The Visayan Film Industry: A Retrospective (Part I)
by J. Vincent Noriega and Valeriano Avila with Kris Relatado and Junius F. Ranillo
During the 1920's when the Germans and Russians dominated the artistic development of the film and its techiniques (Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-1919;Nosferatu-1922;Potemkin-1925,) Filipino-Visayan filmmakers such as Max Borromeo, Florentino Borromeo and Celestino Rodriguez collaborated in making El Hijo Disobediente (The Disobedient Son) in 1922. This black and white silent picture could have been one of the earliest noted films from the Southern Philippines. The year 1929 marked the advent of talking pictures, but only in 1938 did the Visayan Film Industry have its first "talkie" entitle Bertoldo Ug Balodoy (Bertoldo and Balodoy) written by Piux Kabahar, which was followed by Mini (Fake), 1940, and Gugmang Talagsaon (Rare Love), 1940 by Virgilio Gonzales. In Cebu, the first movie houses were built by the Avila Clan: Ideal Theater (1911), Cine Auditorium (1922) and Cine Oriente (The old Teatro Junquera).
After the second world war, a resurgence of Visayan films cam about through Lapu-Lapu Pictures, which produced Timbu Mata, 1948, starring Eva de Villa and Lino Ramas and Damgo Ni Adan (Adan's Dream), produced by Rudy Robles. Then came Mactan Films which produced Tahas (Mission), 1950, starring Luz Celeste and Dakay; Mat Ranillo was in this film. Then Balud(Wave), 1950 which starred Luz Celeste and Mat Ranillo. Another independent picture, Sa Kabukiran (In The Fields), 1948, was also produced during this time.
By 1951, Azucena Productions was established by the Arong Familiy (owners of Rene and Liberty Theaters). They produced Princesa Tirana (Princess Tirana), 1951 with Mat Ranillo and Gloria Sevilla (her first feature title role after she was discovered through a declamation contest at the University of the Visayas) as lead players. Their first feature together made such a box office success in the Visayas and Mindanao that other features immediately followed: Leonora, 1951;Pailub Lang (Be Forebearing), 1951; Utlanan (Border), 1952; Handumanan (Memoir), 1953; Inahan (Mother), 1952, starring Mat Ranillo and Caridad Sanchez; Antigan, 1952 with Virgie Postigo and Arise Roa; Carmen 1 and 2 (from the famous radio drama in Cebu), 1953; Paabuta Lang Ako (Wait for Me), 1953; Gloria Kong Anak (Gloria My Child), 1953; and Gihigugma Kong Ikaw (I Love You), 1954; Mat and Gloria then became synonymous to Visayan picutures, and since then were called as the King and Queen of Visayan Movies.
In 1953 a film entitled Sangang Nangabali (Broken Branches), produced by Cebu Stars Production broke box-office records in the mid-1950s. Cebu Stars Productions (owned by the Tojong Family) had earlier produced Dimakaling, 1952 and Mga Anak Intawon (Oh, Poor Children), 1953. Other independent Visayan films produced at this time were: Mapait Ang Balaod, 1953 (Arturo Blanco); Bugas Mais (Corn Rice), 1953 (Arturo Blanco); Kapintas Sa Kinabuhi (Hard Life), 1953, (Cebu Stars Productions with Esterlina and Rebecca Torres); Pit Senor (Hail Senor); and San Tilmo, 1953, (Barba Productions); Ang Siloy, 1953 (with Nora Hermosa and Rebecca Torres); Huni sa Gugma (Where is Love), 1953; Dadansoy, 1953 and Inahan (Mother), 1954.