She may be Philippine show business’ most prominent “Mother” but now her title is finally official.
A couple of days before Mother’s Day, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) named Regal Entertainment matriarch, Lily Monteverde, “Ina Ng Pelikulang Pilipino” for “her valuable contribution and commitment to the Philippine movie industry throughout the years.”
Led by FDCP Chair Liza Diño-Seguerra, the ceremony was held on May 12 at Manila’s Cinematheque Theater with Monteverde’s family and closest friends in attendance. Spotted were her daughter Roselle, seasoned directors Maryo J. delos Reyes, Joel Lamangan, Jun Lana, Perci Intalan, Manny Valera, new filmmakers Joel Ferrer and Miko Livelo, and selected members of the press.
Rightly so, the special gathering became a tribute to this pillar of show business, who despite the challenges and controversies that movie producing and showbiz bring has never given up on the industry she loves.
“I learned a lot from my mom especially during those days when she worked from the house. I saw how dedicated she was in making movies and I guess I adopted this career because of her passion,” said Roselle who was first in toasting the honoree that evening.
“I came to love and embrace this industry because of her. To continue her legacy and what she has already built is an honor for me. I hope I can at least match her ingenuity, and her craziness too!” she added with a laugh.
“She always keeps me grounded, shows me the practicalities in running this business, but at the same time, she gave me her trust and an independence that I value. I am grateful that I have a mother like no other, and on behalf of my siblings, we are so deeply honored and grateful for this recognition given to our mother.”
Multi-awarded “Die Beautiful” director Lana went up next and revealed, “Not many of you know that it was Mother Lily who sent me to film school. You see I was also a ‘Regal Baby’ but as a screenwriter and not an actor. I always wanted to be a director but I couldn’t afford to go to film school abroad. So, I emailed her and asked if she could help me go to film school. I promised to be a very good investment.” He continued.
“The very next day Mother Lily called me, and two weeks later, I went to the University of Melbourne to study filmmaking all because of her. That is why she will be always be an important part of my life. I am very, very thankful for her goodness and her generosity—not just to me but everyone in the film industry.”
It was in 1962, when Monteverde and her husband Remy started a popcorn stand at the Podmon Theater in C.M. Recto, Manila. The site eventually served as the head office of Regal Films before it moved to its current location in Valencia, Quezon City.
Regal initially distributed foreign films to cinemas across the country, which eventually provided the funds for Monteverde to produce local movies.
In 1976, Monteverde produced her first ever film, “Kayod sa Umaga, Kayod sa Gabi,” which became an instant hit, starring Alma Moreno. The actress in turn became the first talent who clinched an exclusive contract with the film outfit and officially holds the title as the very first “Regal Baby.”
Since then, Monteverde nurtured the careers of many of the most talented actors to grace Philippine cinema, thus her nickname “Mother Lily.” The likes of Maricel Soriano, Snooky Serna, Dina Bonnevie, William and Albert Martinez, Richard Gomez and Gabby Concepcion, among others. Then there are the country’s most important directors including the late Lino Brocka, Peque Gallarga, Chito Roño, Joey Reyes, Lav Diaz, and Jeffrey Jeturian, besides de los Reyes, Lamanga and Lana.
A multi-awarded producer, Monteverde was also given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Cinemanila International Film Festival in 2000, among others. She is also behind the longest running movie franchises in the country, namely “Mano Po” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”
In response to all the praises and perhaps the most meaningful accolade given to her thus far, Monteverde said, “I am so blessed that I’ve been given the chance for almost five and a half decades to continue to take pride in being called Mother Lily—not only to my children but the movie industry as a whole. Who will not be touched for being given such a name considering that I am just a movie fan who thought of making my own films. Regal films was born out of love—a love for movies.”
Known to be as feisty as she is nurturing, Monteverde continued, “A good mother is a fighter. And I would like to believe that I have survived through all these years because I never backed down on any of my battles. Times have changed, as they should, but Regal is still here because Mother Lily—nearly 80 years old—is still fighting her battles and winning them in her own way. It is not about the prestige, definitely not about the power, but I can probably say it again. Been there, done, that. It is about what you leave behind and how you work and stand the test.”
With more than a thousand movies to her credit, and as the “Mother of Philippine Cinema,” Monteverde finally vowed that she will always be the first in line to fight for the Filipino filmmakers.
“I pray that there will come a time where there is no mainstream or indie movies—we will just call all of it the work of Filipino cinema. People say that change is coming, but in moviemaking, change is always there. And that is the challenge. To know the change and to know how to deal with changes. And through all this, Regal is still very much around. Alive and kicking, doing its battles and discovering new ways to bring more and better movies for the Filipino.”