Thursday, August 27, 2015
Gerardo 'Manong Gerry' de Leon was the first Filipino filmmaker to be bestowed the title of National Artist in 1982. The nostalgic documentary Salamat sa Alaala showed that he was a true maestro and a gentleman. He was well-loved by his colleagues and family.
A major revelation for me was that Manong Gerry came from the Ilagan clan. He was born Gerardo Ilagan on September 12, 1913. His father, Hermogenes Ilagan, was considered the father of sarzuela. The Ilagans were royalty on the theatre and movie industries. Manong Gerry took on the de Leon surname to differentiate himself from his siblings and relatives working in the film industry. He was not related to Mike de Leon. But, he was related to Robert Arevalo, Ronaldo Valdez, and Jay Ilagan.
A pleasant surprise from the Trofeo docu were generous footages from Manong Gerry's unfinished film Juan de la Cruz. The colorful costumes and Manong Gerry's obsession on getting an iron befitting the period depicted in the film speak volumes about the grandeur and realism of the epic. Juan de la Cruz could have been a major entry in the filmographies of the two National Artists involved in the film, namely actor Fernando Poe Jr. and director Manong Gerry.
An actors' director is what they call Manong Gerry. Pancho Magalona gave the performance of his life as Simoun in El Filibusterismo. Joseph Estrada acceded to playing a supporting role in the Moises Padilla Story just to be directed by Manong Gerry. Anita Linda, who recalled suffering a head wound from a fall during a shooting, won her first acting award in 1951 for the film Sisa.
Acclaimed directors Peque Gallaga and Lav Diaz had effusive praise for the master director, Manong Gerry. Lav Diaz indirectly touched on the sad fate of de Leon's mythic masterpiece, Ang Daigdig ng Mga Api. There is no existing print for the 1965 film, which swept all the major awards at the FAMAS awards. However, gushing raves from veteran cinephiles attest that the film could probably have been the best Filipino film of the 20th century.
Thank you to the Cinemalaya organizers for screening this heartwarming documentary. It brought back wonderful memories of viewing the master works of Gerardo de Leon.
I hope this docu, by film director and photographer Dik Trofeo, will entice young viewers to seek out and devour the films of Manong Gerry. His epic films, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo may be in black-and-white but both are sumptuously shot and designed that they eclipse visually any recent Filipino period films.
My favorite de Leon film is Sisa. If there is such a thing as an Ilustrado film, then that film is Sisa, based on a character from Jose Rizal's novel Noli Me Tangere. The film is like a lamp shedding light on the abuses by the Spaniards and their minions during the 19th century. Viewers will definitely end up enlightened and mesmerized by the stunning mise-en-scene compositions of Manong Gerry de Leon.