It is interesting to note that this year’s PASINAYA celebration of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) is paying tribute to Komiks King and National Artist for Visual Arts Francisco V. Coching.
While the Ayala Museum has exhibited the works of Coching in massive rooms in the art house, CCP has likewise shown the major works of the multimedia artist in the mezzanine hallway of the state arts and culture agency. It is because PASINAYA as an annual multi-arts festival has represented film and the popular culture of komiks as a visual treat. It is cool and stimulating both to the heart and the mind.
Women as subjects in many masterpieces of Coching are given the perspective rightful for woman’s emancipation from oppression and subjugation in the feudal web of machismo and misogyny not only in komiks or illustrated novels in colorful strips as early as the 1930s but in the big screen as well. Adaptation from the komiks to film was a genre dominant in the black and while movies of yore especially during the Sampaguita Pictures era. “Dumagit” which tells of a boy who grew up in the jungle and met a woman warrior, a graphic novel of Coching, was translated into film with Cesar Ramirez in the titular role and Lolita Rodriguez as the amazon. The jungle woman was purportedly Mara-Bini, a comics’ character eponym of the illustrated novel also written by Coching in the 1930s but was disrupted by World War II. “Mara-Bini” was indeed a story of a brave Filipina in the hinterlands.
The other Coching stories which were made into films also by Sampaguita Pictures were “Waldas” and “Talipandas.”
Rita Gomez, the quintessential actress in the 1950s up to the 1980s, played the title role of “Talipandas.” In English, “talipandas” would mean vamp which was seemingly tailor-made for Ms. Gomez who was in real life, a femme fatale. But the Rita persona was a woman of substance and independent-mindedness, most of the female qualities Coching attributed to his heroines.
Coching’s master works turned into motion pictu were nostalgic because as an entertainment writer I had the rare privilege to talk to Ramirez, Rodriguez and Gomez even during their seniority in the biz.
When I was viewing the exhibits, especially the film clips of both “Dumagit” and “Talipandas,” there was a young man at my back who was glued to the screen playing the scenes. He was a millennial and was curious about the films. So I oriented him and pointed to Cesar as the dad of the late action star Ace Vergel who was still familiar with him. Meanwhile, I referred to Lolita as the grandmother of Radha, a famous multi-genre singer.
Veteran actor Eddie Garcia was featured with La Gomez in the Sampaguita film and it also evoked nostalgia especially now that Eddie is still around, alive and kicking.
Showing these types of vintage films during the selfie generation is an encouraging gesture from the PASINAYA organizer, particularly CCP Vice President and Artistic Director Chris Millado who was also the brainchild of the event fifteen years ago.
According to Chris, when he and the rest of the production and exhibition staff of the yearly project reeled it off, sadly, there was a very scarce audience. PASINAYA is a festival of the arts in the Philippines participated in by regional cultural orgs and stakeholders.
Now, the event isn’t only a one-day affair. A three-day festival is indeed an achievement.