The National Pastime

National Pastime
The National Pastime: Contemporary Philippine Cinema was published by Anvil in late 1990. It was launched the next year at the University of the Philippines’s Faculty Center Auditorium, with Ishmael Bernal and Ricardo Lee as guest speakers; I have not had a self-authored book launched since then until 2017. The original manuscript was in two hard-bound volumes, but the publisher instructed me to reduce the amount by half, source as many photos as possible, and prepare a glossary as well as section updates. I would have preferred none of these modifications, but they did help attract people to the volume. I insisted on black-and-white cover printing (which characterized the rest of my solo publications), used an immoderately romantic photogram I created for a student exhibit, and requested National Midweek’s resident photographer Gil Nartea to take my pic.

Cinemaya: The Asian Film Magazine wrote in its Spring 1991 issue that the book “chronicles and comments on trends in Filipino cinema that only an insider to the ethos can evoke…. A polemical introduction leads on to articles on the recently concluded Golden Age in Philippine cinema (1975-1985), the first having occurred in the ’50s. [The articles] illumine not only the films/actors/genres/directors under review but also an era, its atmosphere, its debates – all this with a welcome sprinkling of humor. A valuable companion to Philippine cinema” (67); in the introduction, Bienvenido Lumbera wrote: “David stands apart as a reviewer because he has been touched by film theory as no other regular critic hereabouts had been…. The vast and variegated array of feature films serving as specimens in his account of the continuities and disruptions in the contemporary Philippine film industry convinces us of his assiduousness and earns him credulity…” (x).

A few other favorable comments came out in Philippine Star, Manila Times, Kabayan, and Philippine Collegian.[1] The National Pastime was listed as an entry in the Philippine Literature volume of the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art (Vol. 9 [Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994]: 474); it was shortlisted for the essay category of the Manila Critics Circle’s National Book Award, where another Anvil publication, Ambeth Ocampo’s Rizal without the Overcoat, won out. [Contents below exclude the print edition’s glossary – now rendered even more superfluous in the wake of Wikipedia. Cover design: Albert Gamos; photogram: Joel David; author’s pic: Gil Nartea; inside pics acknowledgments: Ricky Lo, Cesar Hernando, National Midweek; publishing manager: Ma. Karina A. Bolasco; dedicatees: Ma. Luisa Doronila, Esther Esguerra, Eleanor Hermosa, Bernadette Pablo, Ma. Theresa de Villa. For larger image, please click on picture above.]

Contents of the Reillustrated Digital Edition
© 2014 by Joel David & Ámauteurish Publishing; All Rights Reserved
[For a PDF scan of the print edition’s preliminaries, click here.]

A Second Golden Age

Directors 1: Romero/de Leon

The World According to Aguila
Aguila (1980)
A Decent Fight
Palaban (1980)
Romero’s Flip-Flop
Hari sa Hari, Lahi sa Lahi (1987)
Exceptions
Kamakalawa (1981)
Kisapmata (1981)
Waiting for Godard
Batch ’81 (1982)
Return to Form
Bilanggo sa Dilim (1986)

Issues 1

Censorship and Other Compromises
Film Reviewing and Criticism

Genres: Horror/Sex/Action

Where Has All the Horror Gone?
Causes for Cerebration
Tiyanak (1988)
Babaing Hampaslupa (1988)
Down but Not Out
Nektar (1988)
Tubusin Mo ng Dugo (1988)
Moments of Truth
Anak ng Cabron (1988)
Afuang: Bounty Hunter (1988)
Bioflicks
Operation: Get Victor Corpus, the Rebel Soldier (1987)
Balweg: The Rebel Priest (1986)
Kumander Dante (1988)
An Update

Alternative 1: Formats

Short Subjects
Mga Kuwento ng Pag-ibig (1989)
3 Mukha ng Pag-ibig (1989)
Triumph in 16mm.
Damortis (1986)
Movie(?) of the Year
Film Trilogy on the Theme of Poverty and Prostitution (1987)
Perils of Politics
A Dangerous Life (1988)
High-Flying
Imelda: Paru-parung Bakal (1989)
An Update

Actors: Muhlach/Paulate/Aunor

Niño’s Comeback
Kontra Bandido (1986)
Gross, Gaudy, & Gay
Ako si Kiko, Ako si Kikay (1987)
Chauvinist’s Nightmare
Kumander Gringa (1987)
Child’s Play
Takot Ako, Eh! (1987)
An Update

Directors 2: O’Hara/Gallaga

Major Bid
Bulaklak sa City Jail (1984)
O’Hara Strikes Again
Tatlong Ina, Isang Anak (1987)
Beyond the Stars
Oro, Plata, Mata (1982)
Moral (1982)
Searching for Options
Kid…Huwag Kang Susuko! (1987)
Film as God
Isang Araw Walang Diyos (1989)

Issues 2

Film since February 1986
People-Power Cinema
Studious Studios
An Update

Genre: Melodrama

Return of the Melodrama
Kung Aagawin Mo ang Lahat sa Akin (1987)
Mellow Drama
Paano Kung Wala Ka Na (1987)
Failed-Safe
Walang Karugtong ang Nakaraan (1987)
Reversals
Misis Mo, Misis Ko (1988)
Progressions
Isusumbong Kita sa Diyos (1988)
Kapag Napagod ang Puso (1988)
Nagbabagang Luha (1988)
Campout
Natutulog Pa ang Diyos (1988)
Paano Tatakasan ang Bukas? (1988)
Sa Puso Ko Hahalik ang Mundo (1988)
Slugged Out
Imortal (1989)
Ang Bukas Ay Akin (1989)
An Update

Alternative 2: Media

Underground, in the Heat of the Night
Home Sweet Home
In My Father’s House (1987)
Film-Writing
Si Tatang at mga Himala ng Ating Panahon (1988)
An Update

Directors 3: Bernal/Brocka

Valiant Try
Aliw (1979)
Renewal of Appreciation
Manila by Night (1980)
An Awakening
Pahiram ng Isang Umaga (1989)
Just another Exercise
Angela Markado (1980)
Text vs. Texture
Macho Dancer (1989)
After the Revolution
Orapronobis (1989)

Ethics First

Moving Picture: World’s Shortest Prequel

Note

[1] “This marvelous book by a young critic follows closely on the heels of the product of a senior Manunuri [Emmanuel Reyes’s Notes on Philippine Cinema], but does not suffer in comparison. David’s strengths lie in his wide reading, deep thinking, tireless research, and patient viewing. He is not afraid to show his bias, nor does he hesitate to judge if a film is worthy or unworthy of serious study. Although originally written for instant publication in mass newspapers and magazines, these essays transcend journalism and generally reach what David himself calls film criticism as opposed to mere film reviewing” (Isagani Cruz, Philippine Star, Feb. 28, 1991, p. 10). “One thing that David is capable of doing, and doing better, for that matter, than any other film critic hereabouts, is the uncanny ability to locate a film in the context of a director’s body of work, and in some cases, even against the backdrop of industrial practices. Herein lies one of David’s probable contributions to Philippine film criticism: the recognition of the fact that film is an industry which has its own rules and priorities. In fact, the industry should listen to David once in a while because he seems to speak for it…. Surely, David’s grasp of film technique and operations and his sensitive feel for film’s industrial character make him one of a kind in the arena of the untalented. For a first effort, actually a decade of work, an opening salvo maybe, David’s work will surely find a comfortable place in Philippine film criticism’s galaxy of stars. David is young, bright, smart, nice, and definitely miles ahead in intelligence and sensibility” (Patrick D. Flores, Manila Times, March 17, 1991, p. B10). “So far I find most of David’s ideas startling…. But if I were to make any conclusion at this point, it’s that I can’t help but agree with what he says” (Mauro Feria Tumbocon Jr., Kabayan, Dec. 17, 1990, p. 4; trans. from Filipino). “[David] combines traditional cinematic knowhow with keen understandings of semiotic, postmodern and at times neo-Marxist theories plus an appreciation of cinema’s popular nature” (Reginald Vinluan, Philippine Collegian, Jan. 29, 1996, p. 7).

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About Joel David

Teacher, scholar, & gadfly of film, media, & culture. [Photo of Kiehl courtesy of Danny Y. & Vanny P.] View all posts by Joel David

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