The society of respected film critics that hands out the annual Gawad Urian in cinematic excellence

Magnifico: Tearjerker made timeless by its beauty, the central hero’s magnificence

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By BUTCH FRANCISCO

In 2003, the Film Ratings Board (FRB) was abolished and was replaced by the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB) which gave higher incentives to quality movies that were either graded A or B. (Graded A films were given a hundred per cent tax rebate, while those that got B were allowed to retrieve 65% from the taxes collected by the various cities and municipalities all over the country based on its income at the box-office.) Magnifico was its test case.

The newly sworn-in CEB members, eager to set the yardstick for graded A movies, thoroughly dissected this Maryo J. de los Reyes film and didn’t feel generous enough to give it a hundred per cent tax rebate.

The prints submitted to the board to begin with had a yellowish tinge and somehow that got in the way during the CEB screening.

Magnifico, however, had its supporters among the CEB members, the three staunchest of them being Lourd de Veyra, Ian Monsod, and this writer. We pointed out that whatever defect the prints had could still be corrected which true enough were made in time for the film’s premiere several days later.

For some reason, the three of us also felt that Magnifico was bound to end up being named best picture of the year. Although that was only January and was quite early to be making predictions, somehow we were sure that it was the type of movie that would reap honors in awards races not only in the Philippines but internationally as well.

In the end, we were still outvoted and Magnifico was given a grade of B. The decision would haunt the CEB way till the time of Christine Dayrit, who assumed the chair in 2005.

Under Dayrit’s leadership, the board became more generous in its sincere desire to help the cash-strapped local motion picture industry. But whenever faced with the decision whether to give a film an A or a B, the perennial question that would always crop up is: If Magnifico only got a B grade, why should this other film be given an A?

The ghost of Magnifico only stopped haunting the CEB after most of its supporters had already left the board.

Magnifico, meanwhile, as predicted, was declared best picture the following year by the Famas, the Film Academy of the Philippines, the Golden Screen, and the Gawad Urian (tied with Ang Babae sa Breakwater). The film also hit a grand-slam best director win for De los Reyes. It gave acting awards to Gloria Romero, Mark Gil, Albert Martinez, and Jiro Manio, who—to date—is the youngest performer to win Gawad Urian best actor.

In the international scene, Magnifico and De los Reyes also brought honors to the Philippines by winning in various film festivals. The film and its director won top prizes at the Berlin, Hawaii, and the Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic) International Film Festivals.

Written by Michico Yamamoto, who also went on to reap best screenplay awards for the film, the material of Magnifico was originally submitted to the 2001 Film Development Council of the Philippines screenwriting contest, where it won the grand prize.

It is the story of a boy called Magnifico (Manio), who spends his short life in this world spreading cheer and kind deeds—from providing a wheelchair to his cerebral palsy-stricken sister (Isabella de Leon) to finding a cure for the hoarse voice of a cantankerous cemetery caretaker (Celia Rodriguez). Magnifico puts to shame his elders and those in the audience who Magnifico is a film that restores faith in humanity. Not only does it merge poignantly and beautifully all the important elements of cinema but it also shows one thing that will never run out of fashion—a boy’s innocence, big heart, and heroism.

After almost a decade, this film, produced by Madame Violet Sevilla to the tune of P27-M, manages to stand the test of time—with all its positive values intact.

Aired from time to time over Cinema One, Magnifico remains impressive as a film and continues to tug at the heartstrings. The film that merely got a grade of B at the CEB had long vindicated itself after getting validated by all the award-giving bodies as the year’s best. And now, it gets another crown as one of past decade’s finest.