VETERAN DIRECTOR, writer, and production designer Carmelo “Mel” Chionglo passed away on Sept. 21 at the age of 73. His death was confirmed by the artistic director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Chris B. Millado on Saturday via his personal Facebook page. “[I’m] very sad to announce the passing of a colleague and renowned film director Mel Chionglo. The happiest of journeys gentle Mel,” Mr. Millado said in his post.
Mr. Chionglo served for many years as the competition director and the head of the monitoring committee of the CCP’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.
He was born on July 16, 1946 in Lucena, Quezon and showed an interest in movies at a young age, a fact he mentioned in a 2016 article by the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC), saying that he would watch Filipino movies in his hometown. “My classmates and I were fans of Gloria Romero, Lolita Rodriguez, Susan Roces, and Amalia Fuentes in LVN. We had a collection of pictures of these actors and actresses that we would buy in Manila at the sidewalk of Life Theater in Quiapo,” Mr. Chionglo recounted.
The PMPC story was part of its souvenir program when the group conferred Mr. Chionglo with a Lifetime Achievement Award in that year’s PMPC Star Awards. Writer and PMPC member Mell T. Navarro posted the article on his Facebook page the day Mr. Chionglo passed away.
After finishing high school in Lucena, Mr. Chionglo went to Ateneo de Manila University with a major in Humanities. It was there where he met director Mike de Leon. “It was in college that I further developed my love for serious films because of the Ateneo Film Club and the entry of European films including the films of Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, and Luchino Visconti,” Mr. Chionglo said. Since the Ateneo wasn’t offering a course on film at the time, he went to the US where he studied acting and directing at the New York Academy of Theatrical Arts and took courses at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, both in New York.
He first worked in film on Mike de Leon’s debut feature film in 1976, Itim (Rites of May) as the production designer. After it was shot, he returned to his job in New York where he was an assistant office manager at the Prudential Insurance Company.
His stint at Prudential did not last long as his love affair with film continued — he was called back to the Philippines by Mr. De Leon to do the production design for Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising in 1977 and by Ishmael Bernal in the same year for Walang Katapusang Tag-araw which was an entry to the 1977 Metro Manila Film Festival. He also did the production design for Joey Gosiengfiao’s cult film Temptation Island (1980).
“I worked as a production designer for four years. My last producer, Mother Lily Monteverde of Regal Films, was the one who gave me the chance to direct my own film,” Mr. Chionglo said.
The Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) gave him the Best Production Design award for Itim, and again for Eddie Romero’s Aguila (1980). He won a Gawad Urian trophy for Ishmael Bernal’s 1978 film, Ikaw ay Akin.
In 1980, Mr. Chionglo directed his first feature film, Playgirl, whose cast included Charito Solis, Gina Alajar, and Philip Salvador. Two years later, he directed Anak, which starred Dina Bonnevia, Christopher de Leon, and Celia Rodriguez. In 1983, he directed Summer Holiday.
His 1992 film Lucia won Best Film at the London International Environmental Film Festival and his 1994 film Sibak won jury prize at the Turin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
His other films include Midnight Dancers (1994), Burlesk King (1999), and Twilight Dancers (2006).
His most recent directing credits according to IMDb are Iadya Mo Kami (2016) and Lauriana (2013). He is credited as directing 42 films and TV series, and serving as production designer on 11 films and series.
He also co-founded the Directors’ Guild of the Philippines Inc. (DGPI)
“The Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Inc. mourns the passing of director Mel Chionglo. He lived a productive life and greatly contributed to Philippine cinema in memorable ways,” DGPI said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
“He was also an industry leader and mentor, respected for the deep wisdom he would quietly share amongst veteran colleagues and upcoming filmmakers. A founding member of the DGPI, he served as its president in 2008. He also acted as Competition Director and Head of the Monitoring Committee of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, and was once a member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). The DGPI extends its deepest condolences to the family of Mel Chionglo,” the post continued. — ZBC