Music & Culture
Music & Culture

The Philippine Cinema Through the Eras

The Philippine Cinema Through the Eras

Ela Bendaña January 31, 2019 Music & Culture

Created in partnership with Trifecta Film Festival

This year marks the centennial year of the local film industry. Ever wonder how far it has gone? Here’s a look back.

The Philippine cinema is slowly shifting to a new golden age. More films and filmmakers are leaving marks and earning respects especially in the international scene, and Filipinos’ love for movies is beginning to kindle once again.

Looking back at the past decades, the local industry went through challenges, restrictions, and censorships brought by social instabilities. Nevertheless, these made way to the rise of the most influential creators like Lino Brocka, Kidlat Tahimik, Lav Diaz and Brillante Mendoza whose works left significant contributions to the country.

The cinema is an effective tool for storytelling— a medium for unfolding the realities and woes of society. This was what Jose Nepomuceno, the Father of Philippine Movies, believed on when he first stepped in the industry.


On the left: Jose Nepomuceno in October 1928

As he was given access to quality education being one of the ilustrados during the American occupation period, Jose Nepomuceno grew up exposed to extensive knowledge and social realities.

Various art forms also became huge factors in molding Nepomuceno’s ideologies— including photography and film. His family lived near Teatro Oriente which he frequently visited for zarzuelas and movies during his early years. This ignited his profound interest in motion picture and visual storytelling, causing him to embark in the profession.

After years of practice and training, he made the first Filipino-produced silent film, the Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden) in 1919.


Dalagang Bukid was based on a popular zarzuela written by Hermogenes Ilagan who is also the most prominent zarzuela writer during the period. It revolved around a complicated love story of a young flower vendor, Angelita, and a law student named Cipriano that were played by Atang de la Rama and Marceliano Ilagan who also starred on its zarzuela version.

Most of his works highlighted social issues like colonialism, corruption, and poverty, as well as the rich Filipino customs and traditions. Aside from serving mere entertainment, his films performed a vital function on disseminating the culture. His prominent pieces include La Venganza de Don Silvestre (1919), La Mariposa negra (1920), Ang Lumang Simbahan (1928), his masterpiece Noli Me Tangere (1930), and the first Tagalog sound movie Punyal na Ginto (1933). Nepomuceno also gave the opportunity to artists like Juanita Angeles, Alma Bella, and Carlos Padilla who eventually became some of the best actors in the country.

Filmmakers like Vicente Salumbides of Salumbides Film Corporation and Julian Manansala of Banahaw Pictures took over the field on the 1920s. As a result of their efforts, the culture progressed further until new corporations joined the pool in the following decade. Some of the prominent production teams were the Parlatone Hispano-Filipino Corporation, Excelsior Pictures, and Sampaguita Pictures. Since then, more films were made and screened in the local cinemas.

The Contemporary Philippine Cinema

Despite the advancement and development of media production in the current era, it has not lost even a bit of its essence and beauty. It is also continuously breeding Filipino talents and providing new platforms for influential and informational stories.

One of the most remarkable creations today is Kip Oebanda’s Liway: it has a narrative that revolves around the experiences of a young boy named Dakip who spent his early years in prison camp for dissidents with his parents— Day and Ric— during the Martial Law era. More than just a story of a Filipino family, Liway effectively recounts a story of hope and love and reflects the condition that the country had in history.


Liway (2018)

The film also gained recognition locally and internationally for its unique approach and significance in contemporary life. It is a masterpiece that reflected the voices of the mass, as well as the images of the thriving Filipino society.

Compared to the previous years, creators are now reaching a larger audience especially with film festivals taking a huge part of the dissemination. Organizations like Trifecta Film Fest are also actively participating in the scene as they gear towards social, cultural and historical awareness to the present generation.

With the evident changes in the industry, it can be viewed that the Philippine cinema truly has gone a long way. There have been series of leaps, yet its values remained flourishing and untouched even through the years!

Liway will be screened on the fourth run of the Trifecta Film Festival that will be held on February 1, 8 and 15, 2019 at the Natividad Fajardo-Rosario Auditorium, 18th floor, Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall.
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