Past and future
The Centennial celebrations of Philippine Cinema has reached its fourth and last quarter, with hopes high on the future of the local film industry.
We are not wanting in talents. They abound the scene.
Young directors are flourishing by volume and hundreds more, in and fresh out of college, are waiting to pounce on the opportunities that would open their way.
Independent films, like music, are being completed in numbers by the days and weeks, greatly funded or not.
One of our director friends, Sigfreid Barros Sanchez once admitted to having miscalculated the power and value of the digital technology which has taken over all fields of business and communication, including films.
He said he once thought the celluloid was forever.
But then came the portable devices that make films, short and long.
The low-quality digital cameras have been replaced with high quality gadgets that produce top grade films.
From TikTok to DubSmash to Snapchat, even toddlers who can operate their parents’ cellular phones can make short films which can earn a following. And money, good money.
A very young YouTuber is earning more than his parents by reviewing the latest toys available on his channel. A grandmother is earning more money somewhere teaching her viewers the best of South American cooking.
Sex scandals sell more than those in Pornhub. Oh, we’re getting too far.
Well, we want Philippine cinema to get farther than where it is now.
Those hoping to topple Hollywood — and lately, Halliyu — can continue to dream about it, but no, it will not happen.
Philippine cinema, will continue to thrive. Even for a hundred years more.
The late Eddie Garcia was an icon from the past who touched the present. His presence in the films, old and new, added a thousand perspectives to how far the local filmdom had come.
While it was unfortunate that Mr. Garcia had left the scene just as it has reached it centennial, we are thankful to have had the likes of him in our make-believe world of films and stories.
He was the bad guy and the good guys. He was straight as he was gay. He was great in everything he did.
Just this week, we also lost thespian Tony Mabesa. He could not have been as famous as Mr. Garcia, but like him, Mr. Mabesa was almost in every movie that we saw.
I did not know him until this late. But I’ve seen him as the lawyer, priest, dad and grand dad, the rich man, poor man, just about any man in any movie which he made good.
And then, Amalia Fuentes.
She was the pretty face in our black and white television sets when colored tubes were unheard of, or were too pricey to have.
We feel the loss. But we are seeing the passing of the torch.
Philippine cinema is in good hands with the present and future coming.
That we know.
We knew something was wrong when he missed his deadline.
Since the day Isah Red started working with us in Daily Tribune in March this year, he never missed one.
When he and fellow showbiz veteran Jun Nardo started hosting our livestream showbiz talk show, “Tok Patok,” Isah would brave Edsa traffic just to get to the office on time.
I could always count on Isah. To me, he was a comforting presence — steady, so vital, a far cry from what he had been known all along in the Philippine entertainment industry.
It is still hard to believe he is gone. Although he had mellowed quite a bit, he remained a big presence — the loudest voice in the newsroom, as they say.
Isah’s passing, so totally unexpected, came at a time when a number of other entertainment icons had also made their last bow.
It has turned out to be a year of goodbyes. Too many goodbyes. So many of the figures that had been similarly the “loudest voices” in the industry have gone, on to the next “stage,” so to speak.
Eddie Garcia passed away middle of this year. His death came as a shock, not just for the way it happened but because we thought he would live on forever. For even in his late 80s, he was still a fixture in the industry, appearing in teleseryes and movies, attending media events and even some movie awards.
Tito Eddie, as he was fondly called, graced our first Eddys Awards where he made an immortal quip: “Mabuhay ang mga Eddys!” referring of course to his first name and that of the awards.
At the time, Isah (then of the Manila Standard) was the president of the organization that created The Eddys, the Society of Philippine Entertainment Editors, SPEEd for short.
This year, Isah, already with our paper, sat beside the great thespian and director Tony Mabesa during a pre-Eddys event. Mr. Mabesa, I remember, was quite gracious in that dinner event, greeting everyone with eye contact and old world charm.
He was there because he had been nominated for his last movie, Rainbow’s Sunset, where starred with Eddie Garcia and Gloria Romero.
That movie was a blessing to us all, I think, for it allowed us to bask once more in the pure and shining talent of these senior actors, who in their own ways gave the industry some of the most important legacies in their time.
Mabesa, considered as one of the founding fathers of Philippine university theater, passed away a few days ago, followed by another great in the industry, Amalia Fuentes.
Needless to say, all these farewells have left a void in the hearts of those who loved and admired them. Theirs were full and colorful lives — they made their mark in the nascent of Philippine entertainment, and while age and illness may have slowed some of them, they remained in the thick of show business — still in the limelight, still full of passion for the work they loved throughout their lives.
This is how we remember them — for the work they did, the ups and downs they endured and survived, the accomplishments that littered their storied lives.
They were far from perfect people, but we regard them now with deep admiration.
Mabesa was one of the great theater directors throughout his studded entertainment career of 70 years. After all, he was mentored by National Artist for Theater, Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero.
In turn, he mentored “some of the country’s most prominent theater professionals, such as Shamaine Centenera, Irma Adlawan, Nonie Buencamino, Eugene Domingo, Frances Makil-Ignacio, Adriana Agcaoili, Banaue Miclat and Neil Ryan Sese, as a report goes.
Amalia Fuentes, once a goddess of Philippine cinema, was perhaps not as active in her later years due to an illness that made her bedridden, but at her wake, she left loved ones who are also popular showbiz figures telling their stories of how she had taught them so much.
Isah, too, told me he was happiest teaching or mentoring. In spite of his reputation as hard to please, he was loved by many, including all the nameless individuals he had helped and nurtured.
They showed us that, in the end, it is not the applause that matters, or what you gained or reaped in life — it is the love you gave.