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Tuesday, April 19, 2011


1. "Marcelino" (Champion Pictures/ 1959)---

"Marcelino" (1959)- Stars Oscar Keese, Bert Olivar, Raul Belmonte, Pianing Vidal, Andres Iturbi, Andres Benitez, Arsenio Almonte, Carlos Asensi and Danilo Jurado as Marcelino/ Directed by Roy Padilla

click images to enlarge

The year: 1959---
It was seven in the morning and the office of Champion Pictures was still closed. Outside the door, five-year old Danilo Jurado fidgeted by his father’s side and wondered whether they were doing the right thing. They were there to see what chances Danny had in getting chosen for the title role in Marcelino, Champion’s Lenten picture currently under production.

Roy Padilla, Champion boss and director of the picture which needed a lead star, received father and son. He interviewed Danilo, paying special attention to the child’s facial expressions. The interview over, Roy asked for a picture of the boy which was filed for reference.

Other applicants were interviewed. Yet, as the field of selection grew wider, Roy felt more certain that only Danny, the first applicant by the way, could play the role. No other candidate for the role possessed Danilo’s assets: a delicate complexion, a chiseled nose, big soulful eyes and curly locks which strayed at the forehead. After a few days, Roy declared the search ended and he called for Danilo. The boy was signed up for three years and production of the picture, already long delayed, commenced immediately.

For the studio, the discovery of Danny Jurado meant only one thing, a child for the lead role in Marcelino had been chosen and they could finish the picture in time for the Lenten season. For the boy and his family, however, it meant much more. It was a job, a good-paying job, and a better future. No more pounding of pavements, no more missed meals, no more bruises caused by rough stones on bare feet.

Danilo was a ticket vendor before this good opportunity. So were his parents. He was a ticket vendor as soon as he could walk unaided. Danilo was, to quote the studio PRO, the monkey to his parents’ organ. It was he who enticed the buyers, who made the difference of a few more pesos added to their meager daily income. Danilo’s walking hours were spent in the alleys and sidewalks of Sta. Cruz and Quiapo, at night they would retire to the slums where they lived.

This is Danny Jurado, the boy who has been chosen for the title role in Marcelino, a touching story of a child’s unquestioning faith in his God.

Source: "Big Break for a Boy" by L. de Paz/ Literary Song-Movie Magazine/ March 16, 1959

2. "Pitong Pagsisi (Sampaguita Pictures/ 1959)---

In 1959, Sampaguita Pictures released "Pitong Pagsisisi," as part of their Lenten offering. Dubbed as "the biggest array of stars in the greatest motion picture of all time!" Surely' it's one of the biggest in the history of Philippine movies--- Look at the stars--- Carmen Rosales, Gloria Romero, Paraluman, Rita Gomez, Ric Rodrigo, Lolita Rodriguez, Luis Gonzales, Van de Leon, Amalia Fuentes, Juancho Gutierrez, Susan Roces, Romeo Vasquez, Barbara Perez, Marlene Dauden, Carlos Salazar, Tony Marzan, Tony Cayado, Eddie Garcia, Liberty Ilagan, Eddie Gutierrez...

The movie was based on the story by Ben Gallardo and was serialized on the pages of "Bulaklak' and "Alimyon" magazines.

"Pitong Pagsisisi' (1959)- An All-Star Cast/ Directed by Armando Garces

3. "Sa Hardin ng Diyos" (VP Pictures/ 1960)

Another star-studded movie, "Sa Hardin ng Diyos," was VP Pictures Holy Week Presentation in 1960. The movie, directed by Mar Torres, starred Fred Montilla, Juancho Gutierrez, Amalia Fuentes, Romeo Vasquez, Susan Roces, Tito Galla, Barbara Perez, Eddie Gutierrez, Liberty Ilagan, Lito Legaspi, Meldy Corrales, Boy ALano.

4. "Pitong Kalbaryo ni Inang" (VP Pictures/1962)---

"Pitong Kalbaryo ni Inang" was VP Pictures' Lenten offering in 1962. "The dramatic story of a mother who bore her seven calvaries --- beyond human endurance," says the blurb. The great Rosa Mia, in a heart-wrenching performance, portrayed a loving and martyred mother to her seven children.

"Pitong Kalbaryo ni Inang" (1962)- Stars Amalia Fuentes, Jose Mari, Daisy Romualdez, Jean Lopez, Greg Martin, Lito Legaspi, Eddie Garcia, Naty Santiago, Zeny Zabala, Dindo Fernando and Rosa Mia/ Directed by Jose de Villa

5. "Morena Martir" (VP Pictures/ 1965)---

Loretta Marquez was given top billing in the 1965 movie, "Morena Martir," adapted from the popular DZRH radio serial.

"Morena Martir" (1965)- Stars Luis Gonzales, Edgar Salcedo, Rosa Mia, Zeny Zabala, Vilma Santos, Elizabeth Bankhead and Loretta Marquez in the title role/ with Venchito Galvez, Jose Villafranca, Renato del Prado, Nenita Navarro/ Directed by Jose de Villa

6. "Langit at Lupa" (FPJ Productions/1967)---

FPJ Productions’ Langit at Lupa is a love story salvaged from the chaos of war. It tells the drama between two individuals who meet at a moment when one is about to be married to a vocation.

Ronnie Poe plays the role of a miner in one of Baguio’s mining camps, Susan Roces is a postulant.

In a mining mishap, nuns from a nearby convent rush to rescue the casualties. Raul (Ronnie Poe) meets Veronica (Susan Roces) and from that moment, each knew of the strong attraction between them. But they are cautious and careful not to entertain the feelings because they are aware of the gap between them.

War breaks out and Raul, with his fellow miners, become soldiers, and later guerillas. They camp near their old mine. In one instance, when the Japanese pursue them, Raul and company have no other recourse but to seek refuge in the nearby convent. Veronica and Raul meet again, but the she is about to be committed to Christ.

When Raul and his group leave, Veronica feels and realizes that she will be more happier with Raul. She talks with the mother superior.

After the war, Raul once more returns to the convent, only to find out that most of the nuns detailed that time perished when the Japanese bombed the place.

Did you know that National Artist,the late Fernando Amorsolo, a well-known and famous painter did a portrait of Susan Roces in this movie. The painting was very essential to fully project the dramatic implication of a sequence in the film. The story called for the renowned painter being requested by FPJ, in the role of Raul to do a portrait of a woman he had known in the past but only from his (Ronnie’s) description as he envisioned her from memory. The woman was Susan Roces who portrayed the role of Veronica in the film.

Susan with the Amorsolo painting

7. "Lord Forgive Me" (Sotang Bastos Productions/ 1970)---

Multi-talented ace comedian Chiquito, in a change of pace, tried his hand in drama when he produced and directed "Lord Forgive Me," his Lenten offering in 1970. He even had a role in the said movie topbilled by reel-and-real life partner, Gloria Romero and Juancho Gutierrez.

"Lord Forgive Me" (1970)- Stars Gloria Romero, Juancho Gutierrez plus all-star cast and Chiquito/ Directed by Chiquito

8. "Munting Santa" (1970) and "My Prayer" (1971)/ Tower Productions---

Teen superstar Nora Aunor starred in two 'Lenten' movies: Munting Santa (1970) and My Prayer (1971). Both movies, Holy Week presentations from Tower Productions, were helmed by Artemio Marquez.

"Munting Santa" (1970)- Stars Nora Aunor, Manny De Leon, Angelito Marquez, Berting Labra, Boy Alano/Directed by Artemio Marquez

"My Prayer" (1971)- Stars Nora Aunor, Ricky Belmonte, Amalia Braza, Joseph Sytangco/ Directed by Artemio Marquez

9. "Father Jess" (NGP Film Productuions/ 1973)---

"You cannot love God without loving your fellowmen!" These are the inspiring words of Father Jess, portrayed by veteran character actor J. Eddie Infante. The movie, released in 1973, had a formidable cast headed by Eddie Gutierrez, Boots Anson-Roa and Bert LeRoy Jr.

"Father Jess" (1973)- Stars Eddie Gutierrz, Boots Anson-Roa, Bert LeRoy, Jr., Jingle, Marilou Ver and J. Eddie Infante in the title role/ Directed by Tommy David

10. "Miracle of Love" (GC Films/ 1982)---

This tragic event in 1982 really broke my heart. I’m referring to a very fine, young, beautiful lady who died of leukemia at an early age. You may have probably heard the name of Roxanne Abad Santos. She became an instant celebrity in the early 80s when she appeared in the cover story of Panorama magazine, a supplement of Manila Bulletin, announcing to the world that she was ill and dying. Ugly rumors persisted that time that it was not that serious, because she was able to do a movie with then current heartthrob, Gabby Concepcion. Her illness was all publicity, they say. Even the Concepcions, under GC Films, who produced the movie, were not spared in the controversy. Critics charged that the Concepcions were using Roxanne’s illness to promote and eventually secure the success of the film. But whatever the intention, Roxanne left us a wonderful movie titled Miracle of Love.

Shot mostly in Frankfurt, Germany and Venice, Italy, the movie featured Gabriel, played by Gabby, who left for Europe to mend a broken heart. He parted ways with Snooky, who was vowed by her parents to the monastery life. He met Roxanne, which he later found out that she was ill and suffering from leukemia. Gabriel was with Roxanne during her difficult times. In the end, Gabriel was reunited with Snooky. So what happened to Roxanne? Roxanne did not die in the movie though. She became a nun. It had a happy ending!

Unfortunately, Roxanne passed away before she could even watch the movie. Miracle of Love was her first and last starring role.

11. "Himala" (ECP/ 1982)---

Hailed by fans and critics as Nora Aunor's finest movie and one of Direk Ishmael Bernal's best work. But for this film, Nora received only one Best Actress Award, from the MMFF (Metro Manila Film Festival), and one nomination from the FAP (Film Academy of the Philippines). A decade later, the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino included Himala in its list of the 10 Best films of the decade (1980-89).

Himala (1982)

Himala Revisited
by Arnel Resma Ramos

Watching Ishmael Bernal's landmark film Himala on a lethargic afternoon is like revisiting an old familiar haunt. It brings back memories of a cherished time when locally manufactured movies made one ponder and contemplate, think and analyze.

We were but a boy in knee pants, starry-eyed and unsophisticated, when we first saw this meditative piece on faith and the evils that it brings forth when used for the wrong reasons. The year was 1982, exactly two decades ago, and we well remember being enthralled by the sheer force of its powerful images and quietly devastating performances. We are one of the blessed few who own a video tape copy of the film that has remained, through the years, Nora Aunor's signature film. The pint-sized superstar delivered a miracle of a performance as Elsa, the false visionary. Perhaps, the finest performance by a Filipino actor ever recorded on celluloid. If the diminutive multimedia luminary ever decides to leave the movies for good, Himala is enough reason to guarantee her of immortality.

Set in a far-flung barrio, a lowly, plain looking lass claims that the Virgin Mary appeared before her during an eclipse. She becomes a faith healer and almost overnight the sleepy town transforms into a bustling community. Pilgrims and tourists troop to Barrio Cupang out of curiosity while the sick flock to the once-cursed place with the hope that the miracle will heal them. Among the people who gravitate around Elsa are her two fanatic followers: a childhood friend named Chayong, almost saintly in countenance, and a poor woman (played with serene intensity by theater stalwart Amable Quiambao) who places her devotion to Elsa on top of her priority list. Two other important characters come within Elsa's orbit: a struggling documentary film director who treats his camera as his God and a downtrodden prostitute (performed to perfection by Gigi Duenas).

Eventually, the miracle brings out the worst in the townsfolk. The greedy use it for their selfish motives. They peddle Elsa's miracle like a commodity, to the extent of selling bottles of supposedly miraculous water. The politicians take advantage of the media mileage to further their hidden agenda. The dire poverty drives the women to prostitution and the men to committing crime to escape their miserable plight.

Then one day, Elsa loses her power to cure. The faithful Chayong takes her own life and once more Barrio Cupang goes back to being barren and seemingly God-forsaken. There is an interesting twist as to why this happens. I choose not to reveal it so as not to spoil your viewing pleasure, if and when you come across a copy of this film and like me, be held captive by its hypnotic quality. I dare say that Himala is far more spiritual than the countless movies inspired by the lives of saints.

The film concludes in a scene where Elsa, following the rain that has come to Barrio Cupang after a long drought, gathers her believers in the sand dunes and announces, to everyone's shock, that indeed the miracle is nothing but a hoax. It is in this scene where Nora delivers the iconic lines "Walang himala, ang himala ay nasa ating puso (There is no miracle, the miracle is in our hearts)." Right after the startling revelation, Elsa is gunned down and pandemonium breaks out.

The film is not the typical fare that the average Filipino moviegoer laps up with glee. There are no violent confrontation scenes. Missing too is the element of sex. But the film is unerring in its depiction of the grim consequences when people use faith to advance themselves. From the first scene to the last, Bernal never loses grip on his material, imbuing it with directorial touches that may go unnoticed by undiscerning viewers. They may find the film too passive and gloomy. Bernal executes the film according to his grand design. The cinematography and the editing are laudable.

Ricky Lee's script is deft and soulful. Some quarters complain that the main problem with the script is the underwritten part of the central character Elsa. We feel that the role was decidedly underwritten to make the part properly enigmatic and mystical, in keeping with the elusive quality of the film. After all, faith is a very personal matter. It is not something that one slaps right in the face of others.

Then until now, we believe that Nora Aunor should have swept all the best actress awards for that particular year. She was pitted against Vilma Santos' heartfelt portrayal of the mistress in Relasyon and the latter scored a grandslam. This is not to belittle Santos' portrayal but if one were to be objective, it would be easy to see that Aunor had the more complex role and only an actress of her caliber can pull off the part with much persuasion. It calls for a restrained, self-effacing acting style. And Aunor, the consummate actress that she was (take note that we used the past tense because the more recent film outings of the actress are far from her best. She has become very florid, like a bad version of a hysterical Charito Solis), strikes not a false note in her performance. It is, in one word, mesmerizing. And Himala is without a scintilla of a doubt the pinnacle of her cinematic achievements.

Films like Himala reaffirm our faith in Philippine movies. We hope that despite the fact that two of our most revered directors, Bernal and Lino Brocka, have long since gone to the great beyond, people in this well-loved industry will join hands and strive to come up with films that will herald a renaissance in Philippine cinema. We hope to see the day when the Philippines will finally be able to make it as a nominee in the Oscar Best Foreign Language Film category. Some cynics may say that it is wishful thinking but call us what you wish, we remain undaunted in our belief that Philippine Cinema is at par with the best of the world. see link

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