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.


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.

Philippine Center for the Arts and Sciences

Philippine Center for the Arts and Sciences

…a suggestion

By Apolinario Villalobos

Being a third world country, the Philippines’ only other resources aside from the natural endowments such minerals, wildlife, forests, marine life, and rich agricultural land, that it can be proud of, are the people – the talented Filipinos. It is a shame that the human resources are treated only as some kind of an exportable “commodity” in the form of labor. There is dignity in labor, but there are more that the Filipinos can do other than work in hospitals, hotels, construction sites and homes in foreign countries. The Filipinos are oozing with talents, but unfortunately, are not supported by the government.

Filipino talents in the fields of invention, literary and music are relegated on the sidelines. Singing contests in village fiestas, TV programs and those organized by private entities bring out world-class singers, but after the announcement of their winning and limited appearance in TV shows, nothing is heard about them. The popular adage is about the need for the Filipino singers to go to other countries to be able to earn recognition that they deserve.

There is the so-called National Institute of Science of Technology (NIST), the government agency that is supposed to be charged with responsibilities on Filipino inventions. It seems that even in the issuance of patent, the agency is lagging. The Filipinos know of inventions only through the media, when resourceful researchers of TV programs are able to scour the countryside for low-profile inventors. Most often, these inventors confess that they have gone to the NIST but outright, they get the feeling of being inadequate due to so many requirements. The standard alibi of the NIST is that they need to check the inventions’ authenticity before they can be recognized, but how long will it take them to do it? Additionally, they also mention the lack of budget!

Also, the inventions are brought to the attention of the consumers only during exhibits which charge high entrance fees to the interested public, and exorbitant charges for inventors who would like to participate. And, to think that these exhibits and shows are supposed to be “sponsored” by the mentioned government agency in cooperation with the inventors’ organization. The NIST should sustain the expenses, as the event is held only once a year. It will not cost the NIST millions of pesos to shoulder the rent for a venue.

The local market is flooded with gadgets from other countries, especially, China, and these are gadgets that can be manufactured locally. So many times, the media expose local inventions that are supposed to curb expenses on electricity, as well as, fuel consumption, even nature-friendly insecticides, and many more. Unfortunately, these inventions are just showcased, waiting for the government support! And, sadly, some of them end up in other countries for mass-production to be brought back to the Philippines as finished products bearing foreign sounding brand names.

Filipino literary artists also suffer from government neglect and utter lack of support. While colleges and universities offer mass communication courses, the graduates are left to fend for themselves after graduation, with most talented writers ending up as clerks in offices. I once talked to the former Director of the National Library of the Philippines, Ms. Nani Cruz, who confided that the institution, for long, has been in dire need of Filipino-authored books. That was more than five years ago. Today, not only is the National Library of the Philippines STILL wanting for the said kind of books but even the bookstores are showing their lack of concern by preferring imported books – best sellers in countries where they come from! These book outlets gladly and proudly announce arrival of foreign authors for book signing!

My suggestion is for the government to expand the scope of NIST’s responsibilities by adding the aspect of permanent showcasing of inventions, be they with issued or pended patent. This can be done by moving the said agency to a big facility complete with equipment for testing and a showroom- a one-stop shop of sort, located in an area accessible to the consumers and patent buyers/manufacturers. The facility should also accommodate those that concern literary and music. It should be a complex that aspiring artists can visit, not only for copyrighting of their works but also for marketing purposes. It should also include audio-video recording facilities. The Copyright office should be based in this center. It should also provide office spaces for organizations that cater to the development of artistic talents of Filipinos. It is suggested that this complex be called “The Philippine Center for the Arts and Sciences”.

If the former President Ferdinand Marcos turned dictator, was able to build hospitals and research institutes for the heart, kidney and the lungs, additional building complex for the Philippine General Hospital, a vast complex that includes Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theater, Philippine International Convention Center, Coconut Palace, and Philippine Trade and Exhibition Center, why can’t the current government build what is being suggested – the Philippine Center for the Arts and Sciences?

If Pnoy Aquino would really want to be remembered, this, he should do. He should stop warbling about “reforms” for there is nothing that needed to be reformed. He has done NOTHING YET! What he meant could be the “eradication” of corruption which has just gone from worse to worst! He even refuses to acknowledge the fact that some of his trusted guys are not “clean”…hinging his support to them on the premise that unless they are proven guilty in court, they are innocent of any guilt. How can they be investigated when he, himself, is insinuating that they are innocent? He should stop talking about reforms because the inadequacies of his administration just add up to neck-deep atrocities already committed by past administrations. If he wants to leave a legacy, it should be tangible enough to be seen and remembered…and this is it, the Philippine Center for the Arts and Sciences.