Latest Stories


Archaeology of Cebuano cinema


The new central library of the University of San Carlos in Talamban is a monolithic modern building designed according to principles of green architecture and is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, such as electronic databases, digital cataloging, and online research systems.

Yet, it is also the home of antiquated books, collections of very old newspapers, magazines, journals, photographs, manuscripts, and other valuable materials. Many of these are stored in the archives of the Cebuano Studies Center which has just moved there from its former home at the basement of the old USC Main Campus building.

Today, much spacious and safer from the nearly invisible bugs and bookworms that love to dig tunnels into the yellowing pages, turning historic books into crumbling heaps of unreadable material, the archives is located at the top floor of the library, overlooking the city.

Recently, our class in the graduate school program of Cinema Studies in the USC Department of Fine Arts is frequenting the archives to dig—indeed, do what the philosopher Michel Foucault calls “an archaeology of knowledge”—into compilations of what are Cebu’s very first newspapers and magazines for anything about early Cebuano cinema.

Of particular interest to us are anything about the earliest years of film in Cebu that might add to what little has been known so far: the first recorded screening of a Cinematografo Electro-Optico Luminoso by an Englishman known only as Walgrah (or Walgraph); the first full-length film produced and directed by a Cebuano ( Florentino Borromeo) entitled “El Hijo Disobediente” (The Disobedient Son); the first Cebuano talkie, “Bertoldo-Balodoy”, screened in 1938 and directed by Piux Kabahar.

The lack of knowledge of film’s infancy in Cebu led us to browse the pages of “Nueva Fuerza”, “Bag-ong Kusog”, “Ang Babaye” and other ancient newspapers and magazines that unfortunately were really in bad condition. But the prospect of these newspapers crumbling prior to their digitization (which is under way), add to the sense of urgency among us, newbie film scholars.

Leading in this search is our own professor Paul Grant, who in fact comes to the library more frequently than we do. He has tasked us in our research class to embark on our own mission to gather information about local film history from the earliest years to the First Golden Age in the 1950s and the Second Golden Age in the 1970s.

So much work remains even for these Golden Ages, which saw the rise of great Cebuano movie stars such as Matt Ranillo, Gloria Sevilla, Caridad Sanchez, Violeta Morena, Lyn Ramos, Rebecca Torres, Romy Kintanar, Eddie Dacay, Tita Clomera, Bert Nombrado, Frunnie Alerre, Romy Kintanar, etc., as previous research remain sparse.

Apart from archival work, we are also tasked to do interviews of the key players of the Cebuano film industry and to gather information regarding how the system worked, particularly in areas of production, distribution, and exhibition.

So some of our classmates are doing research on theaters and production studios that used to exist in places like Lapulapu and Dumaguete (which also screened the Cebuano movies). They recently visited the old theaters in Colon to take photographs and check their condition. The old Vision theater, a landmark in Art Deco architecture and the only surviving building in Colon that dates back to the pre-War years, theater has long ceased to operate and is now, ironically, a market for pirated films. Vision’s façade is still intact, though, with the classic sculptures reminding us of its lost grandeur and the glorious years when Cebuanos watched cinema that could match those in Manila.

So the search is on for the missing pieces of the big jigsaw puzzle that is early Cebuano cinema. Perhaps, you can help by sharing to us what you know about this history. You may have relatives who had played significant role in certain movies or may still copies of their films, screenplay manuscripts, photographs, newspaper clippings, posters, or whatever part of memorabilia that could help restore the collective memory of Cebuano Cinema.

Those valuable pieces of our heritage should not be allowed to rot. The legacies of people behind them could only be acknowledged if they are shared to the public. We owe it to these pioneers who labored so hard to make movies we can call our own.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Other Stories:

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  2. Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  3. Palace prepared to charge its allies
  4. Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  5. Napoles turnaround alarms whistle-blowers
  6. What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  7. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  8. Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  9. HK apology: Why Estrada and not Aquino?
  10. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  3. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  4. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  5. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  6. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  7. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  9. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  10. Lawyer: Napoles ‘will tell all’
  1. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  2. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  3. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  8. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  9. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  10. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano


  • Name names, Lacson told
  • Ukraine FM: We are ready to fight Russia
  • Slain officer’s ‘diagram’ rocks PNP
  • 2 contractors fined P25,000 for delays in Edsa rehab
  • Luisita beneficiaries take over renters
  • Sports

  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Galedo caps ride of redemption
  • Beermen, Express dispute second semis slot today
  • Lady Agilas upset Lady Bulldogs in four sets
  • NLEX roars to 7th D-League win
  • Lifestyle

  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Denims that keep you cool–literally
  • 10 essential summer skin savers
  • Here’s your visual guide to all things cool, hot in summer fashion
  • Entertainment

  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • OMB exec’s assurance: We work 24/7
  • Business

  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Gaming stocks gain, PSEi eases on profit-taking
  • Cebu Pacific flew 3.74M passengers as of March
  • Corporate bonds sweeteners
  • Professionals in the family business
  • Technology

  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Opinion

  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • A graduation story
  • Global Nation

  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors
  • Career diplomat is new PH consul general in Los Angeles
  • US4GG: Aquino should ask Obama for TPS approval, drone technology
  • Complex health care system for California’s elderly and poor explained
  • Tiff with HK over Luneta hostage fiasco finally over
  • Marketplace