It’s not only the exclusive local entertainment industry, particularly the film section that mourns the death of prolific filmmaker Maryo J. de los Reyes but the whole of the viewing public as well. The masses, particularly the middle class, may not be shedding tears for him but the stories he told them were their own empathizing both the good times and the bad—marital infidelity in “Gabun” (1979), life in secondary education at a certain epoch in “High School Circa ’65” (1979), night life of a salesclerk in “Annie Batungbakal” (1979), youth carelessness and struggles of growing up in “Bagets” (1984), May-December affair in “Sinungaling Mong Puso” (1992) and “Naglalayag” (2004), a little boy’s filial love in “Magnifico” (2003), a pastoral life in Bohol in “Bamboo Flowers” (2013), travails and joys of a single mom in “The Unmarried Wife” (2016) and a lot more.
Maryo’s consciousness in making movies—style and substance—was a quotidian of his macro socio-political journey and his micro UP and PETA days. He treated his materials as symbiosis of the day-to-day relationships of people in a particular society that is why he struck the chords of the ordinary men extraordinarily.
De los Reyes took up Mass Communications at the University of the Philippines during the Martial Law era but he wasn’t a hardcore participant in student activism but aware of what was happening around him. His Philippine Educational Theater Association immersion was a reality in stage production and other creative aspects of theater in the middle of a proletarian art to a certain faction of the organization. He was a centrifugal and a centripetal traveler at the same in his artistic journey counter parting his traverses as if toeing only his own lines.
The late 1970s was the supremacy of the taming of the unruly fanatics among dissenters, for example, the unarticulated social and political grievances of Noranians (Nora Aunor’s fans) and Vilmanians (Vilma Santos’ fans) but the state-sponsored psycho warfare didn’t match the silent rebellion of their marginalized reps. Maryo was one of them but apparently, he chose to be in the middle ground between fascism and the liberation movement.
His was a career offered on a silver platter enjoying the common rights and privileges of royal showbiz families like Nora, Vilma, Fernando Poe, Jr., Christopher de Leon, Bembol Roco, Hilda Koronel, Tirso Cruz III and Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal among directors and the preceding royalty of Pilar Pilapil, Jeanne Young, Gina Pareño, Dindo Fernando, Rosemarie, Ricky Belmonte, Pepito Rodriguez and Artemio Marquez, Tony Cayado, Mar S. Torres, among directors to the earlier reign of Susan Roces, Amalia Fuentes, Nida Blanca, Romeo Vasquez, Gloria Romero, Joseph Estrada, Nida Blanca, Nestor de Villa and Lamberto Avellana and Gerry de Leon, among directors down to Carmen Rosales and Atang de la Rama, Elizabeth “Dimples” Cooper etc and Manuel Conde, Vicente Salumbides and Jose Nepomuceno, among directors.
Maryo was the toast of the flickerville town when big studios employed him, among them the defunct Agrix Films, an agri-media conglomerate, NV Productions of Aunor and not too long after, Regal Films of Mother Lily Monteverde.
It was a rare chance to direct the Superstar in “Annie Batungbakal,” “Bongga Ka, ‘Day” and “Rock n Roll” and the Star for All Seasons in “Tagos ng Dugo” and in the years to come, in a number of films like “Sinungaling Mong Puso.” He made money and conformed to the established order’s wants and needs so he was well-loved and taken care of.
Even after the EDSA Revolution when the social volcano erupted, Maryo was a distinct figure in the local movie scene as he could get along with people from all walks of life. He was open to newbies. He would give them opportunities in the biz and at the same time hobnobbed with the rich and famous. He seemed to understand all sorts of situations.
In the advent of the millennium, Maryo was still the establishment person with dissenting views about issues especially in his films here and there. During the emergence of the ST (Sex Trip) movies, he made a difference in his sensual outing in “Laman” (2002) which starred greenhorn Lolita de Leon and “Red Diaries” (2001) which starred the relatively known Assunta de Rossi.
De los Reyes had no qualms in subscribing to current trends however bold and daring but not necessarily nude and anarchy. They might be sexy and gross but in context and a lot of meanings and lessons in life. His was calculated and organized moves that people expected him to act and serve them. This endeared him to the public so much. Give him a piece of flimsy storyline and he could make a substantial narrative out of it.
Maryo was able to survive the acid tests of each film generation’s requirements until the age of social media and the prevalence of the millennials. He might be suffering from bad health already but he would think and do films and TV to suit their tastes. Still, he toed the line of the established order but he bent a little. His teleseryes (television dramas) were hits not only to adults but the young generations as well. His movies sold to millions particularly “The Unmarried Wife” produced by Star Cinema which starred Angelica Panganiban, Paulo Avelino and Dingdong Dantes.
Amid the demands of popular entertainment, the pristine art resided in Maryo when he ventured into the realm of the art house like his doing “Bamboo Flowers,” a tribute to his home province in Bohol where he tackled the idyllic situations of the rural landscapes.
Although the socio-political and cultural structures of filmmaking are still imbued in the very core of the Filipino human life, new filmmakers are being born and reared no matter their multifarious sentiments and persuasions often conflicting and contradicting alongside hegemonic controls from all sides of the prevailing order, each one of the local film artist manages to survive to a particular degree.
A new age has emerged of the same battle against the cycle of unfairness and prejudice.
Maryo was one of those who had fought and survived the odds of the business and still emerged victorious. He had a vision, indeed.
He encouraged and joined the proliferation of small budget but seemingly important films when he presided as Director over ToFarm Film Festival which promoted and hopefully, would still promote agriculture through the film medium.
Maryo had done a lot for the local film business and he deserved a standing ovation.