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

'The Michaelangelo of cinema would be (someone) growing up in Bacolod or in San Fernando or Davao City. This is good news' - Peque Gallaga

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Below is the acceptance speech of Peque Gallaga, 2009 Natatanging Gawad recipient for lifetime achievement in filmmaking:

Mga kaanib ng Manunuri, mga artists at mga panauhin.

Ma-ayong gab-i sa inyo nga tanan.

Malamang ay kakaunting tao lamang ang nakaka-alam na – sa mga panahong lumipas – ako’y nagkaroon ng malalaking di-pagkaka-sundo sa mga pinili ng Manunuri na gawaran ng parangal.

Ngunit sa taong ito, nakakatawa alam ko… wala ako ni isang pagtutol sa mga napili nilang parangalan.

Mga kaibigan, ito na ang hangganan ng aking kakayahan sa ating Pambansang Wika, kaya pasensya na. Please bear with me.

The first movie I ever directed was in around 1957 when I was in High School. It was shot in Hundred Islands, Alaminos using a Standard 8 camera. Black and white. Two minutes long. It was an action movie on location and everybody in it died. I was so impressed with myself.

The second movie I shot was in Super 8. Color. I shot it in Makati. It was three minutes long. The movie featured somebody being hanged. It was a special effects movie. I shot it in sequence and edited it in the camera because I didn’t have a splicer. My family and friends were impressed. I myself remained impressed with myself because, no schools, no books, I had figured out the technology required to tell a story out of moving pictures.

I graduated to shooting with a 16 mm camera together with Butch Perez. At the time we would use a pop song as our script and we would shoot whatever images the pop song inspired. This led to a lot of scenes of beautiful girls kissing and being kissed in crumbling cemeteries.

All this was, I am proud to say, before MTV was created. We now had a splicer but we couldn’t afford to develop the work prints. So we edited the negatives directly, training our eyes to see black for white and vice-versa as we cut. When we aired these edited negatives on television – The Fabulous Gamboa Show – we simply reversed the polarities on the film chain. Again, I had figured out the technology. And this time, other beautiful girls and cool guys all wanted to be part of our projects, all wanting to kiss and die in crumbling cemeteries so we had all the actors we needed to tell our stories... The feeling of power was undeniable. The addiction permanent.

How else could it be so? Cinema is the one art where expression is totally, utterly and irrevocably tied up to technology. It is the epitome of astig. Holding a camera is like holding a gun. You’re out shooting for God’s sake, and instead of destroying lives, you’re creating stories, expressing yourself and contributing to the formation of community.

Today the technology is changing. When the car was first mass-produced, it changed the world. It changed the way we define ourselves and the way we saw our world which was also changing as fast, if not faster than the first mass-produced car could go.

We are now deep into the digital age. We don’t need sprocket holes, film splicers and negatives anymore. The camera is being mass produced. Francis Ford Coppola predicted that the Michaelangelo of cinema would be a fat little girl from Kansas with a little video camera. Well that fat little girl is already born. And I don’t think she’s from Kansas. I suspect she’s growing up in Bacolod or in San Fernando or Davao City. This is good news.

But the problem is, with the world changing again so fast, are we sure that the little girl sees what she really sees? Is she articulating what she really feels? Are our stories true to ourselves? Or are we just being true to an antiquated image of ourselves presented to us via the movies out in the 70s – when the world still had sprocket holes?

That is when we have to be grateful that we have people like the Manunuri to keep us straight. With so many stories out there, they inform us as to which ones are worth listening to – it’s not as if they were the ultimate judges of artistic worth, nor should they be – but it’s good to have guides that are conscientious. And who care.

If the world is truly changing it’s useful to have a Polaris… the Northern Star we can take our bearings from.

And no matter how much my views on cinema and the function of cinema in our society differ with that of this august body, I am grateful that: First, the members of the Manunuri and I both share the same love and passion for Filipino film. And second, that the Manunuri throughout all these years have maintained their sense of purpose, their resolve and their integrity. In other words, the Manunuri really stand for something.

And because of this, I am honored tonight. When the Manunuri bestows on me the Natatanging Gawad Urian Lifetime Achievement Award, something honorable validates my work and my life. At one point my struggles with cinema was coming to terms with the stories themselves. I just couldn’t keep killing people in crumbling cemeteries. I had to go beyond the technology and pay attention to what I really needed to say. And if the Manunuri recognizes what I have to say, I am rewarded.

But I did not spend these last forty, forty-five, fifty years working alone. Because of this, I cannot stand up here tonight by myself to accept the distinction that you bestow upon me. I have to share it with the people who made this all possible. Cinema is a collaborative art and I am proud to be a collaborationist.

And so it is my pleasure and my pride to announce my partners. I propose to call out their names and, no, they will not come up and join me onstage. But I am compelled to name these fellow artists who taught me, shaped me and helped me transform into celluloid and digital reality the fleeting impulses and images of my heart and my imagination.

It is a long list – after all, it has been forty-five years – and I will abuse your tolerance and your civility by asking you to allow me to mention them. Look at it as a small history lesson in Philippine Cinema after it’s Golden Age:

Uro de la Cruz
Rody Lacap
Ely Cruz
Conrado Baltazar
Totoy Jacinto
Joe Tutanes
Richard Padernal
Rodel Cruz
Dwight Gaston
Benny Batoctoy
Roy Lachica
Maurice Carvajal
Manahan Sisters: Mama Ateng & Mama Nits
Bernie Ayson
Ka Feling Hilario
Mang Kiko Balangue
Denis Tan
Manuel Benito
Teofilo Alanano
Jo Macasa
Gabby Fernandez
George Ledesma
Rudy Pontigon
Danny Sanchez
Elmer Buencamino
Boy Salvador
Ramon Reyes
Rudy Baldovino
Roly Ruta
Toto Gentica
Nonong Buencamino
Jaime Fabregas
Archie Castillo
Jess Navarro
Danny Gloria
Augusto Salvador
Madie Gallaga
Don Escudero
Lore Reyes

Artists. Professionals. Family.

We all stand before you tonight and thank you. Madamo gid nga salamat!