The History of Philippine Cinema Part 1: The Birth of Philippine Cinema
The History of Philippine Cinema Part 2: The Pre-war years of the 1930s
The History of Philippine Cinema Part 3: The War Years of the 1940s
After the tumultuous World War II, the Philippines slowly began rehabilitation. At the same time, local actors, directors, and most of the other film workers who transferred to theater during the war returned to filmmaking. Soon, cinema houses started back with their operations. Initially, in 1946, theaters featured the usual Hollywood attractions.
Manuel Conde’s 1946 film Orasang Ginto under LVN Pictures was the first renowned film produced after the war. In 1951, Prinsipe Amante, the first Philippine movie in full color, was produced. This film was a breakthrough in Asian cinema, being considered one of the earliest, if not the very first Asian movie to be made in full color. While its color was still technically imperfect, Filipino technicians were able to quickly cope up with the fast-changing technology as the latter films produced in color were already technically successful.
As a time of healing and rebuilding after the war, many Filipino films made during the 1950s remained in various forms of war-induced realities. At the same time, the big studios produced more movies that made up for the drought of films caused by the war. The decade saw frenetic activity in the movie industry which yielded to what might be regarded as the first harvest of distinguished films by Filipinos. Cinematic techniques and artistic values provided a new consciousness as Filipino films consistently garnered both local and international honors.
While the most popular movies before the war were adaptations from literary sources including Philippine myths and legends, books, and zarzuelas, most of the early post-war films were in the fantasy and adventure genres. A variety of genres made their marks as well as drama, slapstick comedy, drama-comedy (dramedy), musical, and action movies flourished as the years progressed. The era also gave rise to the film adaptations of many works from komiks (the Filipino comics). During this time, the komiks was the most popular and the cheapest form of entertainment in the Philippines. With its popularity with the Filipino masses, these serialized novels inspired many movie producers to create works derived from them.
According to the Asian Journal, adapted works originating from komiks during this time included: Hagibis, Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo, Salabusab, Malvarosa, Darna, Roberta, Darna at ang Babaing Lawin, Dyesebel, Bondying, Kenkoy, El Indio, Gorio at Tekla, and many others.
The 1950s was the “First Golden Age of Philippine Cinema.” During this time, the Big Four studios: LVN Pictures, Sampaguita Pictures, Premiere Productions, and Lebran International were at the height of filmmaking success. The Big Four was making an estimate of 350 films a year. This number made the Philippines second to Japan in terms of number of film productions completed every year. This made the country one of the busiest film communities in Asia. Yet, Hollywood still had its grip on the Filipino audience mainly because all these 350 Filipino films were primarily shown in only two theaters in Manila: Dalisay Theater and Life Theater.
The 1950s was also a time when master directors including Lamberto Avellana (National Artist for Theater and Film, 1976), Gerardo “Gerry” de Leon (National Artist for Cinema, 1982), Eddie Romero (National Artist for Cinema and Broadcast Arts, 2003), Manuel Conde (National Artist for Cinema, 2009), and Cesar Gallardo consistently thrived with their works. During this period, there were a great number of big stars who became very famous as well.
Each movie studio (Sampaguita, LVN, Premiere, and Lebran) had its own set of stars, technicians, and directors. The Big Four maintained a monopoly of the industry. The system assured moviegoers a variety of fare for a whole year and all these allowed stars and directors to harness their skills. They produced most of the notable films in Philippine cinema during this era. LVN Pictures, under the leadership of the Doña Sisang de Leon, specialized in superproductions (perhaps, counterpart of the contemporary big-budgeted epic, adventure, and fantasy movies), rural comedies and musicals, and also socially relevant films. Sampaguita Pictures mainly produced high-gloss, glamorous pictures. Premiere Productions released most of the action films of the decade. While not as big as the rest of the four, Lebran was also a prolific production outfit and a major player in Philippine filmmaking during this time.
“History of Philippine Cinema,” Philippine Journeys and Philippine Online Essays.
“History of Philippine Cinema,” National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
“History of Philippine Cinema,” WikiPilipinas.
“Philippine Cinema,” Filipino Cultured Blog.
“The National Artists of the Philippines,” National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
“Pilipinas: Balik Tanaw,” Asian Journal.