Our hapless movie industry

By Herbert Vego

THE Philippine movie industry has been in a moribund state for decades. The movie theaters are gone, except the ones in the malls that show English films.  Filipino movies shown there once in a blue moon hardly recover their investment.

Last Wednesday (Aug. 3), however, two talked-about rivals for patronage opened simultaneously in Metro Manila and other cities, including Iloilo and Bacolod. Are we to expect a serious resuscitation of the film industry?

I seriously doubt it.  It just so happened that one of the movies, Katips, had to grapple for the same playdates “to correct the disinformation” expected from the other, Maid in Malacañang.

As advertised, Maid in Malacañang, focuses on the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ family’s “untold story” of their final 72 hours in the palace. No doubt Malacañang is the hidden force behind the “revision of history” aimed at endearing the younger President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the present generation despite his questionable win over Leni Robredo.

It is ironic that public outrage against the movie was fueled by one of its stars, Ella Cruz, who likened history to “tsismis” or gossip.

She was like saying that the movie was based on gossip, considering that the director, Darryl Yap, was born in 1987 or one year after the 1986 “People Power” revolution that drove the Marcoses to Hawaii.

Katips, on the other hand, tells the story of student activists living during the torturous and murderous regime of the ousted dictator. To quote its writer-director, lawyer Vince  Tañada, “It is a tale of the young who fought for their ideals against a bigger force.”

I would rather not inject my personal views on the movies I have not seen. It is simply my wish and hope that their clash for box-office patronage would revive the already moribund Philippine movie industry.

To reiterate, Filipino films no longer command a profitable audience share, forcing the stars to “alight” from the big theater screen to the homeowner’s television set through seemingly never-ending “telenovelas.”

I remember the stiff competition that Filipino movie idols were giving their Hollywood counterparts from the 1960s to the 1980s. For example, the late Tony Ferrer as Agent X-44 was as popular as Sean “James Bond” Connery.

It’s a completely strange niche that Filipino movies now occupy. All it takes is a visit to a mall cinema to realize how hard-pressed it is to find a Filipino movie being shown.

How was it in the old days?

The 1950s and ‘60s were the golden decades for the Philippine movie industry. The major studios like Sampaguita Pictures and LVN were bursting at the seams with star talents  The late comedian Dolphy was already making us laugh in those decades.

But it seems that there were always forces that conspired to clip the wings of this nascent industry and prevent it from ever soaring. First, there was the American culture which pervaded every facet of Philippine Society, showcasing Hollywood movies as the best of the best. The most any Filipino movie could ever hope to rate was as copycat. Even Dolphy rode on the popularity of Hollywood characters James Bond and Batman by starring in the 1966 action-comedy “James Batman.” Chiquito, on the other hand, starred in “James Bandong.”

The second reason the Philippine movie industry was doomed from the start was because of the highly stratified Philippine society. The rich and well-off, including the middle class, looked down on the local movie industry. Thus, box-office receipts came mostly from those in the lower strata of society — the so-called “bakya crowd” or the less educated ordinary people.

Third, because the movie industry had to cater to the tastes and standards of the “bakya crowd,” the quality and content of its products reflected that bias. Storylines were unimaginative and predictable, comedy was slapstick, and the acting was either mediocre or overly dramatic.

Fourth, since the late seventies, the industry has become a magnet for all sorts of unsavory characters — pimps, gangsters, cross-dressing homosexuals, and the like.

The serious movies today that are labeled “indie films” win international awards, but not the profits that they deserve.

Meanwhile, the “bakya crowd” can no longer afford a movie ticket, now costing at least three hundred pesos.



SENATE President Juan Miguel Zubiri last Tuesday said that 110 local and national bills passed by the 18th Congress had not been signed by former president Rodrigo Duterte.

This enabled President Marcos to veto five of them, including the bill seeking to expand the franchise area of Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC) from Davao City to Northern Davao.

Not so in the case of House Bill 10306 expanding the franchise of MORE Power from Iloilo City to Passi City and 15 towns of Iloilo province.  Like most of the 110 Duterte-unsigned bills, the amended franchise law has lapsed into law now known as Republic Act No. 11918.

The key to its passage is a provision of the Constitution, specifically Article VI, Section 27 which partly says, “The President shall communicate his veto of any bill to the House where it originated within thirty days after the date of receipt thereof; otherwise, it shall become a law as if he had signed it.”

You see, the bill to expand MORE Power’s franchise reached Malacañang on June 29, 2022 or one day before the last day in office of the former President. He did not anymore find time to sign it.

Under the quoted provision of the Constitution, succeeding President Marcos’ non-veto was as good as his approval of the expanded franchise.

Let the healthy competition between MORE Power and Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) begin