(This article is reprinted from the first ever FAP Awards souvenir program which was distributed during the First Film Academy Awards on April 27, 1983 at the Manila Film Center. Mr. Velasco had since passed away after several years of unstinting service in MOWELFUND and the film industry.-JC)
In February, 1981, the movie community buzzed with a new kind of whispered activity: a reported academy build-up was in the air, spurred by Executive Order No. 640-A. Under the Presidential Order, a Filipino Motion Picture Development Board, or FILMBOARD for short, will oversee the industry through four motion picture-related modules. The Film Academy was to be the only autonomous body, distinct from a Film Archives, a Board of Standards and a Film Fund Administrative Body. The singular aim of the Filmboard, as stated, was to “promote and enhance the preservation, growth and development of the motion picture art and science in the Philippines.”
The Film Academy of the Philippines was born. On paper.
SUNDAY, JUNE 14, 1981, HEROES’ HALL MALACAñANG PALACE.
It was a stirring episode in the history of local cinema, a touching scenario which many thought was a near-impossibility. Sampaguita Studio, the assembly point, was car-filled to the most unobtrusive curb. Gawking motorists with what-the-heck-is-going on expression on their faces honked behind a convoy of fourteen Love Buses enroute to The Palace.
At the Malacañang Grounds, a long line of movie workers, superstars and clappers alike, filtered in one by one through poker-faced Presidential Security Guards.
For a historically-fragmented industry wrought with decades of disunity, the hastily-organized mass oath-taking was a first experience together. For the Palace and a visibly surprised, nay impressed, Imelda Romualdez Marcos feeling very much at home and in animated spirits, it was a first witnessing of a nucleus of producers, artists, directors, cameramen, writers, production designers, film editors, music-makers, goons, legmen.
They were all there, 800-strong, filling the Hall to the rafters. Speeches. Speeches and more speeches of support, encouragement, the call for oneness. The True. The Good. The Beautiful. Mrs. Marcos’ remark about replacing the Censors with a Board of Standards (standing ovation, reverberating applause that could be heard across the Pasig River).
Despite the novelty of the experience, the popular reaction from the industry’s old guards was cynical, tongue-in-cheek. After all, they were veterans of countless, sporadic attempts at unity. From the four corners of Sta. Cruz, one could hear such comments as, “Tunay na kaya ito?”, “Baka ningas-cogon na naman!” or “Isang buwan lang, makakalimutan na yan.”
JUNE 30, 1981. The FAP, with the cooperation of MOWELFUND, the Film Fund and Filipinas Movie Foundation held a one-day panorama of Filipino film classics in seven Metro Manila theaters at half the admission price. It was a gift to the public commemorating President Ferdinand Marcos’ inauguration in office.
Things were beginning to shape up. In the ensuing months, the newly-formed Board of Governors met weekly, wrestling with a Constitution and a Code of Ethics. The Film Academy Awards was its first opus, earmarked for March, 1982. The FAMAS issue inevitably surfaced, because the word “academy” was still part of the acronym.The apparent duplication spelled irony. It was suggested that the conflict be resolved through several options, namely: 1) Let the FAMAS continue if they drop the word “academy” from its name, to instead to read “Filipino Award for Movie Arts and Sciences”; 2) Since the FAMAS charter allegedly stated that it would eventually turn over its identity to the industry when the latter was already united and mature, request should be made to the present FAMAS leadership to formally cede its functions to FAP; and 3) to co-exist.
Joseph Estrada was deputized by the Board of Governors to negotiate with FAMAS or the suggested turn-over. Ros Olgado, its president, appeared in the next meeting and requested that they be allowed to hold its last academy awards, after which they will formally turn it over to FAP. The Board accepted the proposal. A week later, the Board felt that as an exercise for future management, it should have a hand in the FAMAS selections. The FAMAS body accepted, but the issue on voting rights created a stalemate because FAP outnumbered FAMAS in terms of membership. Before the conflict was to be re-studied and renegotiated in another session, the FAMAS held a general membership meeting. Ros Olgado reported to the FAP that in the said meeting, the members decided to continue the FAMAS existence and not to turn it over to FAP. The Board of Governors voted to hold its own separate awards in 1982.
SEPTEMBER, 1981. The problem on funding arose, both for the Academy and the operations of each guild. Joseph Estrada pledged the sum of P500,000 as a Development Fund from MOWELFUND. FAP obtained its first release of P100,000 and the guilds, with the exception of PMPPA and IMPIDAP, received P20,000 each.
JANUARY 6, 1982. Maria Kalaw Katigbak, newly-appointed Chairman of the Board of Review for Motion Pictures and Television, attended a meeting of the FAP and the guild members. Her policies on censorship, as relayed to the guilds: “…you allow them to kiss, to embrace, to caress because that’s part of the story. But no naman, eh. They will not only caress, they will not only kiss, they will roll in bed, and roll pa until they are out of bed. Now, I think you have already proved your point that they are lovers, and they are newly-married, tama na. So that, for me…that’s censorship.”
She agreed that the producer or director can be present during the screening, except during deliberation.
FEBRUARY. Executive Order 770 creating an Experimental Cinema of the Philippines pre-empted most of the functions of the Filmboard under E.O. 640-A. Appointed Director General, Ms. Imee Marcos stated that the Film Academy should be supported by the government but should retain its autonomy and independence.
In early May of 1982, the Academy went through a storm of discord that was the offshoot of an unenforced code of ethics. Cases of unprofessionalism erupted and remained unresolved and uncompromised. Thus, a two-day Summit Meeting was held at Hyatt Regency with the aim of brainstorming the code of ethics of each guild. The second day saw the design of systems affecting inter-guild negotiations and working relationships.
The Academy decided to postpone the Academy Awards for the following year, giving priority to its organizational and professional machinery.
On MAY 5, the Board, now dampened with the chain of discord, voted on the fate of the academy awards slated for June 13. The nominations convention was to be on May 10. Three guilds agreed to push through, four thumbed it down. KDPP abstained. The decision to cancel the event bordered on other side issues: 1) Some guild leaders will be out of the country in May, and to postpone the academy awards to August will be too big a gap from the May 10 nominations; 2) There was no reason to continue with the awards in the face of apparent disunity within FAP, and; 3) The awards must continue even if some guilds decided not to join.
On the same day, FAP Director General Manny de Leon announced his intended resignation. Five days later he submitted his letter to Mrs. Marcos, citing ill health as a reason (word has it that when he personally informed the Madame about it, the reply was “What letter…?” That was the Answer).
JULY. The academy is dead…so said the papers.
In AUGUST, the FAP mulled over the plans of an ECP Circuit. Since there were no written positions from ECP, the opposition of FAP to the Circuit would have to be verbally transmitted. The Academy felt that the theater circuit would be detrimental to the interests not only of the producers but it will also threaten the livelihood of many movie workers. SEPTEMBER. Still recoiling from the negative publicity about the FAP’s alleged temporal existence, a Christmas get-together was hatched. The concept of the still unnamed Pakislapan evolved, with each guild presenting a number. Robert Arevalo suggested the name “Pasko ng Pagkabuhay. The Academy Awards scheme was reincarnated, geared for April, 1983.
DECEMBER GLITTER. Recoiling from the negative publicity about the Academy’s reported short-lived endurance, a Christmas Costume Extravaganza was hatched. Now popularly known as PAKISLAPAN, the twelve-member guilds cooked up their individual entertainment numbers starring themselves. The two-hour show, which was televised a week later, proved two things: 1) That the academy was very much alive and more united than ever, and; 2) That the guilds, working together, had all the resources to put up a super-show that became instant legend. It was the whole industry at its best, at its closest, as one big family.
1983, FIRST QUARTER. The LVN Compound was a pulsating center of excitement. It was Nominations Day, February 20. Campaign posters, streamers, handbills, promo tee shirts emblazoned with “For your consideration” slogans. Lunch boxes with campaign inserts. Carlos J. Valdez & Co. auditors beat their brains out till midnight for the tabulation results.
On March 19, the 74 selected nominees were honored through a Recognition Day at the Vera Perez Gardens. Today, April 27 is a shining event in the history of Philippine cinema. We can now say to the world: We have arrived!
EPILOGUE. History must be fair, must be just and must be true. A debt of gratitude is an integral part of history. Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos gave the spark and kept our flame aglow. Marichu Maceda for her selfless dedication, patience, stamina and omnipresence. Joseph Estrada for his sincerity and all-out support through his MOWELFUND. His unorthodox moves. Manny de Leon,the Father, the Dean. His leadership and a lifetime’s dedication. Eddie Romero, Deputy Director General Nick Lizaso, Implementor, live wire. Hero of Pakislapan and Academy Awards. The Governors: Robert Arevalo, Pete Lacaba, Dik Trofeo and Ka Ipe Sacdalan, Ka Basiong Santos and Ka Pilo de Leon, Raul Bagatsing and Remy Monteverde, Dez Bautista, Ka Pinong Cenizal, Tony Dulalia, Nitoy Clemente and Rolly Ruta. Boots Paata.
But most of all: The toast of a lifetime to the movie workers of this generation.