‘Lilas’ tells history of Cebuano cinema

ON a distant island 800 kilometers from Manila, determined and defiant Cebuanos dared to challenge the dominant Tagalog film industry with a cinema all their own. Lilas is the first published book on how they almost succeeded.

Lilas primarily addresses the two productive periods of Cebuano film production, roughly corresponding to the 1950s and 1970s. While numerous published writings exist on the history of the dominant Tagalog cinema out of Manila, the authors hope to shed light on a little-known and forgotten piece of Philippine film history which existed, sporadically thrived and intermittently negotiated and confronted the dominant Tagalog film industry from the north.

At the root of this cultural rivalry between Cebuanos and Tagalogs was the imposed primacy of Tagalog as national (and cinematic) language upon a very large population of Cebuano speakers.

The book introduces the reader to Cebuano stars such as Mat Ranillo, Gloria Sevilla, Bert Nombrado, Rosita Fernandez, Virgie Solis, Caridad Sanchez, Esterlina, Chanda Romero, Justo C. Justo, and pioneering directors such as Piux Kabahar, Fernando Alfon, Saturnino Villarino, Eugene Labella, Joe Macachor as well as numerous others who toiled to make Cebuano films, in spite of insurmountable odds.

With almost no films left from this history, the book also provides a “Relics” section for a rare glimpse of what two Cebuano films could have been like: a text serialization of the film Batul of Mactan (1974) and a comic serialization of Ang Medalyon nga Bulawan (1974). Accepted film historical discourse has tended to place the blame of the failure in establishing a Cebuano film industry on “imperial Manila.” The authors—Paul Douglas Grant and Misha Boris Anissimov—hope to expand the debate and introduce the reader to the numerous cultural negotiations and inter-dependencies that paint a picture far more complex, nuanced and at times, scandalous. (PR)
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