Ganito Kami Noon…Paano Kayo Ngayon

I first saw this movie when I was in grade school. Our school scheduled a fieldtrip to Magallanes theatre. This was way before the shoot-out at the same place or demolition of the theatre. It even had love seats. You could raise the armrest and convert chair into a sofa.

This was one of the movie trips scheduled by our school. The other one was a movie called “Lies My Father Told Me”.

Zoom in several years later. I am at the Gateway Mall. Waiting for my friend who also wanted watch Ganito Kami Noon. This was the second time I would be watching the films. Of course I did watch this several times when it was aired on television, but when a motion picture is aired it gets cut up a lot to satisfy the sensors and commercial requirements – paid advertisements.

There is nothing like watching movie on the silver screen. The width and scope of the screen gives the movie a majesty it deserves. Perhaps that is why people would like to get a home theatre. Quite expensive though. An LCD projector seems to be a good alternative but that is also expensive.

The film is about the adventures and misadventures of Nicolas Ocampo or Kulas a country bumpkin during the waning days of Spanish Colonial rule and the advent of American Colonial rule. Kulas by an odd twist of events gets involved with the search and care of a boy who is the son of a wealthy priest. While acting a guardian to the boy he meets several characters from Filipino society at the time and learns what it means to be a Filipino.

The movie is not preachy. It lets the different characters say without the hint of what they were saying was right or wrong. This is quite clear in terms of understanding what a Filipino is. For the Spaniards the Filipinos were the Spaniards and their heirs (we were Indios); For the Tagalogs who believed in independence they were the Filipinos. One will often find that there will always be more than one side to an issue and this movie says that. It also allows the viewer to see the humanity of each character, their good and bad side. As such it is endearing to watch.

There were several lines and scenes in the movie that I could not forget. Like Padre Gil’s advise to Kulas before he left was to take care of his newly acquired wealth, as the guardian of Padre Gil’s son he had control over the dividend of the friar’s share in the Tabacalera, and reminded him that it was only God that loves the poor. This advice from a priest! Well it’s not that surprising but it never fails to illicit laughter from the audience. Or when Leopoldo Salcedo’s character was comparing life under the Andres Bonifacio’s Katipunan with his life now with his present compatriots (entertainers) someone heckles him and said that Bonifacio was dead. Or Eddie Garcia’s remark about those educated as having the right to be called Filipinos. Or the boy , played by the way a young Dranreb missing his two front teeth, smart-ass remarked to Kulas’ questions. And even the naivete of Kulas when he shares his insights or when he honestly answers rhetorical and serious questions.

Watching more than once though brings to focus some of the things that could improve the movie. Flaws in the costumes of the extras and even with landmarks bearing signs that existed after World War II should have been corrected. This is a period piece and stuff like that sort of destroys that you are watching a story from the past. Also, the Spanish, Chinese and Ilongo dialogue should have subtitles. A great part of the message of the movie was lost when you did not have subtitles state what the Spanish characters were talking about.

But for me it is still a great movie. Entertaining and provocative.

After the film showing they even had an open forum with Gloria Diaz and other directors. The forum was an eye-opener in terms of how things were done. How things were done before and now. What is the future of the film industry.

There was one person who asked what was the relevance of this movie.

I thought that it was obvious. The story portrayed not only the story of Kulas but of the different people in society at the time. It embodied the change that was taking place. The formation of our cultural identity. No matter what you were Tagalog, Tsinoy, Ilonggo, or Tisoy we are all Filipinos.

One question though was left unanswered. During the open forum the deplorable state of our film heritage was revealed and it was not a pretty site. It would appear that they do not seem to be properly maintained, even the films that were restored like Noli Me Tangere and Tinimbang Ka Ngunit ka lang were physically deteriorating. Solutions were offered like storing them in the proper archives but one solution seemed to have been missed and this was also one solution to allow a wider audience access to these films. It is probably time to have these films released in DVD format.

Transferring it to a DVD format will ensure that future generations will be able to see it and a wider audience will see it. Despite the threat of piracy I think this can be done. A proposed cost-wise production of the film will make sure that the DVD is affordable to the level that piracy will not be able to copy and abuse it. Nearly all the classical films are archived and digitized, perhaps its time we do the same.

I do hope that one day this film will be available in DVD or whatever the existing format will be.

Some facts about Ganito Kami Noon…Paano Kayo Ngayon?
Direction: Eddie Romero
Screenplay: Eddie Romero and Roy Iglesias
Cinematography: Justo Paulino
Editing: Ben Barcelon
Sound: Demetrio Santos
Production Design: Laida Lim-Perez and Peque Gallaga
Music: Lutgardo Labad


Christopher de Leon
Gloria Diaz
Eddie Garcia
Leopoldo Salcedo
Dranreb Belleza
Rosemarie Gil
EA Rocha
Tsing Tong-Tsai
Johnny Vicar

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