Note: This article makes extensive reference to the “Comprehensive Pinas Film Biblio,” listed by author(s), that I posted in two versions. To find any title in the bibliography via its alphabetical arrangement, please click here, and to inspect the categories I used as well as the titles within them, please click here.
Click on pic to enlarge. Exact totals may have shifted since the date of posting.
This pair of graphs will be as good a place to start as any. They don’t purport to depict the entire range of books written on Philippine cinema, although as far as I can surmise, they’re as exhaustive as I’ve been able to get so far. I started working on my list, in earnest, over a year ago, although I always had a “comprehensive bibliography” to-do folder on my desktop a few months since I launched Amauteurish! over five years ago. I imagine some pre-2020 titles might be added here and there, and even fewer titles may be deleted.
In my announcement of the project on Facebook, I mentioned that I wrote about Philippine film books a few decades ago, and didn’t need more than a few pages to list everything available then. As it turned out, a few more titles with aspects of Pinas film production as their coverage were printed before the generally acknowledged “first” Filipino film book, Vicente Salumbides’s self-published Motion Pictures in the Philippines, came out in 1952. The Salumbides text continues to stake a qualified claim nevertheless, since it was the country’s first non-institutional film book, although its subjective and self-lionizing perspective didn’t impel me to take better care of the photocopy I made of the now-rare original.
Why two graphs when only one history’s being described? The answer lies in the unusual abundance that crowds the upper graph’s right side. For a more logical cut-off point, I focused on the portion starting with the film-propelled – and film-supportive – presidency of Ferdinand E. Marcos, whose martial-law dictatorship (1972-81 though actually extending to 1986) appeared to coincide with an increasingly active production of books on Philippine cinema, just as his pre-martial law regime marked the peak period of Philippine film production, including three years (1965, 1970, and 1971) when local output exceeded 200.
My personal collection formed a core of references that I used every so often in the articles I wrote, so the list actually began as a more in-depth annotated bibliography I drew up in fulfillment of a special projects class I took under my dissertation adviser, Robert Sklar. He had planned to incorporate some data in a future update of Film: An International History of the Medium (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1993). As I narrated in my introduction to the 2014 digital edition of Wages of Cinema: Film in Philippine Perspective, my soft copy of the file was irretrievably lost because of a highly unstable system of digital storage, coupled with my usual carelessness. A far more immeasurable loss, and not just for me, was Professor Sklar’s death from an accident in 2011.
The e-book format enabled me to collect (and, more important, lug around) far more books than I could physically carry in their dead-tree editions. So it would be small exaggeration, at most, to say that I literally held (or beheld) more than half of these texts. I managed to cull a number that were initially unfamiliar to me, although they showed up in one of several online catalogues, and subjected as many as I could to actual confirmations – with their authors, whenever possible, or with researchers or collectors. I also managed to acquire or confirm basic publication details in the same way, with file photos of title and copyright pages.
I devised an admittedly subjective list of categories that I later carefully uploaded to Excel spreadsheets, to be able to watch out for questionable entries and, in one case, determine when the most active publisher, Anvil, moved from one city to another. With two chronological sortings, one for the entire bibliography in general and another for books within each category, I managed to come up with the graphs I mentioned (using the former) and a list of firsts (using the latter). The trickiest qualifier I must disclose is that several titles, foreign as well as local, are not primarily film-specialized, or even film-oriented.
I made a separate list comprising film books as strictly defined, but the more recent publications successfully challenged the assumptions behind such a purist approach: not only because screen cultural studies is definitionally interdisciplinary, but also because authors from other countries and specializations find no problem in interweaving Philippine cinema in their narratives and analyses of nation, culture, and language. Hence I capitulated to the more pleasant (because easier) option of counting each entry as one, regardless of whether it was entirely on cinema, with or without full emphasis on the Philippines.
First of the Firsts
I already mentioned Vicente Salumbides’s book as still-qualifiably the first Filipino film book. Prior to his publication, what we have is a fascinating array of colonial material – American and, at one point, Japanese. The US publications focus on the industry and its relation to government policy as well as on profit-generation, while the Japanese film book (by Abe Yutaka and Hitō Hankengun) more impressively looks into a singular government production, Abe Yutaka and Gerardo de Leon’s Dawn of Freedom (Eiga Haikyūsha & Toho, 1944). When regarded as colonial models for scholarship, it would be possible to say, discomfortingly for those with even a passing acquaintance of our foreign colonizers, that the US film books in the Philippines set a frankly deplorable and persistent orientation premised on moral anxiety – a continuation of a prefilmic Hispanic tradition, actually – while the Japanese book hewed closer to the tenets of aesthetic film appreciation, notwithstanding the propagandistic intent of the film it covered.
Salumbides’s book should have been followed by similar (and better) texts, but something about its period of emergence – the First Golden Age of roughly the 1950s – was inconducive to such a trend. (Unfortunately, I must give over any further interpretive prerogative here to scholars of Cold War culture. Too many cats to skin, or horses to shoe, or cakes to bake.) It remained then for the country’s self-styled counterfeit messiah and his former aspiring-starlet of a First Lady to provide the impetus for film-book publications. Fortunately, culture was the only area where they were most benign, or least rapacious, and film provided a high-profile means of displaying the democratic values they supposedly upheld.
The first formal film study in book form appeared as a chapter by critic-filmmaker T.D. Agcaoili, endorsing New Criticism, in a textbook co-edited by Gloria D. Feliciano, founding Dean of the then-Institute (now College) of Mass Communication in the national university. Like Agcaoili, none of the Nouvelle Vague-styled aspiring filmmakers who emerged right afterward to write for the Manila Chronicle, comprising Ishmael Bernal, Nestor U. Torre, and Behn Cervantes, had their own book publications, unless we count Torre’s monograph on history for the Cultural Center of the Philippines’s Tuklas Sining [Art Discovery] series.
With the declaration of martial law in 1972, one name appears and marks the rest of film-book publication in the Philippines. For two successive years, a book bore her name, starting with Rustum G. Quinton’s Ang Tunay na Kasaysayan ni Nora Aunor, Superstar [The True Story of Nora Aunor, Superstar], and followed by Herbert L. Vego’s Getting to Know Nora. With primarily political texts by Guillermo de Vega, Simeon G. del Rosario, and Primitivo Mijares intervening, Aunor figured once again in a series of books by Nick Joaquin (writing as Quijano de Manila), who headlined, as it were, each book with a star interview as its main attraction. Despite being the youngest (Joaquin’s other books featured Amalia Fuentes, Gloria Diaz, Joseph Estrada, and Fernando “Ronnie” Poe Jr.), Nora Aunor and Other Profiles became the bestselling entry and most prized collectible of the series – a vindication for Joaquin, who once narrated that he was cajoled by his colleagues for opting to write on a bakya or masscult figure.
The abidance of what we may call the Aunor effect continued through the years, and when it might end may be impossible to determine. The first multi-volume non-anthological film book was a biography of hers, written by Baby K. Jimenez. The first auteurial anthologies dealt with a producer (Monina Mercado’s, on Narcisa B. de Leon) and a director (Mario A. Hernando’s, on Lino Brocka) – both of whom, incidentally, were gone by the time the books appeared – but the first anthology on a Filipino performer was Nestor de Guzman’s Si Nora sa mga Noranians [Nora Aunor to the Noranians].
Only filmmakers, led by Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, and Kidlat Tahimik, have showed up in scholarly book collections overseas, with Nora Aunor nearly the only actor mentioned by name; in one instance, a study of Sharon Cuneta by Bliss Cua Lim (in Andrea Bandhauer and Michelle Royer’s Stars in World Cinema), the article is titled “Sharon’s Noranian Turn” – an indication of Aunor’s iconic stature. The first special journal issue (which I edited, for Kritika Kultura’s August 2015 issue) to focus on Philippine stardom was titled On Nora Aunor and the Philippine Star System. A tell-all memoir by Ricardo Lee is in the works, and several other scholars have signaled their intention to provide further book-length entries to the Noraniana Collection (incidentally the name as well of the special section in the Iriga Public Library that features available media materials on Aunor, as well as a Facebook page of de Guzman’s, fully titled the Noraniana Collection Project, that provides information and updates on said materials).
The larger consequence of the Aunor effect is that more books on Filipino film auteurs – over 70, as of the current count – have been published than in any other category; this includes a number of Who’s Who-styled collections, of which a number that only incidentally feature showbiz personalities might still show up sooner or later. Histories (in the arrangement I provided) follow quite some distance behind, while screenplays manage to run third only when we include teleplays, novelizations, and behind-the-scenes accounts. I found I also needed to combine books on screen cultural studies and political economy, as well as personal anthologies of reviews and criticism, in order to have totals in each category that did not depart too excessively one from another.
The Other Firsts
The same year, 1983, that Baby K. Jimenez’s two-volume Ang True Story ni Guy [The True Story of Guy] came out, two anthologies of reviews and criticism were published. The first, Readings in Philippine Cinema (ed. Rafael Ma. Guerrero), deserves to have a longer-lasting impact because of the scholarly usefulness of its selections; the second, The Urian Anthology 1970-1979 (ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson), has become better-known mainly because the critics’ group behind it continued to spew out decadal installments. (Personal disclosure: I was a member of the organization and appeared in some of the later volumes long after I left the group.)
The obvious gap left to fill would be for a singular-author anthology – which came out the next year, in Isagani R. Cruz’s Movie Times. Several other authors (including the present one) followed suit, and even writers creating or compiling materials in other areas made sure to include a chapter, if not a section, on cinema. With the banishment of the Marcoses, a new sociological trend, premised on qualitative analysis and engagement with poststructuralist theory, began to make its presence felt. Many of the personal anthologies acknowledged this swing in film studies, although the first volume dedicated entirely to the approach was a slim and now-rare collection published by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, titled Unang Pagtingin sa Pelikulang Bakbakan: Tatlong Sanaysay [A First Glance at the Action Film: Three Essays] and written by Zeus A. Salazar, Agustin Sotto, and Prospero Reyes Covar.
As for the first history text, again Salumbides’s Motion Pictures in the Philippines may be regarded as an initial book-length attempt, enriched and expanded by several article-length accounts in various collections. A number of specialized histories preceded the first general one, Bienvenido Lumbera’s Pelikula: An Essay on the Philippine Film (1989): a problematic defense of martial-law censorship policies in Film and Freedom (1975) by Guillermo de Vega, Ferdinand E. Marcos’s mysteriously assassinated presidential assistant; Joe Quirino’s projected (though not completed) three-volume History of the Philippine Cinema series opener, Don Jose [Nepomuceno] and the Early Philippine Cinema (1983); and Nick Deocampo’s Short Film: Emergence of a New Philippine Cinema (1985).
The first screenplay published in book form was actually a back-to-back edition of Ricky [as Ricardo] Lee’s Brutal/Salome (1981), featuring Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s 1980 film and Laurice Guillen’s 1981 entry respectively (personal disclosure: I was a member of Cine Gang, the outfit that published the text). As in the case of Nora Aunor, the succeeding screenplays published during the decade were also by Lee: Moral (1982), Bukas … May Pangarap [Tomorrow … There’s a Dream] (1984), and Himala [Miracle] (1982) in Si Tatang at mga Himala ng Ating Panahon [Old Man and the Miracles of Our Time] (1988), with only Bienvenido M. Noriega Jr.’s Soltero [Bachelor] managing to intervene in 1985. Surprisingly, the first novelization – of Romy V. Suzara’s Mga Uod at Rosas [Caterpillars and Roses] (1982) – came out after the millennium; not surprisingly, it was by the film’s scriptwriter, Edgardo M. Reyes, whose other novels served as bases for a number of film adaptations. The WWII-era’s only singular film book (by Abe Yutaka and Hitō Hankengun, mentioned earlier) was succeeded by a still, strictly speaking, non-Filipino behind-the-scenes account, of Gene Cajayon’s The Debut (2000), written by Cajayon, John Manal Castro, and Dawn Bohulano Mabalon.
Book chapters on, or descriptions of, Philippine cinema began appearing in foreign-published volumes on Third World (later Third) film and media, from the late 1970s onward, with Fredric Jameson’s controversial lionization of Eric de Guia’s Mababangong Bangungot [Perfumed Nightmare] (1977), in The Geopolitical Aesthetic (1992), considered one of the early high points. The first foreign-published books on the national cinema were about the Marcoses’ involvement in film activities, both of which were part of the anti-dictatorship movement’s output: Primitivo Mijares’s The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos (1976), with its sensational “The Loves of Marcos” chapter detailing the President’s supposedly multiple dalliances with movie stars and celebrities; and Hermie Rotea’s Marcos’ Lovey Dovie (1983), on the steamy romance between Macoy and Dovie Beams, the American starlet he handpicked to play the woman he loved in Jerr Hopper’s Maharlika (1970), his self-alleged heroic exploits during World War II that were subsequently repudiated by his own US Army superiors. Mijares shortly disappeared under suspicious circumstances, and his teenage son’s corpse was dropped from a plane in a badly mutilated condition.
The first Philippine film book not published in Manila was Stars in the Raw (1982) by Jessie B. Garcia, the same author who wrote “The Golden Decade of Philippine Movies” (1972, reprinted in Rafael Ma. Guerrero’s aforementioned Readings on Philippine Cinema) – the article that first recognized a local Golden Age, in this case the studio-controlled system from after WWII to the 1950s. The book was published in Bacolod, as was his unauthorized Vilma Santos bio Queen Vi (1984), while another book, on tragic sex-film star Claudia Zobel, came out the same year in Iloilo City. Nick Deocampo’s Short Film (1985) was the first non-script film book translated into another language (by Mark Garner and Matxalen Goiria into Spanish), as El Cortometraje (1986).
In the 1990s, two “official” reference materials on Pinas cinema were edited by Nicanor G. Tiongson, then the Director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines: Tuklas Sining [Art Discovery]: Essays on the Philippine Arts (1991) had a chapter by Bienvenido Lumbera titled “Philippine Film” that was in the main a historical summary; while the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art (1994) had a volume, Philippine Film, that was later updated (as simply Film) in the encyclopedia’s second edition, published in 2017. Like the same editor’s Urian Anthologies by the Filipino Film Critics Circle, these publications were bulky, glossy, and extremely expensive even by middle-class standards.
The ubiquity of internet media initially lulled me into thinking that a bibliographic project, even semi-annotated like the one I completed, may no longer be necessary, much less convenient. The constant emergence of new information would be relentless, and the preponderance of false data could prove frustrating to everyone but the most dedicated researchers. After taking out the material that I thought were either unwieldy (theses or dissertations) or unnecessary (martial law-era bulletins), I imagined I had a sufficiently manageable list – only to see it growing way beyond the original size I tried cutting down in the first place.
The most active film-book publisher in the country has been Anvil Publishing, which started in 1990 (with The National Pastime, also my first book) and amassed a total of 36 titles, or 43 if we include National Book Store titles. The university presses come next – the University of the Philippines’s with 25, Ateneo de Manila University’s with 16, and the University of Santo Tomas’s with 10. The Cultural Center of the Philippines a.k.a. Sentrong Pangkultura ng Pilipinas had about a dozen, but the title of “most active” can be claimed only by the newly established publishing arm of Viva Films: VRJ Books came up with 14 volumes in 2016-19, or over three film books per year. This would be logical when we consider that the outfit is dedicated to entertainment titles, but it also leads us down another pathway: books that resulted from social-network postings, inasmuch as these sources not only allow drafts to be reviewed (by peers and trolls alike), corrected, and compiled, but also to generate public interest prior to publication.
A so-far final new-media mark is to have books exist exclusively online. At this time, people buy them less and less from on-site stores and book fairs, and increasingly from internet sellers. Younger readers have become resourceful enough to seek out soft copies in a gray area where copyright claimants have become too negligent, or greedy, or both, thereby forfeiting their moral claim to prosecute people who make their products available to less-privileged citizens all over the web. Amauteurish! (pardon the promo) seeks to make as many titles as possible available for free or at minimal cost, while Shonenbat Collective on Facebook provides distribution for a so-far small number of books. These and forthcoming future initiatives have preempted government and academic resources from taking charge of on-the-ground book development, and deserve to prevail for as long as netizens find purchase in discursive activities outside of institutional interferences.
Help in finalizing the bibliography (and, in that respect, this article) came from the following: Deogracias Antonio, Rofel G. Brion, Byron Bryant, Jerrick Josue David, Cristina Gaston, Mike de Guzman, Nestor de Guzman, Patrick Flores, Eric Nadurata, Jim Paranal, Eduardo J. Piano, Jojo Terencio, Mauro Feria Tumbocon Jr., and Boy Villasanta.
 The types of books that I took out appear in the categorized listing that I posted. Later exclusions included Bela Padilla’s 100 Tula ni Bela [100 Poems of Bela] (Pasig City: VRJ Books, 2017), since it was a literary entry that was not a novelization, screenplay, or memoir, premised on 100 Tula Para Kay Stella [100 Poems for Stella], dir. Jason Paul Laxamana (Viva Films, 2017), that the author had starred in; and Gemma Cruz Araneta’s 50 Years in Hollywood: The USA Conquers the Philippines (Quezon City: Gemma Cruz Araneta, 2019), which was essentially a history text whose title intended to draw attention to an expression that the author attributed to her mother, Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil. Stanley Karnow’s description in his book, In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines (New York: Ballantine, 1989), of the Philippines spending “three centuries in a Catholic convent and fifty years in Hollywood” (Chapter 1), has become the most well-known appropriation.
 In “Film Book Publishing,” Philippines Communication Journal 3 (June 1987): 76-79.
 The term “bakya crowd” was coined by director Lamberto V. Avellana to explain why his quality productions did not make money. Supposedly the members of the audience, who were unsophisticated enough to wear noisy bakya or wooden shoes in movie houses, did not have the capacity to appreciate his works. After Jose F. Lacaba wrote “Movies, Critics, and the Bakya Crowd” (reprinted in his blog Ka Pete) to refute his argument, Avellana claimed in his last interview that he was misunderstood – that he intended the term as an endearment, not an insult (Ernie A. de Pedro, “Portrait of a Director: Lamberto Avellana,” Filipino Film Review, vol. 2, no. 1, January-March 1985, pp. 22-27).
 Other artists who have written their own overt autobiographical accounts are Daisy H. Avellana, Mark Bautista, Rustica Carpio, Celso Ad. Castillo, Wenn V. Deramas, J. Eddie Infante, Maine Mendoza, Pilar Pilapil, Armida Siguion-Reyna, and Jake Zyrus. Artists who have been written about in book form include, aside from Lino Brocka and Narcisa B. de Leon, Manuel Conde, Vicente Salumbides (in addition to his first-person text), Fernando Poe Jr., Dolphy, Carmen de la Rosa, Mona Lisa, Gabby Concepcion, Piolo Pascual, and Robin Padilla, plus the love team of Nadine Lustre and James Reid, a.k.a. Team Real (see the categorized listing’s auteurist section). Special mention may be made here of two cases: a book on Vilma Santos, Queen Vi, by Jessie B. Garcia, that was pulled from circulation for allegedly disparaging her parents; and possibly the most innovative semi-autobiography, titled Pro Bernal Anti Bio, initiated by Ishmael Bernal, passed on to Jorge Arago, and completed by Angela Stuart Santiago. Bernardo Bernardo announced he was at work on a memoir before he passed away in 2018, but its printing schedule still has to be disclosed by his heirs.
 Pointing this out in an endnote rather in the body text, so as not to sound too insistent: close observers would have noticed that the Aunor effect already occurred twice. She was the star of Himala [Miracle] and Mga Uod at Rosas [Caterpillars and Roses] (both 1982 films). The Ricky Lee anthology where Himala first appeared was his first book to be reprinted, in 2009; further to that, Lee also republished his script in an exemplary behind-the-scenes volume, Sa Puso ng Himala [In the Heart of Miracle] in 2012.
 As of this moment, I am unaware of any other attempts at creating books compiled from social network posts except for Richard Bolisay’s Break It to Me Gently (2019) as well as (partially) Ishmael Bernal, Jorge Arago, and Angela Stuart Santiago’s Pro Bernal, Anti Bio (2017). Millennial Traversals, the digital book I uploaded in 2015, is an unusual case in that it was reprinted in the UST journal UNITAS’s May 2015 and May 2016 issues, which in turn were reprinted in 2019 as a back-to-back book edition by Amauteurish Publishing.