Farewell…Eboy (for Eboy Jovida)


(for Eboy Jovida)

By Apolinario Villalobos


In this world you’ve ceased to live

But in our heart and mind

You shall linger with a smile –

And, it shall never fade in time.


You’ve tried to be the best you could –

Husband, father… friend

In songs you have crooned

Even the calm you well feigned.


Farewell…to the best father, farewell!

Friend, you’re a delight

Ride on the glory of our love

As you journey towards that Light!

Eboy Jovida




The Exploited Scriptwriters of the Film Industry

The Exploited Scriptwriters

of the Film Industry

by Apolinario Villalobos


Every time award-winning films catch the limelight, quotes are heard from those who have seen the movies, to show that they were first-hand witnesses of such eventful showing. It is true that actors play a vital role in the garnering of awards, but without the appropriate and catchy dialogues and dramatic cinematography, the whole movie would be nothing. There is no question with the director who is considered as the life-giver of the film. Unfortunately, while the actors who mumble the phrases are praised no end, the scriptwriter who squeezed his or her brains to be able to come up with juicy lines, is neglected, just like the rest of the essential members of the “working group”.


Remove the scripts and a movie will be back to the former “glorious” silence and subtitled past of the industry. What is sad is that, the scriptwriters are among the lowest paid workers in the filmmaking industry. As if the abuse is not enough, some directors have the habit of practically “shredding” the lines according to his or the actors’ whim. One scriptwriter friend told me that his script was 70% redone, but thankful that the title was not changed.


Sleepless nights are spent to complete a script to suit a story line. Continuity is a very important factor to maintain the flow of the story. A single inappropriate word can spoil a whole script. And, some scriptwriters still had to consult references, especially, if the material is historical just like the “General Luna”. As much as possible, the scriptwriter has to be around while filming is going on, for whatever necessary changes that have to be made on the spot and pronto!


If a script is being sold, during the transaction, there is so much haggling that as much as 30% is lost from the original price, and the worst thing that could happen is when the whole script is redone including the title and a new name appears in the byline.


Those are the sacrifices of the scriptwriter…neglected and underpaid. Just like the rest of artists, a scriptwriter who does not know how to handle his earnings can die a pauper.


Understanding the Filipino Beyond his Penchant for Music and Beauty

Understanding the Filipino

Beyond his Penchant for Music and Beauty

By Apolinario Villalobos


According to Osang, the Filipina winner of The Netherland’s first X Factor, Filipinos will no longer be allowed to join singing contests in that country. It could just be a joke of Osang as Filipinos are also known for cracking jokes to spice up interviews. In the field of music, Filipinos are practically known the world over. Many may not be so lucky to garner the title, but still, they can give anxiety to other contestants. A youtube I viewed last year, showed an American telling his viewers, “if you want to hear real singers, go to the Philippines…”. It seems that the Filipino when brought into this world, instead of a pitiful cry, he instead, let out a melodious scream.


But the Filipino is more than the musical notes…more than the instruments that he can play. The Filipino in whose veins flow various culture, is first and foremost, God-fearing. Be he a Christian or an Islam adherent, the Filipino’s life revolves around the Most Benevolent. Aside from Roman Catholics that comprise the majority of the population, the Orthodox Catholics, Western-based Christian sects, indigenous Aglipayan and Iglesia ni Kristo, as well as, the typical Filipino Islamic faith, have successfully amalgamated to form a very strong spiritual foundation on which the Filipino proudly stands.


Many international beauty titlists are married to Filipinos. Among the most notable is Ms. Armi Kuusela, an early Miss Universe titlist and married to the scion of the prominent Hilario family. When the beauty pageants started many years ago, the Filipina contestant aside from the representative of Thailand are always anticipated to land at least, on the top ten. During the latter years, the Filipina representative persisted, showing her best in the face of stiff rivalry posed by the Latin American beauties. And, just like in international singing competitions, the Philippine representative in several beauty contests that have mushroomed lately always leaves an impressive mark.


The Filipino has always been known as “pliant like a bamboo”, a survivor in the right sense of the word. The more than four centuries of Hispanic subjugation followed by those of the short-lived American and Japanese, did not break the Filipino spirit. Although, there was fierce resistance, the Filipino easily swayed with the onslaught of the colonial misfortunes, and fed on the cultural nutrients that they brought. With their passing, the Filipino twanged back to his upright posture – with unblemished and fully intact pride!


As a survivor, the Filipino is resourceful. For instance, the two-day old almost molded boiled rice, he can prepare into a delicious snack called, “winilig-wilig pop rice”, after thoroughly washing the almost spoiled precious staple, dried under the sun and fried in coconut oil with sprinkling of brown sugar. Out of the discarded foods from restaurants, called “pagpag”, he can prepare thoroughly-cooked dishes, of course, after equally, thorough washing…although, the sanitation and health agencies do not allow this, for the record. But rather than die of hunger with a gaping mouth and glassy stare, or allow his guts to be punctured by acidic intestinal fluid, the Filipino can courageously take this last resort! If other nationalities can eat deadly scorpion, drink blood of the cobra, and swallow live wriggling baby octopus, why can’t the Filipino partake of left-over food cooked thoroughly?


The young Filipino could cross a swinging bamboo bridge, or swim across a swirling river to attend his classes, in a school, several hills away from his home. He can walk kilometers of distance under the scorching beating of the sun just to occupy his seat in a crowded classroom, or study his lessons under a tree while his stomach grumbles for having nothing, not even a sip of coffee for breakfast. For the duration of his school year, he can also wear the same white shirt and a pair of khaki pants that he immediately washes as soon as he reaches home. He can mumble a thankful prayer for a half-cup of burnt rice salvaged from the bottom of the pot, drenched with a little water and sprinkled with salt.


Part of the Filipino’s discipline is the caution from his parents to behave and show his best self when there are visitors, as well as, clean the house very well, so as not to displease them. This he does with utmost obedience. And, additionally, to always give the visitors the best part of the chicken when they are invited over for dinner. All these the Filipino does as he is used to sacrificing for others.


The Filipino is a practical human being, as he is willing to accept what is realistically on hand. He does not vie for what is impossible because he is easily pleased. He has an easy smile and with an ever-ready hearty laughter for anything funny, even if it pertains to him, though, with limitation that borders on respect.


The Filipino loves food! There is only the problem with identity because many preparations are tagged with foreign names, especially, Hispanic. Nevertheless, they are concocted with ultimate patience and diligence inherited from his ancestors. This love for food can be observed during fiestas and other special occasions such as Christmas, birthday, baptismal, and wedding parties, or even last dinner for a wake.


Understanding the Filipino beyond his love for music and beauty, will make one appreciate how this guy who belongs to the brown race has survived the waves of corruption that besets his country!


The Metropolitan Theater of Manila…a showcase of grave neglect

The Metropolitan Theater of Manila
…a showcase of grave neglect
By Apolinario Villalobos

The Metropolitan Theater of Manila has stood for decades as the symbol of the country’s rich cultural heritage. Even during the Japanese occupation, it persisted in operating, and was even used as a front for the underground movement that raised funds for the prisoners of war. During the time of Ferdinand Marcos, it was rehabilitated, and once more, became the venue of classic stage plays and operas, along with the newly-built Cultural Center of the Philippines. Unfortunately, when he was deposed, administrations that took over, utterly neglected the important cultural edifice.

Today, the theater is in such a forlorn state – dilapidated, with tiles peeling off, gardens left to the mercy of grasses, the galleries and lounges thick with dust, and walls feasted on by termites.

Ironically, just behind the theater is the Universidad de Manila that can possibly use it as an auditorium for their social activities. A few steps from the university is the Manila City Hall. And, still a few steps away is a mini-park that used to be called Mehan Garden, now full of overnight staying vagrants. A little further away is the National Museum. Across the street, on the other side of Taft Avenue is the Intramuros, while the famous Post Office, another important landmark of Manila stands, with its imposing fountain.

How can the city government of Manila and the Department of Tourist neglect such cornucopia of historic and touristic landmarks with its own cultural centerpiece, the Metropolitan Theater? How can they miss the stinking and deteriorating Metropolitan Theater that has become a sore thumb at the heart of the city? How can the city officials look far and beyond what needs immediate rehabilitation? The city officials talk about the eternal traffic which has no remedy in sight, as a publicity stunt. They talk about sanitation when just around the City Hall, corners stink with urine and human waste. The cluster of landmarks that should serve as the centerpiece of the city’s touristic showcase, and which is just a few steps from the City Mayor’s office is left to the mercy of negligence.

As an unsolicited suggestion, why not turnover the Metropolitan Theater to the Universidad de Manila for their administration and make it self-liquidating? Part of the rehab program could be the re-opening its office spaces to generate revenue. Schools can be encouraged to make use of the theater for their stage plays and other scholastic activities at minimal cost. Even assistance from international NGOs that advocate culture-related projects can be sought.

Unless something is done for the Metropolitan Theater of Manila, the unthinkable negligence can add up to the mounting culpabilities of both the Manila city government and the Department of Tourism.

Manila Metropolitan Theater

Manila Metropolitan Theater
…its history and story of neglect
By Apolinario Villalobos

A country without a cultural landmark is just like a basket that can’t hold water. Nothing is left to stand for the past, be it significant or not. Events just happen and forgotten, and for this, the people’s culture suffers. Many countries, though how small they are, have won the respect of powerful ones because of their rich past, made tangible by whatever remains.

The Philippine’s rich past has made its people look for an outlet which took form in plays, songs, poems, paintings, sculpture and other artistic expressions. The admixture of the eastern and western influences, have surfaced in all these expressions. Foreign influences which left their respective sediments in the country nourished cultures which are distinctly different from each other. These are however, consolidated by the Filipinos in a compromising effort to have just one that could be identified with them.

That was the benevolent intent which was magnified during the administration of Ferdinand Marcos. The Metropolitan theater was then, beginning to gain momentum in its effort for revival, as plays and concerts were again held, but unfortunately cut short when the feisty president was deposed.

Despite its sorry state today, it is important that Filipinos know how such neglected important edifice came to be.

The Metropolitan Theater that sprung up on an area of 8,293.58 square meters at Liwasang Bonifacio (formerly, Lawton plaza), embodies the several periods that saw the metamorphosis of the country. The unpretentious environment in which the expressionistic framework of the theater took shape is just a stone’s throw from the Bonifacio monument that stands witness to rallies of disgruntled students and workers. It is also a few steps from Mehan Garden, once a popular recluse of Manilans on weekends.

Its colorful and massive façade reflects its mute desire to stand firm and solid despite the challenges posed by turbulent years that rocked its structure more than five decades ago. The month of February in 1945 saw the crumbling of its roof as a result of bombings and shelling by the Allied Forces during the liberation of Manila from the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. Its walls however, withstood the barrage of both the allies’ and enemy’s fires.

But the theater’s story before the dark years of WWII was something else. It was full of struggle and challenges that just strengthened its foundation. In 1924, with an appeal from Mayor Earnshaw, an area of 8,293.58 square meters was leased by the government of Manila to the Metropolitan Theater Company, represented by Horace Pond, Antonio Milian, Leopoldo Khan, Manuel Camus, Enrique Zobel and Rafael Palma. The land then was used as a flower market of Mehan Garden. It was an untrimmed and not so pleasantly landscaped area that gave way to the theater.
The concerted effort of various communities of Manila that comprised of Americans, Chinese, Spanish and Filipinos, bolstered the hope of the crusading artists. A magazine, Manila’s Philippine Magazine, carried encouraging write ups on the proposed theater in its effort to gain support from its readers. Stocks were sold by the Philippine International Corporation at Php100.00 and Php50.00 to raise the needed fund which was one million pesos.

The project inspired many artists. Almost everybody was concerned and did not hesitate to offer help. One of these early sympathizers was Juan M. Arellano, a leading architect of the era, and who was sent to study in the United States with Thomas W. Lamb, an expert in theater construction. His sojourn in the United States marked the birth of a unique theatrical design which stood for the Filipino’s artistic traits. A brother of Arellano, Arcadio, contributed his skill in decking the structure which took form shortly after the cornerstone was laid in 1930.

What took shape was what the Phlippine Magazine editor, A.V.H. Hartendorp called modern expressionism. Flagstone paths were cut across lawns greened by tropical creepers and shrubs. On each side of the rectangular theater were pavilions separated from the main hall by open courtyards.

The theater’s façade truly expressed the richness of the Malay culture imbibed in the ways of the Filipinos. Colorful were the glasses that made up the big “window” and the tiles on both sides of the façade. Philippine plants in relief added exoticness to the theater’s face which was crowned with traditional Muslim minarets. Additional oriental accent was provided by shapely sculptured figures of two women who seemed to be preparing to take flight.

The theater’s interior equaled the exterior’s magnificence – wide marble staircase, mural paintings by Amorsolo and modern sculptures by Francisco R. Monti. The latter was an Italian sculptor, who practiced his trade in the country in the early 1930s. To give a feeling of spaciousness, boxes were eliminated. Relief figures cast shadows on the proscenium. Elongated lamps of translucent glass in the shape of bamboo stalks filled up the empty wall on both sides of the hall. The translucent stalks pointed to the ceiling that burst with a cornucopia of mango fruits and leaves.

The auditorium’s facilities were excellent, although the seating area could only accommodate 1,670, quite small for a fast-growing city like Manila. Its lighting, acoustics, air-cooling system and dressing rooms were all excellent and almost faultless. However, there was no understage and the orchestra pit was too narrow.

Dramatic Philippines was responsible for the showing of outstanding plays that made the theater famous. Very active members were Francisco Rodrigo, Emma Benitez and Narciso Pimentel. The theater’s stage was also grace by the zarzuela queen, Atang de la Rama.

Even when the country wallowed in the misery of subordination by a foreign power during the WWII, the theater continued to draw art lovers. It was used by members of the Volunteer Social Aid Committee (VSAC) as a front in raising funds for the underground movement against the Japanese. This group of artists likewise acted as secret mail carriers for Manilans who would like to get in touch with relatives detained at Capas and Cabanatuan. These Manila girls, some of whom were Conchita Sunico, Helen Benitez and Pilar Campos, went to the extent of spending for their own clothing materials which were then designed by Matilde Olmos, the best modiste of European clothes during that time.

The scarred Met which lost its roof during the liberation of Manila in February 1945 held on to what remained. Unfortunately, the transition period did not give much impetus to those who were previously active in theatricals. Of the several establishments housed by the Met, only the Magnolia Rendezvous, an ice cream kiosk held firm. Meanwhile the building underwent painful changes from a boxing arena into a cheap motel and gay bar, basketball court, garage and warehouse, until finally, into a home for half a hundred of displaced families.

It was in such a sorry state when a new breed of artists surfaced and made an appeal to the government to help salvage the Met. Their plea awakened the public from its long indifference and sheer neglect of a priceless heritage. Trouble between the artists and a group of enterprisers ensued when the latter proposed its demolition to give way to a modernistic commercial complex. A petition was submitted to the National Historical Institute to stop the sacrilegious hand and recognize the theater as an historical landmark.

The timely mediation of Mrs. Imelda Marcos gave assurance to the artists’ victory over their destructive opponents. The Met was finally restored to its pre-war grandeur and has been called the Manila Metropolitan Theater. Its seating capacity was increased from 1,670 to 1,709.
To augment its finances, galleries that fringed the outer structure were rented out to shops that sold handicrafts, restaurants, studious and a night club. Bigger rooms on the second floor were furnished for receptions and meetings. Even the auditorium was leased to a movie company which showed three-dimensional films whenever the theater was free. Once again, shows and concerts were held.

The recovery of the theater was, however, short-lived. The emergence of the modern Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theater, modern cinema theaters and other cultural and artistic venues signaled again its slow deterioration. Groups of concerned artists joined hands to prevent its continued relapse to no avail….until, finally, it is back to its former state of gross neglect that we woefully see today.

To date, the veteran show host, actor and comedian, German Moreno is practically moving heaven and earth in his effort to revive to life the dying theater.