EDITORIAL

Two February 12 events

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First is the birth of Lamberto Vera Avellana in 1915 in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

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In 1976, he was named “National Artist of the Philippines in Theater and Film” President Ferdinand Marcos. Since then that distinction has been one of the greatest in the Philippines.

He is an alumnus of the Ateneo de Manila (AB 1937, magna cum laude), where he began his lifelong career in the theater. He taught at the Ateneo after graduation. He married his teen-age sweetheart and frequent co-actor, Daisy Hontiveros, who was eventually also conferred the National Artist title in 1999.

Wikipedia relates that Bert Avellana’s “film debut was Sakay in 1939, a biopic on the early 20th century Filipino revolutionary Macario Sakay. The film was an immediate sensation, particularly distinguished for its realism which was a typical of Filipino cinema at the time. The treatment is the subject of some controversy today. Avellana’s Sakay toed the line with the American-fostered perception of Sakay as a mere bandit, different from the current-day appreciation of Sakay as a fighter for Filipino independence. Raymond Red’s 1993 film, Sakay hews closer to this modern view of Sakay. Interestingly, Leopoldo Salcedo, who played Sakay in the 1939 Avellana version, portrayed Sakay’s father in the 1993 version in his final film role.”

Wikipedia also tells us that “Avellana directed more than 70 films in a career that spanned six decades. Anak Dalita (1956) and Badjao (1957) perhaps stand as the most prominent works from his oeuvre. Anak Dalita, which was named Best Film at the 1956 Asia-Pacific Film Festival, was a realistic portrayal of poverty-stricken Filipinos coping with the aftermath of World War II. Badjao was a love-story among the sea-dwelling Badjaos, an indigenous Filipino people of Mindanao. Rolf Bayer was the screenwriter for both films.”

He directed more than 70 films in a career that spanned six decades. Avlana’s films — “Anak Dalita” (1956) and “Badjao” (1957)–attained international acclaim and stood as his most prominent works despite budgetary limitations that hampered the post-war Filipino film industry.

Avellana was also known as the maker of the first Philippine film to be shown at the Cannes International, “Kandelerong Pilak” (Silver Candlestickholder). He also founded the Philippine theater group, Barangay Theater Guild (in 1939), which continued to play an important role in the 1970s, presenting Shakespeare’s plays and plays by Philippine authors, like Nick Joaquin.

He died on April 25, 1991 at the age of 76.

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Vietnam War event

Another February 12 event we feel ought not to be forgotten has to do with the Vietnam War. The first US prisoners of war (POWs) in North Vietnam were released and 116 of 456 were flown to Philippines on Feb. 12, 1973.

The New York Times story by James Sterba, and datelined “Clark Air Base, the Philippines, Tuesday, Feb. 13” has this lead: “The first released American prisoners of the Vietnam war were greeted with cheers of welcome and tears of joy here yesterday as they stepped off military evacuation jets. They looked in better physical condition than most onlookers had expected, and the hospital commander here pronounced their general health “reasonably good.”

The second paragraph says:
“The last of four evacuations, planes touched down here at 11 P. M. (10 A. M., Monday, New York time), carrying 19 military men and seven civilians released in South Vietnam. Three other planes, carrying 116 prisoners released in Hanoi, had arrived yesterday afternoon.”

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