The Film Academy of the Philippines will hold the 30th version of its Luna Awards this year. Once more, the Academy will grant its most prestigious award—the lifetime achievement award which was renamed starting in 2005 as the Fernando Poe Jr. lifetime achievement award as a fitting tribute to the late and irreplaceable King of Philippine movies.
Before the year 2005, the FAP lifetime achievement award was bestowed on 35 film craftsmen and industry leaders, as well as innovators, in 19 years, beginning with the first ever award in 1983.
This may be the best of time to look back.
In the first three years of the FAP lifetime achievement award, there were already nine film craftsmen and technical wizards recognized by the FAP.
The distinction of receiving the first life achievement award belonged to 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.
Capsulized write-ups of the other early lifetime achievers are as follows:
LUIS NOLASCO, writer/producer/director
Luis Nolasco 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.
He discovered such stars as Vida Florante, Leila Morena, Norma Blancaflor, Rosa Rosal, Ernesto La Guardia and Rodolfo Ruiz and 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.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 filmmaking. He 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 Malikmata for X’Otic which earned him the title of local movies’ camera wizard.
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.
CONSUELO P. ‘ATENG’ OSORIO, writer/director
She came from the distinguished Padilla clan of local movies and carved out an illustrious career as a pioneer writer-director.
Actually, she started out as an actress. Her first picture was Asahar at Kabaong where she appeared as the mother of her real life brother Jose Padilla Jr. But it was in scriptwriting where Ateng proved her mettle. Her first script was Ang Magmamani. It was inevitable that a good scriptwriter like her would shift to directing easily. Her first directorial assignment was Dalagang Luksa. Actually, this picture was the assignment of Ateng’s brother, Carlos Padilla Sr. But Leleng, as he was called, had a feud with the producer. However, in order not to prejudice the project, Leleng requested the producer to have Ateng finish the film as director. As such, Ateng Osorio, the writer- director, was born.
Ateng, as a director, had many firsts. Among these were: she directed the first cowboy film in the Philippines, Ngipin sa Ngipin; she was also the first woman-director in local movies to direct a war epic, Halik sa Bandila.
JUAN SILOS JR., composer
At the age of 16, Juan Silos Jr. could already played the bass for the Manila Chamber of Music under Prof. B. Abdon. He earned his musical degree cum laude at the Ateneo de Manila. At the age of 18, although working full time as a bookkeeper of the Nasser & Co., he resolved to dedicate his time and efforts to composing music as this was foremost in his heart.
As a composer, Silos had a total of 163 musical compositions, mostly published and recorded by Villar Recording Co. Some of his well-known compositions were Waray-Waray. Galawgaw, Saydwok Bendor, Darling Ko, Giliw Ko and Peksman.
As an instrumentalist, he beame a close acquiantance of no less than the world’s greatest guitarist, Andres Segovia, in the late 1920s. He was also a music professor and rondalla instructor in at least 17 colleges and universities.
WILLIAM A. P. SMITH, sound and color technology
The contribution of William A.P. Smith to the local movie industry falls under the field of motion picture sound and color technology. He was
a manufacturer of sound recording machines. Significantly, Smith pioneered in the technical implementation of both sound and color in local movies during the virginal days of Philippime cinema. In 1932, he recorded the first sound motion picture in the Philippines, Ang Aswang, for Manila Talkaton Pictures.
When movie sound was still in its infancy, he provided the expertise and technical know-how to major companies like Filippine Films (1934), Parlatone (1935) and Sampaguita Pictures (1937), for which he manufactured new sound equipment. He must be credited for the sound of many early pictures from 1933 onwards.
He produced the first Filipino full-length color picture, Si Malakas at si Maganda, which was made in Hollywood. It was shot in Ansco color on 16 mm film in 1947. He worked on Battalion XIII, the first Filipino color picture to be shown to the public.
In the 1950s, the LVN color lab was considered to be the best in the Far East and due credit must go to Smith for having set it up. He pioneered in the reduction of local films from the 35 mm format to 16 mm, thru his own company, the Smith Sound System Laboratories.
MARY WALTER, actress
Mary Walter joined the movies in 1928 at the age of 15. Since then, she had played a variety of roles ranging from a blushing bride to an anxious mother to a domineering grandmother, often playing the role of a woman of great strength and character. She thrived on the kontrabida role. Mary was the first aswang in Philippine movies, who played the role in Manananggal.
Discovered by the late Jose Nepomuceno, her first movie in a starring role was Lumang Simbahan, directed by Gregorio Fernandez. She made over 250 movies. She was one, if not the last, of the few actresses who made the transition from silent movies to the talkies. Mary said old age is not an impediment to her profession. As she put it: “I don’t mind being old. It comes to everyone. I have been playing mamas or grandmas since the start. I just love character roles. I feel young…”
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