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Monday, March 7, 2011


On December 21, 1942, the Japanese decided to centralize the distribution and production of films in one agency: Eiga Heikusa. It was to be responsible for the importation of foreign films, mostly Japanese and German, later Japanese war propaganda for local consumption. The agency was launched with the screening of Toyo no Gaika (Glory of the Orient/ Victory Song of the Orient), a documentary on the Japanese gains in the war. Footages of the Bataan and Corregidor campaigns were flaunted as shining examples of Japanese supremacy. “United States routed from the Philippines”, “Stars and Stripes downed forever in East Asia”, “a war epic which will live long in your memory” were some of the film’s claims.

Manila 1942

It was the Japanese policy to push the goals of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. According to Rico Jose in his article, “The Dawn of Freedom and Japanese Wartime Propaganda”, the Japanese had three aims: to unmask the Americans as the real enemies and to eradicate their influences; to emphasize Japan’s role as the leader of Asia; and especially with regard to Filipinos, to recover the native character lost due to years of Occidental colonization. Because it was highly popular, film was used as an instrument of propaganda.

The Japanese Propangada Corps had planned a major film to push the three goals. Abe Yutaka, a noted Japanese director, was flown in sometime August 1942 to shoot a film based on the script by Hideo Oguni and Ryuichiro Yagi. He looked over a batch of Tagalog films and selected Filipino director Gerardo de Leon to be his collaborator. When advised of his selection, De Leon hesitated, saying that he preferred to practice medicine. A few years earlier, De Leon had passed the board exams for medicine. Yutaka paid him a compliment: “There are many doctors in the Philippines but only one director.”

Shooting of the film started in March 1943 with the arrival of the Japanese stars: Denjiro Okochi, Ichiro Tsuchida and Shigenobu Kawazu. Real prisoners of war were drafted as actors, a violation of the Articles of War. The shooting ended in August with the grand scene showing the American withdrawal from the city. Crowds gathered not only to gawk but also to fraternize with the prisoners.

The film was premiered in Tokyo on February 5, 1944. Originally entitled Mito Sakusan (Philippine Operation), it was changed to Ano Hatte O Utte or literally, “Tear down the Stars and Stripes.” For the Philippines, it was decided to use The Dawn of Freedom or Liwayway ng Kalayaan.

The Philippine premiere was set for March 5, 1944. It was hailed as an outstanding achievement by those who were present: Minister of the Interior Teofilo Sison, Minister of Information Arsenio Luz, Camilo Osias of the Kalibapi, Vicente Madrigal of the Philippine Red Cross and First Secretary Shintaro Kukushima of the Japanese Embassy.

Synopsis: The film opens with the declaration of Manila as an open city. Three Filipino soldiers, Capt. Reyes (Leopoldo Salcedo), Capt. Gomez (Fernando Poe) and Lt. Garcia (Angel Esmeralda) are set to join the American forces in their retreat to Bataan. In tearful farewells, the three bid goodbye to their loved ones. Lt. Garcia’s younger brother, Tony, asks for a souvenir: a helmet of the enemy.

The Americans abandon Manila in their speeding cars. One such vehicle bumps Tony who tries to grab a Japanese leaflet. He is saved by Ikejima, a Japanese, who brings him to the hospital. As the story progresses, a bond of friendship develops between the two and Tony’s mother begins to believe in the Japanese.

At the front, the Filipino soldiers are maltreated by their arrogant American commanders. There is widespread disgruntlement in the camp. Capt. Gomez wanders into the Japanese camp and is surprised to see the humaneness of their supposed invaders. He soon becomes the spokesperson for the Japanese.

The two other officers are less lucky and are betrayed by the Americans. Lt. Garcia is sent on a patrol and is ambushed by his suspicious chiefs. He dies clutching an American helmet which is later retrieved by Lt. Garcia. Capt. Reyes is shot by the retreating Americans who had sought shelter in a tunnel. As he lies dying, he shoots down the villainous commander.

At the end, Capt. Gomez bids goodbye to the Japanese soldier after the successful routing of the Americans. He hands over the souvenir to Tony with the note scribbled by his late brother: “This is the helmet of the enemy.”

After the reported success of The Dawn of Freedom, the Japanese decided it was time for Filipinos to produce an alternative cinema---other than that of Hollywood that has been the model for most Filipino films. Tsutumo Sawamura was tasked by the Japanese commission with uplifting the status of local movies. Sawamura wrote an adaptation of the Jose Esperanza Cruz novel, Tatlong Maria. Gerardo de Leon was chosen to direct the film which starred Carmen Rosales, Norma Blancaflor, Liwayway Arceo, Fernando Poe, Sr., Ely Ramos, Jose Padilla, Jr., and Corazon Noble. The movie extolled the virtues of living in the province and featured grand musical numbers staged at the Manila Hotel and the Jai Alai.

Tatlong Maria
was shown simultaneously in five theaters on October 12, 1944. It was much ballyhooed all throughout its shooting. The New Philippines News, a newsreel team assembled by the Japanese, covered the shooting, showing three hundred girls preparing for musical numbers in the Winter Garden of the Jai-Alai and in the Manila Hotel. While it was successful, the film was released at a time when the Allies were moving to Manila. Martial law was declared and a curfew was imposed. Screening hours were shortened and evening shows were cancelled.

Synopsis: The film tells the story of three sisters: Maria Fe (Carmen Rosales), Maria Esperanza (Norma Blancaflor) and Maria Caridad (Liwayway Arceo). The mother of the first two died when they were still toddlers. The youngest is the daughter of the second wife, Dona Pilar, who raised the three without favoritism.

Maria Caridad is set to marry Andres Diwa (Fernando Poe, Sr,). On the eve of the wedding, the two sisters make an appearance and object to the marriage. They want a division of the inheritance and persuade Maria Caridad to join them in Manila.

In Manila, Maria Caridad is matched with Gregorio Reyes, a capricious millionaire. But she has no desire for his affections. Her only confidante is Maria Fe’s sickly husband, Felipe Goco (Ely Ramos).

One day, Andres Diwa appears at their doorstep and tells Caridad that her mother is dying. She returns with him to the province in time to hear her last words. Her mother asks the priest to unite the two in holy matrimony and expires after the ceremony.

It is a happy life for the couple until a stranger knocks at their door and tells them to vacate the premises. Maria Fe had sold the house to him. The two go back to Manila. Maria Fe rejects their entreaties. Depressed, they wander aimlessly in the city until they stop to rest at the foot of the Rizal Monument in Luneta. They look at the monument and draw inspiration from the example of Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero. They decide to struggle hard with the impoverished plot of land left to them.

Years later, the two elder daughters suffer reversals of fortune. Maria Fe’s husband dies and she is thrown out of the Goco house for keeping a lover. Maria Esperanza’s husband is thrown in jail, and she also finds herself penniless. The two girls work with painted faces in a sleazy bar.

The priest learns of their fate and tells Andres about it. Without telling Caridad who has just given birth, Andres looks for them in the honkytonk and persuades them to join him in the province. The two meekly accede to his invitation. It is a happy Caridad who sees her two sisters with Andres upon his return. There is a joyous celebration in their honor.

After the war, Gerardo de Leon and his staff were imprisoned for collaboration. However, many guerillas testified to De Leon’s patriotism and involvement with the underground movement. His name was cleared, and he we eventually released.
Tatlong Maria was shown again in the post-war era, on October 3, 1946 under the title Sa Libis ng Nayon. The ill-timed screening provoked fisticuffs between some of its stars and the enterprising distributor.

Source: “War and its Aftermath in Philippine Cinema by Agustin Sotto

Unfortunately, with the heavy shelling of Manila by American fighter pilots to flush out Japanese soldiers at the end of the war, Manila ‘s cultural heritage was destroyed forever--- and so was the legacy of film. Number of feature films from 1919 to 1944 was estimated to be at 350. However, only five of these survived the catastrophe: Giliw Ko (1939); Tunay na Ina (1940); Pakiusap (1940); Ibong Adarna (1941) and more recently, Zamboanga (1937), believed to be lost but found in the archive of US Library of Congress (thru the effort of Nick DeOcampo)


Shixterie Gail xxxi said...

Is there any Copy of 'Tatlong Maria' survived?! Sounds Interesting! And by chance, I'll get able to see Ms. Arceo to act! :))

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Liwayway Arceo? Did she survive the war?

Anonymous said...

thx kuya simon...may movie pa si fpj sr back in the 47 or 48 about the war namana yon...upload ko sa youtube yon...thx din about sa story nitong propaganda ng japanese...hahanapin ko ito even itong liwayway ng kalayaan....

Anonymous said...

Hi sir! I didn't know that the movie "Dawn of Freedom" still exists! I attended it's film showing last friday in UP film institute. Still a great film though biased towards the japanese. Norma Blancaflor is just an extra in this movie. She had very few scenes.


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