CONGRESS’ refusal to renew the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN was undoubtedly a blow to the millions of Filipino households who watch the network’s shows on TV or radio, but the network’s shutdown also means that efforts to preserve the Philippines’ cinematic heritage have also gone down the drain.
The ABS-CBN Film Restoration unit, an 11-man team led by Leo Katigbak whose mission is to preserve Filipino films, was one of the casualties of the shutdown with the unit set to close its doors on Aug. 31.
This means that the almost decade-long effort to salvage Filipino films will end and no one yet knows what will happen to the archive of some 3,000 films housed in the network’s buildings.
The ABS-CBN Film Archive was once called the “de-facto national film archive” by the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (SOFIA), a non-government organization focused on preserving the country’s cinematic heritage, in a story by BusinessWorld on film restoration and archiving (https://www.bworldonline.com/the-hard-work-of-saving-philippine-cinemas-gems/).
It is the “national archive” in the absence of an official archive as the Film Development Council of the Philippines has still not completed the archive it said will be located in Intramuros, Manila.
To date, the ABS-CBN Film Restoration unit and its Sagip Pelikula (saving films) campaign have restored 185 films, with a several more at various levels of processing.
Among the films restored were Peque Gallaga’s Oro, Plata, Mata (1982) and Mario O’Hara’s Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (1976), Celso Ad Castillo’s Tag-Ulan sa Tag-Araw (1977), and Ishmael Bernal’s Himala (1982).
“It’s such a shame that Sagip Pelikula finds its mandate severely crippled right at the moment when it was just starting to reach even further back into the memories of Philippine cinema,” film critic Andrew Paredes said in a video by ANCX on its YouTube page listing the 10 most significant restorations of the film restoration unit.
ANCX is the lifestyle block of the ABS-CBN English language news channel, ANC.
Another notable restoration was Uro dela Cruz’s Misteryo sa Tuwa (1984), which tells the story of three men finding a stash of millions of pesos from an airplane crash. The restoration of the film was initially considered to be impossible because it was thought that no one had access to a workable, restore-worthy copy of the film, but Mr. Paredes pointed out that the unit “cobbled together” a copy of the film from degraded negatives. The restored copy was released in 2019.
The films restored by the ABS-CBN Film Restoration unit can be viewed on the streaming platform iWant. — Zsarlene B. Chua