Jul 21
REFLECTIONS:TWENTY THREE YEARS AGO by Jose N. Carreon  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, Jul 21, 2006

I just heard a few hours before uploading this week’s website articles that the Screenwriters’ Guild of the Philippines is scheduled to hold a general assembly meeting on Friday next week, July 28, at the FAP office at the OctoArts building on Panay Avenue.

Trying to beat the deadline to write a short release on the SGP general assembly, I tried to get some bits and pieces but the most I can come up with is that the assembly is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. That and nothing more.

SGP is an organization that is really close to this writer’s heart. In 1977, I began my career in Filipino filmmaking as a scriptwriter. There was still no SGP then.

It was eleven years later that I tried my hands in directing films. I am deeply indebted to three persons for my giant career leap. Mother Lily of Regal Films gave me the green light to direct my first film with the prodding of Ms. Charo Santos-Concio who was working as Mother’s line producer then. The third person I really had to thank was Rudy Fernandez who was the lead star of the first film I ever directed, Sandakot na Bala under Regal Films.

But this is getting ahead of the story. And our story is the birth of the SGP. The guild was among the first to be organized in anticipation of the creation of the Film Academy of the Philippines by then President Marcos through an executive order.

I got hold of the original by-laws of the SGP just hours before I wrote this piece. It sets the date for the approval and ratification of the by-laws on June 5, 1983, during a meeting of the original SGP members at the now defunct MagnaTech Omni Studios on Scout Borromeo St.

But I clearly remember that as early as 1982, we were already laying the ground work for the organization of our guild. We had been holding meetings in various places, including the residence of Marina Feleo-Gonzales (whom we thought will become the first president of the guild), the White House (a bungalow just across MagnaTech which is now owned by Senator Lito Lapid after Mother Lily gave it to him as payment for several films he made for Regal Films), even the Ihaw-Balot Plaza (also just across MagnaTech which is still thriving up to this day).

The organization of SGP had the perfect timing, we all believed then. For the end of the 1970s saw an influx of literary and journalistic writers barging into the glamorous field of writing scripts for movies. Thus, the SGP founding members included short story writers, poets, playwrights, novelists and essayists writing in English and Pilipino.

Among them were Pete Lacaba, who became the first president of the SGP, Jorge Arago, the writer of the classic Nunal sa Tubig of Ishmael Bernal, Edgardo Reyes (author of Maynila…sa Kuko ng Liwanag), Clodualdo del Mundo (who wrote the screenplay of Maynila), Nestor Torre, Ricky Lee, Mauro Ghia. Samonte, the brothers Abbo and Uro de la Cruz, Jose Dalisay, Rene Villanueva, Domingo Landicho, among others.

On the distaff side, there were Marina, Racquel Villavicencio, Baby Nebrida, Lualhati Bautista, among others.

During the SGP’s 23 years, there had been eight presidents. After Pete, the late Tony Mortel became the longest-serving SGP head. He was followed by Diego Cagahastian, then and now still with the Manila Daily Bulletin, Jojo Lapus (who is now staying in his farm in Lipa City), Senen Dimaguila who became a scriptwriter as a Fernando Poe Jr. scriptwriting fellow, Ricky Lee, Buddy Palad, and the present SGP president, the comics novelist Pablo S. Gomez.

As far as I can remember, there were three SGP offices where we really stayed for long. The office at the old building of the LVN compound which was demolished to the ground. The office at the ground floor of an apartment along Tuazon street which was just a five-minute walk from the former LVN office, and its present address–a cubicle at the FAP office at the OctoArts building on Panay avenue.

The SGP had gone through its good times. During the tenure of Tony Mortel, even the Censors Board was cooperating with the guild on matters of movie titles and storylines. There was a time when the censors board would not review or rate a film if its title and storyline were not duly registered with the guild.

When the Film Academy of the Philippines printed its own periodical, the editorial staff of the FAP organ was fully loaded with SGP officers and members.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the SGP was there when the industry was churning out 180 to 200 local films in a year. You can appreciate these figures if you consider that the total number of films shown last year barely exceeded 60.

Christmas Day parties for the SGP was something devoutly wished. The annual gatherings, most often held at Mowelfund, were literally swamped with members and their families.

Those were the good times. And in the back of every SGP member’s mind, there is still that faint hope that good times have a way of coming back to complete a cycle.

For the time being, let us all meet at our general assemblies, our little Christmas gatherings. The SGP survives through thick and thin. We just stay together before the good times come roaring back. See you next Friday.