From “Critic After Dark: A Review of Philippine Cinema:”
I suppose if there’s a theme I want to put forth, some kind of ‘big message’ I want to present to the reader, it’s this: Philippine cinema has its share of gold and manure, artists and poseurs; because the average Filipino film costs a little over US$250,000 (in 2004 currency) and is usually shot on a stretch of about twenty shooting days (or less), the manure is often more odious than what passes for commercial filmmaking in Hollywood nowadays; on the other hand, because budget and schedule are often so small and tight, the rare gold nugget found seems all the more impressive, bordering perhaps on the miraculous. Thanks to those nuggets, I still believe in miracles.
They, incidentally, are under-appreciated nuggets. Filipino films are held in low esteem by most middle-to-upper class Filipinos who prefer Hollywood films, especially the recent hundred-million-dollar action blockbusters, crammed full of digital effects and released worldwide simultaneously to discourage piracy. One can’t quite blame them, considering the kind of firepower Hollywood can bring to bear on the big screen; at the same time, one can’t help but pity them for missing out on the classic films of Gerardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Manuel Silos, Manuel Conde, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Celso Ad. Castillo; or such recent Filipino treasures as Tikoy Aguiluz’s “Segurista” (Dead Sure) and “Bagong Bayani” (The Last Wish); Mike de Leon’s “Bayaning Third World” (Third World Hero); Lav Diaz’s “Batang West Side” (West Side Avenue); Mario O’Hara’s “Babae sa Bubungang Lata” (Woman on a Tin Roof), “Sisa,” and “Pangarap ng Puso” (Demons), among many others. They’re missing out on works of art and imagination that are truly theirs (“sariling atin”—“our own,” in effect), the way no Hollywood film could ever be; they’re missing out on heroic efforts at filmmaking that, despite all obstacles (or perhaps because of them), manage somehow to become art, perhaps great art.
I think I can count myself lucky to have seen these films, and to have put my thoughts on them on paper. I’d like to share some of these thoughts with you.