Outside Collanade Mall Cebu, locals sell mountains of pirated DVDs of foreign films on the stretch of the sidewalk. Luring both mall- and movie-goers, a copy peddles for as low as P50, which indeed makes for a cheaper and easier form of entertainment.
Ironically, just inside the mall’s Cine Oriente—considered one of the oldest theaters in the Philippines, having first opened in 1886—a regional film festival runs, gathering a sizeable crowd of Filipino filmmakers and enthusiasts. Somehow, it signified that despite the odds, Philippine cinema will persevere.
This was the scene from Cinema Rehiyon 7, held from August 6 to 9 in Cebu City, the heart of Region 7, and the largest metropolis outside Metro Manila.
For four days, over 100 delegates from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao showcased and viewed a total of 17 full-length features and 57 short films that portray the Filipino culture and heritage from a regional perspective.
Besides this, organizers and attendees also exchanged visions and pledges to support regional filmmaking—from its existence to its propagation in the country and beyond.
A witness to all that and more, The Sunday Times Magazine lauds the undying efforts of the National Committee on Cinema (NCC) of the National Committee on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for staging another successful Cinema Rehiyon.
“We always work hard to continue Cinema Rehiyon because cinema in the region is national cinema. It is a showcase of the capabilities and pride of our people,” enthused NCC Chairman William Mayo as he formally opened the film festival at Cinema 1 of SM City Cebu.
He promised, “Rest assured, you can expect that we in the committee will continuously make policies and programs for the development of our cinema community.”
Mayo’s presence at the festival, for those who knew, was both touching and meaningful as it demonstrated his fervor for regional cinema even as he continues to recover from a stroke he suffered earlier this year.
Joining him at the occasion were his vice chairman Teddy Co and festival director Maria Victoria Bambi Beltran, along Movie and Television Review and Classification Board Chairman Eugenio Villareal.
On Day 1 of Cinema Rehiyon, host city Cebu presented the best of the best of its local cinema with the showing of three films from the past and present: award-winning Soap Opera (2014), short film Handuman sa Usa ka Salida (2014), and the classic Badlis sa Kinabuhi (1959).
First screened was Soap Opera by director and writer Remton Siega Zuosola who hails from Barangay Labangon in Cebu City. Already his third film depicting the life and struggles of people from his hometown, Soap Opera was originally a finalist at Cinema One Originals 2014 and earned him a Best Director nomination.
Facing the audience after the showing, Zuosola shared how he had always been inspired by the realities in his province. For Soap Opera, he tells the story of Noel and Liza who deceives Ben, a rich American, to raise money for their sickly child. What makes the independent movie interesting is how it plays like a soap opera.
The movie stars mainstream actors Lovi Poe and Rocco Nacino, alongside Cebuano talents Natileigh Sitoy and Matt Daclan.
Daclan, who won Best Actor Award at Cinema One Originals for the piece, joined Zuosola at Cinema Rehiyon and confidently said that in terms of talent, Cebuano actors can “compete” with those from Metro Manila.
The back-to-back screening of Handuman sa Usa ka Salida and Badlis sa Kinabuhi followed, both effectively paying tribute to the forgotten golden age of Cebuano cinema.
Handuman sa Usa ka Salida, for one, reminds viewers of old Cebuano movies, some 200 of which were produced in the last century and lost through time. One film that survived is Badlis sa Kinabuhi, directed by Leroy Salvador and produced by real-life celebrity couple, the late Mat Ranillo Jr. and revered actress Gloria Sevilla.
Through the efforts of the Ranillo family, the Cebuano classic was semi-restored for this generation to see. It portrays a simple family in old Cebu featuring the characters of Ranillo and Sevilla, torn apart when Sevilla’s uncle tries to rape her.
Badlis sa Kinabuhi is a highly regarded Cebuano film for garnering 12 nominations out of 14 categories in the 18th FAMAS Awards. It was also featured in the Asean Film Festival in Indonesia, and the Berlin Film Festival, both in1969, which was also the same year Ranillo died in a place crash.
Sevilla, who won the FAMAS Best Actress Award for the movie graced the screening of Badlis at Cinema Rehiyon together with daughter Suzette Ranillo, and fellow veteran Cebuano actors Pilar Pilapil, Julian Daan and Undo Juizan.
According to Sevilla, while she and her husband produced a total of 10 Cebuano films, Badlis sa Kinabuhi is one of their most memorable collaborations. It was shot only in three and a half days with an P80,000 budget, considered a fortune back then.
She also recalled her unforgettable attendance at the Berlin Film Festival where she was tasked by former First Lady Imelda Marcos to make headlines. In a beautiful terno she obeyed and made a grand entrance.
Asked to comment on the current state of Cebuano cinema, Sevilla called on her fellow artists: “Kung magkakaisa lang tayo, mas lalago ang Visayan films [If only we come together, Visayan films will flourish].”
Echoing Sevilla’s call, Pilapil, on the other hand, suggested the establishment of a film foundation to train directors, producers, writers and artists in reaching their potential.
Cordillerans down south
Igorot filmmakers from faraway Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon also made their way to Cinema Rehiyon 7 in Cebu. Two delegates hailing from the Mountain Province, director Nestor “Boyong” Daguines and producer Rosendo “Sendong” Salvacio, brought with them Bosu: The Last Headhunters to Christianity.
Before the screening of Bosu, Boyong and Sendong also graced the forum “Re-Imagining Regional Cinema” at the Film and Media Arts (FMA) International Academy on August 8. There, they shared their inspiring story of filmmaking.
According to Sendong, filmmaking is his passion, which is why he had always starred, directed and produced his own movies. “With a simple video cam, we made our own movies. But how do we show it [to our fellow Cordillerans]? We burned them on CDs and sold them to farmers and whoever else was interested,” he shared.
Today, Sendong, who later teamed up with Boyong as his director, has gathered a sizeable following in the Mountain Province.
Boyong’s story on the other hand is equally interesting. He told The Sunday Times Magazine that he was formerly a truck driver who saw one of Sendong’s films. Impressed an inspired, he told himself, “Kung kaya niya, kaya ko rin [If he can do it, then I can do it too].”
Today, the duo has already produced a couple of movies with the latest titled Baes (2015), already selling thousands of copies. “Filmmaking is our passion,” they declared.
At the screening of Bosu, Boyong and Sendong met with reputed Filipino filmmaker, Kidlat Tahimik who praised them for their work.
Tahimik of Baguio City was Cinema Rehiyon’s guest of honor as he presented his latest work Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment Redux III (2015). The piece served as the festival’s closing film on August 9.
Long-awaited by the artist’s fans and followers, Balikbayan #1 took 35 years to finish. It follows the journey of Enrique of Malacca, an Igorot taken in by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan as a slave. As his master was the first man to circumnavigate the world from Europe to East and to West, Enrique also returned to the Philippines as a balikabayan when Magellan landed in Cebu.
A young Tahimik played Enrique in the movie while George Steinberg portrayed Magellan.
The film is also a parallelism of past and present as it tackles reincarnation. Thus, Tahimik returned to the movie in modern times alongside his sons Kawayan and Kabunyan de Guia. National Artist for Visual Arts Bendicto “BenCab” Cabrera and renowned photographer Wyg Tysmans also participated in the movie.
Before its Philippine premiere at Cinema Rehiyon, Balikbayan #1 had already won the Caligari Film Prize at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival. It was also well-received at other foreign film festivals in Singapore and Hong Kong.
True to its vision, the important regions of the Philippines were represented at Cinema Rehiyon 7. The other must-sees from various provinces included Pampanga’s Magkakabaung by Jason Paul Laxamana who founded the CineKabalen Kapampangan Film Festival; Leyte’s Nick and Chai, a documentary about Nick and Chai Quieta who lost their four children during Super Typhoon Yolanda; Cotabato’s War is a Tender Thing about war-torn southern Philippines; among many others.
A change in this year’s festival was also seen at the short film screenings, which were now curated into similar themes of learning, existentialism, gender, mining, LGBT, parenthood, and more.
The FMA academy served as venue for the screening of these regional short films, as well as forums on “The Regional as the Other Cinema,” “Getting the World to See your Films,” and “Film as Heritage: Restoring and Remembering Cebuano Film Classics.”
Overall, festival director Maria Victoria Bambi Beltran could not feel prouder in having brought Cinema Rehiyon to her hometown Cebu. “It has been a roller coaster ride. I am very happy that it was done in Cebu because people here got the chance to watch films from other regions. Also, to see all the filmmakers here together again is just amazing.”
Beltran represented her region at the very first Cinema Rehiyon in 2009 with the movie Pagbalik by Publio Briones at the Cultural Center.
“We are already looking forward to Cinema Rehiyon 8. It will be held in Naga and we hope to bring stars from Manila who have roots from Bicol Region like Nora Aunor and more,” she concluded.