By Susan Claire Agbayani

PHILIPPINE CINEMA is 100 years old and despite challenges in the industry, it is time to celebrate.

“We are entering a very, very global market and it’s inevitable that a lot of these foreign films are going to enter the country, and they will continuously dominate,” said Mary Liza Dino-Seguerra, Chair of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), in her opening remarks at Sine Sandaan: Celebrating the Luminaries of Philippine Cinema’s 100 Years, held late last week at the New Frontier Theater in Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City.

“Let us unite for this industry (that) we love, because the next 100 years of Philippine Cinema is going to be about unity, understanding, what we need to do together as an industry to further elevate our craft. We just have to understand how we can champion and empower the rest of the sectors in the industry who need support. It’s a call of action for all of us to be more giving, to collaborate, to respect each other’s spaces, find commonalities, so we can all work better together. I can see a brighter future for the next 100 years of Philippine cinema,” Ms. Dino-Seguerra said.

Almost 400 luminaries and icons of Philippine Cinema — as well as ambassadors and representatives of government agencies — walked the red carpet, and were honored during the program — which ran over four hours — to mark the industry’s centennial year.

Honored at the rites were “luminaries” such as directors, independent and regional filmmakers, leading ladies/men, action stars, bold stars, producers, film studios, film-related organizations, movie fans, even the movie press. It is noteworthy that not just screenwriters or music scorers were recognized; even those who are almost never mentioned except in closing film credits were honored that night.

The most prominent of the luminaries were billed as “icons,” the likes of screenwriter Ricky Lee, actresses Lorli Villanueva, Boots Anson Roa, Angie Ferro, Divina Valencia, Jaclyn Jose, and Fides Cuyugan-Asensio; composer (and National Artist for Music) Ryan Cayabyab; indie filmmaker Raymond Red, and filmmaker and UP professor Dr. Nick Deocampo.

For a complete list of luminaries and icons honored by FDCP, check out its Facebook page:

A tribute was also given to Jose Nepomuceno, the father of Philippine Cinema.

The theater was transformed into an Art Deco Cinema “as an homage to standalone theaters during the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema.” An FDCP press release said, “Remembered for its intricate structure and viewed as a symbol of the first rise of film as a staple of Filipino culture, Art Deco cinemas in the Philippines were prolific in the 1930s and 1950s and (is) an apt visual theme in the celebration of the 100 years of Philippine Cinema.”

“The dream was to give back, to give the best we can offer to serve this industry. We wanted to bring back the glitz, the glamour, because we all deserve it,” Ms. Dino-Seguerra said.

“The past 100 years of Philippine Cinema has brought us a lot of successes and failures. You deserve nothing less but the best. Our cinema is so diverse, and it’s composed of so many people, and it’s not just icons, living legends, artists, directors who are part of this. There’s no big or small (player) in the industry. We’re all on equal footing,” she said in Filipino, which was met with hearty applause. “You are all luminaries of Philippine cinema,” she said.

Sine Sandaan was followed by Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) 2019, a week-long exclusive screening of Filipino genre films.

Interestingly, it may be that the actual 100th year of Philippine Cinema was in 2017.

In a Facebook comment to a post made by Mr. Red, Dr. Deocampo remarked, “My research shows that Jose Nepomuceno made a short film, a newsreel, first in 1918 before making his first full-length film, Dalagang Bukid… one year after he set up his Malayan Movies studio in 1917. And the newsreel he first made was shot in Cebu, not in Manila. So the first locally shot film by a native was shot in Cebu, after all! I have several documents — all primary documents — to prove this claim: publications that were contemporaneous to the release of both films (one in 1918, the other 1919); publications showing that the ‘golden age’ (50 years) of PH cinema was in 1967 as celebrated by [then city of Manila] Mayor Antonio Villegas when he announced the holding of the Manila Film Festival to celebrate the ‘golden anniversary’ of Tagalog movies. This effectively made 1917 as the year of its birth. In addition, I have a video interview of Luis Nepomuceno, Jose’s only living son (aged 94 at the time of the interview), who claimed that his father marked 1917 as the year when he established the local cinema after setting up his Malayan Movies studio and the first film he did was a short film shot in 1918!”

Whether 2017 or 2019, we have cause to celebrate, indeed.