YOU cannot be a cineaste or movie aficionado if you haven’t seen an indie film and you haven’t seen the best of Baguio if you haven’t dropped by Film Development Council of the Philippines’s Cinematheque at the historic Casa Vallejo.
From a rodent’s lair that was unused for decades with a leaking roof, two levels of knocked down rooms of the old Casa Vallejo was resurrected and transformed into an art facility when FDCP entered into a lease agreement with its new owners for the Baguio Cinematheque. Now considered as a heritage site, the glass-less windows and bare ceiling of the edifice were replaced with gypsum panels and one side is now covered with a 12 feet by 20 feet silver screen.
Prior to its inauguration and first screening in September 27, 2011, the construction and remodeling of the place was supervised by this writer who was called by FDCP Chairman Briccio Santos to serve as consultant and coordinator for Baguio’s Cinematheque.
Being the first of its kind in the Philippines, the much anticipated launching of the Baguio Cinemathque became a big event in the City of Pines that was well attended by government officials, artists, filmmakers and cinema aficionados.
Since its first showing of a Filipino classic “Anak Dalita”, A 1956 film by Lamberto Avellana starring Rosa Rosal and Vic Silayan, the Baguio Cinematheque received favorable media reviews and gained regular followers and viewers from the local community. Students from nearby University of the Philippines soon became regular cineastes and bookworms who frequented the adjacent Mountain Cloud Bookshop also found time watch free movies.
Michael Angelo Zarate, the projectionist and marketing officer of the cinematheque doubled his effort to promote the film screenings in other schools and we likewise created Facebook pages that helped boost the promotion of FDCP’s film screenings and the turnout was truly effective. Zarate also noted regular cineastes from the academe, media, government agencies and the foreign community.
With a mission to bring local films to Filipinos, the cinematheques in Davao, Iloilo, Manila, Zamboanga and Baguio that are now operating in the country serves as an alternative and accessible venue for classic and contemporary films, including mainstream and independent Filipino films. Since 2011, the Baguio Cinematheque has hosted international film festivals that screened movies from Argentina, China, Japan, Israel, South Africa and members of the European Union that were sourced through the FDCP's Film Cultural Exchange Program.
Under supervision by FDCP Makati office and constant guidance by Chairman Santos and Executive Director Ted Granados, the two-man-team operation and social-media promotion of the Baguio Cinematheque became the benchmarking site and served as model for cinematheque management nationwide prior to the opening of Cinematheque de Manila.
The pronouncement of multi-awarded actress Liza Diño who was recently appointed as the new FDCP Chairperson to help local filmmakers particularly those outside the National Capital Region is a most welcome move especially if grants and technical assistance be provided to local film producers who got what it takes to create good films but lacks finances. I was able to produce indie films when I was in my twenties because of scholarships and film grants that I availed from the Goethe Institute, French Cinema Varaan and MOWELFUND when I attended a Cinema-as-Art workshop and short course on Filmmaking at the UP Film Center. With the Duterte administration’s recognition to culture as one of the main components in nation building, I am confident that independent films from the regions once fully supported and recognized by government agencies such as FDCP, NCCA, DepEd and local units can somehow fill the viewership void that came as a result of digital media marketing and piracy that greatly affected mainstream and big time movie production in the country.