 1970's in the Philippines as co-productions with the US.According to “unseenfilms.blogspot”: The Blood Island films are a loose collection of films that all take place on a place called Blood Island. The money men at Independant International up the ante by adding blood to the title of several other films so what is really three or four films in a series expands to six or seven. The three core films are Brides of Blood, Mad Doctor of Blood Island and Beast of Blood. [Source: unseenfilms.blogspot.jp ><]

“The series unofficially started with Terror is a Man, a 1959 version of the Island of Dr Moreau. Its a neat little film about a made scientist turning people into animals and vice versa. Its important to the series only in that it names the place . The next film is a strange vampire film called The Blood Drinkers. which is an odd mix of black and white that was colored and color film. It concerns a vampire trying to find a heart transplant for his lover. Its actualy a very good. Its much better than the dopey title suggests. ><

“For the most part the series is a great deal of schlocky fun with Brides, Mad Doctor and Beast all worth the time to see (especially with a bowl of popcorn and a soda.) If you want a great night on the couch seeing films that might have played the drive in or grindhouses in the early and mid 1970's see these films. All are out on DVD. The best news is that Alpha Video, aka Oldies.com has appears to have re-released the Image release at a fraction of the cost, about 5 bucks a DVD. They come with trailers and super commentaries from Sam Sherman of Independent International. ><

Classic Blood Island Films

According to “unseenfilms.blogspot”: ““Brides of Blood” (1968) is the first of the core series. Its a wild and over the top film that is a great deal of fun. The film concerns nature going berserk in the wake of nuclear testing on Blood Island. a Giant tree has become caneverous and is sending out tentacles to pull people in so it can feed. Animals are mutating and there is a lumpy creature running about that looks like the Michelin Tire guy on a bad day (he's very silly). A research team arrives to investigate. Edgy and atmospheric this is a monster movie in the grand tradition. You have weird things going on, sexual tension between the cast members, and monsters running amok, what more could you ask for? This movie was a drive-in staple for years and its easy to see why since it gives you everything that a drive-in crowd would want sex blood and breasts. Its also lots of run, creepy and just a bit scary. Its set in the same location as the next two films but is otherwise unrelated. For me the viewing of the next two films back to back is drive-in nirvana. [Source: unseenfilms.blogspot.jp ><]

“Mad Doctor of Blood Island” (1968) has three people going to Blood Island for their own reasons. The beautiful young girl is there to find her father. The handsome islander is there to reunite with his mother. The doctor is there to investigate a supposed out break of a new disease. What they find when they get there is a monster on the loose that likes to disembowel and dismember (graphically) his victims. "Sequel" to Brides of Blood this is more of the same only up a notch. Its mad doctor on the loose using science to create a monster that runs around killing people. Hooray for crackpot medical degrees. What can I say about a movie that begins with the audience being given "the pledge of the green blood" other than see this movie? If you like old school horror, or drive-in style movies, this film is for you. This movie is a blast. It moves along at a good clip, has a great monster, some very graphic killings (you will see blood, limbs and intestines) and some topless women. Its the sort of movie they don't make any more. My only complaint is that some knucklehead thought it would be a good idea to zoom in and out every time the monster attacks. Its the equivalent to whiplash and really distracts from the early attack scenes. Thankfully the effect isn't done as wildly in the later scenes and you actually can put away your neck brace and enjoy the film.

“Beast of Blood” (1971) literally picks up hours after the last film ends. The film begins on the boat sailing away from Blood Island. As John Ashley waxes poetic about his time on the island fighting monsters, the man beast from the first film appears (he was seen to have secreted himself in a lifeboat at the end of Mad Doctor) and a battle occurs which destroys the ship and leaves Ashley as the only survivor. A year or so later Ashley heads back to Blood Island to investigate stories that weird things have begun to happen again despite the death of the evil Dr Lorca. On the island Ashley finds that many people he believed dead survived the final battle of the first film and that some how the "green men" have returned. It isn't long before its realized that Dr Lorca is back and up to his old tricks.

Watching this in close proximity to Mad Doctor I find that the film plays much better than it does as a stand alone film. A sequel it is, but its not as scary (nor as gory nor as titillating). Sure there are some horrifying moments, but on some level this is more an adventure/ mystery film than a real horror movie. The man-beast is effectively off camera for most of the film following the opening battle (I have to say the make up here is infinitely better than in Mad Doctor). Some of Lorca's victims do cause mayhem, but the majority of the film concerns trying to find Lorca and a kidnapped reporter. Its not bad, but if you are expecting a straight horror film you may end up very disappointed, despite a great monster. After this the producers decided to continue the "blood series" and added two more films to the mix.

“Blood of the Vampires” is one of the most painful viewing experiences I've ever had, and I've had it repeatedly as I've run up against this film under several titles. It concerns a family who have to deal with a dirty little secret, their mother is a vampire and she keeps coming out of the crypt to feast on people. Its a horrible movie and I can't recommend it. The last film in the mix was “Horror of the Blood Monsters” which concerns a plague on earth tied to a space probe on a distant planet where cave people battle strange monsters. The truth of the matter is the core part of the film, the space part was a black and white film they couldn't release in the US because it was black and white. So they had Al Adamson come in and shoot wrap around sequences that have nothing to do with the rest of the film. They then tinted the black and white footage and said the strange color was due to the alien atmosphere. Its actually not bad in a so bad its good sort of way. That effectively ended the series.

Filipino Horror Films from the 2000s

The Road is a 2011 Philippine psychological horror film directed by Yam Laranas, whose other horror film Sigaw (Shout or Scream) was remade and released as The Echo in 2008. The Road was also released internationally in Belgium, North America, and Singapore. The movie was written and directed by Yam Laranas. It starred Carmina Villaroel, Marvin Agustin, Rhian Ramos, TJ Trinidad and many more. The movie started with decorated cop Luis (played by TJ Trinidad) being given a medal by the chief of police who didn’t seem too pleased with the former’s way of solving cases. After the ceremony, there was a woman who approached the police chief about the unsolved case of her missing daughters who have been missing for 12 years. Luis seemed interested and asked for the names of the daughters. He also asked a colleague to retrieve the missing persons file. From here you get to sympathize with Luis as you believe him to be one of the good guys. Enter another part of the story where you have three teenagers, Ella, her cousin Janine, and Janine’s boyfriend Brian. Ella didn’t seem to approve of the latter’s relationship with her cousin. Ella agreed to accompany Janine and Brian in going for a ride as Janine needed to practise before her driving test. This part is when the scary stuff in the movie start to happen. The night ended horribly for the teens who were reported missing. Ella’s father is a comrade of the chief of police who then ordered an immediate investigation with decorated cop Luis at the helm. Watch the rest of the movie as it really makes you want to know more about what happens next. [Source: iamraincrystal.squidoo.com/philippine-horror-films]

“Pamahiin” (translates Superstition in English) is a 2006 Filipino horror film written and directed by Rahyan Carlos (co-writer Andrew Paredes). In the film are different superstitious beliefs that Filipinos have about death. It starred Dennis Trillo, Paolo Contis, Marian Rivera, and Iya Villania. The movie started with Noah (played by Dennis Trillo) as a kid. He was shown attending a funeral and got the scare of his life when he was left alone with the dead. Then it fast forwarded to the future. Apparently, Noah grew up in the US. He returned to his hometown with his girlfriend Eileen (played by Iya Villania) and his aunt to visit the wake of his childhood friend, Damian (played by Paolo Contis). The latter committed suicide but circumstances surrounding his death were rather vague. The movie incorporated a lot of superstitious beliefs Filipinos have about death, such as not going straight home after attending the funeral, staying away from black cats, and many more. Eileen, Noah’s girlfriend, apparently has the third eye and could see spirits of the dead who were trying to send her messages. There are lots of scary scenes that make you jump in these parts. The movie slowly unfolds and you eventually get to understand more about the sightings.

“Ouija” is an award-winning 2007 Filipino horror-thriller film by director Topel Lee. It was written by Adloy Adlawan and starred Jolina Magdangal, Iza Calzado, Rhian Ramos and Judy Ann Santos. The movie started with a flashback. Some kids playing with an ouija board summoned an evil entity. Thankfully, their grandmother who is knowledgeable in the old ways was able to avert the situation. The ouija board was then kept away and sealed. Fast forward to the future, Romina (played by Jolina Magdangal) grew up to be a barrio lass, while Aileen (played by Judy Ann Santos) relocated to the city. They got together when their grandmother passed away. Aileen went home with their first cousins Sandra (played by Iza Calzado) and Ruth (played by Rhian Ramos). They also brought along Sandra’s friend Lucy (played by Desiree del Valle). The girls found the old ouija board amongst the things left by the grandmother and decided to try it. Something went wrong with the ritual and the ouija board was burnt by accident. Unfortunately, it brought about some evil and murderous entity around them. The scary parts start and there are a number of killings. The girls raced against time to identify and release the spirits that haunted them. : This is one scary movie. The horror scenes really make your hair stand on end. The actors are fantastic too. The story is intriguing till the end. It even had a surprise ending. It’s no wonder the film received a lot of nominations. Don’t pass this up if you want to watch a Filipino horror movie. I’ll give it a 5 out of 5 star rating.

White Lady is written by Joel Rufino Nunez and Don Michael Perez and directed by Jeff Tan. It starred Pauleen Luna, JC De Vera, Boots Anson-Roa, Jason Abalos, Angelica Panganiban and many more. The movie centers on the new girl in school Pearl (played by Pauleen Luna). Pearl is pretty and smart, but quiet and rather conservative. She attracts the attention of the “in” crowd in school esp. the rich and popular leader Mimi (played by Iwa Moto) who likes to bully new students. Mimi also has minions who sometimes make things difficult for Pearl. Pearl is frequently haunted by the supposed ghost of a white lady in the campus. She digs around and hears about the story of Christina (played by Angelica Panganiban). It turned out Pearl and Christina shared something in common — they’re both the target of Mimi’s mean pranks. No one really knew what happened to Christina. The hauntings turn for the worse when Pearl landed a lead role in the school play. Now the spirit is out for revenge against those who wronged her.

Apocalypse Now and Shooting It in the Philippines

Films about the Vietnam War that have been shot in the Philippines include Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Missing in Action.

Apocalypse Now, shot around Pagsanjan and other locations in the Philippines, is regarded the classic Vietnam War film despite its flaws. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the director of the Godfather, and based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, it is about a young army intelligence officer, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), who is sent on a mission to find and “terminate with extreme prejudice” the renegade Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who had established himself as the leader of a army of Montagnard headhunters in Cambodia. A rough cut of the film took the top award at Cannes in 1979. Many critics panned the film when it came out.

Captain Willard first has to a get a boat, which he does with help of surf-loving Colonel named Kilgore (Robert Duvall) and then embarks on a journey up the Mekong River, accompanied by another surfer, a wannabe cook and a Bronx teenager (Lawrence Fishburne), to find Kurtz. Along the way they have a number of scrapes and misadventures while Willard muses on the “conflict in every human heart between rational and irrational, good and evil.” Some of the most memorable quotes (“I like the smell of napalm in the morning”) and scenes (helicopters blasting Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries) are associated with Kilgore.

The story of the making of Apocalypse Now is almost as interesting as the film itself. The filming took an exhausting 238 days over 16 months and used up 375 hours of film, with the film opening up years behind schedule. The project was plagued by troubles from beginning to end. Expensive sets were destroyed by a typhoon. Brando showed up on the set overweight. The first leading actor (Harvey Keitel) was fired. The second (Martin Sheen) suffered a heart attack. The film was so over budget Coppola had to take a second mortgage on his home to raise more money. The e film's release was postponed several times while Coppola edited millions of feet of footage. At one point Coppola told his wife, “I’m thinking of shooting myself.” The story is brilliantly told in the 1991 documentary Hearts of Darkness.

The final scene was filmed at Pagsanjan and involved constructing a huge set that the Philippine government destroyed with firebombs (shown during the closing credits). Real bombs and real bullets were used in the filming of some of the battle scenes. Real heads from some real corpses, thought to have been supplied by a morgue, but really robbed from graves, were scattred around Kurtz’s jungle compound. The helicopters were provided by the Marcos government. Coppola had an affair with one of the Playboy Playmates in the film

Da Vinci Code Film Banned in the Philippines

In 2006, the film “Da Vinci Code” was banned in the Philippines. Associated Press reported: “In the Philippines - with Asia's biggest Christian population - the Manila City Council passed a resolution banning the movie, effective Friday. The movie "is undoubtedly offensive and contrary to established religious beliefs which cannot take precedence over the right of the persons involved in the film to freedom of expression," the resolution said.

In a letter to The Phillippines' chief censor, a Roman Catholic archbishop says, "In the name of many like you who love and revere the Son of God made Man, I strongly appeal to you that the showing of the film (The) Da Vinci Code be banned throughout our land." President Gloria Macapagal Arroya's executive secretary Eduardo Ermita, who claims to be a 'devout Catholic', says, "I think we should do everything not to allow it to be shown." President Arroya said, "It's something that we should not be talking about. We might get struck by lightning."

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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