Time is the currency of life. What we choose to give time to, we choose to give our life to. For me, my time with the Film Development Council of the Philippines has always been more than work. Sincw I had no experience as a public servant before FDCP, I saw it as a once-in-lifetime opportunity to make a difference and I willingly spent six years of my prime years, energies, and hopes with the agency. It was here that I was put in a position to fulfill my long-cherished aspirations not just for myself but for the industry I love the most.

Looking back, I realized that serving the industry through the FDCP has been so ingrained in my system that sometimes I spend more time with my team than with my family. More than eight hours of every office day, I spent with my colleagues cooking up plans for the industry, sometimes even during weekends.

More than programs that were created, it was memories with people that made this whole experience an unforgettable one. And I want to take the opportunity of this week's column to share some of my most memorable moments in FDCP.

The young screaming audiences of PPP

The columnist at this year’s Festival de Cannes business counterpart, the Marche
du Film, with members of the international film community
The columnist at this year’s Festival de Cannes business counterpart, the Marche du Film, with members of the international film community

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The FDCP can sometimes be seen as a niche government agency that serves a specific set of stakeholders. Direct recipients of our support programs range from aspiring filmmakers to producers to established directors and film experts.

As such, Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) is special to me. Even during our first year of holding PPP, it has proven its worth to be the program that resonates not just with the local film industry but with the Filipino audience as well, especially the youth.

This annual week-long celebration of Philippine cinema where only Filipino films are shown in theaters nationwide became an opportunity not just to engage with the local film industry including producers and filmmakers, theater owners and distributors but also with government agencies, and the Filipino audience.

One of the most poignant moments for me was our nationwide mall and school caravans where we brought the films, their cast, and filmmakers from around Metro Manila to the regions all over the Philippines.

The excitement among the viewers, the endless questions during our talkbacks, and their insatiable curiosity showed that our independent producers can also make films appealing to a wider swath of audience.

Exchanging texts with Technical Crews

FDCP Chairperson and CEO Mary Liza Diño with
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte at the Bakuna Nights
vaccination drive in 2021
FDCP Chairperson and CEO Mary Liza Diño with Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte at the Bakuna Nights vaccination drive in 2021

When I accepted the chance to lead the national film agency, I made it my personal mission to finally shed light on the working conditions and welfare of our local film workers, especially those who are normally overlooked like background talents, stuntmen, set workers, and many others.

As part of the informal economy where freelancers like film workers do not have access to social services and benefits, it was crucial to create a program that will serve as a platform to extend services and make government support more accessible to them.

I will never forget the times I spent with our film workers during National Registry events such as the DEAR (Disaster/Emergency Assistance Program) where we were able to extend cash financial assistance to displaced workers.

I remember during the first three weeks of the program, I was the one personally holding the hotline so I could directly address the queries of those workers interested in applying for cash assistance.

The columnist at the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino celebration in 2019.
The columnist at the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino celebration in 2019.

I would exchange messages with them and they would tell me their struggles about losing work and how the cash aid was able to help them literally survive. It felt so humbling to be of service and somehow be in a position where we can show the support of the government in those difficult times.

Film workers' welfare and protection is about everyone, especially the disenfranchised.

That's why the signing of the Joint Memorandum Circular between the Department of Labor and Employment and the FDCP (DoLE-FDCP JMC) is also a fulfillment of a personal dream of mine because it is a significant albeit small step towards a concretesector-specific policy specifically for workers.

FilmPhilippines Incentives

One of the challenges of being part of an agency seen as "small" is the limited funding that we receive to execute our programs. It can be very frustrating when you are faced with budget challenges on top of learning, absorbing, and understanding what needs to be done to effect big changes out there in the international arena.

I remember lobbying for the FilmPhililpines Incentive program from the beginning of my first term in FDCP.

While other countries are already offering attractive and sizable incentive schemes to promote their countries as a filming destination, we could not boast of any incentives in filming in the Philippines other than the fact that we can speak English.

Back then, this used to be the only significant draw to foreign producers to film in our country.

So you can just imagine the relief and gratitude I felt when we were finally given a startup fund to facilitate the financial incentive programs.

The launch of FilmPhilippines was a game changer for the country. It placed us on the filming location map. Since its inception in 2020, the P50 million public funding has brought P1 billion return of investment in our industry and its allied sectors.

Moreover, almost 2000 film workers were given jobs in the midst of the pandemic and lockdowns.

FilmPhilippines has come a long way in a short time and I'm grateful to be part of this legacy.

Philippine karaoke night at Cannes

A lot of people ask me why we need to participate in Cannes (Marche du Film during the Cannes Film Festival) even if we have very few films to sell.

International film festivals and markets like Cannes serve as a very crucial platform to showcase the vibrant local film industry of a particular country, from projects in development, finished films, to producers, film companies, and actors.

In events like this, leading film industries of the world come together and we always have to take advantage of the opportunity to make valuable connections so that we may open doors for our projects and content, whether it be collaboration for international co-productions or foreign markets to tap for distribution. Visibility and consistency are certainly priorities to make this happen.

The recent Cannes Film last May was a revelation. After years of holding our networking events in our country pavilion, we finally mounted something that would celebrate and showcase us in the best Filipino way.

For the first time, we hosted the first Karaoke Night in Cannes. It was a small yet memorable event for our stakeholders, so much so that they continue talking about it and the people they met there even a year after.

It was at the karaoke night where we launched the FilmPhilippines incentives that finally cemented our place as a global player.

The Philippines is now recognized as part of the global film industry.

After five years of constant participation — aspiring for our talents and films to be recognized, our beautiful location to entice — we are finally seen.

United as one in Sine Sandaan

The centennial celebration of the Philippine cinema will always be a highlight of my six years with the FDCP. It was as if the stars went down and made New Frontier Theater in Cubao a constellation of industry stalwarts.

To see people I admire — from the old to the young, from past to the present and future, regardless of television station affiliation — together for the first time is nothing short of unforgettable.

During this milestone event, there was no distinction between indie films and mainstream films, no distinction between ABS-CBN and GMA, no distinction between generations, it was just one diverse film industry working together. I was proud that the FDCP was a part of bringing all these people together to mark the first one hundred years of Philippine cinema.

It was indeed an honor to be a part of this momentous event.

I am looking forward to making more memories with the Philippine film industry, especially in the coming Philippine Film Industry Month wherever I may be.

My heart will always belong to this industry and I look forward to seeing our country rise even higher and shine even brighter in the years to come.