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Balikan ang Kilig: Revisiting romance and classic Filipino films

There’s something compelling and mildly fascinating about today’s era and its often unpredictable flux.  Trends come and go like flavors of the season.  Markets rise and fall. It’s a portrait of consistent and cyclic transitions.  But every now and then, amidst the chaos of juxtapositions, we come across—not by accident—classics with deep and lasting dimensions.

Bearing distinctive and timeless essence, the classic tales from Philippine cinema transcend beyond the theatre-filling, popcorn-selling agenda which seems so commonplace nowadays.  In an unpredictable age, these classics withstand and endure, undaunted by time.

The encore

A nostalgic step-back into a romantic excursion featuring two of Olivia Lamasan’s widely acclaimed films, Got 2 Believe and Sana Maulit Muli, Team Communication held the Balikan ang Kilig: An ABS-CBN Restoration Project at the Natividad Fajardo Auditorium last July 23.

Lamasan’s classics, reintroduced and restored with a modern flair, prompts gushes from alumni and students alike. In a time when every other sentence is ripe with a hugot or two, the classic love stories of Philippine cinema are effortlessly appealing, even to the younger viewers. With just enough staccato thumps of romance, charm, and humor, the films managed to tap into the psyche of their audience, even more than a decade after they were first screened at the cinemas.

“I watched Got 2 Believe before in 2002 and seeing it again brought back a lot of memories from childhood,” shares Illin Rodriguez, an alumna.  “It was better than I remembered. The colors were more vivid and the restored version of the movie definitely made me appreciate the narrative better.”

Diane Santiago (II, AB-CAM) agrees, saying, “It’s a completely different experience seeing these classic films restored. Because of the quality of the movies, I was able to notice details like the palpable chemistry of the characters and the cinematography—things you could overlook if the quality of the film is compromised. Before, there would be issues with the visuals and the sounds that distract viewers like me from appreciating the movies, but because of these restoration efforts, the audience will have a better overall viewing experience because they can focus on what the film is really about.”

“I love how the acting and everything else about the films looked so raw and so natural onscreen,” Eunice De Castro (I, AB-LIT) remarks. “It was the first time I watched both films, and I’m glad that there’s an opportunity like this that allows classic films to be shown and appreciated by the public.  Because of this, I was able to treasure the art of restoration that made it possible for people in my generation to still watch these classics.”

The second act

Leo Katigbak, head of the ABS-CBN Film Archives and Restoration team, tells it like it is: “Everyone deserves to see classic films.”

Off-the-script and in vérité style, Katigbak offers thoughtful considerations, underlining the important thrusts of film restoration in preserving the great works in Philippine cinema, titles such as Oro, Plata, Mata and Himala.  “We’ve lost a colossal amount of our films and continue to lose more of our cinematic heritage everyday,” he informs. “We want the audience to experience important titles in Philippine cinema as if they were shot today.  And it is also imperative for us to recognize that, like any art form, these films serve as an integral part of our identity that must be restored and preserved like any cultural artifact.”

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But what good is restoration if no one gets to see it?

One of the challenges faced by the preservation of classic films, apart from the painstaking process of remastering, is the audience’s lack of interest for classic titles.  In a time when romantic comedies are among the titans of the local film industry, and the blink-or-you-miss-it action scenes of superhero franchises attract larger flocks of moviegoers, classic titles fall further behind the priority list.

“Through time, the appreciation and the love for classic films is lost from generation to generation, mostly for the reason that the youth have very little left of the classics available to them,” Katigbak shares. “And the task of preserving these films is a tedious process, to say the least. But we do this, reel by reel and despite the challenges, so that the youth, the next generations of artists and filmmakers can experience these great works and use them to improve their craft.”

Sweeter than fiction

You can see it even in the dim lights of the theater. You can feel it in the way everyone is transfixed into total silence.  It’s in the way the mood instantaneously shifts, bordering towards romantic and climactic, the way a thick layer of tension hangs in the air, almost tangible.

Onscreen, from a scene in the early 2000 film Got 2 Believe, in waltzes the characters of Rico Yan and Claudine Barretto, finding themselves walking towards each other as the lights flickering in their background casts a dreamy, ethereal glow.  They acknowledge each other with a meaningful smile, and this sends the audience to erupt into giddy delight and undisguised excitement. In periphery, the team behind the Balikan ang Kilig project stands by, pleased by the reaction of the crowd.

The audience turnout and response to the program was nothing short of a pleasant surprise. “The process of selling the tickets was not without its difficulty,” shares Chana Garcia and Patricia Lualhati, two of the event’s project heads. “However, even though we had those initial strains, we’re glad with the turnout of the event because there were a lot of people who went during the day itself and watched the films.”

But the program did not singularly focus on the fringes of film restoration alone. An important figure in the Communications Department is a beneficiary of the Balikan ang Kilig proceeds. Ric Macapuno, fondly called as Mang Ric, is a studio department technician diagnosed with cancer and currently undergoing chemotherapy. “We’re raising funds for his treatment which costs up to fifty-thousand pesos per three-day sessions.  He’s one of the most important people in the department because he takes care of the TV studio in Miguel Hall, which all of the AB-CAM students use for their production majors,” Chana further adds.

There’s a reason why some people believe that life is no different from movies. There’s a reason why we have a pensive fascination with heroes, chivalry, and happy endings.  There is a reason why, behind this concept of restoring the classics, we believe that—while there are plenty of things to look forward to in the future—there’s just as much beauty we can find in the past.

It’s because there’s a semblance of truth in it.

By Danielle Arcon

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