Tag Archives: Profession

Empiricals; or the Bearable Heaviness of Having-Been

The following chart is based on a more comprehensive (nearly half a century!) file of my output than what I posted on the Chronologically Arranged Listing of Publications page. That one contains around 350 entries (as of May 2020) while this one counts over 400 in all. [Please click on the image for enlargement.]

The discrepancies begin with a different start year, owing to the inclusion of articles I’d delisted in the blog version as juvenilia. One difficulty in the method is that it counts any single publication as one. This could range from short reports to books. The 1990s drought, for example, owes to the fact that I’d been writing academic papers during graduate school – many of which got compiled in an encyclopedia as well as in books of mine, accounting for two years’ sudden spikes – alongside my doctoral dissertation (one final spike, in 2017, stemmed from the printing of a second edition of the aforementioned encyclopedia). I noticed as well that the years when I needed to adjust to non-writing jobs tended, logically enough, to impinge on my productivity, requiring a few couple of years for me to bounce back.

What struck me about the chart was the apparent high yield during the late 1980s, exceeding my freelance period of 1980-81. From personal experience, however, it felt like I was doing more writing recently than I ever had before – and again, it all boiled down to the question of the nature of output. With my tenured status in a more supportive non-Philippine educational institution, I was able to devote more time to writing, but these focused on academic articles and an occasional book volume.

The surest way of determining productivity would be by performing a word count of each entry and tabulating word output per year. That would of course require the kind of dedication to positivist projects that I can no longer muster. A less difficult means would be to count number of pages instead – a predicament for the articles whose copies I no longer possess, and a challenge that requires patience and obsession and time to spare (none of which I have enough of right now). As of this writing (December 2018), the last two years in the chart still have to transpire, so some of the items being counted are finished works awaiting publication, or planned output that I have announced. I imagine (though I don’t hope) that I might be writing to my end of days, so the definitive version of this study, assuming it’s worth completing, may just have to be undertaken by others.

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Chronologically Arranged Listing of Publications

Warning: you might find this (incomplete but still-growing) section too extensive for casual browsing.

A number of entries may appear bloated because of my insistence in tracking where they may have been reprinted; similarly, the reprints would be extended by the acknowledgments of original publication. I do not hold copies any longer of everything listed here. The claim I can make, however, is that each entry existed in a legally definable published format (including on the internet) that I once laid eyes on, if not actually possessed, except for a number of reviews whose non-publication arose from the editor’s backward orientation or the periodical’s inability to come out. When I realized that I would have to leave most of my collected materials behind to commence graduate studies abroad, I endeavored to list everything I had – a wise decision, since nearly the entirety of my possessions were either pilfered or damaged by the time I returned. My work as university faculty similarly inculcated in me the discipline of summarizing my output every yearend.

Pointedly missing from this list are three types of mimeographed material, some of which I was able to jot down, as well as news items generated in my capacity as journalism intern or reporter. The latter were contractually anonymized although my initials started appearing as taglines in some of the later published material; but the requirement of writing up to four reports a day, none of which were guaranteed to see print unless a desk editor happened to favor them, resonates in the most disagreeable way with me. Of the mimeo publications, one was legitimate but literally juvenile: my stint as editor-in-chief of the low-end student paper of my public elementary school (during the time when such institutions were markedly superior to private schools, which I had also attended). The other two types, where I first made use of pseudonyms, were juvenile in other senses: college-era fundamentalist-Christian newsletters and orthodox-Marxist underground propaganda, both types of which are, for better or worse, still around, and not much different from each other, if I may speak from experience.

To jump to half-decade marks, please click here for: 1980; 1985; 1990; 1995; 2000; 2005; 2010; 2015. To find an entry’s link in the blog, enter the title in the Search box in the footer (for the website version). Or track the source of the article using these means of identification: book titles (including anthologies and conference proceedings) in Books; journal and non-journal titles in Articles; non-journal periodicals after 2016 and independent statements in Remarks; and all other unclassifiable texts in Extras. If you’re searching for any number of commentaries on film, book, or stage titles, I recommend you look them up in Reviews instead, or in Auteurs & Authors if you prefer to search according to artist. For a tentative evaluation of these listings as data entries, I prepared a page titled Empiricals.

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David, Jose Hernani S. “Facing the Drug Abuse Problem.” “Piece of Mind” column. Ang Aninag (July-September 1974): 12.

———. “Of Population Boom and Errata.” “Deliberations” column. Ang Aninag (October-December 1974): 3.

———. “Eva Fernandez.” “Camera On” feature. Ang Aninag (October-December 1974): 5.

———. “Animal Farm: A Fairy Story by George Orwell.” Book review. Ang Aninag. (October-December 1974): 6.

———. “Lidy Nacpil.” “Camera On” feature. Ang Aninag (Christmas 1974): 3.

———. “But for the Lovers by Wilfrido Nolledo” and “Magister Ludi (The Glass Bead Game) by Hermann Hesse, translated by Richard and Clara Winston.” Book reviews. Ang Aninag (October-December 1974): 4.


David, Jose Hernani S. “Trivia.” “Deliberations” column. Ang Aninag (January-February 1975): 3.


David, Joel. “A New Twist to an Old Game.” “Common People” section. Who? [weekly magazine] (May 20, 1978): 6-7.

David, J. Hernani S. “The Student Regent: Work to Do.” “Winning Editorials (Topic: ‘Student Regent, Tuition Fee Hike and Minimum Wage’)” feature. Philippine Collegian [University of the Philippines official weekly student newspaper] (June 16, 1978): 3.

———. “Changes We’d Like to See.” “Innovations” column, “based on the editor’s entry to the layout phase of this year’s editorial exams.” Philippine Collegian (June 16, 1978): 8, 6.

———. “Today’s Press Systems: Four Tunes Western Theorists Sing.” Book review of Four Theories of the Press by Fred S. Siebert, Theodore Peterson, and Wilbur Schramm. Philippine Collegian (June 23, 1978): 3, 6.

———. “Pressed Freedom.” Editorial. Philippine Collegian (June 23, 1978): 8.

———. “Question Time.” “Tugon” column. Philippine Collegian (July 12, 1978): 8.

———. “The Fire Cure.” “Tugon” column. Philippine Collegian (July 20, 1978): 8.

———. “Birds of Omen.” Film review of Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak dir. Celso Ad. Castillo. Philippine Collegian (July 26, 1978): 3, 6. Anthologized in The Urian Anthology 1970-1979, ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson (Manila: Morato, 1983) 268-71.

———. “A Semestral Carol.” “Tugon” column. Philippine Collegian (August 9, 1978): 8.

———. “Low Flight.” “Tugon” column. Philippine Collegian (September 8, 1978): 8.

———. “Youths Stage September 21 Rally.” Interpretive report. Campus Journal [University of the Philippines Institute of Mass Communication semestral laboratory newspaper] (October 2, 1978): 1, 6.

———. “A Clockwork Crimson.” “Tugon” column. Philippine Collegian (October 4, 1978): 12, 10.

———. “Behind Bicutan.” “Tugon” column. Philippine Collegian (November 16, 1978): 8.


David, J. Hernani S. “When Enough is Enough.” “Tugon” column. Philippine Collegian (January 25, 1979): 8.

———. “The Provisional Directorate of the Diliman Commune, Feb. 1-9, 1971: 9 Days that Shook the Campus.” Feature article. Philippine Collegian (February 2, 1979): 7. Revised and published in The Review (February 1981): 6-11.

———. “NPC Under Water.” “Tugon” column. Philippine Collegian (February 2, 1979): 12.

———. “Oil Mighty.” “Tugon” column. Philippine Collegian (February 22, 1979): 8.

———. “Winning Editorials: Student Participation in University Affairs.” Philippine Collegian (March 2, 1979): 7.

———. “Oil Mighty II.” “Tugon” column. Philippine Collegian (April 20, 1979): 4.

David, Jose Hernani Segovia. “The Events in the Diliman Campus on February 1-9, 1971: A Historical Study.” Undergraduate thesis for B.A. Journalism. Bridget Zubiri, adviser. University of the Philippines, April 1979.

David, Joel. “Focus on the BPI Economic Garden.” Feature article. Greenfields 9.11 (November 1979): 40-45; with sidebar “The Plant Propagators,” 44-45.

David, Jose Hernani S., and Miguel Y. Puzon. “Introducing Fiberglass Fishing Boats in the Philippines.” “Research Features” section. Fisheries Today [Fishery Industry Development Council quarterly magazine] (November 4, 1979): 49-50.

David, Jose Hernani S. “Valiant Try.” Film review of Aliw, dir. Ishmael Bernal. Who (submitted November 1979). Anthologized in The National Pastime: Contemporary Philippine Cinema (Pasig City: Anvil, 1990).

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David, Jose Hernani S. “Malou Mangahas: Child of the Seventies.” “Campus” feature. Who [Who? renamed] (January 5, 1980): 32-33, 35.

———. “Rumpus at the International School.” “Campus” feature. Who (January 19, 1980): 1, 7. Original published as “At the International School: A Striking Story,” Philippine Collegian (January 23, 1980): 1, 7.

David, Joel. “A Festival to Forget.” “The Arts” feature, omnibus film review of 1979 Metro Manila Film Festival entries. Who (January 19, 1980): 40, 42.

David, Jose Hernani S. “At the International School: A Striking Story.” Interpretive report. Philippine Collegian (January 23, 1980): 1, 7.

———. “The World According to Aguila.” “Entertainment” feature, film review of Aguila, dir. Eddie Romero. Who (February 2, 1980): 44, 46. Anthologized in The National Pastime: Contemporary Philippine Cinema (Pasig City: Anvil, 1990) 20-23 and in The Urian Anthology 1980-1989, ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson (Quezon City: Tuviera, 2001) 142-45.

———. “A Clockwork Yellow.” “The Arts” feature, film review of The China Syndrome, dir. James Bridges. Who (February 22, 1980): 24-25, 42.

———. “The Night the Critics Gave Out Their Awards.” Interpretive report. Philippines Daily Express (March 4, 1980): 20-21.

———. “Why Aguila Was a Success at the Box-Office.” Interpretive report. Philippines Daily Express (March 6, 1980): 20-21.

———. “The World is a Newspaper.” Column. Tinig ng Plaridel [University of the Philippines Institute of Mass Communication official newspaper] (March 19, 1980): 8. Rpt. in Who (June 7, 1980): 42.

———. “Lighting Up the Countryside: Lesson in Rural Electrification.” Book review of Lighting Up the Countryside: The Story of Electric Cooperatives in the Philippines by Frank H. Denton. Daluyan [Development Academy of the Philippines bimonthly magazine] 80.1 (May-June 1980): 34- 39.

David, Joel. “Cartooning in the Philippines: A Win, Lose, and Draw Proposition.” “The Arts” feature, critical interviews of Willy Aquino, Pol Galvez, and Boy Togonon. Who (May 17, 1980): 27-29.

———. “Star-Building Pays.” Critical interviews of Dr. Rey de la Cruz, Jesse Ejercito, and Douglas Quijano. Times Journal (May 26, 1980): 21, 23.

David, Jose Hernani S. “The World is a Newspaper.” “Essay” feature. Who (June 7, 1980): 42. Originally published in Tinig ng Plaridel (March 19, 1980): 8.

———. “Second Thoughts on Kramer vs. Kramer.” Film review of Kramer vs. Kramer, dir. Robert Benton. Parade [Sunday supplement of Times Journal] (June 8, 1980): 5. Originally titled “Kramer vs. Women.”

———. “Star-Crossed.” Film review of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, dir. Robert Wise. Parade (June 15, 1980): 20.

———. “Palaban Puts Up a Decent Fight.” Film review of Palaban, dir. Eddie Romero. Times Journal (June 28, 1980): 23. Anthologized as “A Decent Fight” in The National Pastime 24-25.

———. “Rural Immersion for Career Executives.” Book review of The Indang Experience by Ledivina V. Cavino and Emma B. Vineza. Daluyan (July-August 1980): 46-48.

David, Joel. “In Bongga: Commercialism Triumphs Again.” Film review of Bongga Ka ’Day, dir. Maryo J. de los Reyes. Times Journal (August 1, 1980): 23.

David, Jose Hernani S. “Rural Organizations: In Search of Foolproof Answers.” Book review of Rural Organizations in the Philippines, ed. Marie S. Fernandez. Daluyan (November-December 1980): 36, 39.

David, Joel. “Just Another Brocka Film.” Film review of Angela Markado, dir. Lino Brocka. Times Journal (November 21, 1980): 28. Anthologized as “Just Another Exercise” in The National Pastime 175-78.

———. “Bernal’s Manila by Night Mangled.” Comparative report on Manila by Night (preview version) and City after Dark (censored version), dir. Ishmael Bernal. Times Journal (December 18, 1980): 25-26. Original published as “Manila by Night under the Knife: Those Scissors-Happy Censors Don’t Know What They’ve Missed,” Who (February 21, 1981): 28-29.


David, Joel. “Local Cinema ’80: New Directions for a New Decade.” Yearend evaluation of Filipino films. The Review (January 1981): 13-17.

———. “Nine Days that Shook the Campus.” Feature article. The Review (February 1981): 6-11. Originally published in Philippine Collegian (February 2, 1979): 7; includes sidebar “A Loss Remembered,” feature on Pastor Mesina, Jr. as recounted by his parents.

———. “A Festival to Forget.” Interpretive report on Manila ’81 Event. The Review (February 1981): 51.

———. “Manila by Night Under the Knife: Those Scissors-Happy Censors Don’t Know What They’ve Missed.” Who (February 21, 1981): 28-29. Original of “Bernal’s Manila by Night Mangled,” Times Journal (December 18, 1980): 25-26.

———, transcriber and introducer. “A Review Exclusive: Manila by Night.” Original screenplay by Ishmael Bernal. The Review (March 1981): 23-41.

———. “Brocka’s Satire is Effective.” Film review of Kontrobersyal, dir. Lino Brocka. Times Journal (April 3, 1981): 21-22.

David, Joel, and Geselle Militante. “Student Activism through the Years.” Feature article. The Review (June 1981): 24-29. Includes as sidebar Roberto Z. Coloma, “The Continuing Myth.”

David, Joel. “The Value of Humility.” “Book shorts” review of Philippine Prehistory: An Anthropological Overview of the Beginnings of Filipino Society and Culture by F. Landa Jocano. The Review (June 1981): 61.

———. “Oversimplifying Class Conflicts.” “The Arts” film review of Burgis, dir. Lino Brocka. Who (August 1, 1981): 16.

———. “Our Critical Condition.” Fictional forum on Filipino film criticism. The Review (September 1981): 41-44. Derived from “How to Become a Film Critic,” Who (November 28, 1981): 27-29.

———. “Pinoy in Gangsterland.” Survey of Filipino gangster films. The Review (October 1981): 10-12.

———. “Hateful Love.” Film review of Endless Love, dir. Franco Zeffirelli. The Review (October 1981): 55-56. Originally titled “Brainless Love.”

———. “Sense (or Its Absence) in Censorship.” The Review (November-December 1981): 11-13.

———. “Exceptions.” Comparative film review of Kamakalawa, dir. Eddie Romero, and Kisapmata, dir. Mike de Leon. The Review (November-December 1981): 44-45. Anthologized in The National Pastime 28-31.

———. “How to Become a Film Critic.” “The Arts” feature. Who (November 28, 1981): 27-29. Original of “Our Critical Condition,” The Review (September 1981): 41-44.


David, Joel. “Ragtime (USA), dir. Milos Forman.” Film review. The Review (February 1982): 13.

———. “Man of Iron (Poland), dir. Andrzej Wajda.” Film review. The Review (February 1982): 14-15.

———. “Insurgency in These Islands.” Feature article. The Review (March 1982): 28-31. Includes as sidebar “The 10-Point Program of the National Democratic Front,” rpt. from Southeast Asia Chronicle (May-June 1978).

———. “Holy Pain.” “Literary Folio” short story. Observer. [Sunday supplement of Times Journal, vice Parade] (May 16, 1982): 24-26. Anthologized in The Literary Apprentice 1981-1982 (Quezon City: UP Writers Club, 1982) 142-51.

———. “Waiting for Godard.” Film review of Batch ’81, dir. Mike de Leon. Who (June 16, 1982): 19-20. Anthologized in The National Pastime 32-34.

———. “Naked Debut.” Film review of Hubad na Gubat, dir. Lito Tiongson. The Review (August 1982): 43.

———. “Cinemasex.” Survey of Filipino sex films. Who (August 25, 1982): 20-22.

———. “Philippine Fisheries: A Fish-Eye View.” Feature article. The Review (September 1982): 23-25.

———. “Holy Pain.” Short story. The Literary Apprentice 1981-1982. University of the Philippines Writers Club anthology. Quezon City: UPWC, 1982. 142-51. Originally published in Observer (May 16, 1982): 24-26.

———. “Revolutionary from the Center.” The Review Corner interview with Nilo S. Tayag re the Daop Palad program. The Review (September 1982): 48.

———. “Big Hopes for Short Films.” The First Experimental Cinema of the Philippines’ Annual Short Film Festival [souvenir program] (November 16-21, 1982): 28-31. Rpt. Who (Nov. 24, 1982): 19-20.


ALR Contributor. “Trends: A Fillip for Film Books.” Asiaweek [international weekly newsmagazine; in Literary Review section] (February 25, 1983): 46-47.

David, Joel. “In Defense of Oro.” Opening installment of comparative review of Oro, Plata, Mata, dir. Peque Gallaga, and Moral, dir. Marilou Diaz-Abaya, in Eddie Pacheco’s “Simply Divine” column. Sunday Special, supplement of Times Journal (May 1, 1983): 10. Originally titled “Transcendence” and anthologized in The National Pastime 106-09.

———. “Transcendence.” Concluding installment of comparative review of Oro, Plata, Mata, dir. Peque Gallaga, and Moral, dir. Marilou Diaz-Abaya, in Eddie Pacheco’s “Simply Divine” column. Sunday Special (May 8, 1983): 10. Anthologized in The National Pastime 106-09.

———. “Filipino Films Well-Received in Moscow.” Interview with Ishmael Bernal re Himala. Times Journal (July 10, 1983): 20, 19.

———. “Maestro Bandido: Refreshing Change, Precious Insights.” Film review of Maestro Bandido, dir. Reginald King. Times Mirror, afternoon newspaper of Times Journal (Aug. 15, 1983): 8.

———. “Repression and Rebellion.” Film review of Pedro Tunasan, dir. Celso Ad. Castillo. Jario Scenario, official monthly newsletter of the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines (September 1983): 4.

———. “An Everyday Tragedy.” Feature. Jario Scenario (September 1983): 3, 6.

———. “Dope Godfather: Petty, Deficient.” Film review of Dope Godfather, dir. Junn P. Cabreira. Times Mirror (September 13, 1983): 8.

———. “ECP: Indispensable to Movie Industry.” “Special Report on Film Industry” in Supplement section. Manila Evening Post, afternoon daily newspaper (September 28, 1983): 5.

———. “Pagputi: Birds of Omen.” “The New Cinema” section, film review of Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak dir. Celso Ad. Castillo. The Urian Anthology 1970-1979, ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson (Manila: Morato, 1983) 268-71. Originally published in Philippine Collegian (July 26, 1978): 3, 6.


David, Joel. “Perseverance in a Neglected Dimension.” Interview with soundperson Ramon Reyes. Diliman Review 32.2 (March-April 1984): 66-72. Includes sidebar “Partial Filmography” 69.

———. “Scenario.” Editor’s introduction. SineManila, maiden issue of Experimental Cinema of the Philippines film journal (July-September 1984): 1.

———, introducer and translator. “The Screenplay of ‘Ang Magpakailanman,’” Raymond “Goto” Red, screenwriter. SineManila (July-September 1984): 14-20. Rpt. without credit in Nick Deocampo, Short Film: Emergence of a New Philippine Cinema (Metro Manila: Communication Foundation for Asia, 1985) 143-48.

———. “Critics’ Quarterly Citations.” Report. SineManila (July-September 1984): 44.

———. “Manila Short Film Competition.” Report. SineManila (July-September 1984): 44.

———. “The Critic as Creator.” Interview with Pio de Castro III. Philippine Collegian (December 4, 1984): 4, 7.

Deloso, Rollie. “Review: Misteryo sa Tuwa.” Film review of Misteryo sa Tuwa, dir. Abbo Q. de la Cruz. Bulletin Today (December 28, 1984): 27.

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David, Joel. “Historical Lessons.” Film review of Virgin Forest, dir. Peque Gallaga. Manila Standard (submitted 1985): unpublished. Anthologized in Millennial Traversals, Part I: Traversals within Cinema 60-61. Posted online.

———. “Major Bid.” Film review of Bulaklak sa City Jail, dir. Mario O’Hara. Tinig ng Plaridel (submitted 1985): unpublished. Anthologized in The National Pastime 100-02 and in The Urian Anthology 1980-1989 203-05.

———. “Bulaklak sa City Jail.” Excerpt of unpublished film review of Bulaklak sa City Jail, dir. Mario O’Hara. Ikasiyam na Gawad Urian, MPP souvenir program (March 15, 1985): n.p. Erroneously attributed to “Tinig, a UP publication.”

———. “Search Point.” Personal essay. Ang Aninag (October 1985): 4, 7. Originally titled “Searchpoint.”


David, J. Hernani. “Censorship and Other Compromises.” New Day, weekend supplement of Business Day (September 15, 1986): 13. Anthologized in The National Pastime 40-41.

David, Joel. “Mike de Leon at His Best in Bilanggo sa Dilim.” Film review of Bilanggo sa Dilim, dir. Mike de Leon. New Day (September 22, 1986): 15. Includes sidebar “Mike de Leon Filmography” 15. Anthologized as “Return to Form” (without sidebar) in The National Pastime 35-37 and in The Urian Anthology 1980-1989 256-59.

———. “A Film Writer’s Experience.” Interview with Ricardo Lee. New Day (September 29, 1986): 13.

———. “The Fantasy World of Rey de la Cruz.” Interview. New Day (October 6, 1986): 12, 14.

———. “Underground, in the Heat of the Night.” Interpretive report on Filipino pornographic komiks. New Day (October 13, 1986): 17. Anthologized in The National Pastime 154-57.

———. “Triumph of 16mm. Film.” “Fantalk” column, film review of Damortis, dir. Briccio Santos. New Day (October 20, 1986): 13. Anthologized as “Triumph in 16mm.” in The National Pastime 71-74.

———. “The Business of Pleasure in ’Gapo.” Interpretive report on Olongapo City. New Day (October 27, 1986): 13-14.

———. “Where Have All Horror Films Gone?” Survey of Filipino horror films. New Day (November 3, 1986): 13. Anthologized as “Where Has All the Horror Gone?” in The National Pastime 50-52.

———. “School Lures Film Buffs to Pioneer UP Course.” New Day (November 10, 1986): 13.

———. “Local Cinema in Today’s Mass Media.” Philippines Communication Journal [quarterly publication of the University of the Philippines Institute of Mass Communication] 1 (December 1986): 69-71. Anthologized as “Film Since February 1986” in The National Pastime 120-23.

Legaspi, Jojo. “Epic Grandstanding.” Film review of The Mission, dir. Roland Joffe. National Midweek (December 10, 1986): 40(?).


Legaspi, Jojo. “Exploring the World of Dreams.” Film review of Dreamscape, dir. Joseph Ruben. National Midweek (January 7, 1987): 49.

———. “Ten Years of the Metro Filmfest.” National Midweek (January 28, 1987): 39-40.

———. “Niño’s Comeback.” Film review of Kontra Bandido, dir. J. Erastheo Navoa. National Midweek (February 11, 1987): 41. Anthologized in The National Pastime 86-87.

———. “Waiting for a Renaissance.” 1986 yearend evaluation of Filipino films. National Midweek (February 11, 1987): 42-43.

———. “The Return of the Melodrama.” Film review of Kung Aagawin Mo ang Lahat sa Akin, dir. Eddie Garcia. National Midweek (March 18, 1987): 45. Anthologized as “Return of the Melodrama” in The National Pastime 132-33.

David, Joel. “Film Book Publishing.” Philippines Communication Journal 3 (June 1987): 76-79. Rpt. as “Film Books,” National Midweek (December 9, 1987): 34-35.

———. “Searching for Options.” Film review of Kid … Huwag Kang Susuko!, dir. Peque Gallaga. National Midweek (August 19, 1987): 37-38. Anthologized in The National Pastime 110-11.

———. “Mid-Year in Review.” 1987 mid-year evaluation of Filipino films. National Midweek (August 26, 1987): 41-42.

———. “O’Hara Strikes Again.” Film review of Tatlong Ina, Isang Anak, dir. Mario O’Hara. National Midweek (September 2, 1987): 40-41. Anthologized in The National Pastime 103-05.

———. “Film Education Comes of Age.” National Midweek (September 16, 1987): 31-33.

———. “Secret Love.” Film review of Mga Lihim ng Kalapati, dir. Celso Ad. Castillo. National Midweek (September 23, 1987): 34.

———. “Romero’s Flip-Flop.” Film review of Hari sa Hari, Lahi sa Lahi, dir. Eddie Romero for Philippine version and Hsiao Lang and Chou Lili for Chinese version. National Midweek (September 23, 1987): 35. Anthologized in The National Pastime 26-27.

———. “Gay Days.” Film review of Ako si Kiko, Ako si Kikay, dir. Mike Relon Makiling. National Midweek (September 30, 1987): 33-34. Anthologized as “Gross, Gaudy, & Gay” in The National Pastime 88-90.

———. “Classics for College Kids.” National Midweek (October 7, 1987): 32-33.

———. “Mellow Drama.” Film review of Paano Kung Wala Ka Na, dir. Mel Chionglo. National Midweek (October 14, 1987): 36. Anthologized in The National Pastime 134-35.

———. “Grave Burden.” Film review of Pasan Ko ang Daigdig, dir. Lino Brocka. National Midweek (October 21, 1987): 34.

———. “People Power & Cinema.” National Midweek (October 28, 1987): 36. Anthologized as “People-Power Cinema” in The National Pastime 124-26 and as “People Power and Cinema” in The Urian Anthology 1980-1989 56-59.

———. “Regal Fest.” 1987 Regal Films retrospective National Midweek (submitted November 1987): unpublished.

———. “Movie Worker.” Autobiographical account for cover feature on theme “Ordinary People.” National Midweek (November 4, 1987): 15-16.

———. “Bloody Fine.” Film review of The Untouchables, dir. Brian De Palma. National Midweek (November 11, 1987): 36, 44.

———. “Earthbound.” Film review of Pinulot Ka Lang sa Lupa, dir. Ishmael Bernal. National Midweek (November 18, 1987): 36.

———. “Child’s Play.” Film review of Takot Ako, Eh!, dir. Mario O’Hara. National Midweek (November 25, 1987): 34-35. Anthologized in The National Pastime 94-96.

———. “Preeminence of Film as Artistic Mass Medium.” Philippines Communication Journal 5 (December 1987): 43-48. Originally titled “Reflections on a National Pastime”; includes sidebar “Filmography of Titles Cited” 48.

———. “Home Sweet Home.” Theater review of Elsa Martinez Coscolluela’s Sa Tahanan ng Aking Ama, translated by Raul Regalado. National Midweek (December 2, 1987): 34-35. Anthologized in The National Pastime 158-60.

———. “Reactions to UP Film Major’s Letter.” “Feedback” section, addressed to “My dear Mr. UP Film Major.” National Midweek (December 2, 1987): 42-43.

———. “Film Books.” National Midweek (December 9, 1987): 34-35. Originally published as “Film Book Publishing” in Philippines Communication Journal 3 (June 1987): 76-79.

———. “Failed-Safe.” Film review of Walang Karugtong ang Nakaraan, dir. Leroy Salvador. National Midweek (December 16, 1987): 33. Anthologized in The National Pastime 136-37.

———. “The Devil to Pay.” Film review of The Witches of Eastwick, dir. George Miller. National Midweek (December 23, 1987): 35-36.


David, Joel. “Perils of Politics.” Film review of A Dangerous Life, dir. Robert Markowitz. National Midweek (submitted 1988): unpublished. Anthologized in The National Pastime 78-80.

———. “A Festival to Forget.” 1987 Metro Manila Film Festival evaluation. Conjuncture [Institute for Popular Democracy publication] 1.4 (January 1988): 8.

———. “Chauvinist’s Nightmare.” Film review of Kumander Gringa, dir. Mike Relon Makiling. National Midweek (January 13, 1988): 33-34. Inside pages erroneously bear “1987” as year. Anthologized in The National Pastime 91-93 and in The Urian Anthology 1980-1989 136-39.

———. “The Curse of Good Intentions.” 1987 Metro Manila Film Festival evaluation. National Midweek (January 20, 1988): 29-31.

———. “Movie(?) of ’87.” Film review of Film Trilogy on the Theme of Poverty and Prostitution, dir. Rosa ng Maynila. National Midweek (January 27, 1988): 29-30. Anthologized as “Movie(?) of the Year” in The National Pastime 75-77 and in The Urian Anthology 1980-1989 260-63.

———. “Bad Takes for the Film Industry,” Conjuncture 1.5-6 (February-March 1988): 8.

———. “’87 in Review: Quo Vadis?” 1987 yearend evaluation of Filipino films. National Midweek (February 3, 1988): 30-31.

———. “Image-Building.” Film review of Huwag Mong Itanong Kung Bakit, dir. Eddie Garcia. National Midweek (February 3, 1988): 31-32.

———. “Down But Not Out.” Comparative film review of Nektar, dir. Francis “Jun” Posadas, and Tubusin Mo ng Dugo, dir. Pepe Marcos. National Midweek (February 17, 1988): 28-29. Anthologized in The National Pastime 56-58.

———. “Reversals.” Film review of Misis Mo, Misis Ko, dir. Carlos Siguion Reyna. National Midweek (March 2, 1988): 35-36. Anthologized in The National Pastime 138-40 and in The Urian Anthology 1980-1989 238-40.

———. “Renewal of Appreciation.” Film review of Manila by Night, dir. Ishmael Bernal. National Midweek (March 16, 1988): 4-5. Anthologized in The National Pastime 169-71.

———. “Moments of Truth.” Comparative film review of Anak ng Cabron, dir. Wilfredo Milan, and Afuang: Bounty Hunter, dir. Mike Relon Makiling. National Midweek (March 23, 1988): 29-30. Anthologized in The National Pastime 59-61.

———. “Form and Function.” Comparative film review of Silent Voice, dir. Mike Newell, and Full Metal Jacket, dir. Stanley Kubrick. National Midweek (April 6, 1988): 30-31.

———. “Komiks Without Pain.” Film review of Saan Nagtatago ang Pag-ibig?, dir. Eddie Garcia. National Midweek (April 13, 1988): 31.

———. “Balancing Acts.” Film review of Hati Tayo sa Magdamag, dir. Lupita A. Kashiwahara. National Midweek (April 27, 1988): 29-30.

———. “Slow Train to Thailand.” Interpretive report on contemporary Thai film scene. National Midweek (July 20, 1988): 20-22.

———. “Studious Studios.” Interpretive report on re-emergence of Filipino studio system. National Midweek (July 20, 1988): 30-31. Anthologized in The National Pastime 126-28.

———. “Progressions, Retrogressions.” Comparative film review of Isusumbong Kita sa Diyos, dir. Emmanuel H. Borlaza, Kapag Napagod ang Puso, dir. Maryo J. de los Reyes, and Nagbabagang Luha, dir. Ishmael Bernal. National Midweek (August 24, 1988): 31-32. Originally titled “Progressions” and anthologized in The National Pastime 141-43.

———. “Bioflicks.” Comparative film review of Operation: Get Victor Corpus, the Rebel Soldier, dir. Pablo Santiago, Balweg: The Rebel Priest, dir. Butch Perez, and Kumander Dante, dir. Ben (M-7) Yalung. National Midweek (October 26, 1988): 29-30. Anthologized in The National Pastime 62-64.

———. “Campout.” Comparative film review of Natutulog Pa ang Diyos, dir. Lino Brocka, Paano Tatakasan ang Bukas, dir. Emmanuel H. Borlaza, and Sa Puso Ko Hahalik ang Mundo, dir. Artemio Marquez. National Midweek (November 9, 1988): 33. Anthologized in The National Pastime 144-46.

———. “Causes for Cerebration.” Comparative film review of Tiyanak, dir. Peque Gallaga and Lorenzo Reyes, and Babaing Hampaslupa, dir. Mel Chionglo. National Midweek (December 21, 1988): 28-29. Anthologized in The National Pastime 53-55.

———. “Perils of Politics.” Unpublished film review of A Dangerous Life, dir. Robert Markowitz. Submitted to National Midweek, 1988. Anthologized in The National Pastime 78-80.


David, Joel. “To Give Critical Support to Filmmakers.” Kultura. Quarterly journal of the Sentrong Pangkultura ng Pilipinas. 2.1 (1989): 52-56. Originally titled “Film Reviewing and Film Criticism” and anthologized as “Film Reviewing and Criticism” in The National Pastime 42-47.

———. “Filmfest Flimflam.” 1988 Metro Manila Film Festival evaluation. National Midweek (January 18, 1989): 8-9. Originally titled “Filmfest Flimflammery”; with cover citation and sidebar “MMFF Winners” 9.

———. “Local Cinema ’88.” 1988 yearend evaluation of Filipino films. National Midweek (January 25, 1989): 28-29.

———. “Film-Writing.” Book review of Ricardo Lee’s Si Tatang at mga Himala ng Ating Panahon. National Midweek (February 8, 1989): 27-28. Anthologized in The National Pastime 161-62. Excerpted in Ricky Lee, Si Tatang at mga Himala ng Ating Panahon: Koleksyon ng mga Akda (Quezon City: Writers Studio Foundation, 2009) 11.

———. “Roño’s Rondos.” Comparative film review of Itanong Mo sa Buwan and Si Baleleng at ang Gintong Sirena, dir. Chito Roño. National Midweek (March 1, 1989): 29-30. Anthologized as “Roño’s Rondo,” excluding Si Baleleng review, in The Urian Anthology 1980-1989 236-37.

———. “High-Flying.” Video review of Imelda: Paruparong Bakal, dir. Chito Roño. National Midweek (March 15, 1989): 32. Anthologized in The National Pastime 81-82.

———. “Macho Dancer: Text vs. Texture.” Cover story, film review of Macho Dancer, dir. Lino Brocka. Kultura 2.2 (1989): 26-33. Originally titled “Text vs. Texture” and anthologized in The National Pastime 179-84.

———. “Empire of the (Risen) Sun.” Cover topic, interpretive report on contemporary Japanese film scene. National Midweek (April 12, 1989): 3-7.

———. “An Awakening.” Film review of Pahiram ng Isang Umaga, dir. Ishmael Bernal. National Midweek (April 12, 1989): 32. Anthologized in The National Pastime 172-74.

———. “Short Subjects.” Comparative film review of Mga Kuwento ng Pag-ibig, dir. Jun Cabreira, Luciano Carlos, and Artemio Marquez, and 3 Mukha ng Pag-ibig, dir. Emmanuel H. Borlaza, Lino Brocka, and Leroy Salvador. National Midweek (May 10, 1989): 28-29. Anthologized in The National Pastime 68-70.

———. “Life after Life.” Comparative film review of Mississippi Burning, dir. Alan Parker, and They Live, dir. John Carpenter. National Midweek (June 21, 1989): 29-30.

David, Jose Hernani S. “Ethics First (Rather than Aesthetics).” The National Pastime 190-97. Originally read at the Aspects of Philippine Film panel of the Third International Philippine Studies Conference. Quezon City, 1989.

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David, Joel. The National Pastime: Contemporary Philippine Cinema. Pasig City: Anvil, 1990.

———. “A Second Golden Age: An Informal History.” The National Pastime 1-17. Originally published in Kultura.

———. Reviews and essays. The National Pastime. Originally published in various print outlets.

——— [uncredited]. “After the Revolution.” Film review of Orapronobis, dir. Lino Brocka. National Midweek (January 10, 1990): 28-29. Error in missing credit acknowledged in “Self-Criticism Department” (January 17, 1990): 43. Anthologized in The National Pastime 185-89.

———. “From ‘Sister Stella L.’ to ‘Starzan.’” 1980s Philippine cinema in review. National Midweek (January 24, 1990): 14-16.

———. “Slugged Out.” Comparative film review of Imortal, dir. Eddie Garcia, and Ang Bukas Ay Akin, dir. Laurice Guillen. National Midweek (January 31, 1990): 30-31. Anthologized in The National Pastime 147-50.

———. “Carnival Cinema.” Exhibition review of Cinevision 2000’s “Adventures of America.” National Midweek (February 7, 1990): 28-29. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 102-05.

———. “…And the First Shall Be the Last.” Film review of The Last Temptation of Christ, dir. Martin Scorsese. National Midweek (March 14, 1990): 31.

———. “’80s Foreign Fare.” 1980s foreign cinema in review. National Midweek (March 28, 1990): 28-29.

———. “No End in Sight.” Film review of Kung Tapos Na ang Kailanman, dir. Lino Brocka. National Midweek (March 28, 1990): 29-30. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 62-65.

———. “Bienvenido Lumbera.” Interview (cover title “Critic in Academe). National Midweek (April 4, 1990): 20-22, 46.

———. “Levels of Independence.” Attempted definition of indie cinema. National Midweek (April 25, 1990): 29-30.

———. “Soldier Blues.” Film review of Casualties of War, dir. Brian De Palma. National Midweek (May 9, 1990): 29.

———. “Ma(so?)chismo.” Comparative film review of Barumbado, dir. Willy Milan, and Kasalanan ang Buhayin Ka, dir. Francisco “Jun” Posadas. National Midweek (May 23, 1990): 30. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 82-84.

———. “Firmament Occupation.” Discussion of star system. National Midweek (May 30, 1990): 29-30. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 114-16.

———. “I.O.U.” Film review of Kahit Singko Hindi Ko Babayaran ang Buhay Mo, dir. Jesus Jose. National Midweek (June 6, 1990): 31. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 85-87.

———. “Men & Myths.” Film review of Bala at Rosaryo, dir. Pepe Marcos. National Midweek (June 6, 1990): 31. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 80-82.

———. “Head Held High.” Film review of Gumapang Ka sa Lusak, dir. Lino Brocka. National Midweek (June 20, 1990): 28-29. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 65-68; and in The Urian Anthology 1990-1999, ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2010) 148-51.

———. “Record-Breaking Blues.” Originally titled “Blues Hit Parade.” Discussion of blockbusters. National Midweek (June 27, 1990): 28. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 116-18.

———. “Film on Film.” Film review of Big Flick in the Sky, dir. Kenneth M. Angliongto. National Midweek (June 27, 1990): 29.

David, Joel, with Melanie Joy C. Garduño. “The 10 Best Filipino Films.” Cover story, titled “The 10 Best Filipino Films Ever Made.” National Midweek (July 4, 1990): 3-9. Anthologized as “Ten Best Filipino Films Up to 1990” in Fields of Vision 125-36.

David, Joel. “Gloria in Excessus.” Film review of Glory, dir. Edward Zwick. National Midweek (July 4, 1990): 30.

———. “Frontline.” Film review of Born on the Fourth of July, dir. Oliver Stone. National Midweek (August 22, 1990): 30.

———. “Cool Film.” Film review of Hot Summer, dir. Mel Chionglo. National Midweek (September 5, 1990): 29. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 51-53.

———. “Mudslung.” Comparative film review of Ibabaon Kita sa Lupa, dir. Toto Natividad, and Ayaw Matulog ng Gabi, dir. Carlo J. Caparas. National Midweek (September 19, 1990): 31. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 87-89.

———. “Demachofication.” Film review of Kristobal, dir. Francis “Jun” Posadas. National Midweek (September 26, 1990): 30. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 77-80.

———. “Worth the While.” Listing of “memorable” ’80s film scenes. National Midweek (September 26, 1990): 30-32. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 119-24.

———. “World’s Longest Footnote.” “From the author’s forthcoming Anvil Publishing volume, Contemporary Philippine Cinema: Reviews and Criticism [sic – title should read The National Pastime: Contemporary Philippine Cinema].” National Midweek (October 3, 1990): 30. Anthologized as “World’s Longest Prequel” in The National Pastime 198-99.

———. “Film Critics Speak.” “Prepared by Mike Feria, Patrick Flores, and the author as State of Criticism statement of the Young Critics Circle.” National Midweek (October 3, 1990): 32. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 80-82. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 107-09.

———. “Woman-Worthy.” Comparative film review of Kasalanan Ba’ng Sambahin Ka?, dir. Chito Roño, and Hahamakin Lahat, dir. Lino Brocka. National Midweek (October 17, 1990): 28-30. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 74-77.

———. “Classroom as Theater.” Discussion of film education policy. National Midweek (October 17, 1990): 31-32. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 105-07.

———. “Nothing Much about Ado.” Film review of Pido Dida (Sabay Tayo), dir. Tony Cruz. National Midweek (October 24, 1990): 28. Anthologized in The Urian Anthology 1990-1999, ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2010) 136-37; and as “Family Affairs” in Fields of Vision 69-71.

———. “Updates.” Short discussions of the horror, sex, and action genres; melodrama; performers; formats; and media. National Midweek (October 24, 1990): 30. Anthologized in The National Pastime 65, 151, 97, 83, 163 resp.

———. “Movable Fists.” Comparative film review of Walang Awa Kung Pumatay, dir. Junn P. Cabreira, Iisa-Isahin Ko Kayo, Francis “Jun” Posadas, and Apoy sa Lupang Hinirang, dir. Mauro Gia. Samonte. National Midweek (November 28, 1990): 30. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 89-92.

———. “Sedulously Cebuano.” Film review of Eh … Kasi … Bisaya!, dir. Junn P. Cabreira. National Midweek (November 28, 1990): p. unkn. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 97-99.

———. “Film Reviewing and Criticism I,” “Film Reviewing and Criticism II,” & “Film Reviewing and Criticism III.” National Midweek (December 5, 12, & 26 [resp.], 1990): 29, 30, & 29-30 resp. Anthologized as “Film Reviewing and Criticism” in The National Pastime 42-47.


David, Joel. “Sequacious and Second-Rate.” Comparative film review of Pido Dida 2 (Kasal Na), dir. Tony Cruz, and Anak ni Baby Ama, dir. Deo J. Fajardo Jr. National Midweek (submitted 1991): unpublished. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 71-74.

———. “Persistence of Vision.” Film review of Bakit Kay Tagal ng Sandali, dir. Chito Roño. National Midweek (submitted 1991): unpublished. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 47-51.

———. “No End in Sight.” Film review of Kung Tapos Na ang Kailanman, dir. Lino Brocka. National Midweek (submitted 1991): unpublished. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 62-65.

———. “Maryo J. and Mr. de los Reyes.” Comparative film review of My Other Woman and Underage Too, both dir. Maryo J. de los Reyes. National Midweek (submitted 1991): unpublished. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 44-47.

———. “Indigenous Ingenuity.” Film review of Andrea, Paano Ba ang Maging Isang Ina?, dir. Gil Portes. National Midweek (submitted 1991): unpublished. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 56-62.

———. “Directors-Editors.” Comparative film review of Kaaway ng Batas, dir. Pepe Marcos, and Angel Molave, dir. Augusto Salvador. National Midweek (submitted 1991): unpublished. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 41-44.

———. “Horse Yearender.” 1990 in review. National Midweek (February 27, 1991): 30.

———. “Class Clamorers.” Comparative film review of Too Young and Shake, Rattle & Roll II, dir. Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, and Biktima and Ama … Bakit Mo Ako Pinabayaan?, dir. Lino Brocka. National Midweek (February 13, 1991): 28-29. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 92-97.

———. “Great Philippine All-Time One-Shot Awards Ceremony.” National Midweek (February 20, 1991): 28-29. Anthologized as “All-Time One-Shot Awards Ceremony” in Fields of Vision 137-42.

———. “Three Careers.” Comparative film review of Umiyak Pati Langit, dir. Eduardo Palmos, Bago Matapos ang Lahat, dir. Joselito “Abbo” de la Cruz, and Ganito Ba ang Umibig?, dir. Laurice Guillen. National Midweek (March 27, 1991): 28-29. Anthologized in Fields of Vision 37-41.


David, Joel. “Adaptation Comes of Age.” Opera review of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohéme, dir. Rolando Tinio. Manila Standard (submitted 1992). Anthologized in Millennial Traversals, Part II: Expanded Perspectives 1-3. Posted online.

———. “Some Words on Film Awards.” Mediawatch. [N.d. 1992?]: [Pp. undetermined, 3 pp. + 2-p. sidebar titled “List of Film Awards for 1991 Productions].

———. “Black and Blue and Red.” Film review of Bayani, dir. Raymond Red. Manila Standard (July 1, 1992): 19.


David, Jose Hernani S. “Fictions in Flux: Documentary Dimensions of Philippine Cinema.” Paper read at the Documenting Fictions: Documentary Dimensions of the Fiction Film conference sponsored by the Centre Universitaire de Luxembourg American Studies Center, Clark European Center in Luxembourg, Fondation Promomedia, Bibliotheque Nationale, Cinematheque Municipale, and the American Embassy. Luxembourg City, 1993.

———. “Queer Representation in Philippine Cinema.” Paper read at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center sponsored by the Gay Asian & Pacific Islander Men of New York. New York, 1993.


David, Joel. Various entries for Philippine Film, vol. 8 of the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson (Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994): “Aksyon” (with Lynn Pareja) 82-83; “Animation” (with Lynn Pareja) 83-84; “Horror” (with Lynn Pareja) 90; “Komedi” (with Lynn Pareja) 90-91; “Musical” (with Lynn Pareja & Nicanor G. Tiongson) 92-93; “Acting” (with Justino Dormiendo) 96-97; “Cinematography” (with Nick Cruz) 105-07; “Distribution” (with Rosalie Matilac) 112-14; “Production” (with Nick Cruz & Rosalie Matilac) 124-28; “Sound Recording” (with Nick Cruz) 134-36; and “Studies and Training” (with Lynn Pareja) 136-37.

David, Joel. Various entries for Philippine Literature, vol. 9 of the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson (Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994): “Movie Times” 473; “Notes on Philippine Cinema” 475; “Readings in Philippine Cinema” 484-85; and “The Urian Anthology 1970-1979” 495.

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David, Joel. Fields of Vision: Critical Applications in Recent Philippine Cinema. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1995.

———. “The ‘New’ Cinema in Retrospect.” Fields of Vision 1-36. Anthologized in The Urian Anthology 1990-1999, ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson (Manila: University of the Philippines Press, 2010) 58-83.


David, Joel. “A Question of Appositeness: Structuralism to Poststructuralism.” Wages of Cinema: Film in Philippine Perspective (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1998) 3-13.

———. “The Multiple-Character Film Format.” Wages of Cinema 14-25.

———. “Genre Pastiche in the Horror Film.” Wages of Cinema 26-37.

———. “Auteur Criticism: A Non-Recuperative Reappraisal.” Wages of Cinema 38-47. Originally read at the New York University Annual Student Conference (New York, 1994).

———. “A Cultural Policy Experience in Philippine Cinema.” Wages of Cinema 48-61. Originally read at the Socio-Politics of the Cinema of the Philippines panel at the Asian Cinema (Poetics & Politics) Annual Ohio University Film Conference (Athens, 1994).

———. “Viable Lessons From Another Third-World Model.” Wages of Cinema 65-79.

———. “Race as Discourse in Southeast Asia Film Ethnographies.” Wages of Cinema 80-91.

———. “Ideas in Philippine Film: A Critical Survey.” Wages of Cinema. 92-101. Originally read in altered form at the Pelikulang Pilipino: A Review of Contemporary Philippine Cinema forum at Columbia University, sponsored by Liga Filipina and Arkipelago (New York, 1994).

———. “Practice Makes Perfect: Alternative Philippine Cinema.” Wages of Cinema. 102-12. Originally read at the (In)Dependent Film Practice in a Third-World Setting panel of the Society for Cinema Studies Annual Conference (Syracuse, 1994).

———. “A History of the History of a History-To-Be.” Wages of Cinema. 113-28. Originally read at the PeregriNations: The Philippines as a Nation in Cinema panel of the Society for Cinema Studies Annual Conference (New York, 1995).

———. “Gender as Masquerade in the Vietnam-War Film.” Wages of Cinema 131-45. Originally read at the New York University Annual Student Conference (New York, 1995).

———. “Film in the Light of the ‘History’ of Sexuality.” Wages of Cinema 146-56.

———. “Pornography and Erotica: Boundaries in Dissolution.” Wages of Cinema 157-68.

———. “Womanliness as (Masculine) Masquerade in Psychoanalytic Film-Texts.” Wages of Cinema 169-79.

———. “Postcolonial Conundrum: Third-World Film in Perverse Perspective.” Wages of Cinema. 180-200. Originally read at the New York University Annual Student Conference (New York, 1996).

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David, Joel. Wages of Cinema: Film in Philippine Perspective. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1998.


David, Joel. “Philippine Film History as a Site of Postcolonial Discourse.” Geopolitics of the Visible: Essays on Philippine Film Cultures, ed. Rolando B. Tolentino (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2000) 3-12.


David, Joel. Reviews and essays. The Urian Anthology 1980-1989, ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson (Quezon City: Tuviera, 2001). Originally published in various print outlets.


David, Jose Hernani Segovia. Primates in Paradise: The Multiple-Character Format in Philippine Film Practice (New York University, 2002 and Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 2002). UMI 3048810.

David, Joel. “Ten Best Films of All Time” contribution. Sight & Sound, British Film Institute magazine (September 2002): 29. Posted online.


David, Joel. “A Certain Tendency: Europeanization as a Response to Americanization and Other Issues in the ‘Golden-Age’ Studio System.” Paper read at the Sangandaan: Arts and Media in Philippine-American Relations, 1899-2002 conference sponsored by the University of the Philippines and the Filipino American National Historical Society (Quezon City, 2003).

———. “Chosen Few: Minimal Multi-Character Patterns in Recent Filipino Films.” Paper read at the Freeze-Frame: New Issues in Philippine Cinema conference sponsored by the University of the Philippines Visayas Cebu College (Cebu City, 2003).


David, Joel. “Sabel: Heaven in Mind.” Film review of Sabel, dir. Joel C. Lamangan. Philippine Star (July 11, 2004): E6. Posted online. Also posted online at Regalfilms.com. Rpt. as “They Don’t Make Films Like Sabel Anymore,” Philippine Daily Inquirer (July 13, 2004): A23.

———. “They Don’t Make Films Like Sabel Anymore.” Film review of Sabel, dir. Joel C. Lamangan. Philippine Daily Inquirer (July 13, 2004): A23. Also posted online at Inq7.net. Originally published as “Sabel: Heaven in Mind,” Philippine Star (July 11, 2004): E6.

———. “Literalized Communities: The Pinoy Milieu Movie’s Aesthetic and Social Dimensions.” Ramon Cojuangco Professorial Chair lecture read at the UP College of Mass Communication Faculty Colloquia (Quezon City, 2004).

———. “Multiple Choices, Multiple Voices: Critical Possibilities of the Milieu Movie.” Paper read at the 40th Communication Colloquium, Institute for Communication Arts & Technology, Hallym University (Chuncheon, Korea, 2004).

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David, Joel. “Cutthroat Archipelago: Video Piracy in and around the Philippines.” Culture Industry and Cultural Capital: Transnational Media Consumption and the Korean New Wave in East Asia: Conference Proceedings, ed. Kim Shin-dong. Paper read at the Culture Industry and Cultural Capital: Transnational Media Consumption and the Korean New Wave in East Asia conference sponsored by the Institute for Communication Arts & Technology, Hallym University (Seoul, Korea, 2005).

———. “Introduction.” Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives: A Folio by the Feature Writing Class, Fall Semester 2004-2005, School of Communication, Hallym University (Chuncheon: Hallym University, 2005) 3.

———. “Growing Old in New York (or Small World, Big Apple).” Personal essay. The Hallym Post 21 (May 2, 2005): 4.

———. “A Yearning for Tenderness: A Scenario for Korean Cinema.” Paper for “Waves from Korea and Japan in a Cross-Cultural Context” panel at the National, Transnational, and International: Asian Cinema in the Context of Globalization – Centennial Celebration of Chinese Cinema conference sponsored by the Shanghai University School of Film and TV Arts and Technology, Beijing University Department of Arts Studies, and (US) Asian Cinema Studies Society (Shanghai and Beijing, China, 2005).


David, Joel. “Queer Shuttling: Korea – Manila – New York.” Queer Film and Video Festival Forum, Take Two: Critics Speak Out section. Ed. Chris Straayer and Thomas Waugh. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 12.4 (2006): 614-17.

———. “Indochine and the Dynamics of Gender.” Proceedings of the Whither the Orient: Asians in Asian and Non-Asian Cinema Conference, Kimdaejung Convention Center, Gwangju, Korea, 28-29 October 2006, ed. Joel David (Seoul: Asia Culture Forum, 2006) 248-72.

———. “Indochine and the Politics of Gender.” Asian Journal of Women’s Studies 12.4 (Winter 2006): 61-93.

———. “Condemned Property: Film Piracy in the Philippines.” Paper read at The Film Scene: Cinema, the Arts, and Social Change conference sponsored by the Film Culture Project of the Department of Comparative Literature, Department of Music, and the Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong, 2006).


데이비드, 조엘. “필리핀의 냉전 영화정책” and “Cold-War Film Policy in the Philippines.” 동아시아 냉전문화의 역학: 1960~70년대 냉전기 동아시아 지역의 문화변동과 국민국가의 문화정치학 세미나, 성공회대학교 동아시아연구소, translator unknown (Seoul: Institute for East Asian Studies, SungKongHoe University, 2007) 74-86 and 186-99 resp. Paper read at the Dynamics of Cold War Culture in East Asia: Cultural Changes in the Region during the Cold War in the 1960s-70s and Cultural Politics of the Nation-State conference sponsored by the Institute for East Asian Studies, Sungkonghoe University (Seoul, 2007).


David, Joel. “Awake in the Dark: Philippine Film During the Marcos Era.” Philippine Studies: Have We Gone Beyond St. Louis? ed. Priscelina Patajo Legasto (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2008) 227-43.

———. “The Cold-War and Marcos-Era Cinema in the Philippines.” Paper read at the 8th ASEAN Inter-University Conference on Social Development (Manila, 2008).

———. “Understanding Film.” Paper read at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication Faculty Colloquium (Quezon City, 2008).

———. “The Philippine Culture Industry (with Emphasis on Cinema).” Paper read at the Institute of Asian Studies Colloquium. SungKongHoe University (Seoul, 2008).


David, Joel. “Translating Time: Cinema, the Fantastic, and Temporal Critique [by] Bliss Cua Lim, Durham: Duke University Press, 2009, 246+xiv pages.” Book review. Asian Journal of Women’s Studies 15.4 (Winter 2009): 124-32.

———. “Retrospective: Serbis Review.” Film review of Serbis, dir. Brillante Ma. Mendoza. Philippine Entertainment Portal (May 31, 2009). Posted online.

———. “A New Role for Korea in Asia.” Korea Times (June 2, 2009): 15. Posted online.

———. “Kim Dae-jung & the Aquinos.” Korea Times (August 24, 2009): 4. Posted online.

———. “Boses Is for the World.” Film review of Boses, dir. Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil. Philippine Daily Inquirer (October 16, 2009): F2. Posted online.

———. “Clueless Global Hybrid, Now Showing.” Film review of I Come with the Rain, dir. Tran Anh Hung. Pinoy Voices column. JungAng Daily (November 9, 2009): 11. Posted online.

———. “Heartbreak in Mindanao.” Pinoy Voices column. JungAng Daily (December 14, 2009): 11. Posted online.

———. [“Film-Writing.”] Excerpt of book review. Si Tatang at mga Himala ng Ating Panahon: Koleksyon ng mga Akda by Ricky Lee. (Quezon City: Writers Studio Foundation, 2009) 11. Originally in National Midweek (February 8, 1989): 27-28.

———. “Context: An Introduction.” Hulmahan/Huwaran Atbp.: The Film Writings of Johven Velasco, ed. Joel David (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2009) ix-xiv.

데이비드, 조엘. “냉전시기필리핀의영화정책.” 냉전 아시아의 문화풍경 2: 1960~1970년대, trans. 김수현 (Seoul: Institute for East Asian Studies, SungKongHoe University, 2009) 277-96.

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David, Joel. “A Few Insights into our Asian Casanovas.” Pinoy Voices column. JungAng Daily (January 25, 2010): 11. Posted online.

———. “The Sins of the Fathers.” Viewpoints (formerly Pinoy Voices) column. JungAng Daily (April 12, 2010): 11. Posted online.

———. “2 Guys Watching Avatar.” Viewpoints (formerly Pinoy Voices) column. JungAng Daily (March 8, 2010): unpublished. Anthologized in Millennial Traversals, Part I: Traversals within Cinema 154-57. Posted online.

———. “Sighs and Whispers.” Film review of Biyaheng Lupa, dir. Armando Lao. Philippine Star (May 2, 2010): E2. Posted online.

David, Joel, and Ha Ju-Yong. “A Yearning for Tenderness in Korean Cinema.” Global Makeover: Media and Culture in Asia, ed. Danilo Araña Arao (Quezon City and Seoul: Development Center for Asia Africa Pacific and Asian Media and Culture Forum, 2010) 35-54.

David, Joel. “Orientalism and Classical Film Practice.” Global Makeover: Media and Culture in Asia, ed. Danilo Araña Arao (Quezon City and Seoul: Development Center for Asia Africa Pacific and Asian Media and Culture Forum, 2010) 139-54.

———. “Las edades de oro del cine Filipino: Una reevaluación crítica.” Cinema Filipinas: Historia, teoría y crítica fílmica (1999-2009), ed. Juan Guardiola ([Andalucía]: Juna de Andalucía, Consejería de Cultura Fundación El Legado Andalusí, [2010]) 37-48.

———. “The Golden Ages of Philippine Cinema: A Critical Reassessment.” Cinema Filipinas 217-24.


David, Joel. “Primates in Paradise: Critical Possibilities of the Milieu Movie.” Kritika Kultura 17 (August 2011): 70-104. Posted online.

———. “Punch Tackles Fil-Korean’s Search for Mother.” Film review of Wandeugi, dir. Lee Han. ABS-CBNnews.com (November 28, 2011). Posted online. Rpt. in Chinese News of Las Vegas (November 28, 2011); Filipinos Abroad (November 27, 2011); H3 blog (November 28, 2011); MabuhayCity.com (November 28, 2011); Philippine Times of Southern Nevada (November 28, 2011); Saigon News of Las Vegas (November 28 2011); US News Las Vegas (November 28, 2011); US News Los Angeles (November 28, 2011) – all posted online.


David, Joel. “The Dolphy Conundrum.” The FilAm (July 16, 2012). Posted online. Rpt. as “Kwentong Kapuso: The Dolphy ‘Riddle,’” GMA News Online (July 17, 2012), also posted online.

———. “Introduction.” Guest Editor’s introduction to Forum Kritika: A Closer Look at Manila by Night. Kritika Kultura 19 (August 2012): 6-13. Posted online.

———. “Film Plastics in Manila by Night.” Kritika Kultura 19 (August 2012): 36-69. Posted online.

———, transcription and notes. “Ishmael Bernal’s Manila by Night.” Screenplay, with transcription by Alfred A. Yuson. Kritika Kultura 19 (August 2012): 172-272. Posted online.

———. “The Marcos Dictatorship and the Irreparable Damage to a Family and the Filipino Experience.” Review of Subversive Lives: A Family Memoir of the Marcos Years, by Susan F. Quimpo & Nathan Gilbert Quimpo. Originally titled “Disorder & Constant Sorrow (A Review of Subversive Lives).” The FilAm (September 18, 2012). Posted online. Rpt. as “The Marcos Regime and Its Impact on the Pinoy Family,” GMA News Online (September 18, 2012), also posted online.

———. “Marilou Diaz-Abaya, 57: Rule Breaker, Risk Taker.” Obituary. Originally titled “The Carnal Moral of a Brutal Miracle.” The FilAm (October 12, 2012). Posted online. Rpt. as “Acclaimed Filmmaker Marilou Diaz-Abaya Was a Rule Breaker,” GMA News Online (October 12, 2012), also posted online.

———. “High Drama and Low Humor in Ricky Lee’s New Fiction about a Cross-Dressing Manananggal.” Review of Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata, by Ricky Lee. Originally titled “The Novel Pinoy Novel.” The FilAm (November 8, 2012). Posted online. Rpt. as “What Republicans Could Have Learned from Ricky Lee’s Amapola,” GMA News Online (November 9, 2012), also posted online.

———. “Thinking Straight: Queer Imaging in Lino Brocka’s Maynila (1975).” Plaridel 9.2 (August 2012): 21-40.

———. “Glimpses of Freedom: Independent Cinema in Southeast Asia [by] May Adadol Ingawanij & Benjamin McKay, eds, Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2012, viii+246 pp.” Book review. Southeast Asian Studies 1.3 (December 2012): 529-33. Posted online.


David, Joel. “A Benediction We Deserve.” The FilAm (February 13, 2013). Posted online.

———. “High Five for Ninotchka Rosca’s Sanaysay Anthology.” Originally titled “High Five.” Review of Gang of 5: Tales, Cuentos, Sanaysay ([Los Angeles]: Mariposa Center [for Change], 2012). The FilAm (February 21, 2013). Posted online.

———. “Across the Korean Peninsula, Unease in the Morning Calm.” The FilAm (April 18, 2013). Posted online. Rpt. as “Kwentong Kapuso: Unease in the ‘Land of the Morning Calm,’” GMA News Online (April 19, 2013), also posted online.

———. “Tribute to Bangy Dioquino.” Amauteurish! (Delivered May 2013). Posted online on October 5, 2017.

———. “OFWs in Foreign Cinema: An Introduction.” Guest Editor’s introduction to Monograph Section. Kritika Kultura 21/22 (August 2013): 557-59. Posted online.

———. “Phantom in Paradise: A Philippine Presence in Hollywood Cinema.” Kritika Kultura 21/22 (August 2013): 560-83. Posted online.

———. “Pinoy Film Criticism: A Lover’s Polemic.” The Manila Review 3 (August 2013): 6-8 [n.b.: print edition is erroneously indicated as issue “1”]. Posted online.

———. “On the Job: On the Edge.” Originally titled “On the Edge.” Review of On the Job, dir. Erik Matti. The FilAm (September 12, 2013). Posted online.

———. “The OFW Finds Well-Deserved Recognition in Hollywood (Part 1).” Originally titled “A Desire Named Oscar,” first part. Including review of Ilo Ilo, dir. Anthony Chen. The FilAm (December 4, 2013). Posted online.

———. “Metro Manila and Transit: Ambitious, Impressive (Part 2).” Originally titled “A Desire Named Oscar,” second part. Reviews of Metro Manila, dir. Sean Ellis; and Transit, dir. Hannah Espia. The FilAm (December 4, 2013). Posted online.


David, Joel. The National Pastime: Contemporary Philippine Cinema. Digital edition. Amauteurish, 2014.

———. Fields of Vision: Critical Applications in Recent Philippine Cinema. Digital edition. Amauteurish, 2014.

———. Wages of Cinema: Film in Philippine Perspective. Digital edition. Amauteurish, 2014.

———. “Pinoy Filmfests circa 2013.” The Manila Review 4 (February 2014): 29-32. Posted online.

———. “Phantom Limbs in the Body Politic: Filipinos in Foreign Cinema.” Plaridel 11.1 (February 2014): 35-60.

———. “Norte, a Four-Hour Ideological Tearjerker by Lav Diaz.” Originally titled “Beyond Borders.” Review of Norte, dir. Lav Diaz. The FilAm (March 12, 2014). Posted online.

———. “Sight & Sound ’02.” Inside account of the process of my submission to the decadal poll. Amauteurish! (May 30, 2014). Posted online.

———. “A National Artist We Deserve.” The FilAm (June 21, 2014). Posted online.

———. “Nora Aunor: A National Artist We Deserve.” Rappler (June 23, 2014). Posted online.

David, Joel, and Ha Ju-Yong. “A Revaluation of the Use of Trauma as an Approach to Understanding Contemporary Korean Cinema.” Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia 50.1 (2014): 16-50.

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David, Joel. Millennial Traversals: Outliers, Juvenilia, & Quondam Popcult Blabbery. Original digital edition. Amauteurish, 2015.

———. Millennial Traversals: Outliers, Juvenilia, & Quondam Popcult Blabbery. Part I: Traversals within Cinema – special issue of UNITAS: Semi-Annual Peer-Reviewed International Journal of Advanced Research in Literature, Culture, and Society (May 2015). Posted online.

———. “On Nora Aunor and the Philippine Star System: An Introduction.” Guest Editor’s introduction. Kritika Kultura 25 (August 2015): 46-48. Posted online.

———. “Firmament Occupation: The Philippine Star System.” Kritika Kultura 25 (August 2015): 248-84. Posted online.

———. “Historical Film Depicts Antonio Luna’s Fall and Rise.” Originally titled “Antonio Luna’s Fall and Rise.” Review of Heneral Luna, dir. Jerrold Tarog. The FilAm (October 15, 2015). Posted online.

———. “Alien Abjection amid the Morning Calm: A Singular Reading of Horror Films from beyond Southeast Asia.” Plaridel: A Philippine Journal of Communication, Media, and Society 12.2 (August 2015): 201-23. Posted online.

———. “Intrigues, Maneuvers, Interventions: Screen Images of the Korean War and its Aftermath.” Keynote lecture. 4PKSS: Proceedings of the 4th Philippine Korean Studies Symposium (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Department of Linguistics, 2015): 25-49.


David, Joel. Book Texts: A Pinoy Film Course, original digital edition (Amauteurish, 2016).

———. “Manay Revisits Manila by Night.” Interview with Bernardo Bernardo. Amauteurish! (January 26, 2016). Formerly posted online, now an Appendix in Manila by Night: A Queer Film Classic.

———. “Roads Less Traveled.” Review of Lakbay2Love, dir. Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil. Rappler (February 10, 2016). Posted online.

———. “Annual Filipino Film Production Chart.” Amauteurish! (February 25, 2016). Posted online.

———. Millennial Traversals: Outliers, Juvenilia, & Quondam Popcult Blabbery. Part II: Expanded Perspectives – special issue of UNITAS: Semi-Annual Peer-Reviewed International Journal of Advanced Research in Literature, Culture, and Society (May 2016). Posted online.

———. “How Pop Culture, Social Media Played a Role in Halalan 2016.” Commentary on the 2016 Philippine presidential election campaign. The FilAm (May 15, 2016). Posted online.

———. “Doy del Mundo on a Controversy over Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag.” Interview with Clodualdo del Mundo Jr. Amauteurish! (July 2, 2016). Posted online.

———. “In Ma’ Rosa, Cannes Best Actress Jaclyn Jose Plays a Meth Dealer with Eloquence, Warmth.” Originally titled “Ice with a Face.” Review of Ma’ Rosa, dir. Brillante Ma. Mendoza. The FilAm (July 14, 2016). Posted online.

———. “Searched For, But Not Missing.” Review of Ang Nawawala, dir. Marie Jamora. Amauteurish! (September 1, 2016). Posted online.

———. “Fallout over ‘A Lover’s Polemic’.” Amauteurish! (September 19, 2016). Posted online.

———. “Cold Word Wars: Philippine Film as a Critical Activity.” 2016 FACINE Gawad Lingap Sining Lecture, delivered October 18, 2016 at the Diego Rivera Theater, City College of San Francisco. Amauteurish! (October 19, 2016). Posted online.

———. “The Role of the Film Critic in Cultural Discourse.” Abridged version of “Cold Word Wars: Philippine Film as a Critical Activity.” 2016 FACINE Gawad Lingap Sining Lecture. The FilAm (October 23, 2016). Posted online.

———. “Grains and Flickers.” Remembering/Rethinking EDSA, eds. JPaul S. Manzanilla and Carolyn Hau (Mandaluyong City: Anvil, 2016): 172-87.


David, Joel. Manila by Night: A Queer Film Classic. Queer Film Classics series, eds. Thomas Waugh & Matthew Hayes. Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017.

David, Joel. Various entries for Film, vol. 6 of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson (Manila: CCP & the Office of the Chancellor, University of the Philippines Diliman, 2017): “Aksyon” (with Lynn Pareja, updated by Mesandel Arguelles), 112-13; “Animation” (with Lynn Pareja, updated by Michael Kho Lim), 114-17; “Horror” (with Lynn Pareja, updated by Erika Carreon), 134-35; “Komedi” (with Lynn Pareja, updated by Mesandel Arguelles), 136-38; “Musical” (with Lynn Pareja & Nicanor G. Tiongson, updated by Johann Vladimir J. Espiritu), 139-40; “Acting in Film” (with Justino Dormiendo, updated by Johann Vladimir J. Espiritu), 146-47; “Cinematography” (with Nick Cruz, updated by Elvin Valerio and Clodualdo del Mundo Jr.), 161-64; “Distribution in Film” (with Rosalie Matilac, updated by Albert Almendralejo), 179-82; “Producing for Film” (with Nick Cruz & Rosalie Matilac, updated by Jose Javier Reyes, 196-99; “Sound Recording in Film” (with Nick Cruz, updated by Rica Arevalo), 210-11; and “Training and Education for Film” (with Lynn Pareja, updated by Johann Vladimir J. Espiritu), 213-14.

David, Joel. “Velasco, Johven.” Theater, vol. 9 of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, ed. Nicanor G. Tiongson (Manila: CCP & the Office of the Chancellor, University of the Philippines Diliman, 2017) 796.

———. “Contestable Nation-Space: Cinema, Cultural Politics, and Transnationalism in the Marcos-Brocka Philippines. By Rolando B. Tolentino. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2014. Pp. 267 + xii. ISBN-10: 971-5427359; ISBN-13: 978-9715427357.” Book review. International Journal of Asian Studies (January 2017): 112-15. Posted online.

———. “Vampariah as Subversive Aswang Film.” Originally titled “Peerless Vampire Killers.” Review of Vampariah, dir. Matthew Abaya. The FilAm (January 12, 2017). Posted online.

———. “Remembering the Forgotten War: Origins of the Korean War Film and Its Development during Hallyu.” Kritika Kultura 28 (February 2017): 112-46. Posted online.

호세 에르나니 S. 다비드. “녹슨 팔과 가려운 손가락; 두테르테 대통령의 마약과의 전쟁에 대한 문화적 시각.” 5회 국가폭력과 트라우마 국제회의. Trans. n.a. (Gwangju: Trauma Center, 2017) 103-12.

David, Joel. “Rusty Arms and Itchy Fingers: A Cultural Perspective on President Duterte’s War on Drugs.” The 5th International Conference on State Violence and Trauma. [As “Jose Hernani S. David”] (Gwangju: Trauma Center, 2017) 113-27.

———. “Seeds in the Garden of Letters: A Review of The End of National Cinema by Patrick F. Campos.” Humanities Diliman: A Philippine Journal of Humanities 14.2 (July-December 2017) 153-57. Posted online.

———. “Film May Be Dead, But Film Culture Is Alive and Well.” Review of Respeto, dir. Treb Monteras II. The FilAm (August 18, 2017). Posted online.

———. “Muzzled Bombardments: The Philippine Film Canon and Its Discontents.” Roundtable on the Filipino Film Canon. Plaridel: A Philippine Journal of Communication, Media, and Society 14.2 (November 2017): 221-31. Posted online.

———. “A Certain Tendency: Europeanization as a Response to Americanization in the Philippines’s ‘Golden Age’ Studio System.” UNITAS: Semi-Annual Peer-Reviewed International Journal of Advanced Research in Literature, Culture, and Society 90.2 (November 2017): 24-53. Posted online.


David, Joel. “The Storyline of Ishmael Bernal’s Manila by Night (1980).” Originally drafted for Arsenal Pulp Press’s Manila by Night: A Queer Film Classic. Amauteurish! (February 9, 2018). Posted online.

———. “Parallel Growths.” Kolum Kritika on the 30th Anniversary. Kritika Kultura 30/31 (February-August 2018): 90-91. Posted online.

———. “Farewell Farewell, Bernardo Bernardo” “Toward the End, a Hopeful Outlook for the Philippines.” The FilAm (March 21, 2018). Posted online.

———. “Statement on the Availability of Filipino Films during the Internet Era.” Amauteurish! (April 15, 2018). Posted online.

———. “The Transnational Pastime: An Interview with Joel David.” Interviewed by Paul Douglas Grant. Plaridel: A Philippine Journal of Communication, Media, and Society 14.1 (June 2017): 135-45. Posted online.

———. “Amid the Nightmare of War, a Coming-of-Age.” Review of Balangiga: Howling Wilderness, dir. Khavn. The FilAm (July 16, 2018). Posted online.

———. “Queerness as Defiance in Manila by Night.” Lecture delivered during the launch of Angela Stuart-Santiago’s Pro Bernal, Anti Bio. Amauteurish! (August 7, 2018). Posted online.

———. “The Millennial Traversals of Millennial Traversals.” Lecture delivered during the launch of the University of Santo Tomas’s UNITAS website. Amauteurish! (August 16, 2018). Posted online.

———. “Signal Rock and a Hard Place.” Review of Signal Rock, dir. Chito Roño. Philippine Entertainment Portal (August 17, 2018). Posted online.

———. “Tears Go By.” Review of Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha, dir. Mes de Guzman. All Things Sharon (October 18, 2018). Posted online.


David, Joel. Millennial Traversals: Outliers, Juvenilia, & Quondam Popcult Blabbery. Book Edition (single-volume, back-to-back). Quezon City: Ámauteurish Publishing, 2019.

———. “Theater, Film, & Everything in Between.” Introduction. Two Women as Specters of History: Lakambini & Indigo Child by Rody Vera. Ed. Ellen Ongkeko Marfil (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2019): xiii-xxii.

———. “A Salute to Our Pinay Filmmakers.” Amauteurish! (March 26, 2019). Originally posted March 25, 2019, on Facebook.

———. “Manoy Takes His Leave.” Tribute to the late Eddie Garcia. The FilAm (July 23, 2019). Posted online.

———. “Di/Visibility: Marks of Bisexuality in Philippine Cinema.” Survey article. Journal of Bisexuality 19.3 (September 2019): 440-54. Posted online.

———. “The Barrettos and the Privilege of Behaving Badly.” On the latest saga in the long-running showbiz family scandal. The FilAm (October 28, 2019). Posted online.

———. “Showbiz Babylon: A Tribute-of-Sorts to the Barretto Sisters.” Expanded version of “The Barrettos and the Privilege of Behaving Badly,” published October 28, 2019, in The FilAm. Amauteurish! (October 29, 2019). Posted online.

———. “Comprehensive Pinas Film Biblio: Categorized.” Amauteurish! (December 4, 2019). Posted online.

———. “Comprehensive Pinas Film Biblio: Alphabetized.” Amauteurish! (December 4, 2019). Posted online.


David, Joel, and Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon. SINÉ: The YES! List of 100 Films That Celebrate Philippine Cinema (Mandaluyong: Summit Media, 2020 forthcoming).

David, Joel. “Bringing Theater to the Home.” The PETA Milestone Book Project. Eds. Brenda Fajardo, CB Garrucho, Maribel Legarda, & Beng Cabangon (Quezon City: Philippine Educational Theater Association, 2020 forthcoming).

———. “Authoring Auteurs: A Bibliographical Essay.” In relation to the Comprehensive Pinas Film Biblio posted on December 4, 2019. Amauteurish! (January 18, 2020). Posted online.

———. “The Aunor Effect in Philippine Film Book Publications.” A spinoff of the bibliographical essay “Authoring Auteurs,” posted on January 18, 2020. Amauteurish! (January 28, 2020). Posted online.

David, Joel, and Joyce L. Arriola. “Film Criticism in the Philippines: Introduction to a Symposium.” UNITAS: Semi-Annual Peer-Reviewed International Journal of Advanced Research in Literature, Culture, and Society 93.1 (May 2020): 1-16. Posted online.

David, Joel. “Auteurs & Amateurs: Toward an Ethics of Film Criticism.” UNITAS: Semi-Annual Peer-Reviewed International Journal of Advanced Research in Literature, Culture, and Society 93.1 (May 2020): 17-36. Posted online.

———. “My Peque Gallaga Interview.” Commemoration of the recently departed filmmaker. Amauteurish! (May 9, 2020). Posted online.

———. “Peque’s Rage: A Retelling.” Abridgment of “My Peque Gallaga Interview,” printed in Amauteurish! on May 9, 2020. The FilAm (May 12, 2020). Posted online.

———. “Remembering Anita Linda: She Devoted Her Life So Completely to Her Craft that It Defined Her.” Tribute to the late film actress. ABS-CBN News Channel [ANCX, formerly ABS-CBNnews.com] (June 13, 2020). Posted online.

———. “Comprehensive Pinas Film Biblio: Reverse-Chronologized.” Amauteurish! (June 22, 2020). Posted online.

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Showbiz Babylon: A Tribute-of-Sorts to the Barretto Sisters

Pique and pulchritude: Claudine, Gretchen, and Marjorie (left to right), the protagonists of the Barretto family scandal, 2019 edition. (Instagram collage courtesy of ABS-CBNNews.com.) To jump to later sections, click here for: New Blood; Trophy BFs; Weaker Sex; and Notes.

“La dénonciation du scandale
est toujours un hommage rendu à la loi.”
– J. Baudrillard[1]

Since celebrity scandals observe the same cycle of fostering fatigue among the public after a period of intense engagement, don’t be surprised if the latest Barretto family intrigue has mellowed, if not dissipated, by the time you read this. Before the first member of the family emerged on the national stage, “Barretto” used to be better known as the location of a coastal drive along Subic Bay, where girlie bars featuring women from all over the country catered to American GIs willing to spend their precious dollars for rest and recreation (even if they wound up getting neither).

This made the Barretto clan locally prominent citizens in so far as any red-light area could bestow respectability. (It might help to remember that the illustrious residents of Malate also reside adjacent to another former red-light district, Ermita.) Hence Gretchen Barretto, or her handlers, did not feel the need to use another family name when she was launched as part of the second batch of mixed-gender Regal Babies. Unfortunately, the rival Viva Films studio had just launched its monstrously successful all-male Bagets batch, and Rey de la Cruz had an all-female troupe, the Softdrink Beauties, claiming whatever (frankly prurient) interest could be generated in good-looking women.

So the Regal Babies II were destined for certain oblivion, with a bravely determined Gretchen languishing in supporting roles.[2] She was barely noticeable in Lino Brocka’s Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (1985), for example, banking on her classy features but limited by her narrow range as a performer. By the 1990s, she had shed enough of her premature flab and gained enough height to look alluring enough for male-gaze purposes. Robbie Tan, founder-manager of Seiko Films, profitably deduced that the public had tired of sex sirens who looked and behaved like they came from the wrong side of the tracks. He devised a series of projects that objectified seemingly unattainable porcelain beauties led by Gretchen, turned his outfit into a major player in the process, and made the first Barretto star (Figure 1).[3]

Figure 1. Gretchen Barretto in one of Seiko Films’ early “sex-trip” hits, Abbo Q. de la Cruz’s Tukso: Layuan Mo Ako (1991).

New Blood

Another Barretto quietly took Gretchen’s place as constant second-stringer: Claudine, her younger sister. Unlike her predecessor, Claudine handled her years of relative obscurity as an opportunity to hone her performative skills. Her walk in the sun had a healthier component to it, by conventional moralist standards: she came of age when romantic comedies succeeded in displacing all the other then-profitable local film genres – horror, action, comedy, even her elder sister’s soft-core melodramas – and managed to prove her mettle alongside the peak capability of Vilma Santos, in Rory B. Quintos’s Anak (2000).

An accident of fate though propelled Claudine to a stature never attained by Gretchen. It was, unfortunately, a tragedy, the first indication that the Barrettos could only really soar on the wings of bad news. Just as Gretchen became a star by shedding her clothes, Claudine captured the public imagination when she broke up with her buena-familia boyfriend Rico Yan, grandson of a former army chief and ambassador during the presidency of Ferdinand E. Marcos. The heartbroken beau repaired to a Palawan resort, where he failed to awaken on an Easter Sunday, of all days, after a night of heavy drinking (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Claudine Barretto’s Instagram memento of the last note sent her by Rico Yan, posted after the latter died.

The public response was hysterical, with Yan’s wake and funeral march overshadowing those of two National Artists for Music, Lucio San Pedro and Levi Celerio. A reporter from the rival of Yan’s home station happened to be at the resort and scooped its competitor, which in turn avenged itself by preventing all other TV stations from occupying vantage points during Yan’s wake. Best of all, for Claudine’s fortune, her co-starrer with Yan, Olivia M. Lamasan’s Got 2 Believe (2002), had just opened in theaters, with Yan’s death catapulting it to record-blockbuster status.

Trophy BFs

This made of Claudine an even bigger star than her Ate Gretchen, and acrimonious vibes from the sisters’ perceived rivalry began getting airtime, with then-incipient social media paying due interest. Gretchen became the constant partner of businessman and media mogul-aspirant Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco, while Claudine linked up with and eventually married another alumnus of De La Salle University, Raymart Santiago (of the well-known brood fathered by producer-director Pablo Santiago, preceded in showbiz by his elder brothers Rowell and Randy). Their mother Inday declared her preference for Claudine – a position eroded by her daughter’s on-cam pummeling of one of the roughneck Tulfo brothers (Figure 3) and her later separation from her husband amid speculation of excessive drug use, with Gretchen openly declaring her sympathy for Raymart.

Figure 3. Screen cap of mobile phone video taken by onlooker of Claudine Barretto and Raymart Santiago beating up Mon Tulfo for allegedly recording a quarrel they had with airport personnel.

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Which brings us to the latest teapot tempest. The situation could not be more high-profile, with the country’s chief executive, a family friend, attending the wake of the just-deceased Barretto patriarch. Gretchen and Claudine had patched up their differences, and Gretchen attended ostensibly to reconcile with her mother. A third Barretto showbiz aspirant, Marjorie, who never attained the same level of stardom as her younger sisters, refused President Duterte’s admonition to greet Gretchen, alleging that her niece, Nicole, was traumatized by Gretchen spiriting away a lover, businessman Atong Ang.

In a sensational tell-all TV interview, a remarkably articulate and sensible-sounding Marjorie acknowledged that after the collapse of her own marriage to Dennis Padilla (actually Dencio Padilla Jr., son of a late well-loved comedian), she bore a love-child to Recom Echiverri, a former mayor of Caloocan City; this was by way of her pointing out that Ang was also very much married, and that Gretchen was thereby being unfaithful to Cojuangco, who similarly was married to someone else.

Predictably, Gretchen denied any physical relationship between her and Ang (Figure 4), a sufficiently credible assertion when we consider how she never balked at admitting any of her past indiscretions. The clarifications and counter-accusations will continue for some time, until the family arrives at a level of accommodation acceptable to the major players in the current fracas.

What conclusions can we draw from the situation? One is that the Barretto sisters are smart and determined enough in stretching their media mileage, notwithstanding the occasional evidentiary recordings of such social slip-ups as Claudine’s fistfight with Mon Tulfo or the screams and hair-pulling (with the Presidential Security Group atypically befuddled) that erupted during Miguel Alvir Barretto’s wake.

Marjorie’s subsequent TV interview effectively effaced an earlier scandal caused when her daughter, Julia, admitted boinking hunky star Gerald Anderson, who was supposedly committed to another star, Bea Alonzo. Julia claimed that she had broken up with male starlet Joshua Garcia (just as Anderson’s relationship with Alonzo had supposedly ended), but also subsequently wound up denying that she was the mistress of another elderly entrepreneur, Ramon Ang.

Figure 4. One of Gretchen Barretto’s series of socnet posts mocking the charges made by her elder sister Marjorie and referencing Recom Echiverri.

Weaker Sex

Another conclusion we can make is that males involved in any capacity in this dustup will be better off keeping quiet. Atong Ang appeared in one of those obviously staged “ambush interviews” coddling his legal family while declaring he had never diddled any of the Barrettos. Assuming he was truth-telling, he was also effectively saying (awkwardly, at that) that some of his Barretto friends were lying. The family patriarch, in contrast, was ironically better off reposing in a coffin: even with Gretchen recapitulating her accusation that he had molested her, no one will want to continue speaking ill of the dead.

As pointed out by the late film scholar Johven Velasco in his book article on Rico Yan,[4] a number of influential talk-show personalities were penalized by their TV stations, after they revealed that the deceased young star, upon learning that Claudine had allegedly been unfaithful to him, had obtained Ecstasy tablets to counter his depression.

An even more significant conclusion that Velasco makes, echoed by social experts looking at the current familial flameout, is that the scandal’s staying power derives from what it says about us, more than about the family itself. It’s women claiming for themselves what moral authorities used to say only men were entitled to: the privilege of behaving badly (“war of the courtesans,” to use a semi-complimentary description by expat artist Therese Cruz). The scope even has the trigenerational impact of classical Greek tragedy, a curse being passed on from parents to children to their children’s children.

A fast-declining generation might remember when a similar phenomenon used to command the attention of the media and public, not just in the Philippines but also overseas: the Marcos family saga, from the patriarch’s womanizing and his wife’s philistinic overcompensation, through their rebellious daughter’s romance with an oppositionist scion (including a kidnapping and fall-guy killing that foreshadowed the murder of Benigno Aquino Jr.), to their exile and triumphant return to a country that seemingly, masochistically, has not had enough of their excesses. Thankfully, the worst that the Barrettos can visit on themselves and their public will never be as malevolent as their higher-profile media predecessors had been.


First published October 28, 2019, as “The Barrettos and the Privilege of Behaving Badly,” in The FilAm. An abridged version of this article, titled “Barretto Sisters: The Privilege of Behaving Badly,” was reprinted in the December 2019 issue of The FilAm: Newsmagazine Serving Filipino Americans in New York. (Click on pic below to open PDF file.)

[1] From Jean Baudrillard, Simulacres et Simulation (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1981): “The denunciation of scandal always pays homage to the law,” trans. Paul Foss, Paul Batton, and Philip Beitchman (Los Angeles: Semiotext[e], 1983).

[2] Incidental disclosure: some time after completing my second undergraduate degree (film, at the national university), I was a freelance production assistant in a Regal Films project, Emmanuel H. Borlaza’s Asawa Ko Huwag Mong Aagawin (1987), a Vilma Santos-starrer that featured the 1960s tandem of Amalia Fuentes and Eddie Gutierrez; Santos played the mistress of Gutierrez (and rival of Fuentes), while her much younger boyfriend was essayed by Gabby Concepcion, an original (first-batch) Regal Baby. A then-deferential and reclusive Gretchen Barretto was cast as one of the older couple’s neglected children.

[3] In much the same way that an early martial law-era pop-culture term, “bold,” was introduced by Regal Films, the country’s longest-running major studio, to distinguish its soft-core entries from the pre-martial law period’s more overtly sex-themed “bomba,” Robbie Tan felt a similar need to distance his productions from the late Marcos-era’s hard-core “penekula films.” Seiko Films did this by first appropriating “sex-trip,” abbreviated as ST, and later introduced an English coinage, “titillating film.”

Penekula was, to Filipino speakers, a readily recognizable portmanteau of penetration and pelikula (film). As in the case of ST, titillating film was discreetly abbreviated as TF (not, as amateurishly claimed in one author’s studies, TT film – cf. this article in an avowedly left-leaning publication, which is highly problematic in many other ways). This was because TF played on the popular showbiz abbreviation for talent fee, and it did not make sense for Tan’s drive for gentrification to succumb to using “titi,” the Tagalog word for penis, when it could already be articulated in the polysyllabic English modifier titillating – the same way that ST merely and rather coyly mimicked the slang term for an aroused male, “standing titi.”

The apparent motive for moving from the merely misleading ST to the more risqué TF was to take advantage of “more relaxed censorship laws,” as recounted by José B. Capino in “Soothsayers, Politicians, Lesbian Scribes: The Philippine Movie Talk Show” (in Planet TV: A Global Television Studies Reader, eds. Lisa Parks & Shanti Kumar [New York University Press, 2002], 262-73). Mauro Feria Tumbocon Jr., founding chair of the Young Critics Circle and founding director of the San Francisco-based Filipino Arts & Cinema International, ascribes these terms to the promotional strategies of the late publicist Oskee Salazar.

[4] “Rico Yan: Posthumously Recognized and Constructed,” in Huwaran/Hulmahan Atbp.: The Film Writings of Johven Velasco, ed. Joel David (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2009), pp. 24-38.

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Auteurs & Amateurs: Toward an Ethics of Film Criticism (Lecture Version)

Many thanks to the International Association for Ethical Literary Criticism for inviting me to deliver a plenary lecture on ethical film criticism. I may not also be everyone’s idea of a film critic, especially if you bump into me during more casual occasions than a literary conference. In my own feeble defense, I would begin by mentioning that what we might count as the basic output of a film critic, the movie review, was one of my earliest articles as a campus journalist, over forty years ago (David, “Birds of Omen” 43-45) – but let’s keep that scandalous detail to ourselves, shall we.

Since then, my odyssey as a Filipino film critic was marked by a few firsts: first fresh college graduate to be invited to the Filipino film critics circle, first former student activist to work in the Marcos dictatorship’s film agency, first and only graduate of the country’s undergraduate film program (my second degree actually), first to publish a local prizewinning book in film criticism, first Filipino to be accepted to a doctoral film program, first director of the national university’s film institute; although one last first – to teach a graduate course in pornography and feminism – will again be probably not to everyone’s liking or appreciation.

I take this personalized narrative-based mode because the lessons I learned about ethical practice in film criticism were hard-earned and initially defiant of then-existing values and ideas. But before we move on to what those insights might be, allow me to point out a problem, more of a kink really, in the expression “ethical practice in film criticism.” What I mean by this is that, contrary to commercial practitioners’ expectations, and in line with the thrust of the conference, film criticism always-already presumes ethical practice. This would be its most vital, though also most obvious, resemblance to literary criticism.

I may also need to make clear this early that I depart from the premise of what we term ethical literary criticism in a crucial manner. One way of understanding why this distinction must be made is in the industrial definition of film production as opposed to literary activity. To better comprehend the comparison, let’s consider each sphere during the recent past when media technologies had yet to begin converging in digital formats, and were therefore distinct from one another. In literature, the entire manufacturing activity comprising the use of all types of printing and copying machines, plus binding and distribution systems, can never be fully equated with actual literary production. A significant, unknowable, but possibly greater amount of literature is necessarily created privately, almost entirely by individuals, and an invaluable amount resides in the collection and maintenance of written material, not all of it printed in the still-contemporary sense.

Film, on the other hand, is emblematic of what we should really call the post-literary mass medium, in the sense that without the presence of an industry, it would not exist – except, at best, as theater. From beginning to end of the filmmaking process, one or more machines are operated by technical specialists, even in the case of the simplest possible type of production, the home movie. In fact the most distinct type of movie we recognize today, the film event, is premised on industrial spectacularization, with its megabudget appropriation, cast of thousands, reliance on preexisting commodities such as hit prequels or comic books, and global distribution system, with a showcasing of the latest digital-graphic applications as an essential component of its attraction.

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My sentimental education regarding this matter proceeded from my stint in the Marcos-era film agency, heightened by my film-school internship, and concretized in the year-long freelance work I conducted, in effect replicating what I did right after completing my first degree, in journalism. Allow me to interject here that freelancing in media is the one thing I would never recommend to any fresh graduate, unless she or he has a masochistic streak. Nevertheless, I had enough of a background in student activism and government service to sustain me with a few overweening delusions: first, that scouting the field for the best option can be done while earning a living; second, that media outfits would be fair enough to reward hard work rooted in academic training; and third and most unreasonable of all, that a free radical could effect some changes significant enough to improve the system.

In my short autobiographical account of my stint as production assistant for a mainstream studio, I mentioned a notion I’d hoped for that somehow became a reality: today, graduates of any of the country’s few film programs get hired by film and media outfits on a regular basis (David, “Movie Worker” 13). An even luckier few of these degree-holders manage to skip an on-the-job training process and make local and sometimes global waves with their first few film projects. Yet the lesson that impacted my practice as film critic did not appear in this account I wrote. It was something I formulated later, after returning to film commentary by being designated the resident film critic of a prominent weekly newsmagazine.

I will admit that I wished that when I first stated my newly formulated ethical premise, my colleagues hailed me as harbinger of a useful and progressive insight. In reality, I collected a number of verbally abusive responses then, and still do so occasionally today. Strangest of all, for me, is the fact that these almost entirely come from representatives of the national university, bastion of claims to Marxist ideals in the country. My aforementioned premise runs as follows. Because of its industrial nature, film practice enables individuals to support themselves and their families and acquaintances. We kid ourselves if we merely focus on the high-profile examples of celebrities and producers and major creative artists: the majority of people working on any sufficiently busy project would actually be working-class, as I had been when I worked in the industry.

When a project ends, one could sense a festive atmosphere, with people simply relieved that the struggles and headaches that they sustained through several weeks, sometimes months or even years, of mostly physical labor, have finally come to an end. Yet on the ground, there would also be palpable anxiety: which upcoming project can they latch onto, in order to be able to continue maintaining a decent source of income? Corollary to this is their hope that the project they just finished earn back its investment, if not become a hit, because this means the producer would be able to bankroll a future film, with the strong possibility of rehiring them.

I tracked this logic to its extreme conclusion and realized that its ethical core was solid enough to apply to any kind of project. Even a supposedly aesthetically dubious undertaking, like a genre film, or a socially disreputable effort, like a trash or pornographic entry, still represents a godsend to any impoverished member of the film crew. And if the said dismissible output makes a killing at the box-office, this may be unwelcome news to society’s moral and aesthetic guardians, but it certainly portends nothing but glad tidings for the project’s collaborators – its producers and artists, of course, but its workers as well, silent though they may be.

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I was taken aback, and still tend to have the same response, by the magnitude of the hostility exhibited by academe-trained experts whenever I attempted to articulate this critical premise. In retrospect, of course, I can see where my should-be colleagues were coming from. The class-based orientation of orthodox Marxist training behooves them to focus on the role of captains of industry – producers, financiers, investors – and subject their judgment of a film product to the moral depredations wrought by capital. As a consequence, profitability, according to this view, should be its own reward already, so a movie that hits pay dirt ought to meet higher expectations or face critical dismissal. Bound up with this judgmental mindset would be the known political sympathies of the major entities behind the production, as well as the operations of narrative formulas, with genre projects suggesting a questionable set of motives, and “low” or “body” genres confirming the producers’ and filmmakers’ surrender to decadence.

The one auspicious and relatively recent development on this front is that a progressive strain in feminist thinking, which we might call the sex-positive anti-censorship school (Kleinhans and Lesage 24-26), has set out to recuperate these modes of practice that once resulted in what we might term film detritus, or types of movies that so-called respectable experts and institutions would have jettisoned from any canon-forming activity; some of the more familiar examples would include pornography, horror, tearjerker melodrama, toilet-humor and slapstick comedy, home and diaristic movies, even advertising and propaganda.

This development was affirmed on several institutional fronts during the last few years of the 20th century. For example, of the over 200 titles classified as “condemned” or “offensive” by the US Catholic Church’s Legion of Decency from 1936 to 1978 (Catholic News Service), several showed up in the so-called Vatican Film List (SDG), which were supposedly endorsements to the faithful of nearly 50 titles, presented by the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications on the occasion of cinema’s first centenary in 1995. What this meant was that movies once regarded as immoral by religious standards, were later admired as insightful windows into the human condition. When I was in the process of completing my cinema-studies doctorate, the top-ranked American film schools started announcing courses on US skinflicks of the 1970s, now regarded as a Golden Age in porn production; a previously X-rated film, John Waters’s Pink Flamingos (1972), was an arthouse hit, as was an even earlier entry, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), described as Russ Meyer’s tribute to bosomania. Films with outright pornographic sequences can at present be submitted to compete in the A-list film festivals of Europe, and even win major awards for the effort.

What this made evident to me was the fact that in popular culture, no pre-existing judgment is guaranteed to last forever. Just as the historical heroics and Biblical epics and costume dramas that once dominated US Academy Awards are only screened for camp amusement today, and the downgraded B-movies of that same era are now considered essential to studies on the development of film language (Monaco 7-10), so can we indulge in the engaging exercise of identifying which contemporary forms of audiovisual media happen to endure the disapprobation of authorities in government, academe, and corporate-sponsored institutions. Only those among us who still cling to beliefs in eternal verities in approaches to popular culture, will be dismayed by the constant revision and repudiation of standards that mark contemporary evaluations of film and cultural artefacts, and will probably be surprised when today’s so-called trash items become tomorrow’s objets d’art.

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I might need to clarify, however, that my insistence on recognizing the cruciality of continuing film-production activity to the sustenance of an industry, does not imply that I desisted from formulating negative commentary during the six-year period when I had to turn in reviews on a weekly basis. What my premise precluded, in my personal practice, was the use of sweeping condemnations like “worst movie ever made,” unless I could mix in tonal shadings of irony or camp. Put another way, anything that could lead to the conclusion that such-and-such a release should never have been made would make me think more than twice: I could just as well be commenting on the potboilers I had worked on, and if they’d never been made, how would I have survived?

How then should I evaluate the moral worth of a film that I had to review? The answer to this entailed a two-stage procedure, one building on the other, and once more provoking unusual controversy. The first necessitated a bout of critical self-awareness on my end, a condition that applies as much to resident critics as to contemporary bloggers, especially those who set out to cover sudden concentrations of new or old releases, such as film festivals or retrospectives. When an editor or publisher stipulates that the critic must review everything on a given slate, the latter ought to initiate a constant negotiation regarding which releases are accordant with her level of competence or interest, and which ones lie beyond the scope of her abilities. I was fortunate during my resident-critic years that the movie industry was churning out up to four local releases a week, not to mention the far bigger amount of foreign releases that were being distributed. So picking out a film or two or more, out of five to ten choices, was a far better ratio than the one-to-one requirement imposed by some internet websites on their reviewers.

The second stage, as I mentioned, was when troubles would arise – not with my casual readers, but with my self-appointed critics. The method I observed took shape after the usual formal-slash-sociological, form-and-content approaches I used, left more questions than answers in their wake. Mostly these would revolve on another bout of self-doubt: how sure was I that any declaration I made was certain to hold up through an unpredictable future? As an example, a canon-creation project for Philippine cinema, ongoing for nearly a decade already, yielded several surprises when we went through the few major films of the past half-century (David and Maglipon). Among the movies released during the martial-law period of 1972 to 1986, for example, several titles acclaimed for their political daring felt, in retrospect, like melodramas in desperate search of significance. What stood out today, with some of them increasing in stature and integrity, were the honest-to-goodness flat-out melodramas, dismissed by film critics of the time for being flighty, apolitical, decadent, tending toward camp, and produced by a studio suspected of reveling in covert sponsorship from the dictatorial regime.

The ideal critical approach would therefore set down any conclusion we can make about a movie as strictly provisional, subject to further developments in cultural and political history. But what about the more problematic film-texts I mentioned earlier – i.e., the movies that enjoyed popular patronage? Would there be a means of presenting findings about these releases without falling into the trap of the high art-vs.-low culture binary? The only method I could think of during the time was to contact actual members of the mass audience. When I’d encounter friendly get-togethers in the congested neighborhoods where I resided, I’d approach the people I knew and chat about the movies they just watched or were planning to watch. Refreshingly, these were people who were unconcerned about my academic intent or the impression they would give about themselves among the intelligentsia. So when I asked them for the reasons behind their choices, they never felt obliged to genuflect before the altar of moral worth or aesthetic significance. What they’d provide instead was a unique though residual form of cultural logic, more helpful in elucidating why any current box-office hit was raking it in, regardless of its critical standing.

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Even today, one could see this deplorable and potentially tragic separation between the chattering classes, which would include all of us here, and the mass audience, or the public at large, or what we increasingly recognize as the majority of online netizens. When confronted with the reality of inconsistencies in voters’ choices, our colleagues would tend to explain this away by describing them as uneducated, unsophisticated, devoid of higher moral senses, vulnerable to petty corruption, oblivious to the consequences of their decisions. This type of academically acceptable though horrifically anti-progressive approach was what I attempted to evade via the admittedly casual anthropological research I conducted before setting out to articulate my responses to any contemporary film release during my time as resident critic. Once again, for reasons that I cannot (and prefer not to) fathom at this time, colleagues tended to react violently when I set this out as a prescription.

The first time I laid it out, rather than used it as a means of explicating specific popular films, a trend in Philippine cinema was arousing the ire of people across various political divides, even opposing ones. This was during a time, a few years after the world-famous February 1986 “people power” uprising, when the surest guarantee of box-office performance was for any movie to resort to toilet humor (David, “Shooting Crap” 109-10). Characters would be seen on prime-time TV trailers clutching their tummies or butts, rushing to toilet cubicles, with diarrheic sounds emanating from inside and characters in the vicinity responding to what appear to be unpleasant odors. The exponent of this funky trend was a comedian named Joey de Leon, still-popular today, whose latest exploit was a wildly successful comic-romantic setup that played out during the real-time real-life segment of a noontime variety show (Zamora).

Gamely accepting the challenge to defend his use of toilet humor on a TV talk show, de Leon found himself confronting the right-wing pro-Church chair of the censors board, as well as a leftist academic famed for being occasionally censored and thrown in jail by the martial-law government of Ferdinand Marcos. During a time when the members of the left-leaning Concerned Artists of the Philippines were conducting a series of rallies to protest post-Marcos censorship policies, this was the one remarkable moment when representatives of both sides came together for a common cause – to castigate de Leon’s reliance on a borderline-obscene strategy for provoking audience laughter. I criticized the spectacle via the following remark:

to question a person on the basis of principle is a simple thing to do, but when that principle happens to enjoy popular support, then the possibility of claiming to be better than the majority, antithetical to the democratic premise of raising questions on their behalf in the first place, emerges. This puts the … “critic” in a position too awkwardly similar to that of the cultural censor, who derives his raison d’être from the perverse notion that the people, even (or especially) in a democracy, could not know what is good for them. (David, “Shooting Crap” 110)

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One direct aftermath was that a few years later, I encountered the aforementioned artist-academic during my graduate studies in the US, and got berated by him for violating some code of bourgeois behavior that I could not decipher. I later figured out that it might have been because of the article I had written: I had taken extra care not to mention him by name, but there was certainly no denying the widespread coverage of his full-on theatrical performance as offended moral guardian on live TV. What I could have explained, if he had been able to simmer down and engage in a sober discussion, was that the moviegoers I had talked with certainly did not regard themselves as cultural dupes longing or willing to be taken in by a possibly cynically motivated comic talent. The key lay in the still-prevalent euphoria over the people-power event, when the country’s major artists all focused on projects that would commemorate the ouster of a long-entrenched tyrant and the restoration of democratic institutions.

The movie audience responded to these predictable and frankly sanctimonious texts by withholding their patronage of local film releases. As a result, from an average of nearly 170 films produced during the Marcos years, sometimes hitting as high as over 230 productions in one year, the local industry came up with 120 titles the year after people power and barely 100 the year after (David, “Annual Filipino Film Production Chart”); many of these in fact were sex films intended for the minimally policed rural circuit. The country’s most successful studio, Regal Films, managed to persuade audiences to resume their movie-going habit by providing comic fantasies featuring a breakout child actor, Aiza (now Ice) Seguerra (“Aiza Seguerra”). While these appealed to women and child viewers, Joey de Leon found a means of filling the gap for more mature audiences, including males, by seizing on a deliberately uncouth rejection of the spiritualistically inspired religious revivalism induced by what people still refer to today as the “miracle at EDSA.”

The difficulty of pursuing this particular configuration of critical framework cum method is further complicated by the stylistic demands it makes on expression. The principle I follow stems from the differentiation between academic writing and criticism. The only Filipino film critic recognized as a National Artist, Bienvenido Lumbera, prescribed an approach to writing criticism that conflated it with scholarship: “the writer must not be imprisoned by cuteness or [snark]. I think that’s a very strong tendency when one is beginning to write, when you fall in love with a manner, an expression, a point that you want to make, and you put that across and sacrifice the object you’re talking about” (Lumbera 72).

My own response, as a graduate-studies scholar confronted with the demand to observe an “objective” and “impersonal” presentation of research findings, was to constantly seek ways to query, if not subvert, this requirement, rather than allow an entire arsenal of literary possibilities to go to waste. In doing so, I managed to realize that the process of deconstructive jouissance can operate beyond analytics, via the mechanics of style. In criticism, especially in reviewing for a general readership, the playpen covers a far wider territory. The expressive demands may be greater, but the potential to involve the reader in formally discursive challenges, with the commentary providing a fixed reflexive coordinate to the film or films being discussed, would be worth the extra effort of drafting what we may call the creative critique.

The ideal to strive for would be an industrial intervention, where the critic helps articulate, for the artist as well as the audience, the film-text’s historical significance and significations, the development of the project’s auteur or auteurs, the industrial limits posed by budget, technology, and training, and how these may be overcome, and the larger social, political, cultural, regional, and global concerns (if any) where text, auteur, and audience may position themselves in pursuit of further insights or benefits. Such instances of intensive interactions among critics, creatives, and consumers have been few and far between, in the experience of Philippine cinema. Nevertheless, they have been known to happen, and have generally proved fulfilling for all parties concerned. The goal in observing a useful and progressive ethical approach to film criticism would be to ensure that critics’ contributions to the growth and development of cinema become a more-or-less permanent feature of creative cultural activity.

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Works Cited

Aiza [sic] Seguerra.” Wow Celebrities! (August 1, 2008).

Catholic News Service (Media Review Office). “Archived Movie Reviews.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. No date.

David, Joel. “Annual Filipino Film Production Chart.” Ámauteurish! (February 25, 2016).

———. “Birds of Omen.” Philippine Collegian (July 26, 1978): 3, 6. Reprinted in Millennial Traversals: Outliers, Juvenilia, & Quondam Popcult Blabbery (Part I: Traversals within Cinema) in UNITAS: Semi-Annual Peer-Reviewed International Online Journal of Advanced Research in Literature, Culture, and Society 88.1 (May 2015): 43-45.

———. “Movie Worker.” National Midweek (November 4, 1987): 15-16. Reprinted in Millennial Traversals: Outliers, Juvenilia, & Quondam Popcult Blabbery (Part II: Expanded Perspectives) in UNITAS: Semi-Annual Peer-Reviewed International Online Journal of Advanced Research in Literature, Culture, and Society 89.1 (May 2016): 13-16.

———. “Shooting Crap.” National Midweek (April 4, 1990): page(s) unkown. Reprinted in Fields of Vision: Critical Applications in Recent Philippine Cinema (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1995): 109-12.

David, Joel, and Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon. SINÉ: The YES List of 100+ Films That Celebrate Philippine Cinema. Summit Media, 2019 (forthcoming).

Greydanus, Steven D. “The Vatican Film List.” DecentFilms: Film Appreciation and Criticism Informed by Christian Faith. No date.

Kleinhans, Chuck, and Julia Lesage. “The Politics of Sexual Representation.” Jump Cut 30 (March 1985): 24-26.

Lumbera, Bienvenido. “Critic in Academe.” Interview. National Midweek (April 4, 1990): 20-22, 46. Reprinted in Millennial Traversals: Outliers, Juvenilia, & Quondam Popcult Blabbery (Part II: Expanded Perspectives) in UNITAS: Semi-Annual Peer-Reviewed International Online Journal of Advanced Research in Literature, Culture, and Society 89.1 (May 2016): 65-74.

Meyer, Russ (director). Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Scriptwriter Jack Moran. Performed by Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, Ray Barlow, Susan Bernardo, Mickey Foxx, Dennis Busch, Stuart Lancaster, Paul Trinka. EVE Productions, 1965.

Monaco, James. The New Wave: Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rohmer, Rivette. Oxford University Press, 1976.

Waters, John (director & scriptwriter). Pink Flamingos. Performed by Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivan Pearce, Mink Stole, Danny Mills, Edith Massey, Channing Wilroy, Cookie Mueller, Paul Swift. Dreamland, 1972.

Zamora, Fe. “Netizens Go Gaga over AlDub.” Philippine Daily Inquirer (August 17, 2015).

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Book Texts – Critic in Academe

The following comprises the original introduction of this Q&A exchange as it appeared in the April 4, 1990, issue of National Midweek (pp. 20-22, 46):

When Bienvenido Lumbera’s candidacy for the directorship of the University of the Philippines Film Center was announced, he reacted with typical modesty; at least, he told himself, this could be another opportunity for him to carry out some of his proposals for film study and research in the Philippines.

Such self-effacement contradistinguished a critic and scholar whose reputation in certain sober circles in academe and the film industry is almost legendary; this, plus his clarity of purpose, clinched for him the highly visible and passionately contested UPFC post. A professor at the Filipino department of the UP College of Arts and Letters, Lumbera, who holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Indiana University, headed the English and Philippine Studies departments of the Ateneo de Manila University until his stint in prison as a Marcos-era political detainee. He has authored three books on Philippine culture – Revaluation: Essays on Philippine Literature, Cinema, and Popular Culture ([Manila]: Index, 1984), Tagalog Poetry 1570-1898: Tradition and Influences in Its Development (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University, 1986); and Abot-Tanaw: Sulyap at Suri ng Nagbabagong Kultura at Lipunan (Quezon City: Linangan ng Kamalayang Makabansa, 1987), all winners of National Book Awards – and holds a number of distinctions for his other creative and critical output. Now pushing 60, Bien, as he is fondly called, is regarded as the pioneer in modern criticism in Philippine literature, theater, and popular culture in general, but most especially in film.

This interview was originally conducted in two Taglish sessions at his poster-wallpapered UP Faculty Center cubicle, between breaks from his hectic schedule as teacher, center director, occasional lecturer, and creative writer-cum-cultural consultant. Lost in the transcription are the subject’s avuncularity and clearheaded delivery of answer, although an infectious (and youthful) enthusiasm for topics dealing with cultural and criticism, booby-trapped with an ironic sense of humor, can still be detected.

Bien is married to the former Cynthia Nograles, with whom he has three daughters.

To read the original, untranslated transcript of the interview, please click here.

In your early years, it seems you were also doing critiques in other areas aside from film.

I actually started as a student of literature. Then, because of my involvement in the nationalist movement, I slowly realized that many Filipinos are more influenced by cultural forms that cannot be classified as literature – such as komiks, television, and film.

The fact that you have recognized the reality of change – does this mean that you had to adjust your original perceptions as well?

The first time I wrote about film – this was in the early 1960s – I attempted to explain why Filipino films could not be as good as foreign films. Initially I thought that was what was originally described in the circles in which I moved as catering to the taste of the uneducated masses. Like, for example, I would look for what I called the logic of irony. There were only one or two films out of maybe about eight or ten that talked about which I thought answered my demands – Kadenang Putik (1960, dir. Conrado Conde & Cesar Gallardo) and, I think, Huwag Mo Akong Limutin (1960, dir. Gerardo de Leon). Later I realized, if my criteria could allow only a few films to be considered valid for discussion, there must be something askew. Fortunately, by now I think I’ve gotten over this.

Are there certain other things that you wanted then that have been realized today?

I think now we see the application of theory, largely drawn from Western theory, in the films that are shown. When some people view films, they go beyond regarding these as mere entertainment. Films now are being studied for how they reflect culture and society, whether consciously or directly or not.

What would be some other things that disappoint you at present?

One of the things that I hoped would happen would be for more Filipino movies to be of the same weight and quality as those that were produced in 1976. My expectation was that after all, since the industry had been able to produce these films before, perhaps in the coming years more would come out – no longer exclusively for elite viewers or with overt artistic intentions, but with technical polish, thematic sophistication, or subtleties of performance whether in writing, direction, or acting as part of local industry ethics. I think the crucial context here is the system that prevailed during the 1950s: filmmakers were each committed to working for a single studio, so even if their projects were not all highly intelligent or aesthetic, they’d still have the chance to do different types of films in one year.

But there also seems to be a form of studio domination today.

Seiko, Viva, Regal have what they call a stable of directors and actors, but when it comes to giving out assignments, it’s like: “We’ve finally contracted Phillip [Salvador] and we have to do a movie, but what’s hot nowadays? Action? Then let’s make an action star out of Phillip.” No longer do people consider where an actor or actress or director excels, unlike before, when there was more latitude [for one’s capabilities].

Now I’m not saying that Doña Sisang [LVN’s Narcisa de Leon], Doc Perez [Sampaguita’s Jose Perez], [or] Doña Adela [Premiere’s Adela Santiago] was interested only in art, but perhaps during the 1950s businessmen had more confidence in the industry: “If our movie flops, that’s all right. We have a big production scheduled next that will surely draw in the crowds.” Such a procedure essentially is a rational kind of capitalist thinking. I believe at present what we have is a highly manipulative system, essentially exploitive in its use of filmmaking talent, and I’m tempted to call it unprincipled in handling out assignments.

Do you think then we should make moves to initiate a return to the old ways?

No, I do not envision a return to the studio system in the 1950s. Even in the States that arrangement is gone for good; but when that happened, the so-called independent filmmakers were able to do films which had earlier been difficult to produce because of commercial dictates, and standards of technical excellence were carried over. In our case, the independents did not have sufficient equipment to go around, so whoever had larger capital could rent the better machines and facilities, and those who could cut costs did so. Gone are the productions that could instill pride in the industry. For example, if we mention [Regal’s] Mother Lily’s production of Sister Stella L. (1984, dir. Mike de Leon), I’m sure what she remembers is the big financial loss incurred by that movie, and whatever else it achieved, she’s determined not to make that kind of project again. That kind of perspective can’t be helped among those who invest their money, but neither does it contribute to enthusiasm and experimentation and pride in what our filmmakers do.

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But isn’t there a continuity between the system at present and the one that came out with so many quality products during the ’70s?

The ’70s were a conjuncture of several factors. The censors demanded to see a complete script before they could give a permit for shooting, so they could scrutinize film projects as early as the pre-production stage. Studios turned to journalist and creative writers in order to be able to impress the censors. Young filmmakers and writers saw here an opportunity to break into the industry and inject some seriousness in terms of content. Then: “Too bad, these movies don’t make money” – so producers backtracked.

But from that point on, the writers and directors who were able to get in already had a foothold. They’re still disadvantaged at present by the fact that the producers have become safe players. Plus, taxes, both national and local, have increased considerably. This is why producers always aim at having megahits, since only then can they hope to profit from film production. No longer do we have modest pictures that are not going to realize a lot of income but won’t flop entirely either.

Other industry people say that this decline in the profitability of film is just part of an international trend – what is known as the video revolution.

I think that’s definitely true in First-World countries. Few Japanese now watch their own films because most of their stars appear on TV shows. In our case, TV probably doesn’t have the same reach as the movies. Those away from city centers, who’d commute to the province during weekends and watch a movie before leaving – I’m sure they constitute a large number of moviegoers in this country.

So is it in this context – of hopefulness because the masses still patronize our own films, and on the other hand the desperation of the industry in surviving – that you expect academe to step in make changes?

Academe cannot intervene actively and has no power to compel capitalists to make better movies. All that can be done – on this, I can speak with some degree of certainty – is for the industry to be taken seriously, its products evaluated regardless of aesthetic quality, and a report given of what these products tell us about Philippine society.

Wouldn’t you say there has been a trend, at least in politics, to link up with academic institutions – something that the industry tolerates inasmuch as this doesn’t have anything to do with business anyway?

The government doesn’t really have any profound understanding of the workings and implications of moviemaking. They get bothered by films that they think will disturb people, like Orapronobis (1989, dir. Lino Brocka) and, in the past, Batch ’81 (1982, dir. Mike de Leon) and City After Dark (a.k.a. Manila by Night; 1980, dir. Ishmael Bernal), but these are isolated cases. In their consciousness films are produced so that capitalists can make a killing, and so the government should be in on the profits. Those are the simple facts of thinking among bureaucrats about the industry.

The creativity of our filmmakers during the Marcos regime contrasts with those in other countries who benefited more from political freedom; would you say that this indicates a peculiarity in the Filipino psychology?

I think what happened here was not just a matter of individual initiatives on the part of filmmakers. The artist’s discontent, if not assisted by others from outside his circles, becomes a private protest, since she tends more to reflect upon herself than to go out and join groups. I guess that’s what happened in the case of Mike de Leon’s films: Mike is a very private person, as can be attested to by those who observe the local film scene. But his outputs leave no doubt that he has some political consciousness operating, and I would attribute that simply to the fact he knew that – it sounds corny, but – hindi siya nag-iisa [he wasn’t alone], others were protesting and organizing. Assuming a situation where there is no movement, Mike de Leon might just stay put; I doubt if he would have the inclination to put into film his discontent with the situation.

How would you compare the present crop of filmmakers with the previous one?

With Ishmael Bernal, Lino Brocka, and Eddie Romero then, you could separate their narrative since their films purposefully set out to tell a story. But if we consider Peque Gallaga, Laurice Guillen, Marilou Diaz-Abaya – offhand, I notice, they give emphasis to specific qualities of film. You don’t remember them for the materials that they handle, but for what they did to the medium, like Laurice’s attempt at trying to tell different versions [of the same incident] in Salome (1981). Even in [Guillen’s first film] Kasal (1980) there was that kind of exploration of levels of reality and motivations of characters. It seems like their group prescinded from the overtly philosophical, political telling of material; what becomes immediately obvious is the attention they lavish on details that one finds in reality. It’s not so much the material anymore but the approach to reality that matters.

Would you say this has had an effect on film practice?

I would say it is an advancement. They must have seen what Lino and Ishmael had accomplished in the past, so they try to go beyond. It is hoped that there would be an integration of the kind of film work done by the earlier masters in the direction of a more complex use of narrative, if possible, in the future. But more and more, I think the old approach to seriousness in film practice, where the artist does a narrative that has a line that can be easily plotted out, is becoming a thing of the past.

What was the role of film critics in this kind of progression?

Nothing, because you see critics –

– were ignored by the artist?

Yes. And besides, strictly speaking, we cannot talk about intensive critical activity in the local film world since outlets are not available, and critics do not work full time, they dabble only when the occasion arises. That is something that will have to be worked at, possibly in academe: to create activity more productive of critiques and reviews.

Would it be possible to say that Filipino film artists have assumed the functions that should have been performed for them by critics, in terms of evaluating their own work and integrating the lessons in their succeeding output?

Actually, artists are the ones who set the direction for what they want to be doing – assuming that they live in a society which provides them with a sense of history. But the act of taking the cue from critics – I don’t think that has ever happened here.

I remember, in the Manunuri, the time when we had some feedback from the industry saying that the only reason why some of us were into criticism was because we wanted to break eventually into the industry.

I don’t think that’s something that should be begrudged any film critic. I suspect that that was engineered by publicists who had taken advantage of their position in order to advance themselves in the industry. One reason why a person goes into analysis of film is that she’s interested in whatever it is that makes a good film. I think the real criticism is that some people go into criticism so that producers will take notice, then they’d say bad things about certain movies so that the producers will mollify them.

Would you say that the ideal balance between theory and practice was the same reason why you maintained some creative output – doing translations and librettos, writing for the stage, and performing occasionally?

In my case, I never made a strict separation between the creative part of me and the analytic part. My writing for the theater derives from an original urge to do creative writing when I was in college and immediately after. Then I got into teaching, so I began to do more criticism, more history. But essentially, I guess I saw myself as a creative artist.

Some practitioners, I heard, were also into criticism before they went into active industry work.

Ishmael [Bernal] wrote some articles on film, now I remember, for the magazine Balthazar.

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What would be the qualities of a good film critic?

She likes movies; she would have seen a lot of films, not only local but also foreign ones. She has a good eye – meaning if she sees something on the screen, she’s capable of recalling the details and immediately relating the elements of particular image. And also, of course, she knows how to write: her command of style should enable her to communicate her insights. Very important, in my view, is her respect for her intended audience. Once a critic assumes that only she knows whereof she speaks and the audience should be content with whatever her pronouncements are, she’ll make an offensive impression on the reader.

Mel Chionglo once told me that a liberal arts preparation is crucial to a filmic sensibility.

Yes, I think it’s very important that the writer can fall back on a fund of insights and information from previous exposure to the arts. Because if all one can rely on is one’s personal prejudices, the narrow concept of art that can be derived from reading some books, one can’t provide any substantial commentary for even the worst kind of products.

One time when I was speaking at the [Cultural Center of the Philippines] about theater, I said – I gave a number of dos and don’ts – that the writer must not be imprisoned by cuteness or katarayan [snark]. I think that’s a very strong tendency when one is beginning to write, when you fall in love with manner, an expression, a point that you want to make, and you put that across and sacrifice the object you’re talking about. I went through that experience when I was younger. Time magazine in the 1950s had very elegant stylists, so their reviews were always quotable, memorable.

How much further does local criticism have to go before it can assume a significant role in the filmmaking industry?

It’s not so much criticism that has to change but media which has to be more receptive to serious comment on film – meaning to say, not just anymore can be made to become a film reviewer, and the publications themselves have to be prepared to print serious articles that might offend the [advertising] producer. Then there also has to be an adjustment in the economic structure to enable people to become professional critics – like, you’re a newsperson whose beat is the movies, and your reviews are now considered the results of the discharging of your responsibilities. That will not come to be until the country has achieved a certain degree of prosperity, when movie writers won’t need to do press releases or hack-write for actors in order to make a decent living.

You’re implying that theorizing in film will also have to wait, since the practice of film criticism will take some time before it can flourish.

Not wait in the sense of postponing theoretical or critical activity, but accepting that no reasonable compensation can be offered at the moment. You can’t expect to survive on criticism, that the industry will appreciate and accommodate your actuations, and that the rest of society will support what you’re trying to accomplish.

Isn’t your scenario rather grim?

[Smilingly.] Really, there’s no other word for it. It’s a grim world that the Filipino critic lives in. So the fewer illusions she has about the viability of her profession, the better for her.

Do you think we’ll be able to realize a theory on film that we can call our own?

Well, not in my lifetime, because I only have a few more years to live. Right now we have not yet come up with a definitive film history, and you need history in order to be able to propose or suggest a theory of film. The fact that LVN could show a lot of its old films, and Sampaguita also has some of its own left – these are good signs, these are the texts that students will study. From such a study maybe the beginnings of a theory can be proposed; there’s no other substitute for this procedure. When I saw some films in the 1950s and even earlier in the late ’40s, I was watching not as a critic or even as a student of film, I was just an ordinary fan who followed the films of certain actors and actresses whom I liked. When I look back, I simply think of one as a movie in which Oscar Moreno appeared, another in which Paraluman played this kind of role. It was not until the 1970s that I began to think of film as a field of study. For instance, I once saw something by Gerry de Leon, Isumpa Mo, Giliw (1947). Among the movies of the past that I vividly recall, that was it – [it featured] Elsa Oria, Angel Esmeralda, Fely Vallejo. I found it very moving. But I remember only certain moments and highlights, so I cannot discuss the totality of that film as a work of art. That’s a problem with film, it’s such an ephemeral experience, and once the text is lost, it’s difficult to reconstruct.

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Book Texts – The Fantasy World of Rey de la Cruz

The surge of renewed interest in the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of too-young Pepsi Paloma in 1985 has still not raised any eyebrows regarding what subsequently happened to her rabble-rousing manager, Rey de la Cruz. Shot dead in the optical clinic where he lived, de la Cruz had deliberately cultivated an unsavory reputation – but mainly in his showbiz affairs. When Communist party renegade Felimon “Popoy” Lagman was also slain by unidentified assassins, the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, which he led, mentioned that an arrest warrant for him still had to be served for the murder of de la Cruz. So the question of who killed de la Cruz, unlike the issue of whether poor Pepsi was murdered, appears to have been resolved, but only because his supposed killer can no longer attest to or deny the charge. [This article originally appeared in the Business Day supplement New Day (October 6, 1986: 12, 14), with the unqualified support and encouragement of the section editor, Daisy Catherine L. Mandap, who now heads the Hong Kong-based Sun publication; an earlier interview with Rey de la Cruz, along with other star-builders, appears here.] To jump to later sections, please click here for: Distinctions; JQ Connection; Trendsetting; Legacies; and Notes.

New Day Ray de la Cruz

A tall leather chair behind an appropriately imposing table provides film personality Rey de la Cruz, incidentally Doctor of Optometry, with a suitable position from which to survey prospective applicants, patients, and interviewers who get to sit on depressed and low-backed receiving chairs. “I have always been a star-builder,” he smiles beatifically, “even when I was still a student. Everything you see here, without exception, comes from the blood, sweat, and tears I invested in my work in the movies.”

“Everything” I took to include an entire floor space of a relatively tall building in the Lilliputian backside of Quiapo, two blocks near the subject’s famed optical clinic, where a rugged male attendant directs correctly credentialed curiosity-seekers like me to search the doctor’s residence downstreet. “You won’t miss it,” he assures me, and sure enough, the first building that seems to assert an air of dignity in this polluted part of the district yields Rey de la Cruz’s name, and nothing else, for the fifth-floor portion of its directory.

The address where de la Cruz holds court will immediately impress the outsider with its overabundance of the trappings of fast accumulated wealth. A pair of gossiping old women, an alert girl Friday, a half-dressed teenage kid, and some children quietly at play make sure that you get ushered into the right parlor, instead of the kitchen, bathroom, or private chambers where, de la Cruz clarifies later, starlets Lampel Cojuangco and Mishelle Zobel, his latest acquisitions – rather, alagas, reside.


Dr. de la Cruz starts out by showing a recent issue of Asia magazine, which featured him in a sidebar on an article on the local bold-movie trend. “I was also voted ‘Most Controversial Guest of the Year’ in See-True[1] – he points to a plaque on a side table – “and was interviewed for Channel 2’s Variety program as well as another international magazine.”

Then he quickly gets to the point. “I don’t understand why people take my controversial status against me. I provide a living for my discoveries, I give the masa the entertainment they want, and I make a living in the process – ano’ng masama duon? I even agreed to become barangay captain of Quiapo to be able to render more and systematic service to my fellowmen, and then a nuisance like Polly Cayetano questions my appointment, charges me in court for exploitation of minors, and calls me a pimp on the air. Sa dami ng sumasakay sa akin, kailangang mag-rationalize ako, otherwise matagal na sana akong nawalan ng pag-asa.”

Sooner or later it becomes clear to even the most casual observer that the very subject of Rey de la Cruz may require some rationalizing too. I had interviewed him a half-decade ago for an omnibus write-up on the state of star-building in the country[2] and, in contrast to pros like Jesse Ejercito and Douglas Quijano, he had seemed much more guarded and tentative way back then.

Marami na akong na-build up,” he continues, “and each time na me kumakalas sa akin, I’d tell myself tama na, ayoko na. And then me bagong dumarating, me responsibilidad na naman ako, balik na naman sa star-building.”

At this point he cannot seem to resist a digression. “Tulad nung case ni Lala Montelibano – hindi ko naman intensyon na mang-iskandalo. I heard she wanted to break away from me, so when I learned she was appearing in See-True, I presented her with her real mother, as if to tell her, ‘We are all responsible for other people in our lives, so don’t forget whom you are responsible for.’ E siguro, her adoptive mother thought the real mother was there to get back Lala, di pati yung thirty-percent commission niya sa bata e mawawala, kaya ayun, nagkagulo na.”

Although aware that the incident has generated a generous amount of public outrage, de la Cruz will admit that at the most “I tell only white lies, in the interest of promoting a movie. Sino naman ba’ng hindi gumagawa nuon? Pero if ever I resort to a gimmick, ginigimikan ko lang ang totoo. Example: yung Tondo-girl gimmick ko ke Myrna Castillo, maraming nagalit doon dahil hindi raw kapani-paniwala na me ganung kaganda sa slum area. Nag-white lie na ako nung pino-promote yung launching movie niya, when I said na me tattoo siya sa boobs, pero it turned out na mas effective yung gimmick ko kesa sa promotion nung pelikula.”

In the long run, he has seen to it that, as far as he’s concerned, only good comes out of whatever vulgarities he foists upon the public to capture their attention. “Hindi alam ng marami,” he explains, “na behind all the publicity, I train my discoveries to become model citizens. Lahat ng social graces ini-introduce ko sa kanila. Pati sa acting, me workshop sila conducted at my expense, exclusively for them.” He proudly points out that two of his female stars have attained well-earned reputations as serious actresses, even though one of them – Rio Locsin – had a painful and public falling-out with him, and another – Sarsi Emmanuelle – has been having difficulty in sustaining her popularity because of alleged professional indifference.

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The JQ Connection

“If you still cannot take what I’m doing,” he says between chuckles, “blame Joe Quirino.” As his journalism professor at the Manuel L. Quezon University, the inimitable JQ took him away by introducing him to Mars Ravelo and Jose “Doc” Perez. The former may account for his propensity in plotting komiks-like twists and turns to publicize his wards, but it is the Sampaguita Pictures mogul he credits for teaching him “the ABCs of star-building. All in all Doc gave me ten valuable tips, all of them confidential.”

That was twenty years ago, when the Stars ’66 batch of discoveries had a tantalizing effect on him, coming as he did “fresh from a small town in Cagayan, where I was the seventh among eleven children; ako lang ang bakla, ako lang ang napadpad sa showbiz, at ako lang,” he finishes with relish, “ang nakapagpaaral sa twenty-five na kamag-anak ko, some of whom are now big-timers in the States.”

He strokes a thinning crop of hair and directs his professorial mien toward a forever-gone era of innocence, of roses and lollipops and Zandro Zamora. “I was only twenty when I started out. I had ten thousand pesos, all my savings, to begin with, so I bought my first car, a second-hand Triumph Herald, para maging karapat-dapat kay Zandro Zamora. Bini-build up ko siya pero nasira ang ulo ko sa kanya, masyado ako naging possessive. We parted ways as friends – if he ever considered me a friend – pero since then babae na lang ang kadalasang bini-build up ko. I get too involved with my men, and then they get involved with my female discoveries, as in the case of Gil Guerrero and Myrna Castillo. People get the impression tuloy na pinapares-pares ko yung mga alaga ko.”

After he made it big with Rio Locsin in the mid-’70s, he launched Myrna Castillo (initially as Rio Locsin II, to replace the then already-gone original) and, after she paired off with Guerrero – only to lately return to de la Cruz – he launched his first batch of female starlets. Because of their literally commercialized designations they became known collectively as the “softdrink beauties”: Coca Nicolas, Sarsi Emmanuelle, and the tragic Pepsi Paloma, who figured in a messy rape case (capped by an exploitation vehicle) before she allegedly took her own life. Introduced along with them was what de la Cruz describes as “the only uncola, Myra Manibog.” Then the “hard-drink beauties” followed – Remy Martin, Chivas Regal, Vodka Zobel, and Brandy Ayala; only the last, according to de la Cruz, “has survived in showbiz. The rest are in Japan earning two thousand dollars a month each as live entertainers.”


De la Cruz’s arrival as a promo personality was accorded a dubious form of flattery during the early ’80s when his concept of launching discoveries in batches was imitated. Into the movie pages (as well as a few actual productions) marched the “street beauties,” who sported such throw-away appellations as Ayala Buendia, Aurora Boulevard, Remedios Malate, Lerma Morayta, and Bridget Jones. A parade of pulchritudinous hopefuls has been following suit since, assuming de la Cruz-inspired sobriquets like Lyka Ugarte, Claudia Zobel (another tragic waste), and, in keeping up with his latest batch, Cristina Crisol and Elsa Enrile.

Yes, he has decided to contribute his share to the political awakening of the country by presenting, on the heels of the runaway Lala Montelibano, the “revolutionary beauties,” complete with farcically flippant anecdote: “Nagkita-kita raw sila sa EDSA during the revolution, hindi na makauwi sa dami ng tao, so they decided to stay together with the rest of people power.” An enumeration of what sound like noms de guerre, instead of screen names, follows, showing that by now, the guy has crossed the line between wordplay and downright irreverence: “Aida Dimaporo, sixteen; Ava Manotoc, Vanessa Ver, and straight from Cebu, Lota Misuari, all nineteen; plus a tribute to my tormentor, Polly Cayetano, seventeen. I chose those names,” he hastens to add, “because I want people to become less emotional about political personalities. I’d like to see them smile when they hear those names.”

But what about the names’ real owners? “My legal research reveals that there’s no law against using other people’s names. Of course I might desist if the origs want me to, pero I’m sure that if they see the girls, with their beauty and sex appeal, baka matuwa pa pati sila.”

What de la Cruz tries his best to suppress is the notion that his girls are “available” – the subject of his interview with Asia magazine. “If ever they do it on their own, I have to make sure na hindi naa-associate yung ginagawa nila sa akin.” He applies the same tack to an even more sensational recent development in local film practice: “Beware, I tell them, if your director wants you to do penetration scenes, because I can’t be around to keep watch all the time. Ask yourselves na lang, in a practical way: gusto niyo ba, type niyo ba yung makakapareha niyo, tama ba yung bayad sa puri niyo, and dapat, money down. Kung maaatim ng kalooban niyo e bakit hindi, basta hindi kayo pinupuwersa. Pero kung ako ang tatanungin kung ano’ng advice ko, sabihin niyong sabi ko, huwag.”


By a mysterious coincidence a side door opens, and out drifts a pale and fragile wisp of a girl in housefrock, smiling shyly at everyone present and receding before anyone could figure out what she was about. “Si Lampel Cojuangco,” Rey de la Cruz whispers, almost conspiratorially. “Hindi na ’yan mabobola ng producer sa mga penetration scenes.”

For every extreme development de la Cruz has required a balancing factor; it must be alarmingly reflective of the times that he claims to have resorted recently to, of all things, Bible-reading. “Dito ko kinukuha ngayon yang mga lessons na ina-apply ko sa kanila,” he says, picking up a voluminous edition from his desk and putting it down just as quickly.

One wonders how far he is willing to enforce the scarily stiff Judeo-Christian tradition on his present and prospective talents. “Me male applicant pa nga aka dito from the States” – he takes out photos of a mean-looking Oriental in progressive stages of dishabille and spreads them over the scriptures – “at mahina na yung dalawang walk-in applicants a day, from both sexes, sa akin. That’s because I can claim now that my stars get sold partly on the basis of their association with me. Pati masa nakikilala na yung hitsura ko.”

Talking about his image and popularity leads him to articulate his longing for “a legitimate ‘bold’ center, para magka-outlet ang artistic bold films, para ma-develop ang taste ng local audience, at higit sa lahat, para may pagkakakitaan ang mga taong umaasa sa ganung klaseng hanapbuhay, kesa mapilitang gumawa ng mas masama pa. I don’t understand why people get mad when the censors get strict, tapos they get mad again when there are bold films released. Most of all I don’t mind being associated with bold, pero ayun na nga, it’s always taken against me.”

Maybe you’ve become a symbol of sorts? I suggest. Rey de la Cruz smiles. He seems to like the idea.


[1] A then-popular TV talk show featuring mostly film personalities, hosted by Inday Badiday (screen name of Lourdes Jimenez Carvajal, sister of magazine editor Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc).

[2]Star-Building Pays,” Times Journal (May 26, 1980): 21, 23.

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Book Texts – The Critic as Creator

Completed on assignment at the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, this interview was seemingly afflicted by the several strokes of ill fortune that befell it, its production agency, and eventually the government that had set up, best intentions notwithstanding, the ECP. As Soltero was being finalized, Senator Benigno S. Aquino was murdered by still officially unknown assailants – and no amount of goodwill from this point onward could ever save the Marcos government. The ECP was dissolved and replaced by a more profit-oriented institution prior to the downfall of the regime. Pio de Castro III suffered a near-fatal stroke a few years later and died thereafter, as did Bienvenido Noriega, Jr.; Jay Ilagan perished in a vehicular accident. The hotel where the bulk of the interview was conducted, Hyatt Terraces in Baguio City, collapsed in 1990, during the last major Luzon earthquake of the 20th century. The article itself was intended for SineManila, an ECP film magazine which was unceremoniously shut down by a turf-obsessed intelligence agent in the organization; it eventually came out in an older outlet of mine, the December 4, 1984, issue of the Philippine Collegian (pp. 4-7), a student paper. As de Castro had feared, critical responses to Soltero ranged from cool to frozen; how much of this may have been due to the media’s civic duty of denouncing any move (including any movie) made by the Marcos government will have to be determined more carefully, at some future time. To jump to later sections, please click here for: Foundations; Resemblances; and Notes

Pio de Castro

Anyone who wills himself success in filmmaking must at least be competent in the less compound medium of literature. Hence the several cases of serious writers on film – often lumped together under the dubious heading of “film critics” – who eventually go into film practice, and the occasional instances of film practitioners who set down their thinking on print through interviews or articles or book writing. Not surprisingly, the field is replete with some of the best minds at work in any national art scene, a veritable namedropper’s delight: the French New Wave, the New American Cinema, to cite the more familiar foreign contexts hereabouts. More relevant still are the treats of Ishmael Bernal accommodating any interviewer daring enough to take him on, or Eddie Romero discoursing lucidly on the aesthetics and politics of local cinema under his own byline.

Such rare examples of talent awesome enough to cross over limitations inherent in various media make of us lesser mortals, if not trustful admirers, then suspicious watchdogs of that remote realm of genius. Any artist who distinguishes himself in a particular field cannot repeat his success elsewhere unless he were more than just another diligent craftsman: when Pauline Kael abandoned her New Yorker post, upon which she built a reputation as the most influential critic in America, the entire movie press called itself to attention; when her first project as script doctor, James Toback’s Love and Money (1982), flopped both critically and financially (notwithstanding an impressive debut by its director in Fingers [1978], which Kael was among the few to appreciate), howls of self-righteous protest resounded beyond Hollywood. Smug silence accompanied the still-plucky Pauline’s return from peril to the pages of her all-too-forgiving publication.

A similar posture prevails in the country. About the worst thing you could say of a tried-and-tested film writer who has “legitimized” his status via membership in the local film critics’ circle is that he is using the organization as a stepping-stone for breaking into the industry. All those contacts, all that goodwill, all that theoretical sharpening, where else could everything lead but toward practical application? Sooner than later another founding member of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, Pio de Castro III, will be going the same route attempted by his colleagues Behn Cervantes and Nestor U. Torre Jr. – right into the mainstream of filmmaking. As most frustrated film buffs would delight in pointing out, de Castro’s predecessors – whether deservedly or not – did not meet the expectations accordant to individuals of their stature, proof of which lies in their inactivity as film directors at the moment. (Never mind that perhaps the most successful critical and commercial filmmaker of the moment, Ishmael Bernal, was also a practicing critic before his entry into the industry.)

“You might consider me a bit different,” de Castro clarifies at the outset. “I was into filmmaking way before I went into film criticism. Even as a Manunuri member, I derived my subsistence primarily from commercial filmmaking. My practice of film criticism was more of an avocation, something that followed from my delight in the medium and not the other way around.” Pio de Castro III is the 40-year-old multi-awarded advertising and television director – and erstwhile Manunuri chairman – unanimously recommended by the board of jurors of last year’s scriptwriting contest of the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines to direct the third-place winner, Bienvenido Noriega, Jr.’s Soltero. The movie follows the outfit’s first major (1982) successes, Ishmael Bernal’s Himala (from the screemplay by Ricardo Lee) and Peque Gallaga’s Oro, Plata, Mata (from the screenplay of Jose Javier Reyes).

All the awards and distinctions garnered by both only serve to complicate the prospects begin brought to bear on de Castro’s Soltero by an audience already made vigilant with the awareness that the feature film debutant had been and can still be capable of passing reliable judgment on his colleagues-to-be. With the great probability of confronting unreasonably high criteria for aesthetic acceptance, de Castro has decided this early upon a stance of self-effacement. “I’ll be very happy just to get mixed reviews for this film,” the heavily built authoritative director and occasional character actor coolheadedly declares. “If some like it and others hate it, that would be good enough for me.” Such modesty belies what may be the most auspicious motion picture debut since, well, Oro, Plata, Mata although again the absurdity of latching reputations onto first works would be validated in the cases of established artists whose subsequent outputs render even well-received first films less significant, and vice versa.

Post-production observers can attest to the project’s evolution from literary winner to cinematic aggregate, from a disjointed three-hour rough cut to (as of press time) a coherent two-hour interlock. “I wanted to pursue the ‘experimentalism’ of the project by shooting the script exactly as the writer finished it,” says de Castro. “Normally you would have the director revising a script to suit the demands of his particular sensibilities, if not discarding it altogether and retaining just the plotline and the names of the characters. With Soltero it was different. I had to audition for the role of director. I could have been rejected; so the way I saw it, my passing the trial for the position meant my being qualified to direct the script as written.”

De Castro certainly had credibility in so far as being a “soulmate,” a key word in the film, to the central character in Soltero was concerned. He married late, about five years ago, and so was a soltero, or bachelor, for most of his life thus far. Almost immediately upon graduation from Ateneo, he took up his M.A. in film and TV at Wayne State University as a Fulbright-Hays scholar. When he returned to the country in the early 1970s, he applied for and got into Image Film, the advertising outfit with which he is still connected. He also moved into a small apartment near his office at LVN Studios; it was here where the Manunuri used to meet until de Castro, then already married, moved to San Juan where, needless to add, the Manunuri still goes to during sessions.

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Soltero the screenplay tells the story of Crispin Rodriguez, a banking executive in this late 20s, whose singular pursuit is that of love in its various forms. In three particular areas of his life – romantic, familial, and professional – he realizes his aim in varying degrees of success. The film, in contrast, focuses on the aforesaid areas according to the amount of personal commitment involved on the part of the lead character – i.e., the most on Crispin’s love life, some on his family, and a few on his officemates. The evolution of emphases from the abstract whole of the screenplay to the more accessible simplification of the earlier mentioned interlock commenced only after it became literally evident that strict observance of the written work would have necessitated a final cut which exceeded three hours in length. “It would have been nice to see what the three-hour-plus finished product would be like,” says scriptwriter Noriega, “but we won’t be able to sell it. Having two versions of the same film – a long one and a short one – would also be financially inadvisable because of the expense involved.”

De Castro and Noriega, in apparent disregard of the traditionally individualistic processes acknowledged in undertakings of “high” art, conferred with expert acquaintances and arrived at the hierarchy of emphases essential to delimiting the running time of the final version.

As it is, however, the film’s present form will be undergoing a few more reconsiderations induced by its problematic transition from script to screen. A rich exposition, for example, appears to raise some issues which are not all pursued, while a few resolutions ask to be expounded on beforehand. “I’m amazed,” says de Castro in a more typically candid mood, “that a lot of people have been passing judgment on the project as if it were already finished. So many things can still be accomplished in the course of post-production.”

He may be merely reacting to a manifestation of the high expectations he had already anticipated. Those fortunate enough to have attended screenings of both rough cut and interlock, for example, will marvel over the remarkable job of restructuring accomplished in the present form, in which shots and sometimes entire scenes intended for mutually exclusive purposes were transposed to other sequences without any noticeable diminution of credulity. Given such expertise, the tendency of insiders to extrapolate their expectations could very well soar out of control. The notion that this course need not apply to established directors who have consistently maintained a level of mediocrity would be patently unfair, but de Castro is not one to take the whole thing seriously. As he announced during audition sessions for the movie, “I just want to do a successful commercial exercise – a ‘bold’ tearjerker!”

As a result of what may be considered the streamlining of the screenplay, lead character Crispin Rodriguez’s story has been constructed to begin with the end of a romantic relationship and end with the end of another one. The multi-leveled treatment carried over from the original screenplay allows for a meaningful overlap of the two women’s stories, not to mention the several ingressions into the affairs of Crispin’s family and officemates, which serve as commentaries on the lead character’s condition. A series of events arranged chronologically provides a throwback to the narrative requisites of commercial cinema, but the overall emotional wallop is more exhaustive without being as blatant as the commonly encountered cases of box-office melodrama, primarily because of the high degree of intellectual involvement demanded by the unconventional storytelling mode.

Yet preview audiences agreed that the product so far has demonstrated more commercial potential than could be expected from a prototype of the existentialist art film, purveyed most capably by contemporary German filmmakers. For with perhaps an eye out for the genre’s absence of appeal among Filipinos (witness, if you can, the availability of Ingmar Bergman releases), de Castro seems to have surmounted its individualistic nature by infusing it with a more popular, and therefore mass, accessibility. Or has he? Experts at home in the territory of personal cinema constantly allude to the humor, the ease with which the best samples are executed; after all, ethereality, when it becomes more than just the subject of the work itself, can never, at least in theory, be mistaken for its antithesis, ponderosity. In this respect, the director of Soltero can be said to have hit the right formula in his approach to the work – that is, to regard leaden material with the levity of familiarity. But then again, would that be a fair remark to make about a presumably perspicacious artist?

Extra-creative factors will determine the permanence of Soltero’s contribution to local filmic history, but at this time at least one declaration can confidently be made: the movie succeeds on its own terms not because of its commercial concessions or its generic faithfulness, but because of its conscious verisimilitude to a heretofore unexplored aspect of Philippine social reality, an achievement which draws a historical affinity through Crispin Rodriguez from other characters of contemporary cinema grappling with the entanglements of their respective social fabrics – e.g., the Kulas of Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon. . . Paano Kayo Ngayon? (1976), the Miguelito Lorenzo of Oro, Plata, Mata (1982), even the Julio Madiaga and the Poldo Miranda of Lino Brocka’s Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975) and Jaguar (1979) respectively. The fundamental difference, however, between Crispin Rodriguez and the other names mentioned is that the Soltero character achieves historical significance paradoxically by his distance from the historical vortex. Whereas the other characters get caught up, whether or not against their will, in the velocity of their respective social eras (and therewith become signposts of some sort for scholars of local culture), Crispin Rodriguez could never attain fulfillment as a realist character except through the mutual exclusion between himself and his particular reality, which, because of its alienating affects, can never be disclosed in any other way.

He may be loath to consider the comparison, but Pio de Castro III bears such a visionary resemblance to Crispin Rodriguez. His wife, the former Joy Soler, describes him as “a very quiet, contemplative, into-Zen person. I’ve never seen anyone so placid. It takes a large amount of negative stimulation to get him angry at something.” The de Castros first met while they were both performing for the Philippine Educational Theater Association during the early ’70s. “He was visiting [founding chair] Cecile Garrucho then,” Joy recalls, “when he got persuaded to act for PETA. In one summer he did Bertolt Brecht’s [The Good Person of] Szechuan, the passion play Kalbaryo where he played Jesus Christ, and an Off-Broadway production, [Gretchen Cryer & Nancy Ford’s] The Last Sweet Days of Isaac.” De Castro’s acting career shifted media when Lino Brocka cast him as the ambitious worker Imo in Maynila, where he garnered critical notices for his sharply drawn portrayal of a single-minded proletarian who leaves his hopeless existence behind for the higher living of a white-collar employee. His last screen appearance was in Romy Suzara’s Mga Uod at Rosas (1982), in which he appeared as a commercial artist who again leaves behind a starvation lifestyle, this time as a serious painter, for the more lucrative lure of advertising.

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Again the parallelisms prove too tempting to resist. “The guy’s determination is fantastic,” avers Joy. “During film festivals where he decided to participate, for example, he could watch movies round-the-clock, sleeping less to watch more, and still retain what he saw for critical discussions” – reference here being made especially to de Castro’s involvement in both editions of the Manila International Film Festival, the second of which he participated in as chair of the committee in charge of a well-received comprehensive retrospective of Filipino films. Unlike his filmic portrayals, however, de Castro does not believe in brandishing his curriculum vitae so readily. “He takes care to keep most of his achievements discreet,” says Joy, without any hint of disappointment whatsoever. “Whenever he gets wind of a big break coming his way, he never tells me unless it’s been formalized. As a person close to him, I have the impression that his expectations are in inverse proportion to his efforts.”

Casual observers can easily corroborate the couple’s selfless dynamicism. Their residence is inadvertently referred to as the Manunuri headquarters even by the members themselves; for most of the group’s profitless subsistence, the de Castros “subsidized” meetings by preparing hearty meals (then as now the main incentive for attendance) for an inadequate token among the members present. Joy maintains that “there was no prior agreement between Pio and myself to support the group as well as we could. The Manunuris are the sort of people I don’t need in my career, but that’s precisely why I enjoy their company so much: they provide a welcome respite, these artistically inclined individuals who are honest and humane for a change. Also I make a deliberate effort to link up with Pio’s concerns, and serving the group is one of the most gratifying ways I know.”

“I learned a few thins while doing Soltero, says de Castro in Baguio, after a day of shooting some pivotal sequences, accommodating an unexpected TV interview in between, taking the ECP public relations staff to a few interesting locations (including a general hospital for the treatment of a member’s eye infection), and staying up past midnight to answer some off-the-record questions while preparing to leave for Manila by early morning. “No, actually I learned a lot. What we see on the screen in movie-house, the things we can criticize so easily after a short period of practice – those weren’t created with as much facility. I believe in film criticism, I believe there’s a place for it not only within the interests of the general public but those of the industry itself; I have always been into filmmaking, but working for the first time inside the industry has given me a different perspective. Whereas before I could assent to some sympathy for local artists, today I might even become vehement about it. I have this newly emerging conviction that if only to help them appreciate first-hand the plight of local filmmakers, all the film critics around us should be given the opportunity to direct.”

De Castro did not exactly push himself forward in a director’s direction, if one were to judge by the number of breaks he broke. One of the more recent ones went to an established director and was shown last year to a good box-office crowd which seemed to have excluded serious film observers, while another has been on hold ever since the local censors demanded a certification from the material’s writer, who has been dead long enough for his works to be made required reading even in institutions where they were previously banned. “I was always on the fringes of the industry, more as a filmmaker than as a critic. In a sense I still am, because of the nature of ECP. I tried my hand in advertising first and TV next, to be able to gauge my capability for film direction. With advertising, I thought that if I could make a minute or less worthy of my client’s money, then maybe I could use longer time to greater advantage; with TV it was more of an experiment: I did a limited series film-style, with more complicated set-ups, matching shots, and so on. When people said I did well, I felt more confident.”

A host of awards of merit and excellence from local and international advertising congresses, plus positive reviews and a Catholic Mass Media Award for the TV series Pira-Pirasong Pangarap[1] all serve to back up the assurance – of production experts if not de Castro himself. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to work with ECP; it’s the only outfit which could have produced a project like Soltero – an unconventional movie without traditional exposition, obvious conflicts, surface climax. I was also given leeway in the casting, except for Jay Ilagan, for whom the screenplay was written and who was specified from the start. I chose the performers solely on the basis of their individual proficiencies.” The actors referred to can likewise enjoy the privilege of a certain amount of pre-judgment. “If anyone asks me how any of the actors performed according to expectations,” says de Castro, “I would say simply that the very fact that they were cast implies that expectations were already met.” Jay Ilagan, who delineates the character of Crispin Rodriguez, may at this point in his life claim to have enacted the role of his career,[2] just as Vic Silayan did in Mike de Leon’s Kisapmata (1982) where Ilagan won his only other acting awards (Metro Manila Film Festival and the Manunuri’s Urian as supporting actor), a year after his MMFF trophy, also for supporting actor, for Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Brutal (1980).

Based on the controversies (or absence thereof) attendant to the production of Soltero, de Castro can assert that the project thus far seems to have acquired the approval of ECP observers. Previous ECP films always elicited adverse reactions regarding budgeting, with Soltero so far the only exception, notwithstanding last year’s economic inflation. “In fairness to finance experts connected with the project,” adds de Castro, “when they saw the results they understood why a few seconds’ take could cost so much and take so long to set up.” In contrast with its spectacle-scale ECP precedents, Soltero may yet chart a new and more affordable course for future productions – both within ECP and, more important, an industry whose audience has been estranged from essential intimacy in cinema … that is, if and when Soltero achieves its expected impact upon film experts and unexpected acceptance among movie-goers.

The movie’s director would rather not be too optimistic about either. “The movie has its moments, to say the least. I don’t want to be disappointed by the way it turns out, artistically and financially.” A performance by the film on both levels as modest as its filmmaker would suffice for the purposes of the film lover who only wanted to do good. The future can be just as modest: “I want to do a gangster film,” for a change of pace. I want to let out all the fury and excitement which I had to keep under control in Soltero.” A slight pause, then “I just hope I did well enough to deserve to make another movie.”[3]


[1] A moderately successful early ’80s program, rather than the ’90s series with the same title.

[2] After a recent re-viewing of Ishmael Bernal’s Salawahan (1979), I realized that this was Jay Ilagan’s indisputable peak as actor. For some reason, all his performances seemed to decrease in effectivity the further we get from this point.

[3] As it turned out, Pio de Castro III and Bienvenido Noriega, Jr. managed to make one more movie each after Soltero; Noriega in fact had died before one of his plays was adapted for the screen.

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Book Texts – Perseverance in a Neglected Dimension

I had planned a series of interviews with outstanding film practitioners and had, by this time, already conducted limited Q&A sessions with Ishmael Bernal and Ricardo Lee. What intervened was my sudden return to university, for my second bachelor’s degree, in film. Needless to point out, I learned much less from the program (and some teachers I had had probably learned more) than from my interactions with practitioners; but other factors cropped up, from individual (the death of cinematographer Conrado Baltazar) to political (the people-power uprising that shut down the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, which in effect had sponsored my studies). I had never gone over this article again since its original publication in the March-April 1984 issue of the Diliman Review (volume 32, issue 2, pp. 66-72); it sounded stiff then from being defensive about the choice of subject, and still does. I was gratified however to realize that the claims I made about the interviewee had only intensified through the decades, and that if I’d been fated to write about only one technical contributor, I could do worse than focus on the typically least-celebrated talent on most film projects. The original exchanges, which were conducted over several sessions at Ramon Reyes’s studio and home, were recorded by hand (ironic, considering the nature of Reyes’s craft, but he was not one to point that out); the notes have been lost, but I remember our speaking in Taglish and drafting the article accordingly, then deciding, with Reyes’s approval, on translating our conversations to English to dispense with the extensive translations. To jump to later sections, please click here for: The Once and Always Expert; Sound Principles; Sound Lessons; Within Hearing Range; Soundperson as Person; and Notes & Works Cited.

Ramon Reyes

If he had settled for security and stability, Ramon Reyes would not appear as imposing as he does now. South Asian features set in a six-foot frame, he confronts a career which has consistently resisted the efforts of his predecessors to draw forth some sense of importance, if not material well-being, from the star-blind business of movie-making. An impression of street-smart confidence rounds out an aura of intimidation, a trait the real character does not share: Reyes will be quick to point to himself as an epitome of his profession’s paradoxical nature. “The fact that producers reserve sound mixing for last among the phases of film production,” he growls, “implies that the process itself is indispensable. It’s the phase that finalizes every project, that in a sense prepares it for exhibition. Yet I still have to come across a film other than Mike de Leon’s which has a design for sound ready even at the pre-production stage.”

The voice derives a resonance not from volume but through a capacity to articulate with sound logic (pun intended). Close attention will eventually reveal, however, a modesty which would have disadvantaged most film aspirants who have only talent to fall back on. In spite of his attempts to draw attention to his profession instead of himself, Reyes can hardly help his propensity for perfection. Ten awards in a span of a little over seven years from four award-giving bodies, plus a special trophy intended as a commendation for collective technical excellence – no other track record remains as impressive so far in his or any other technical field of Philippine filmmaking. What makes the achievement extraordinary is not so much the ordinariness of the victor as the fact that no one who understands the import would begrudge him for it.

A Manileño from birth, Ramon Arevalo Reyes was a spark in the post-war baby boom which made possible the entrenchment of the star system in the 1960s and the emergence of movie patronage as a national distinction in the ’70s. The succession by Filipinos of nearby Taiwanese as the most movie-going people in the world, estimated for posterity by the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records (McWhirter) at almost twenty films per capita per annum, just about says all that needs to be told about the prevalence of the practice. And with the steady decline of the Filipino birth rate (ironically due in no small part to increased sexual awareness through films, which in turn has triggered off the social psyche’s conditioned conservatism as evidenced in family planning and anti-smut campaigns), filmmaking in the Philippines may revert to the purely commercial orientation of the late ’60s – minus the fanatic adulation afforded by a predominantly youthful population – unless an international market for local quality films be developed, or the high population growth rate returns.[1]

The attendant demand for formal training Reyes admits would faze him. “Except for Amang Sanchez, I know of no other soundman who has taken up sound engineering. That’s why I insist on being credited for ‘sound’ instead of for ‘sound engineering.’” Reyes himself holds an Associate in Electronics, which he finished in 1965 at the University of the East after two years of preparation for his childhood aspiration, a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Prior to that, he had typical middle-class preparations comprising elementary schooling at San Sebastian College and intermediate schooling at Don Bosco Technical Institute, where he spent his free time tinkering with machine shop equipment.

Movies then he watched purely for entertainment, until Mike de Leon, already an LVN Studios busybody, approached Reyes’s father Luis, already a star soundman recently rewarded by the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences for his work in Gerardo de Leon’s El Filibusterismo (1962), for a possible successor in the studio’s tradition of technical expertise. Although dynasticism was (and still remains) a feature of Philippine filmmaking, the elder Reyes refused responsibility for his son’s employment – more from a sense of propriety than self-preservation. Two other awards from regional festivals later, Luis Reyes shared his second Famas award with his son’s first for their work in Lino Brocka’s Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975). The paternal team-up was to prove durable enough for a few more trophies for two consecutive years afterward – the first another Famas and the second an Urian from the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino for Itim (with Sebastian Sayson) and the third another Urian for Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising, both by Mike de Leon, who has since defined a cycle in the Reyes line by retaining Ramon for all his succeeding projects. In 1979 the Reyeses worked on another Brocka film, Jaguar, which, like Maynila, was destined to capture the admiration of European critics in the early ’80s.

Yet for all his filial gratitude, Ramon Reyes would not encourage his children Carmelite, Lawrence, and Angelica, all under ten years of age, to work for film. “My success – if you could call it that – was due to a combination of luck and hard work, fifty-fifty. I would not want to have my kids take such big risks.” The family recently moved into a house of its own, after transferring several times from one residence to another, to a modest bungalow in Greenland subdivision in Cainta, Rizal. Reyes’ wife of twelve years, the former Virginia Alvarez, understands. She occasionally drops by LVN Studios, about an hour’s public-vehicle ride away from their place, to bring him some food or sometimes just keep him company. Consolation, however small, Reyes derives from realization that “other soundpersons are not paid well at all, especially when compared to movie workers in other fields.”

The Reyes household is always busy, accommodating an average of eight – residents, househelp, visitors, not to mention pets – at a time. The entrance leads to a living room which barely distinguishes itself from the adjacent dining room; this in turn leads to the garage, from which one could either cross the lawn back to the entrance or take a slightly longer route out through Sampaguita Road and back into the front gate. Ease of access is reinforced by the reassuring arrangement of available space as defined by cushions by the front door opposed by a hi-fidelity component rack built into book and record shelves, then by aquaria and aquatic equipment opposed by kitchen appliances in the dining room. Faced at thirty-seven with all this material evidence, Reyes would certainly feel left behind when compared with his would-have-been colleagues in engineering school. “I couldn’t even afford to sustain my fondness for raising goldfish,” he muses, brushing silver-streaked hair away from leaden-rimmed spectacles. “I simply discovered I could spend my leisure time on activities more appropriate to my profession.”

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The Once and Always Expert

Work for Ramon Reyes normally begins after lunch at the LVN sound studio and could proceed way into the night, to avoid the distraction caused by office transactions. While occupied last year with Oro, Plata, Mata, he often worked until morning with Peque Gallaga, whose first solo credit as director it was. Gallaga’s staid wife Madie, who line-produced the project for the Exeperimental Cinema of the Philippines, becomes uncharacteristically garrulous to praise the efforts Reyes expended on the film: “He would work with Peque like mad, sometimes insisting on perfecting what already seemed to us an acceptable soundtrack.” After a first print converted highbrow preview audiences from skepticism to acclamation, Reyes and Gallaga, in typical celebratory form, retreated into the cold gloom of the LVN sound studio to remix certain portions of the film, including the entire first and last reels.

It was the subtly improved soundtrack of snatches of dialogue floating more distinctly above the din of party chatter in the opening sequence that dispelled the only major complaint against Reyes’s work in Oro, Plata, Mata during the Urian deliberations. For what may stand an the most outstanding achievement ever – luxuriance and evocation in eight channels, instead of the already extravagant four – in sound engineering in local cinema, Reyes won his latest Urian as well as the Film Academy of the Philippines awards. As further evidence, however, that his work was no fluke, Reyes’ closest competitor would have been himself, for his work in Mike de Leon’s Batch ’81 where, in contrast with that of Oro, Plata, Mata, the use of sound observed austere prescriptions so as to epitomize the disembodiment of the characters from the rest of their social environment.

Reyes’s latest Urian trophy means a lot more to him than just another acknowledgment of a job well done: “My colleagues have been teasing me about winning the Urian only for films directed by Mike de Leon. This time I managed to somehow prove that I could outdo myself regardless of my familiarity with the filmmaker.” The Oro, Plata, Mata soundtrack Reyes recalls as a “very complicated effort, involving various mixing levels.” For one thing, he points out, the clarity of dialogue depended upon the purpose of the scene – meaning that dialogue may be either distinct, as in the intimate scenes, or almost drowned out, as in the party, outdoor, or massacre scenes. Sound effects, for another thing, had to be carefully filtered so as to avoid conflicts of purpose. The country-house generator, for example, had to sound practically subliminal so as not to intrude in the depiction of activity at the rural estate, while on the other hand the burning fields had to sound cacophonic so as to contrast with the stillness of the forest retreat in the next scene.

Behind Reyes’s exploit in Oro, Plata, Mata lies the experience of what he remembers as “learning almost purely from practice” – by his calculation, more than eighty field recordings and three hundred sound engineering work for films since his first credit, Romy Villaflor’s Assignment: Hongkong, in 1965; a more immediate predecessor in his use of naturalistic sound effects would be his then year-old output in Laurice Guillen’s Salome. “I used to work on about fifty films a year until Magna Tech Omni emerged as a major competitor in 1977, after which I could do only about thirty, sometimes as few as twenty, a year. Since sound mixing for film is my bread and butter, I don’t have the option of choosing whether I want to work on a given project or not; but at least one good project a year will compensate for all the mediocre ones.”

Reyes prefers to work on “relatively quiet” undertakings like Mike de Leon’s Itim and Kisapmata (1981), since these would be both creatively challenging yet “easy to work on, without the need to experiment with unnecessary sounds.” When the project bears more noise than promise, however, Reyes tries to sustain himself as far as the film would allow him to. “The advantage here is that the producers of such projects would not take the artistic side seriously, so they pay attention only to the earlier portions of the film. If my inspiration doesn’t last until the end, neither would their interest anyway. Usually we wind up impressed with each other, they in my efficiency and I in their carelessness.”

Although fluent in the abstractions pertaining to his profession, Reyes allows instinct to influence his performance. “Normally I allow an equal ratio between instinct and routine. But the more challenging the project, the more I tend to rely on instinct.” Contrary to logical expectations, he resorts to routine only when a “quantity, as opposed to quality,” project imposes purely professional, as opposed to artistic, demands, especially in terms of deadline. “You wouldn’t believe how some producers think post-production can be accomplished within one week but sometimes I get notices to finish my work in three days. In which case I’d barely have time to concentrate on quality, much less allow for inspiration.”

Before working on an artistically difficult project, Reyes would allow himself a whole day of rest. This he more often than not realizes through staying at home and listening to music. His stereo component system, an ingenious combination of old-fashioned speakers and contemporary hardware set in space-saving set-ups, provides him with all the fidelity he requires. Reyes believes in serious music as an extender of sound appreciation, and goes at the moment for the aural sensualities in old-time jazz and futuristic renditions of classics ranging from Bach to Wagner.

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Sound Principles

“Music,” Ramon Reyes maintains while playing Tomita’s synthesizer version of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” (from the Suite bergamasque), “is just another form of sound.” Reyes is beyond the assertion of the superiority of his element as justification for the existence of his profession; in fact he believes in the functional subordination of film sound to action. “During fight or chase scenes I avoid the use of music as much as possible. If it has to, music can come in more effectively before or after the action.” Indeed the current crop of progressive film musicians has been able to harmonize well with Reyes when it comes to projects they work on together – proof of which resides in the regularity with which a particular musician would win an award in the same film Reyes wins for. Among the aforementioned scorers would be Ryan Cayabyab, Lorrie Ilustre, Lutgardo Labad, Jun Latonio, Winston Raval/Vanishing Tribe, and foremost of all Max Jocson, whose efforts for de Leon’s Itim and Brocka’s Cain at Abel and Maynila can be taken as textbook samples of the unobtrusive deployment of film music.

In so far as the Urian, the award which ensconced Reyes as the best craftsperson in his field, is concerned, Reyes says: “The criterion the critics use for sound is correct.” Said criterion goes: Sound in a film is effective if dialogue, music, sound effects, and silence are vividly reproduced and are creatively orchestrated. “I would prefer, however, that artistic approach be given more weight.” A preferable direction lies in the integration of art and technique as presumed in the criterion stipulated by the MPP for music, thus: Music in a film is considered effective if it underscores meaning, heightens mood and emotion, helps define character, and reinforces the rhythm and pace of the film. Replacement of the word music with sound, however, would result in an ambiguity brought about by the differences between organized and disorganized sound. Hence a more ideal criterion would have the latter starting out as sound, particularly the use of dialogue, music, sound effects, and silence – granting, of course, that such a conception would be comprehensible for the average industry practitioner. “In itself,” Reyes concedes, “the existing criterion is already too advanced for second-rate associates. One time I argued with a producer over as basic a technicality as perspective. He refused to consider the possibility that the volume of dialogue may diminish when the speaker moves to a distance or out of the frame.”

In any case, the resolution of the conflict between style and substance in sound engineering could then facilitate concentration on more advanced theoretical issues, among which the pre-eminence of original sound over artificial sound Reyes would propound as his favorite crusade: “The reputation of movie soundpersons suffered with the emergence of the sound studio. I used to disagree with my father over the limitations of dubbing, but now I realize that I wouldn’t mind sacrificing clarity for ambience and perspective anytime.” The technical clean-up assured by the availability of the sound studio developed a set of conventions that do not necessarily meet the requisites of realistic reproduction. Ambience, for example, is usually idealized to the point where a rarefied audibility is preferred to the sonority of an enclosed marketplace, even when the setting in question happens to be, say, an enclosed marketplace. This anti-realistic anomaly Reyes traces to the abuse of the studio’s capability of controlling unwanted effects: as a result, serious performers are themselves expected to vocalize in a normal indoor range of volume, a standard which slurs over a national mentality acquired from centuries of conditioning under loquacious colonizers.

“I remember my father’s very first piece of advice: observe rehearsal carefully for the cuing of dialogue, or the magic of the moment will be lost. That was the time when the expertise of mikepersons was indispensable to the set.” One of the more obvious examples Reyes mentions is the feeding of lines in comedy. “Since performers dub their lines one at a time all by themselves, the sense of timing, not to mention spontaneity, is difficult to recapture.” An element of nostalgia never fails to inform Reyes’ ideal of a project as “one hundred-percent original sound.” He started out as a field recorder and successfully survived the transition to studio engineering. At AM Productions, wherein he practiced for eight months in 1966, he had the opportunity to work with the late Gerardo de Leon, now generally regarded as the most significant filmmaker of his time, on an omnibus project called Tatlong Kasaysayan ng Pag-ibig. “We had already exposed some two hundred feet of film for a master shot when I shouted ‘Cut!’ because of the intrusion of extraneous sound. ‘Manong’ displayed no anger, he just offered friendly advice regarding how unnecessary sounds on the set can become effective incidental sounds on the screen.”

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Sound Lessons

Such training for sound expertise Reyes declares cannot be acquired from studio work alone. “When I suggested to Mike de Leon that we fill in a pause when Ward Luarca sees Chanda Romero for the first time at the gate in Batch ’81, I didn’t even consider the symbolic significance of a jet plane roaring overhead. I just thought that if I were recording on the set and a plane did fly overhead, I would think first, just as ‘Manong’ would have, of how interesting it might turn out to be.” Reyes points with pride to his work in Brocka’s Maynila, which exploited the field sounds of Chinatown, Quiapo, and Diliman, requiring only about thirty-percent studio dubbing. The foreign-trained Amang Sanchez he refers to as evidence of how “locally, we’re still catching up with the refinements of dubbing when a big-budget prestige project like [Francis Coppola’s] Apocalypse Now (1979), which I managed to observe, used original sound almost entirely throughout.” Sanchez may have pioneered in alerting contemporary local audiences to the viability of original sound through his work in Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Brutal (1980) and Moral (1982), but Reyes looks forward to single-handedly dissipating the myth of its inadequacy once and for all.

The local film industry fell behind its foreign counterparts ironically by trying to overtake what appeared to have been a trend toward studio engineering in the 1960s. But considering the fact that other local industries were (and still are) reliant upon foreign, and particularly American, ones, the transition from field to studio would have been inevitable anyway. Besides, as Reyes recalls, the lack of professionalism among performers then as now incurred additional production expenses. “While waiting for a latecomer, ambience would be modified, mainly because set noise varies according to the time of day.” A thoroughly professional production like Lamberto V. Avellana’s filmization of national artist Nick Joaquin’s A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino (1966) could have benefited then from an expensive process called “direct optical,” where sound was transferred directly from field to film. This was during a time, according to Reyes, “when urban centers were not as congested as they are now,” thereby enabling field sound, as handled by his father, to be recorded with a minimum of intrusions. “Today’s typical prestige productions would not risk as much as LVN did then,” Reyes reflects. “Modest casting, domestic situations would normally be given proportionate technical treatment, not the kind of services enjoyed by Avellana’s particular project.”

In contrast, the disuse of field sound in Oro, Plata, Mata makes the younger Reyes’s achievement therein all the more admirable. “It’s a shame,” says Madie Gallaga, “that we decided upon ‘Monching’ only during the post-production stage. Several sounds in the rain forests of Negros are not available on standard sound-effects tracks. Also some stage-trained performers could not re-deliver their particular brand of upper-class hysteria in the studio. If we had managed to capture all the field sounds expertly enough for the final track, I would say that there would have been a qualitative difference.” Aware of the profit-oriented realities of the ’80s, Reyes would rather pin his hopes for the resurgence of original sound on the now-famous persistence of the Filipino filmmaker. “We are definitely behind the industries of other countries when it comes to facilities for recording original sound, but available local equipment might prove competent enough.” Resistance Reyes foresees as dual in nature: “Industry bigwigs will of course refuse to consider costlier arrangements on the set, much less buy additional equipment. But I’m also afraid that a cult of purists has developed among filmmakers – many of them might think twice before giving up technical deftness for authenticity.”

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Within Hearing Range

Artistic issues are not the only problems confronting the Filipino film craftsperson. More immediate ones center on the need to survive. Although Reyes acknowledges that “our pay here [at LVN] is okay – we earn better compared to the average movie worker,” he is also aware that most of his colleagues “have to resort to sidelines.” Of the nearly one hundred members of the Sound Technicians Association for Motion Pictures or STAMP, only about ten are actively involved in the more lucrative phase of post-production. The two-year-old FAP guild, first headed by Famas multi-awardee Juanito Clemente and now by Magna Tech Omni resident soundperson Rolando Ruta (helping out Reyes’ indisposed father, who at present is recovering from a mild stroke), has been striving to finalize a standardization of rates for duly accredited members.

Compared with the experience of the other FAP guilds, the STAMP could run into a lot of static owing to the crosslines involved in the allocation of a post-production budget which could reach as low as Php 20,000 out of the Php 1 million required for a passable production.[2] Frets Reyes, “How can you demand an increase in salary when you still have to look out for what you can get for your particular phase of production?” More often than not, a practitioner can get too grateful for a generous budget for sound engineering to be able to worry about how much will go to her or him as payment for her or his services. As can readily be gleaned from application forms for workshops and courses of the Movie Workers Welfare Fund, bright-eyed locals raring to crash into the festive world of filmmaking almost one-to-a-person rank sound supervision as their least-preferred field of specialty. “It doesn’t have glamour, and it doesn’t have the capacity, financial or otherwise, to compensate for the absence of glamour,” Reyes says. “The age range of sound supervisors is thirty-five to thirty-eight and increasing. The young ones think it’s not rewarding enough as a craft while the older ones say it’s not rewarding enough as a profession.”

And then of course there are the several discordant influences prevailing upon filmmaking as both art and craft. Censorship at the moment has generated the loudest uproar: “Sound doesn’t suffer as much from [celluloid] cuts as do the visuals, although the effect is more pronounced on music. The more important repercussion is the limitation the process imposes on post-production. The extra time the film spends with the censors should be used for necessary improvements on the finished product.” As to the provision of help for candidates for legal derailment, Reyes admits that soundpersons can only supply creative detours – “the creaking of a bed or the moaning of a couple in a lovemaking scene can be toned down so as not to become too suggestive.”

Other professional hazards come even from well-meaning sources, or what in a broad sense may be termed “self-styled sound critics.” Reyes enumerates three examples: the clumsy synchronizing of dialogue, the re-processing of prints from positives instead of master negatives, and the absence of standards for sound equipment in commercial theaters – all of which have detrimental effects on film sound. “When people hear out-of-sync delivery, hisses and scratches, or just plain bad playback, they tend to blame the soundperson without figuring out that the film editor is responsible for synchronization, the laboratory technician for print processing, and the theater owner for playback equipment. The solutions to these problems would require greater effort than the STAMP can muster, but we can go a long way if we start with enlightened movie-goers.” He tactfully avoids mentioning critics, but the implication is, or should be, deafening enough.

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Soundperson as Person

For his part, Reyes intends to persist in the pursuit of his career in the neglected dimension of film sound. Given the opportunity, he would not hesitate to work “for about three or four years in a more competitive milieu – the United States would be perfect – to acquire familiarity with advanced facilities and exchange knowledge and experience with experts.” Immigration would be out of the question though. “I’d still prefer to practice here, although a generation from now, when new blood comes in, I might have to start a stable business of my own just to be able to get by.” Such pessimism may not be in keeping with the promise of progress in local cinema, but for Reyes it will do. “At least by then I might be able to contribute a few things on my own terms.”

The prospects would not seem too far-fetched when Reyes’s status as the country’s premier soundperson is taken into account. He has just finished working double-time on another ECP project called Misteryo sa Tuwa (dir. Abbo de la Cruz), is winding up work with Sebastian Sayson on still another ECP film called Soltero (dir. Pio de Castro III) as well as with Juanito Clemente on a Regal production called Sinner or Saint (dir. Mel Chionglo), and is set to tackle the latest Mike de Leon film, Sister Stella L. Believers in historical determinism might all-too-readily concede that Reyes’s award-based recognition for this year will be ensured by any of the four titles mentioned.[3] Whatever the turnout of events, Ramon Reyes would be content with awaiting his next quality offer while earning his keep from the usual ones and relaxing with biking and ball games. “I could get by with a good massage or an out-and-out comedy movie, so long as I don’t get to dwell too much on the technical side of life.” So says one compleat professional, the ace technician in his field of endeavor, and his colleagues, competitors, and audience can dwell on the certainty that his craft, consummate as it is, will contain enough humor and humanity to go around for some time to come.


[1] By some estimates rapid population growth not only returned to the Philippines, but has exceeded the Asian region’s former topnotcher Pakistan (see CIA World Factbook and World Bank reports); it is outpaced by Singapore, which is also comparatively highly developed.

[2] Excluding inflation, Php 20,000 would be about 500 and Php 1 million about 20,000 US dollars. These relative costs will be difficult to adjust to current rates, since the digitalization of production has restandardized film practice. Contemporary independent films, for example, are known to have cost as little as Php 2 million, while low-cost studio productions might cost at least ten times that amount.

[3] As it turned out, Reyes (during my last year as a member) did compete with himself and received his latest critics’ award for Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L.; with four more trophies afterward, he would emerge as topnotch winner, though lifetime achievement awards have so far been given to practitioners in other categories.

Works Cited

Avellana, Lamberto V., dir. A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino. Scr. Donato Valentin and Trinidad Reyes. Diadem Productions, 1965.

Brocka, Lino, dir. Cain at Abel. Scr. Ricardo Lee. Cine Suerte, 1982.

———, dir. Jaguar. Scr. Ricardo Lee and Jose F. Lacaba. Bancom Audiovision, 1979.

———, dir. Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag. Scr. Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. Cinema Artists, 1975.

CIA World Factbook. Raw Data. “Country Comparison: Population Growth Rate.” 2012.

Chionglo, Mel, dir. Sinner or Saint. Scr. Ricardo Lee. Regal Films, 1984.

Coppola, Francis Ford, dir. & co-scr. Apocalypse Now. Co-scr. John Milius. American Zoetrope, 1979.

De Castro, Pio III, dir. Soltero. Scr. Bienvenido Noriega, Jr. Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1984.

De la Cruz, Abbo, dir. & scr. Misteryo sa Tuwa. Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1984.

De Leon, Gerardo, dir. El Filibusterismo. Scr. Adrian Cristobal. Bayanihan and Arriba Film Productions, 1962.

———, dir. Tatlong Kasaysayan ng Pag-ibig. Scr. Pierre Salas. AM Productions, 1966.

De Leon, Mike, dir. & co-scr. Batch ’81. Co-scr. Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. and Raquel Villavicencio. MVP Pictures, 1982.

———, dir. Itim. Scr. Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. and Gil Quito. Cinema Artists, 1976.

———, dir. & co-scr. Kisapamata. Co-scr. Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. and Raquel Villavicencio. Bancom Audiovision, 1981.

———, dir. & co-scr. Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising. Co-scr. Rey Santayana. LVN Pictures, 1977.

———, dir. & co-scr. Sister Stella L. Co-scr. Jose F. Lacaba and Jose Almojuela. Regal Films, 1984.

Diaz-Abaya, Marilou, dir. Brutal. Scr. Ricardo Lee. Bancom Audiovision, 1980.

———, dir. Moral. Scr. Ricardo Lee. Seven Stars, 1982.

Gallaga, Peque, dir. Oro, Plata, Mata. Scr. Jose Javier Reyes. Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1982.

Guillen, Laurice, dir. Salome. Scr. Ricardo Lee. Bancom Audiovision, 1981.

McWhirter, Norris. Guinness Book of World Records. New York: Bantam, 1983.

Villaflor, Romy, dir. Assignment: Hongkong. Scr. Ben Feleo. Ambassador Productions, 1965.

World Bank. “Population Growth (Annual %).” Table to 2010-2014.

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Book Texts – First Persons

Huwaran Hulmahan
Warning: emo material coming up.

A basic personal contradiction underlies the existence of this introductory essay. Johven Velasco had asked me, as his colleague and sometime mentor, to write one for his first book, Huwaran/Hulmahan: Reading Stars, Icons, and Genre Films in Philippine Cinema, then at the manuscript stage (n.b.: a distinction must be made between the aforementioned Huwaran/Hulmahan and the present Huwaran/Hulmahan Atbp.). My reply, in so many words, was that an intro would be more useful for a young author who needed some sort of validation from an established personage; in his case, he’d had enough of a stature to introduce himself, so to speak, so I told him he’d be better off asking friends like me to just review his manuscript for the benefit of the reading public.

The outpour of grief that attended his sudden death on September 1, 2007 might have surprised those who knew him as only an occasional credit or by-line or lumbering, cane-dependent figure. Velasco, for the most part and increasingly toward the end of his life, epitomized as nearly complete a combination of Othernesses that anyone could find in an individual in his situation. He was a teacher without the necessary advanced qualifications, illegitimate and impoverished in a middle-class milieu, intelligent and overweight in the face of middle-brow pop culture’s philosophobia and lookism, spiritual amid the materialist orientation of liberal academia, principled even when surrounded by pragmatists, and openly queer by any measure, when most men from generations later than his still opted for the comforts and conveniences of the closet. To top it all, his was a looming presence – about as in-your-face as Otherness could get.

When he lost his full-time teaching position at the University of the Philippines Film Institute (UPFI), his cri de coeur in the form of a mobile-phone SMS became the equivalent of a much-quoted haiku, the lamentation of a Pinoy Job: Bakit ako pinarurusahan? Naging tamad ba ako? Naging masama ba ako? [Why am I being punished? Did I turn lazy? Did I become venal?] No one had the heart to point out to him that what had changed was not so much him but the world around him. For where he had remained an old-school maestro, benevolent toward friends and gentlemanly toward enemies, everyone else, even those who walked the hallowed halls of academe, had long already internalized the dog-eat-dog values that typify periods of developmental haste.

Huwaran/Hulmahan was one of the means by which he had hoped to recover from the devastating financial and psychological blow dealt by the loss of his UPFI instructorship, the one incident from which he could actually never recover, the straw that finally broke his over-burdened back. He had originally been assigned to a number of non-compensatory academic functions, all of which he tackled in his usual selfless and enthusiastic manner. But when it came time for everyone else to take stock of his situation vis-á-vis the university’s up-or-out policy for untenured faculty, no one came to his defense to explain to higher authorities why he had not been able to make any headway in completing his master’s degree.

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When he told me this kind of casually brutal though legally defensible negligence would not have happened if, among other factors, I had stayed on instead of decamping for the proverbial greener pastures, I figured I owed him a favor, but I let him apply on his own terms. In response to a call for papers to the Korean conference I was coordinating, he submitted the Huwaran/Hulmahan manuscript – to which I had to answer that he had enough quality material to constitute an entire panel unto himself. His response to his experience of attending the conference was to re-assess his predicaments and formulate a few resolutions, but the form it took was an amazing and much-circulated (and tragically self-prophetic) epistolary piece that now serves as the epilogue of this collection – a funny, self-deprecating, astutely observed, yet ultimately heart-breaking narrative that reflected as much of the peoples surrounding him as it revealed a heretofore unheralded ability: Velasco the raconteur. Philippine film commentary is rife with personal essays, but “Korean Rhapsody” stands out for having been written during its author’s fullest maturation, where a peculiar combination of wisdom and kindness suffuses the usual gestures toward camp, ambition, self-doubt, and defiant hopefulness.

Huwaran/Hulmahan Atbp. may be translated as “Model/Mold Etc.” The present volume differs from Velasco’s earlier compilation in that it contains, apart from his autobiographical essay and all the original Huwaran/Hulmahan pieces, a number of journalistic contributions that started appearing in a number of periodicals since the start of Velasco’s term as UP faculty, as well as some of his plans for revisions (notably the splitting up of the longest article into one essay and a short fan article). Upon my return from my stint as exchange teacher in Korea, I kept asking him about his Huwaran/Hulmahan manuscript, with the intention of convincing him to submit it as the equivalent of a creative thesis before presenting it to a university press for publication. He was receptive to the idea – it was consistent with the resolutions he listed in his personal re-assessment – yet in a few months he seemed to have turned against everything he wanted to continue or complete, and instead talked, albeit jokingly, about setting himself up for his eventual retirement. The day he failed to wake up, he was scheduled to take a trip to a farm to consider some options in agri-business, a direction that he’d said he was reluctant to take. His partner of several decades, Jess Evardone, stayed over at his house to accompany him, and was the first person to discover that he was no longer alive. But in staying on first in the hearts of a few, and later in the minds of many more, his Otherness was thus in the end both completed by his death yet paradoxically also now fully absent.

An expanding circle of friends decided that Velasco’s legacy was worth maintaining, and the present volume is only one of several planned outputs. In putting together all the writings we could salvage, from hard drives and disks through email attachments to scanned manuscripts, I got to realize in hindsight that Velasco’s hesitation in getting his original manuscript published was not really because he had given up on accomplishing anything. On the contrary, he had lately discovered the psychic rewards of being a public intellectual operating in the feedback-intensive field of popular culture, so much so that one way, perhaps the only way, and definitely the first way of looking at Huwaran/Hulmahan Atbp. is that it is a work in progress, whose final form would have been defined possibly a year or two later had he lived on, depending on the insights that he could have drawn from his intensive coverage of the local movie scene.

Yet the current manuscript, for all its gaps, overlaps, and reversals, already constitutes an impressive achievement in itself, one that makes it possible to canonize its author as the millennium’s first major Filipino film commentator, relegating a significant number of other aspirants (myself included) to the status of also-rans, Salieris to his Mozart. Even in its still-to-be-finished state, Huwaran/Hulmahan Atbp. is indicative of Velasco’s ability to bridge distant and contemporary periods and subject their emblematic phenomena to sharp critical scrutiny leavened with wry humor. But more than a mere display of intellectual acrobatics is one quality that remains in full, regardless of the condition of the compilation or of its individual articles: Velasco’s unabashed affection for his material, his refreshingly frank appreciation and admission of cultural pleasure, as evident in the collection’s emphasis on performers and their films.

“In Praise of the Film ‘Star,’” the very last article he wrote and his first to be published posthumously, serves to determine the general direction of the collection as a whole. It is quickly followed (in Part 1: Fan Texts) by a series of fan articles, and the selection of subjects says as much about the author as they do about the performers themselves: chronologically, Velasco first wrote about someone he identified with (Susan Roces), then about those he had known personally, which in a sense amount to the same thing. The articles grow in length as Velasco proceeds to problematize questions of culture and political economy. Before discussing stardom itself, we turn to a section where Velasco foregrounds the issue that lurks behind everything he wrote as an academic – i.e., gender politics, the best thing, he said once, that graduate studies ever gave him. When he first heard me use the word “transgressiveness” as an indicator of progressivity he remarked that he’d always wanted to aspire to that type of ideal, and was glad that it could now be openly acknowledged in contemporary scholarship; I must add that he took the concept much farther than I could have imagined it could go in Philippine film studies.

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Hence under Part 2: Gender Texts he goes to town in imbuing female personae with masculine attributes and vice versa, and objectifies the Filipino male with admirably shameless delight, to the extent of embracing (figuratively in print and, who knows, literally in real life) a veritable stable of “bad” boys. In returning to a consideration of the movie star (Part 3: Star Texts), he discourses with renewed authority, effectively restoring to prominence the real-life reel couple he regarded as king and queen of the make-believe world that had provided him with much-needed solace during his formative years. The collection closes with a large group of articles, Part 4: Film Texts, that in one respect derive directly from his fascination with star personalities; the other respect is the one that also justifies Velasco’s position as our foremost film expert in the new millennium: he could write knowingly about the present, without the need to demonstrate any high-art or film-buff pretension, mainly because he maintained so much fondness for a past he knew first-hand. This section ends with his challenge to both organized and practicing Filipino film critics (often two discrete categories, as it happens nowadays): after demonstrating how to properly evaluate first a festival period and then a calendar year of sustained film practice, Velasco points out, in laypersons’ terms, precisely what makes award-giving and comparative auteurist analyses so dissatisfying – i.e., their practitioners use critical-sounding evaluation as a subterfuge instead of facing up to the manifold challenges and contradictions of genuine critical writing.

All of which brings us back to Velasco’s primary motive for writing – his love for all kinds of media of expression, whether belonging to high art or mass culture. In retrospect it wasn’t just the discursive potentials of local cinema that Velasco approached with this strange (in both senses of unusual and queer) combination of tenderness, acceptance, and rigor. Whenever he reflected on his personal and professional misfortunes, his tendency to break down in private followed by his refusal to protest the many injustices visited on him seemed then like a confirmation of the multiplicity of weaknesses that inexorably brought about his utter marginalization and ultimately his demise. But with this volume in hand, it has become evident that he was determined to fight after all, and the form that his resistance took was the hardest for anyone to muster, more so for someone in his condition: to struggle, to the bitter end if necessary, for love of everyone, and to respond to those who abused him with an even greater dose of forgiveness and understanding.

He died enviably, peacefully in his sleep, just as he had lived unenviably for most of his too-short fifty-nine years (or a full sixty, by East Asian reckoning), constantly worrying where his next red centavo would come from just so that he could write one more article, teach one more class, mentor one more advisee, direct one more script, crack one more joke, celebrate one more friend’s achievement. Huwaran/Hulmahan Atbp. is one among several proofs of how generous he had been, to a country, a society, and a university that could not properly figure out just how much he was giving out, so that he could be given in return the basic things he needed in order to attain all that he had ever asked for – a decent living, nothing more. First our Job, then our Christ: he died brokenhearted so that we could all now, if we choose to do so, relish the many delights bequeathed unto us by his selflessness.

[Originally published as “Context” in Huwaran/Hulmahan Atbp. (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2009): ix-xiv]

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An earlier generation of Pinoy media observers would have thought that the death of Dolphy, once it arrived, would have left behind the issue of his profligacy: the usual tally of the deceased’s offspring and their corresponding mothers alone would already bring up the issue of his sexual insatiability and the potency of his allegedly humongous “secret weapon.” Yet it is a measure of the extent of the Philippines’ cultural maturation that the only controversy left literally in his wake is the question of why he had not been declared a National Artist, the country’s highest official distinction for people in his profession.

His earlier nomination, during the previous round, was supposedly sabotaged by the objection of a highly influential culturatus. The ensuing round of exchanges has been seemingly obsessed with the violation of a confidentiality agreement – a strange and moot assertion, considering that the National Artist selection process is performed as part of a mandate of the national government and is therefore always open to public inquiry. Nevertheless a resolution, as far as one can be determined, has been promised by no less than the President, with his assurance of support for any future recommendation for the award to be handed to the late comedian.

At this point a personal disclosure ought to be made: not so much because of my past association with some of the institutions involved in the controversy, but because of my incomplete coverage of a film artist who I presume to critically evaluate. I can probably count about a dozen Dolphy films that I have seen, and a whole lot of film excerpts, but this would not pass my own test for serious attention to someone’s body of work. Yet for someone with over 220 film titles (not to mention a successful TV crossover) dating to over 60 years back, Dolphy himself might be able to forgive anyone who’d been unable to watch a hundred or more of his own titles.

With the National Artist question, the answer may be parsed as simply and literally as possible: he was a major star (possibly the Philippines’ most prolific one even solely in terms of film projects) and was therefore “national,” and he had possessed sufficient artistry not only in maintaining this status but also in impressing colleagues and (certain) critics, including the official mainstream organization (with which I was also once associated) that had given him a lifetime achievement prize. Yet the next logical question, of whether being both nationally renowned and unquestionably artistic automatically makes one deserving of being called a National Artist, is where a lot of qualifiers have to be raised.

Dolphy had been part of the wave of local stars who wrested control of their careers from the vertically integrated studio system of the 1950s (the so-called First Golden Age) by producing their own projects; one such figure, Fernando Poe, Jr., had already been granted the recognition, while an arguably just-as-vital name, deposed Pinoy President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, may never receive it, because first and foremost, the distinction is inevitably political, and it would simply be more politic to bestow it on Dolphy than on Erap. Yet unlike the major stars who emerged immediately after World War II, Dolphy had been saddled with twin disadvantages that make his triumph more remarkable for its time.

One of those liabilities, poverty, was an acceptable one, in the sense that the democratic system being upheld by the republic (exemplified by the social mobility afforded by media stardom) allowed for individuals to transcend such class-based limitations. The other matter, his East Asianness, was a far trickier situation for anyone to navigate. The war had traumatized the population into an affirmation of the racial stereotyping originally propagated by the early European colonizers – that of distinguishing between the “right” kind of fair-skinned people (Caucasians) and the “wrong” kind (East Asians, who were earlier demonized as pagans and were later imaged as ruthless colonizers). Hence Filipino aspirants to movie stardom had to misrepresent their mestizo features as non-Asian; or, if this were impossible to pull off, then they had to settle for less-profitable second-tier status as villains (e.g. Bruno Punzalan), seductresses (Bella Flores), or comedians, where Dolphy (alongside Chichay, Babalu, and a long list of other names) found – and managed to build on – his niche.

It was certainly no help when newly emerging nationalists with anti-imperialist sentiments sought to critique Philippine culture’s excessive white love by producing xenophobic literature that targeted the local Chinese community. This context helps explain not just Dolphy’s long-term political neutrality (just as Chinese Filipinos were known to support both establishment and opposition candidates during elections) but also why his type of comedy evolved toward a safe, family-friendly, middle-brow variety. Of his few forays with “serious” filmmakers, none had been with Manuel Conde or Ishmael Bernal, the National Artist auteurs who had reputations for scathing social satire. In fact he had tended to fall into the same misconception that the biggest Hollywood clowns, from Charlie Chaplin to Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey, had about serious material: that it had to be unfunny in order to “deserve” respect.

Ironically it was also as a result of this nationalist resurgence that East Asians (Filipinos or otherwise) were finally able to attain star status in local media, starting with the distinctly chinita Vilma Santos all the way through the frankly named Rico Yans, Sandara Parks, and Kim Chius of the present, with his own children deploying his once-suppressed surname; any number of leaders – all the way to Presidents and Cardinals – no longer need to remain silent about their overseas ancestry.

How then should good old Pidol be assessed? His National Artist award will be handed down, barring unforeseen abnormal circumstances, and that would restore some symbolic balance to the excesses in our history of racism, however long-gone this tendency might have been. But it would be far more instructive for his audiences to remain aware of his weaknesses as much as his virtues, and the all-too-human reasons that had forced him to resort to the self-limiting career measures that he, in a sense, had no way of avoiding.

[First published July 12, 2012, in The FilAm]

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One fascinating thing about having been present during the emergence of critical awareness in Philippine cinema was observing how games of auteur favoritism played out: who would be the critics’ pets and how would the rest fare in relation to them? The way the rules were formulated – a series of commentaries by organized critics that built up toward an annual awards ceremony – made for dramatic though ultimately hollow displays as a community of artists would be set one against another, with those who won more trophies regarded as first among their peers. The problem would be not so much the occasional lapse in judgment (Ishmael Bernal losing as director of Manila by Night [1980], Nora Aunor undervalued for some of the best performances in global cinema) as the regressive impact of film awards on cultural understanding; awards could not serve as periodic summations of critical evaluation simply because there is rarely any real criticism behind them. Influence-peddling probably, favoritism definitely, but critical thinking? Only if we accept celeb-fetishism as worthy of serious scholarly consideration.

Marilou Diaz-Abaya was one of the early victims of this still-ongoing practice of intellectual barbarism masquerading as earnest cultural analysis. Emerging fully formed and initiating a so-far unparalleled film series on Philippine femininities, mostly with the same team of close associates providing assistance, she met with dismissive responses from the exact same group of people who should have known best. Her recent death, after an extended bout with breast cancer, had met with a lot of appreciative reminiscences, evidence of the care and humor with which she prepared for the end; yet whether this kind of appreciation will ultimately extend to her body of work – that both remains to be seen and does not excuse the neglect with which her practice had been met. None of her major films (except for two star vehicles on Viva Films) is available on DVD; their restoration might be all that remains, if justice deserves to be served, toward the rehabilitation of her stature as major Pinoy film artist.

In retrospect, it would be easy to see how Diaz-Abaya could be so casually written off. Not only was she young, she had come from financial privilege and so could afford extensive film training, then-unavailable locally. Her circle included some of the most prestigious players the industry had ever seen: Ishmael Bernal mentored her, Jesse Ejercito produced her projects, and Ricardo Lee (the only one still actively practicing his craft) wrote scripts for her. It were as if she had been an interloper, and she had enough self-deprecating humility to preempt everyone in cracking jokes about her sheltered upbringing. Moreover, film practice at the time had attracted the finest talents in the country, facilitated in no small part by the fact that the Marcoses, despite their ruthless control of media, were sufficiently star-struck (Ferdinand won the presidency via biographical blockbusters, Imelda had screen-tested for the studio that produced her husband’s films) to treat film as their fair-haired child, their showcase of progressivity and proof to the world of their cultivation of democratic space.

Thus critics had no lack of talent to uphold, and shelving a relatively young newcomer who came from the “wrong” (that is, the right) side of the tracks would not count for much when so many others and so much else could be celebrated. Lino Brocka could come up with an instantly recognizable global classic in Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975), and Ishmael Bernal could presently respond with Manila by Night, arguably an even more significant contribution. Diaz-Abaya staked her claim to this order of filmic discourse by proffering Moral (1982), which expanded the city-film setting to include the newly formed metropolitan area and focused on women’s issues. Differing from Maynila, Moral sustained the sexual politics and multi-character format of Manila by Night; if the Bernal film still stood heads and shoulders above everything else, then both Maynila and Moral might be seen as its proper bookends, one anticipating and the other upholding the middle production and sharing its stature as major Philippine film confabulations.

Interviewed by phone, Lee recalled how Diaz-Abaya knew the long-term value of their output: Moral was “the only movie where my name and [producer] Jesse Ejercito’s appeared along with hers above the title,” he said, adding how her readiness to share credit extended to a directing class where he handled the writing portion as well as to the joint memoir of their professional collaboration that they had nearly finalized when the end arrived. He explained further why his scripts with her, and her films with him, have marked each other like no other Filipino director-writer team-up had ever had: “No other director treated my material with the openness and care that she did. Some of the materials we tackled were new to her – queerness, prostitution, incest, promiscuity, atheism – but with her I always had the assurance that she would set aside her biases and preferences and come around to the vision in our material.”

What compounds the difficulty of evaluating Diaz-Abaya’s output was her restlessness which, given how limited her time had been, may now appear as an eagerness to cover as much ground as her seemingly boundless energy could allow. I had occasion to interact with her twice, once in graduate school when she dropped by New York on her way home from a European film festival, and another time about a year ago when her cancer had been in remission; each time I was with a “younger Marilou,” first film critic Bliss Cua Lim and then filmmaker Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil, and both times it still amazes me to recall how she had no other agenda except to indulge in intelligent exchanges. Earlier she had just finished Milagros (1997) and announced that she felt it was time to tackle films about men: “I’m not sure I’ll be as successful as I had been with [films on] women,” she said, “but I have to take this risk so I can know for sure.” More recently, she had just released her last film project, Ikaw ang Pag-ibig (2011), but she talked with undiminished excitement about teaching, research, writing, and spiritual preparation – everything (except perhaps the last) that I and everyone else I know had been doing.

What will always haunt me about her is my envy about how she never allowed any limitation to stand in her way: she consorted with far older adults when she was young, opted for a profession dominated by biological men, ran with a crowd far removed from her genteel and well-heeled origins, pursued topics and challenges way beyond her comfort zone, and kept looking forward even with death staring her down for years. She welcomed the revitalization of film practice via the shift to digital technology, but was never remiss in cautioning against the dangers of excess privilege – and who better to know about this than her? In one of several excellent interviews that have cropped up all over Philippine news outlets, she made mention of how indie-film production could entrap its practitioners; after affirming how respect for the audience should be “non-negotiable,” she proceeded to explain the merits of the currently most popular (and consequently most derided) local genre, the romantic comedy. This was a lesson that her generation of filmmakers learned the hard way: that the way to improve a much-abused mode of practice is not to reject it, but rather to seize it and transform it so that the people who attend to it will benefit from patronizing it.

Marilou Diaz-Abaya had always connected and insisted on learning and never hesitated to share what she had. In a too-short lifespan she had earned much more than a beautiful farewell, but in the meanwhile that is all we had been able to give, even as the harder long-term work of revaluation lies ahead.

[First published December 12, 2012, as “Marilou Diaz-Abaya, 57: Rule Breaker, Risk Taker” in The FilAm]

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Of whether Nora Cabaltera Villamayor, legally a senior citizen of the Philippines and permanent resident of the US, is an accomplished artist there can be no doubt. One might inspect the record of her multimedia accomplishments – as recording artist, television performer, stage actress, concert act, and film producer and thespian – and concede that she may have excelled in many, if not most, of these areas; one might even be a serious observer of any of these fields of endeavor (as I have been) and assert that no one else comes close, although many certainly aspire to her level of achievement.

Not surprisingly, the rejection by President Benigno Aquino III of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’s endorsement of Aunor has occasioned a number of impassioned and articulate responses, starting with social networks, by now filtering through mass media, and inevitably destined to land in scholarly discussions, with the Philippines’s own major indexed humanities journal, Kritika Kultura of Ateneo de Manila University, slated to publish a special section devoted to her. (Personal disclosure: I am in charge of this specific project, as forum editor.) The nature of the reactions should not surprise anyone attuned to Philippine popular culture: the late-1960s working-class devotees who demanded for, and got, the teen idols they wanted have since grown along with them, many gentrifying and positioned in various capacities all over the globe.

It would have been instructive for the president’s culture team to have looked into the origin of what National Artist for Literature and Magsaysay Awardee Nick Joaquin described as a phenomenon, in one of his landmark journalism articles. For way before the 1986 middle-class people-power revolt that restored the oligarchy that Aquino effectively represents, an earlier, limited, though genuinely working-class form of people power, comprising mostly rural migrants working as factory hands and domestic labor, discovered the pleasures of pop-culture consumerism and ignored the dictates of the then-already enfeebled studio system of the so-called First Golden Age of Philippine cinema.

Rather than flock to the presentations of the typical European-featured and bourgeoisified talents then still being insistently launched by the major studios, the new urbanites, still capable of earning disposable income without seeking overseas employment, used their peso-votes to signify what types of idols they preferred. Today’s intellectuals replicate an error of historical interpretation when they position Aunor and her teen-star rival, Vilma Santos, as belonging to the native-vs.-mestizo division that observers during that time believed was at play: although Santos first emerged as a child star during the waning years of the Golden Age, her fairness did not conform to the anti-Asian requisites of the time; grown-ups with distinctly Oriental features like hers would have been relegated to serious secondary roles as male villains or femmes fatales or, at best, comic roles (where, instructively, the biggest star, Dolphy, had to suppress his Chinese surname).

Hence the masses’ new choices represented iconographies long withheld by the elite-controlled studio system, with the two biggest stars no longer male, and either morena or chinita (as their types used to be termed). By the arrival of the 1970s, the more Western-looking types accommodated this new demand for transformative appearances by exploring unusual options, including the pornography genre now remembered as bomba – also a reference to then-emerging student and labor unrest.

Since then this social experiment in discovering new types of media performers for popular consumption has either ended or changed, depending on what perspective one opts to adopt. East Asian-type candidates have managed to swing the door wide open, thanks to the example initiated by Santos and followed through by the middle-brow Chinoy-ethnocentric efforts of Philippine cinema’s most successful producer, Lily Yu Monteverde. But proof that this progressive window has also long slammed shut lies in the fact that no other brown-skinned female star has emerged since Aunor.[1]

To confound matters for the race- and class-conscious arbiters of social acceptability, Aunor’s Otherness was too close for comfort to her mass adulators’ condition – i.e., like them she was born poor and far from the capital city, enduring the then-standard harsh treatment reserved for those perceived as unable to call on socially influential contacts for protection, cursed with disproportionate ambition and fated to rely on wit, talent, and industry to attain her dreams. Not surprisingly, for the period of what might count as her on-the-job internship, she displayed an earnest studiousness, carefully enunciating her song lyrics and delivering over-rehearsed renditions of even the most casual lines of dialogue and investing whatever spare funds she had in art or period film projects that baffled her fans and accounted for her occasional impoverishment (by movie-star standards).

Nevertheless, when her artistic maturity had peaked, roughly toward the close of the 1970s, the fruits of such unmatched discipline and struggle went on glorious display and earned her an entirely new generation of followers, many of them academically trained in cultural and media appreciation. I remember suspecting her then of finagling her performance record by paying attention to only her serious projects (as other major performers and directors were wont to do), and watching the several potboilers she appeared in during her many periods of financial difficulty: to my amazement, each one, without exception, was stamped with a level of expertise that performing arts majors would have killed for.

This background also helps explain her disdain for the trappings of social respectability, having realized (as most long-lived artists do) that the widest range of experiential possibilities can always be harnessed in the service of interpretive craft. Small wonder that when she had the assurance of serious coverage during her current career resurgence, she spelled it out for the world, without apologies: chemical dependencies, multiple (including same-sex) partners, neuroses and anxieties, an inexplicable wanderlust, regret in the innocence of the now-lost past and hope in the uncertainties of the future. It was a source of amusement for me to see her fans scrambling to rationalize her statements, with a few of them abandoning their devotion to her because of their newfound fundamentalist religious convictions.

Less amusing was the spectacle of a supposedly enlightened presidential administration decreeing, in effect, that it did not want to be represented by such a powerfully transgressive figure. Its ignorance of the artist’s temperament gets exposed when we look up the list of names who had already made it to the ranks of the country’s officially endorsed masters and see that the best among them had made use of similar methods of exploring hidden or difficult truths and realities. The kind of sensibility that counts a public record like Aunor’s as contaminated by her less-than-“exemplary” lifestyle encourages medieval institutions like the Catholic Church to attempt a takeover of official cultural functions; worse, it plays into the dangerous oligarchic fantasy that a commodified, infantile, unexceptional mass culture is the perfectly satisfactory consequence of a wholesome moral existence.


[1] In fact, a reversal of the casting of mestizas in sex films seems to have occurred, with brown-skinned actresses such as Maribel Lopez and Sarsi Emmanuelle (featured together in Elwood Perez’s Silip [1985]) and Elizabeth Oropesa “permitted” to star in such productions. In fact, this merely reflects the more libertarian values inherent in these projects, as well as the need to cast as wide a net as possible, mestizas still welcome, in order to meet the demand for such willing talent. Also worth noting is the possibly not-incidental fact that these actresses remained capable of delivering outstanding performances.

[First published June 21, 2014, in The FilAm]

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Book Texts – Small Worm, Big Apple

Commissioned by a student publication during my exchange stint in Korea. I knew then that other folk would be paying attention, so I did a roundabout way of name-dropping the previous foreign locale I’d lived and worked in.

Small Worm, Big Apple

I could have been one of the many jinxes that started upending the Paradise that was New York City since the nineties. The World Trade Center was first bombed a few months after I arrived and collapsed a few months before I finally left for home. A demented tourist shot a number of sightseers at the observation deck of the EmpireState building – a structure that loomed right outside the office where I worked for almost eight years. An unemployed immigrant also shot several passengers on a train leaving the city for the suburbs. The stock market plunged twice, first because of the Asian economic recession, then because of the overvaluation of dot-com shares.

In all instances except the last, foreigners were considered responsible for what happened. Yet this was one of the contradictions about living in that city, as opposed to living elsewhere in North America: everyone there was a foreigner, or had descended from one. Of course virtually all Americans are non-native, but it seemed that only when they get to New York do they care to point out how, at some point in the past, they actually belonged elsewhere.

The place had a certain way of exacting payback. I was supposed to be able to finish my studies, my share of the all-American dream, through the all-American method of working hard. What didn’t show up in the equation was that the money I’d earn, the largest I’d ever make in my life up to that point, would amount to less than nothing in the face of the exorbitant cost of living. I eventually wound up with my graduate degrees, plus a few thousand dollars’ worth of student loans.

In the face of such an unwelcome and unmitigated disaster, how did I manage to muddle through? If I thought then, as I do now, that the place was just as badly (or even worse) hit than I was, that would have been no consolation. Once I left the city, I’d have to wait out two years working in the Philippine national university before I could find a job that paid decently enough to pay off the loans.

The answer would be self-evident enough to anyone living in New York. The place itself has enough talent and diversity to make even the poorest resident occasionally feel lucky to be alive. A master violinist from a major Chinese orchestra, a black doo-wop trio with remarkable timing and perfect harmony, a female performance artist who could assume unusual poses for long stretches, Peruvian musicians invoking the Andes through their charango and panpipes, and so on … and these were just the characters one could encounter performing for loose change in the subway.

When the major opera houses announced their new seasons, I’d be in line for my student-priced tickets, each one a tenth of what a Broadway musical would cost me. One of the little secrets of long-time “cultured” New Yorkers is that they never go to Broadway, only to the opera, although my reason for attending was that I was a student of the spectacle (of cinema, but before that, historically speaking, there was only the stage). When my out-of-town friends would insist on Broadway shows then complain about how backward the stories were and how old-fashioned their politics played out, I’d try to convince them to try an opera, which would have the same brand of outmoded ideological positions, but with better music, finer singing, and grander staging. Besides, I’d say, Broadway’s origins lay in a lesser form, the Viennese operetta. No go, though; seemed like people in the rest of the world would not respect any of their friends who went to New York and spent their time on presentations that did not feature pop stars and current music.

I always envied those who’d been to the great museums of Europe, but every so often the New York institutions would mount retrospectives that would be the equivalent of the usually-dead artists coming back to rework their magic: Joan Miró, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, the circle of French surrealists, and of course the shock artists whose exhibits Rudy Giuliani attempted to thwart. In my specialization, I’d taken the number of free and discounted film screenings so much for granted that, when my home university asked me for my first-year viewing list, I was amazed to jot down, based on my notes, brochures, and tickets, over 300 titles of the widest possible array of movies, from high art to trash, from festival favorite to disreputable pre-Disneyfied Times Square run, from fun genre sample to structural-materialist cerebration (my favorite, which I made sure to watch twice in its entirety, was two hours of Michael Snow whirling his camera on various axes from atop a Canadian mountain).

There’d be food my friends and I would treat ourselves to when we had the spare funds, categorized according to nationality: Greek (authentic but also occasionally the code word for all-around New York diner), Italian, Mexican, French, Spanish, Ethiopian, Malaysian, Indian, Korean, and the always-reliable Chinese. Wines could be found for as low as $3 a bottle, so I could indulge my alcoholic depression by pretending I was learning vintage and vinification.

All in all the range and breadth of distractions would be enough to make you believe the place was worth living in despite its inadequate services and pugnacious population (and hey, I was one of them too for a time). Enough to sometimes forget what you originally came for, in fact. The first time my late father saw me again, he said: “I can’t believe it – I never thought I’d live to see the day when you grew old.” He said I reminded him of Rip van Winkle, a New York character created by a New York author. And at that point I knew the dream was over. I was finally back home.

[First published May 2, 2005, as “Growing Old in New York (Or Small Worm, Big Apple)” in The Hallym Post]

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