I’m so happy with the current state of Philippine cinema. More producers, executives, and viewers are becoming more adventurous with the types of local films being screened in theaters. The last Metro Manila Film Festival was a treasure trove of thought-provoking movies across all genres, proving that a good Filipino movie doesn’t just need to be poverty porn. At the same time, I’m happy that more and more classic films are being restored.
Last weekend, I spent a great Saturday watching an outdoor screening of classic Filipino films at Circuit Makati. It was held from Friday to Sunday, but I was there for one evening, watching the restored version of Sarah, ang Munting Prinsesa and Magic Temple.
The screenings were part of Pop-Up Night Cinema, a partnership between Circuit Makati and ABS-CBN. ABS-CBN has been doing an excellent job restoring old movies, and they gave Circuit Makati the chance to screen it for an entire weekend. The films included Mike de Leon’s Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (1980), Olivia M. Lamasan’s Sana Maulit Muli (1995) and Got 2 Believe (2002), Romy Suzara’s Sarah, ang Munting Prinsesa (1995), Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes’ Magic Temple (1996), Laurice Guillen’s Tanging Yaman (2000), and Chito Rono’s Feng Shui (2004).
I know what you’re thinking and I agree: it’s a spectacular lineup of films.
Circuit Makati is the perfect venue for an outdoor movie screening because of the vast tract of open space. There was a screen large enough for everyone to see, along with a booming sound system that was perfect for Magic Temple‘s incredible scenes. The organizers were kind enough to set up picnic tables and mats with pillows, but I came prepared with a blanket.
It was a cozy evening (thankfully windy), and I enjoyed watching the films. I haven’t seen Sarah, ang Munting Prinsesa and I fell in love with the adorable Camille Pratts as the titular character and Angelica Panganiban as Becky. I also liked the lavish production. Suzara clearly went all out in telling the story of Sarah Crewe, a young girl enrolled in Miss Minchin’s boarding school for girls in London. When her father dies, Sarah is cruelly treated by the abusive Miss Minchin. The story is based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1905 novel.
I also haven’t seen Magic Temple, a fantasy film starring then-teen stars Jason Salcedo, Junell Hernando, and Marc Solis. The three teenagers must use their powers to save the magical kingdom of Samadhi, terrorized by Ravenal (played by the ever-beautiful Jackie Lou Blanco).
Magic Temple could have entered campy territory because of the limited special effects available at the time, but the earnestness and the thought behind it made it special. Consider the names of the leads alone: Jubal is a name from the Igorot tribe in Luzon, Sambag stands for tamarind in Bisaya (Visayas), and Omar is a Muslim name common in Mindanao. And when you consider the theme of working together to defeat Ravenal, you have a story of the importance of being united as a country.
It was a beautiful night watching Filipino classics under the stars, and I hope Circuit Makati does it again. I’m a noob when it comes to local movies, so this would help educate me and the rest of the public on the robust film industry back then. What I do know is that the next Pop-Up Night Cinema will be the French Film Festival on June 17 and 18. Ah, the language of love. Quel excitant! (How exciting!)