(First of two parts of an article which is reprinted from the 2005 Luna Awards souvenir program)
The 23 rd Film Academy of the Philippines awards will be memorable if only for two things. One, the academy’s statuette has finally been baptized with a name…Luna. And two, the much-coveted lifetime achievement award has been renamed as the Fernando Poe Jr. lifetime achievement award as a fitting tribute to the late and irreplaceable King of Philippine movies.
During a board of governors meeting on February 23, 2005, the academy unanimously decided to rename the most prestigious award the FAP can grant to “an individual whose body of work has elevated the standards of excellence in their respective craft in local filmmaking and has contributed invaluably to the progress of the local movie industry”.
Before that well-taken move by the BOG, the FAP lifetime achievement award has been extended to 35 film craftsmen and industry leaders, as well as innovators, in 19 years, beginning with the first ever award in 1983.
In 1985, the most number of awardees, totalling five, were honored, followed by three awardees in 1986.
In the first three years of the FAP lifetime achievement award, there were already nine film craftsmen and technical wizards recognized by the FAP. This article renders tribute to these magnificent nine who are now retroactively winners in their own rights of the Fernando Poe Jr. lifetime achievement award.
The distinction of receiving the first life achievement award belonged to now departed Director Gerardo de Leon, our first national artist for film who was the lone honoree in 1983. It was understandable why Manong (as the director was fondly called) was the choice to be the first among his peers to add such an award to his shelf of trophies. His brilliant body of work included memorable film masterpieces like Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo, Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, Ifugao, among others.
To be in the vanguard of his eight co-awardees would surely make Manong proud and impressed about their contributions to Philippine cinema.
The following capsulized write-ups of the other eight lifetime achievers are hereby reprinted from the previous souvenir programs of the FAP awards.
LUIS NOLASCO, writer/producer/director
Luis Nolasco became, at the age of 14, a renowned writer in Spanish, winning prizes in poetry and playwriting. He wrote and published two novels in Spanish, El Calvario and Mujer , and a volume of poems in Spanish, Catarata de Ensuenos.
He organized the Nolasco Bros. Pictures, Inc. in the latter part of 1941. He started shooting Ginoong Patay Gutom when the war broke out and resumed filming after Liberation. His second picture, Fort Santiago , a super production, broke all box-office records in the history of local movies then when it ran continuously for 34 days.
Gifted with an intuition in discovering future stars from a crowd of bit players and extras, he discovered such stars as Vida Florante, Leila Morena, Norma Blancaflor, Rosa Rosal, Ernesto La Guardia and Rodolfo Ruiz.
Nolasco started out in the movies as publicity manager for Jose Nepomuceno’s silent pictures. He helped in the formation of Sampaguita Pictures in 1937 and became its first production and publicity manager.
MANUEL SILOS, director
Manuel Silos’ career spanned decades. As an actor, he was known as Sano, the comedian with the moving and rolling eyes. In 1927, he wrote and directed The Three Tramps , a short silent comedy wherein he played the part of the tramp.
In The Three Tramps , he worked with his three brothers—Cesar as cameraman, Octavio as labman, and Augusto as a co-actor. When Banahaw Pictures was formed in 1930, Silos became its first director. One of the pictures he directed for the movie company (which was the last to produce silent pictures) was Mystery of the Convent , starring Naty Fernandez and Eduardo de Castro.
He directed Mag-inang Mahirap , his first talking picture, for Filippine Films when it was organized in 1934. He also worked for Sampaguita Pictures until the war. Since Liberation, he was with LVN Pictures where he came up with his version of the zoom lens which he called Synchro lens, the first to be used in local failmmaking.
He was doing Victory Joe for LVN in 1946 and he saw the effect of cameraman Mike Accion’s technique of taking a close-up shot and following it with a focus on the background. The picture seemed to jump so he decided to smooth it out with his Synchro lens.
An inventor at heart, Silos conceived the Siloscope, a lens that held four frames together in one screen. In 1955, he directed Biyaya ng Lupa which is considered one of Asia’s classic films of the period.
RICHARD ABELARDO, director/special effects
Richard Abelardo is considered Philippine moviedom’s camera wizard. In 1923, he left for the US where he stayed for 10 years, learning about camera tricks and musical productions, working for Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., MGM, Paramount Pictures, United Artists and with Charlie Chaplin.
He went back to the Philippines in 1934 and became the country’s foremost camera artist. Among the outstanding trickeries he conceived were in Tungkod ni Moises , wherein he created the illusion of dividing the sea before Cecille B. de Mille parted the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments . In Adarna , he created the illusion of a pygmy on the palm of a giant who moves and raises his palm with the pygmy on it.
In 1946, he was movie director for Palaris Films of Fernando Poe, Sr. He made Malikmat a for X’Otic which earned him the title of local movies’ camera wizard.
Other films which showed off his talents were: Haring Cobra, El Diablo, Prinsesang Basahan, Mutya ng Pasig, Nuno sa Punso and Shalimar.
TOTOY TORRENTE, special effects
In 1929, as a boy, Totoy Torrente ran away from home and joined a circus troupe. He started out as a water boy and then a clown who performed on the flying trapeze and always ended bouncing funnily on the safety net. He spent six years with the circus.
In 1935, he became a comedian on the stage of Cine Star on Azcarraga street (now C.M. Recto Avenue). He and Totoy Rosales replaced Pugo and Togo when they transferred to another stage show.
Totoy Torrente was the founder of the TNT stuntmen’s organization. He was multi-talented—an actor, master of make-up, costume and props, and creator of special effects for action films.
Torrente began his career as a special effects man when he appeared as an extra in 1938 in Sakay , the first directorial job of Lamberto Avellana. Totoy could create thunders and lightnings, make objects appear and disappear, convert ordinary mortals into giants and ogres, make people fly, rig bomb explosions, explode artillery shells, let advancing tanks ramble, ricochet bullets, make bridges crumble, simulate burning cities and camps.
Among the outstanding films wherein he performed his tricks were: Cry Freedom, Sunset over Corregidor, Isang Dakot ng Bigas and Krus na Kawayan.
He lent his specialty to the following Hollywood films : Surrender Hell, Huk, Blackburns’ Guerillas and Marco Polo.
(To be continued)