In my younger years, my three brothers and I were well aware of Philippine movies for the simple reason that my mother was an avid movie fan. Despite the meager finances, my mother would bring, at least, two of her sons to the movies every month.
Our Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a trip to downtown Manila for a movie. For us kids, buying candies in the rolling conveyor tray of Good Earth Emporium was a delight. And for my mother, the roasted chestnut in Sta. Cruz was her favorite.
When I entered a Catholic high school, life became serious for me. Studies filled my days and nights such that I slowly got alienated with enter-tainment. I remember watching only one TV show—Wild, Wild West every Monday night.
Like any normal teenager, I also had my barkada. The street-corner basketball court gave me more reason to be detached from the movies. But I was aware of the bakya crowd that was prevalent at the time.
One fine day, a close friend asked me to accompany him to the movies. Seeing that his pocket was loaded, I agreed without hesitation. Empire Theater was the only first-run moviehouse in Mandaluyong at the time.
Upon entering the theater, I noticed that there were a lot of schoolgirls in their uniform. Then I heard a familiar voice coupled with a man’s voice. I was quite shocked to realize that I was seeing Nora Aunor and Manny De Leon on the screen.
To appease myself, I stood near the theater entrance to mock the incoming schoolgirls. “Ang babakya nyo,” I said in a sarcastic tone. Honestly, I couldn’t remember even the title of that movie.
Sometimes my mother would wonder why I had that abhorrence for the local movies. Come to think of it, Eva Vivar, a contemporary of Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos had been my classmate in the public elementary school.
There was the sister of Deborah Sun who became the girlfriend of my high school chum. I was friends with the brother of Ruby Anna who was born and raised in our neighborhood. Aga Muhlach was a chubby boy when they lived near our place.
With the macho image I was trying to project, I couldn’t digest the idea of watching a local movie particularly the sing and dance films, the so-called bakya movies. But mind you, I have nothing personal against the movie stars of that period.
After that traumatic experience in Empire Theater, I happened to be invited by a friend to join his family. In their car, off we went to Quad Theater in Makati to watch The Day of the Dolphins. Obviously it was an English movie and about espionage.
When disco fever hit the country, I was deep in my studies in IBM (International Business Machines) and eventually landed as a computer programmer trainee in a bank. There, I had a controlled social life until girl fever hit me.
I had my first movie date with my girlfriend in Rizal Theater in Makati. Perhaps I was too occupied that I forgot to take note of the title. But the English movie was about an elephant’s life. So much for a romantic date,
Years passed and a new girlfriend dropped by the office. She was with her friend who was a model and whose American boyfriend just arrived. You can guess that we were to watch a movie.
It was a Saturday afternoon date. The four of us took a taxi to Magallanes Theater, another moviehouse in Makati. I was pretty sure that the movie would be exciting this time and probably would suit my taste. Take note, there was the American boyfriend.
When we entered the theater, I was greeted with a scene showing a bare bottom – buttocks. I didn’t know how to react because it was not appropriate for Magallanes Theater to be showing a bomba (bold) movie.
And then slowly, the buttocks separated to show the bald heads of Pugo and Tito Varela. I was stopped on my tracks, hoping it was just a trailer. But it happened to be not a trailer at all. It was the movie that was showing.
Kaming Matatapang ang Apog. That was the title that I couldn’t even pronounce due to embarrassment. And if you ask me why it was traumatic to me, it was because that movie was another Nora Aunor starrer. Dolphy was her co-star.
Having realized that I was in bad company, I broke up with my girlfriend and resumed my quiet life. And for my entertainment, I had the science fiction books and Readers’ Digest.
The years passed and a lot of changes happened. I went abroad twice and changed jobs three times. All the while, I stayed away from the movie-houses. But on second thought, I remember watching one film during the MIFF (Manila International Film Festival).
In the days of the internet, I joined SGP (Screenwriters Guild of the Philippines). A few months after, I was invited to be a FAP Citer but I declined. When I was named a FAP Voter, I couldn’t refuse due to the insistence of the guild’s president.
A Citer is a representative of the guild to evaluate all the movies shown in the past year. After coming up with a shortlist, it will be passed on to the Nominator. The Voter would be watching all the nominated films and later on would vote for the best.
That’s the irony of life. For the past three years, I had been a Citer and a Voter of the Film Academy’s Luna Awards. I’m still that guy who doesn’t relish watching a local movie although that macho image had faded a long time ago.
And with my present situation, you can guess that my mother was laughing at my fate. By the way, my mother, the biggest movie fan in the family, passed away last year.
I regret to think that I was not able to ask her one thing. Who was the best in her list, was it Nora or was it Vilma? But there’s a probablity that she would say Perla Adea.
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