Despite how this article may sound at first, I’m really taking a respite from my usual role as the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino’s most (in)famous tormentor. A well-meaning researcher, possibly even a younger MPP member, must have conducted a search of the organization’s prizes for best films for the decade of the 1970s, and included titles that I was certain were roundly rejected during the final deliberation session.
So yes, I’m writing because I was involved in the organization during that period, and as I’ve emphasized in several other articles beforehand, the processes I managed to observe during my Manunuri years helped shape my careful approach to canon-forming activities. I might even add that the group seems to have yielded to a latter-day tergiversation in its methodological purpose, but that’s not really our concern right now.
How bad is the resultant placement of wrong information? Awful enough to have affected at least two major internet resources, one general (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, excerpted below) and another film-specific (the Internet Movie Database). I was close to lobbing another stink bomb aimed at my former colleagues, until I thought of looking up possible online causes for the errant material. As it turned out (bear with me now), the data was accurate, drawn from a reliable source: an article published January 10, 1980, in Expressweek, the weekend supplement of the Philippines Daily Express, one of many business concerns that coterminated with the Marcos regime. Titled “Ten Best Films of the ’70s,” it came out in a column (on pages 8, 22, & 34 of this specific issue) allotted to the MPP. This would have been one of the group’s then-persistent attempts to encourage its members to write by taking turns filling up pre-assigned periodical space.
 (Scanned files of the article were uploaded in 2009 to the Pelikula, Atbp. blogspot and are excerpted below.) The only error I recognized in the report was when it attributed the script of Lino Brocka’s Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974) to Orlando Nadres rather than to Mario O’Hara.The column was titled Urian (what else, right), and I could even deduce who wrote it. From the members identified during the survey-taking session, the only active one not mentioned, except as “this writer,” was the late Mario A. Hernando.
Again, as in most historical problems, the currently available legit-seeming list of the MPP’s choices of the best films of the ’70s isn’t entirely in error: seven of the ten titles were the ones the group officially declared – with no other film missed out. That’s because the members eventually refused to round off the choices to ten. These seven were, in alphabetical order, Ganito Kami Noon … Paano Kayo Ngayon? (Eddie Romero, 1976), Insiang (Brocka, 1976), Itim (Mike de Leon, 1976), Jaguar (Brocka, 1979), Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Brocka, 1975), Nunal sa Tubig (Ishmael Bernal, 1976), and Pagdating sa Dulo (Bernal, 1971).
So how could I be certain that the internet list is technically correct yet officially wrong? I could jokily reply that I wasn’t included in the enumeration of participants identified by Hernando, along with other members whom I remember during the final deliberation session but described as absent or inactive in the article. If we resort to a timeline of events, that would make things clearer: although the Expressweek article came out right before the awards ceremony for films released in 1979, no such announcement of “best of the decade” choices was made then.
 That meant that there was enough time – a year, more or less – for a reconsideration of the three other titles in the initial version of the top ten: aside from Tinimbang Ka, these included Behn Cervantes’s Sakada (1976) and Celso Ad. Castillo’s Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak (1978).Instead, the decadal prizes were handed out in 1981, during the awards cycle for the movies of 1980, when I became an active member. The full list came out in media reports as well as in two official publications: the program brochure and the first Urian Anthology published much later, plus of course the telecast of the event.
The process by which we decided on what films to honor turned on their ability to sustain repeat screenings. Pagputi ng Uwak might seem increasingly heavy-handed, but Tinimbang Ka would be unbearably moralistic and reactionary while Sakada would be, shall we say, amusing if it were regarded as a radical-left counterpart of Reefer Madness, minus the latter’s Classical Hollywood expertise. These last two might still be available on DVD (as is Reefer Madness on YouTube) so check them out if you think I’m being unfairly dismissive.
In fact, the session where we finalized the entries had an entirely different set of also-rans. I remember Burlesk Queen (1977) emerging as Castillo’s favored entry, and some votes as well for Brocka’s Tubog sa Ginto (1970), Bernal’s Aliw (1979), and get this, Elwood Perez’s Isang Gabi, Tatlong Babae (1974). I must add that any of these titles would still be superior to the original trio, as would a handful of others, some of which unfortunately have been difficult or impossible to locate for some time.
Calling for and demonstrating carefulness in canon discourse was only an intermediate aspirational stage for me, however. My idea of an ideal film culture is one in which canonizing concerns become secondary at best – something that the MPP has declared will never happen as long as it’s around. No surprise in how yesterday’s flowers have turned into today’s rotten veggies, but then when they believe that they’re still in bloom,…
 As of this writing, the “Gawad Urian Award” [sic] page of Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia lists only part of the current membership and includes two who have since died (Mario A. Hernando and Bienvenido Lumbera, the only life-long members as far as I can confirm). The complete roster, as listed in each of the organization’s decadal anthologies, is as follows:
- 1970s list: Mario E. Bautista, Behn Cervantes, Isagani R. Cruz, Petronilo Bn. Daroy, Joel David, Pio de Castro III, Clodualdo del Mundo Jr., Justino Dormiendo, Christian Ma. Guerrero, Mario A. Hernando, Ricky Lee, Bienvenido Lumbera, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Tezza O. Parel, Manuel S. Pichel, Jun Cruz Reyes, Agustin L. Sotto, Nicanor G. Tiongson, and Nestor U. Torre;
- 1980s list: all the preceding plus Grace Javier Alfonso, Paul Daza, Butch Francisco, Alice G. Guillermo, Jose Sevilla Ho, Ellen J. Paglinauan, Miguel Q. Rapatan, Emmanuel A. Reyes, Rolando B. Tolentino, Mauro F. Tumbocon Jr., Alfred A. Yuson, and Joselito B. Zulueta;
- 1990s list: some of the previous plus Benilda S. Santos and Tito Genova Valiente and excluding Ellen J. Paglinauan, even though she remained active during this and most of the next decade;
- 2000s list: the current membership as listed in the Wikipedia entry, again excluding Paglinauan.
The ‘New’ Cinema in Retrospect” in the 1990s collection, my only condition for having the article reprinted, but her name was also deleted). All the preceding volumes were edited by Nicanor G. Tiongson and were cited as follows: The Urian Anthology 1970-1979 (Quezon City: Manuel L. Morato, 1983), 406-07; The Urian Anthology 1980-1989 (Manila: Antonio P. Tuviera, 2001), 336-43; The Urian Anthology 1990-1999 (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2010), 404-07; and The Urian Anthology 2000-2009 (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2013), 504-07.The 2010s anthology is presumably being completed and may include the aforementioned Wikipedia list (Alfonso, Francisco, Rapatan, Santos, Tiongson, Tolentino, Valiente, Zulueta), plus new members Patrick Campos, Gary Devilles, and Shirley Lua – that is, unless a name like Paglinauan’s might be inexplicably dropped again (I specified her as the dedicatee of my article “
 The Urian Anthology 1970-1979 (see previous endnote) would be the only still-available definitive source of info. Unfortunately the MPP’s collections, numbering one for every decade since its founding, are affordable only to the deep-pocketed – so very progressive of them innit. The seven “best of the ’70s” choices were allotted a page each, but rather than show each title plus immediately adjacent pages, I figured that providing proof of their page numbers should suffice:
As shown on page v of the book’s rather idiosyncratic table of contents, the list of films begins on page 397 and ends on page 404, with page 405 announcing the appendices. Page 397 (printed sideways on silver background, for that classy look) heralds the feature and explains how “In 1981, the twelve members of the MPP decided to honor the best films of 1970-1979.” The featured titles per page were as follows: Pagdating sa Dulo, 398; Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, 399; Ganito Kami Noon … Paano Kayo Ngayon?, 400; Insiang, 401; Itim, 402; Nunal sa Tubig, 403; and Jaguar, 404.