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Lino Brocka: The PHILIPPINES’ Greatest Director and dear friend

Lino Brocka: The Philippines’ Greatest Director

Lino Brocka was a radical filmmaker whose socially conscious films explored the plight of the marginalized and ignored sectors of Filipino society. Maria Soriano explores his trailblazing life and career, and looks at his films, which are unfortunately unattainable outside of The Philippines.
Catalino Ortiz Brocka, more famously known as Lino Brocka, was one of the Philippines’ greatest auteurs. He was born in Pilar, Sorsogon in 1939. His father Regino, who was a huge influence on Brocka, teaching him Maths and English as well as the Arts, was killed in a political murder when Brocka was still young. Brocka, along with his mother and brother, had to flee to live with his mother’s sister. But a good life was far from reach as he and his family suffered physical and verbal abuse from his relatives and were forced to do hard labour, an experience he would carry with him throughout his career as a director.

Brocka developed a strong interest in films during his youth, particularly Americanfilms, and despite his poor upbringing he managed to flourish academically and won a college scholarship in the country’s leading academic institute, the University of The Philippines. Initially majoring in pre-law, he dropped the course to study literature instead. While studying at the University, he joined the Dramatic Club but was criticized for his provincial accent and demeanour, a treatment that disgusted him. Brocka took it upon himself to watch his beloved American movies to practice his English further and improve his accent, a move that eventually gained him acceptance in the club, but only as a stage hand. After dropping out of college, he converted to Mormonism and devoted himself to missionary work, travelling to a leper colony in Hawaii. He then travelled to America and worked menial jobs in San Francisco for a brief period of time before turning down a chance for American citizenship, opting instead to return to the Philippines to revive his interest in filmmaking.

He joined the Philippine Educational Theatre Association where he met its founder Cecille Guidote, which led to the making of his first film, 1970’s Wanted: Perfect Mother, a box-office hit based on The Sound of Music, the only film he has made that was not heavy on social injustice and drama. From then on, Brocka’s films became more personal, his filmography depicting the plights and suffering of the Filipino people. Some of his best works are Insiang (1978), a revenge tale of a girl’s rape by her mother’s lover, which became the first entry by a Filipino filmmaker at the Cannes Festival, earning him the prestigious Palm d’Or. Manila: In The Claws of Darkness(1976), Jaguar (1980), and Bayan Ko (My Country, 1984) were also nominated for the award, further cementing his reputation as one of the greatest directors to come out of South East Asia.

Brocka’s films are very character driven, magnifying the oppression and neglect of the common citizen, the poor everyman barely scrapping by while fighting off abuse from the system. He often cast unknown actors to focus more on the story and not on the celebrity. Actors such as Bembol Roco, Hilda Koronel and Laurice Guillen are amongst the unknown actors that worked with him repeatedly for years, eventually becoming stars in their own right. Alongside his socially conscious films Brocka also discussed themes of sexuality, which filmmakers during his time tended to avoid. Despite his Mormon faith, Brocka was openly gay and homosexual themes were often a big part of the narratives of his films, as was showing sexually confident and strong-spirited women. Brocka’s films highlight the marginalised and ignored sectors of society- the slum dwellers, prostitutes, street hustlers, as well as those who were discriminated against simply because of gender or sexuality – subjects that no other director dared to touch, especially while under the Marcos dictatorship.

Manila: In The Claws of Darkness explores the prostitution of provincial girls and their hand-to-mouth existence in the city, while Jaguar, which many see as a companion piece to Manila: In The Claws of Darkness, is about a kind hearted country boy named Poldo who works in the city as a security guard and is drawn into the seedy underbelly of city life. Brocka manifests himself and his upbringing in his films by using naïve country folk, just as he once was, trying their luck in the city and finding out the hard way that the promise of a good life is nothing but an illusion. The gritty violence and voracious lack of morals in his films can be overwhelming, but it elicits a certain moral response from the audience that makes them very aware of the depressing state of affairs in society.

Under the Marcos regime, strict censorship was enforced in the media and Brocka was forced to smuggle his films out of the country for screenings to avoid heavy cuts. In 1984, he flew to Cannes to support another nomination for Bayan Ko (My Country). In his fight for freedom of speech, he declared that the Marcos dictatorship had taken control of the Philippine media for its enforcement of censorship, which resulted in his arrest and imprisonment along with other journalists and filmmakers upon his return to the Philippines.

He was released from jail after the fall of Marcos and was invited by Corazon Aquino, Marcos’ successor, to be part of a committee to draft the 1986 constitution but left soon after as he felt that many of the policies worked against the Filipino people. He protested against the new government by making radical films such as Ora Pro Nobis(1989) and Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak (1990), with Ora earning him yet another Palm d’Or nomination.

Lino Brocka died in a car accident on May 21, 1991. His untimely death did not stop his long and hard fight for social justice as he was posthumously awarded the National Artist Award and is considered, to this day, the greatest social realist, and the greatest director, the Philippines has produced.

Randy Ford and his wife Peggy were close friend of Lino and have many fond memories of him


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Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 23rd Installment

61. Many people hate good-byes. Often it’s sad, particularly when you know you probably will never see the person or the place again. As Ray Huberner boarded a plane at Manila International Airport, he told Peggy and me that he probably wouldn’t see us again. That turned out to be far from the truth. When Lino Brocka saw us off at the same airport, we suspected that we would never be back and never see him again, and it turned out to be true. The night before Lino treated us to a feast at a restaurant, and I remember enjoying Sinigang (Tamarind) fish soup. To this day it is one of my favorite soups. Thanks to Lino I learned to eat and like the marrow out of chicken bones and steamed bean spouts.

1. We had letters from home waiting for us at the American Express Office in Singapore. I acted as if I didn’t care about mail, but I read each letter several times. At unsettle times, like arriving in a new country, something settled and secure … like letters from home … was more important than ever.

We really enjoyed the multi-racial city-state of Singapore. (It’s an independent country. It’s an island that is 224 square miles … or was then … with a maximum width from north to south of 14 miles and a maximum length from east to west of 27 miles.) The city and its suburbs took up a great part of the island then, but there were still a few areas of virgin forest left. We spent part of an afternoon walking through one of these areas, with thickly growing trees and vines. We saw lots and lots of butterflies and saw a few very small squirrels. We heard birds but didn’t see any.

Singapore had a strange combination of people: Malays, Indians, Chinese, and the British were the most dominating. And they lived together on generally harmonious terms. There was an Arab part of town and a Chinese part, but not all of either of these people lived in these areas. So most public signs were written in English, Malay, Arabic, and Chinese; and many businesses had their signs in English and Chinese. English was usually the common language by which the different people communicated, but we ran into quite a large number who spoke only one of the Chinese dialects. But Malay was the official national language. (Malay is much like Tagalog. In fact, some of the words are the same. We knew a few phases and hoped to pick up more as we traveled through Malaysia)

Being in a country that was influenced by the British (instead of Americans) was interesting to us. The Chinese and Malays who spoke English did so with a British accent, and we heard a lot of words and expressions than what we were used to. One of the first things that struck us was that people drove on the left and the steering wheel was on the right side of the car. This led to signs like “Keep Left.” All seats in movies were reserved and the audience could enter only between shows, which we assumed was the British influence. A traffic circle was a “circus.”

Singapore had/has socialized medicine (although there were still private doctors). A couple of days after we got to Singapore Peggy needed to go to the doctor because she had a sore throat and to make sure that the amebic dysentery that showed up during her last medical in Manila was cleared up. Peggy called up the American Embassy, and they referred her to the outpatient clinic of a particular private hospital. But she couldn’t get an appointment there that day so she decided to take her luck at the General Hospital, which tourist information said was very good. When we got to the hospital, it turned out to be for emergencies only, but someone was able to direct us to a nearby outpatient clinic.

At the clinic Peggy got in line to “register.” We had to wait a while because it was during the lunch break. While waiting we noticed that everyone around us had a little card in his or her hand. We were the only Anglos in a room full of Chinese and Indians. That was when we realized that we were in a government clinic and that Peggy probably couldn’t get treatment since she wasn’t a resident of Singapore.

When we got to the first window … where there was a sign reading: “Pay 80 cents,” Peggy showed the man her Peace Corps form authorizing her to be checked at U.S. Government expense. He then simply filled out a card for her, gave her a number, took her 80 cents, and told her to wait upstairs outside door #6. Peggy’s number was 4 … the nurse was calling out the numbers in Chinese but she switched to English when no one responded to her 4. The doctor inside of #6 was an Indian lady. She was very nice and gave Peggy a container for a stool sample to find out about the amebic. She then sent Peggy downstairs where she was given two kinds of pills and a gargle. The next day Peggy went back, paid her 80 cents, and went to a lab and then saw the doctor who said that Peggy seemed to be clear of the amebic. And in a couple of days her sore throat went away … and it only cost us $1.60 Singapore.

While in Singapore we saw many men in bermuda shorts. It seemed to be a common denominator … that and cricket and polo … while the many different faces meant that many kinds of food were available. Chinese food was everywhere, but even it was quite varied depending upon what part of China it originated from. We ate quite a bit of Chinese food since it was easy to find and was often very cheap. We also enjoyed Malaysian “satay,” tenderized spiced chicken or mutton or pork barbecued over hot charcoal and eaten with a spicy peanut sauce. Sometimes we also ate in Muslim Indian restaurants. Most of this food was also hot. Peggy enjoyed murtaba, which reminded her somewhat of tacos, although the bread wasn’t so crisp. I really enjoyed/ enjoy hot spicy food, but she hadn’t developed a very great appreciation for it. Every now and then she enjoyed going into a Western place and getting a good ol’ ham sandwich!

At night many of the streets blossomed with little stalls selling food. Some of them had Chinese food, but our favorites were fruit stalls. At that time of year there were about 20 varieties of fruit available at these stalls, some of them … apples, oranges, pears, plums, grapes, watermelon … found in the states, but others were strictly tropical fruits.

We stayed in a fairly cheap Chinese hotel where communal toilets and showers were at the end of the hall. There were two kinds of toilets: a standard Western toilet; the other an Eastern toilet, consisting of a tiled hole, over which a person squatted. The Eastern one was really more sanitary because no part of the body touched the toilet. I learned how to navigate this one and preferred it because the Western one didn’t flush properly. We enjoyed warm showers … a rarity in the Philippines … by mixing hot and cold water in a barrel, then using a dipper to pour warm water over our bodies. It was actually a very pleasant way to bathe.

A welcome change from the Philippines was the absence of hordes of very poor. The government of Singapore built many huge high-rise complexes, with business establishments on the bottom floors and apartments on the upper floors. We didn’t know the arrangement, but we supposed the resident rented the apartment, but we knew however that there were no slums and very few beggars.

Peggy and Randy Ford

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Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 16th Installment

46. In December our household shrank to three. But shortly there after our friend Lino Brocka (yes, the movie director) gave us two very small chicks, Chittichitty and Bangbang. They had a box (and a light) in one corner of the kitchen. Chittichitty could fly in and out at will, but Bangbang couldn’t quite make it out. They were the same size when we got them, but Chittichitty grew faster. Several people suggested the former was probably a male and the latter a female. We thought that they would grow out of cuteness and that then we’d give them away. We were sure we could never eat them after we raised them as pets. Then Lino brought us a puppy, or tuta. Peggy had wanted a puppy ever since we arrived in Manila, but I kept insisting that it was better not to get one since we’d just have to leave it and because rabies was a real problem. But when Lino brought the puppy by and we saw that it was clean, we couldn’t turn it down.

Linda, our maid, named the chicks. She didn’t have a name for the puppy, so we called her (the puppy) Tuta for a while. Later Lino named her PETA after the Philippine Education Theater Association, where Lino and I both worked. The puppy was white and grayish-brown in a very irregular pattern. She wasn’t pretty, but she was certainly cute. Biting was her favorite game, but we hoped she’d grow out of it. I was her favorite person.

We really enjoyed watching the chicks change from tiny fuzzy animals into ones who could fly. But then came a very sad day. The puppy killed Chittychitty. (She had always chased the chicks, but we didn’t think she would really hurt them). After this sad event we made big plans to keep Bangbang away from the dog if no one was around. And then what happened? The day after Chittychitty died Bangbang drowned in the toilet. Most Filipino toilets have no seats, leaving just the porcelain and the hole with water. The downstairs bathroom door was always open because that was where the dog was supposed to do her business. Apparently, Bangbang flew up on the bowl rim and fell in.

47. My turning 26 didn’t completely assure that I wouldn’t be drafted, but I was now in a new category (6), which was further down on the list of priorities. Married men 26 or older were not generally drafted, but it depended upon the needs of the local board. We just hoped that there were plenty of men available in Dallas in the 4 or 5 categories that would be called before my category (6).

48. It was the beginning of March, and whether we would extend until the end August or leave the Peace Corps in June was still up in the air. Requests for extension of service had to be in at least three months before the scheduled termination date, which meant we had until March 16 to apply. At that point we were still waiting for a letter (a required letter) from the person who originally requested that I stay longer. We thought if she didn’t care enough to write one letter, there was no point in staying. Peggy would’ve liked to have stayed so that she could’ve had longer to work in the community center, but I really got the urge to travel on.

Our thinking for some time was along the lines of heading next to Borneo, specifically to Sabah, Brunei and parts of Malaysia. But the fact that Malaysia and the Philippines had broken off diplomatic relations made it rather difficult to get there. No planes went from Manila to Borneo, and ships left for Borneo only from the port of Iligan. That would’ve been o.k. had we not be convinced that we could only leave the Philippines from Manila. We could get a boat from Manila to Hong Kong or Singapore, and then get another one for Borneo, but that would eat up a lot of extra money.

I spent considerable time pouring over a travel guide to South and East Asia and a map. I thought we might go to Singapore, then slowly work our way through Indonesia to Australia. (We’d pick up Malaysia and Brunei on a return trip.) A drawback to this plan, we thought, would be that Indonesians did not like Americans (which we found wasn’t true), and travel there was even more difficult than in most of the rest of this part of the world (which was also untrue). So we thought starting there might be really discouraging.

Still another alternative entered the picture. Back in my days at the Dallas Theater Center, I worked with the son of the director of the Korean National Theater. If we went to Korea, I was assured of getting to study and work in this theater. We had planned to make Korea one of the latter stops on our trip, but we began to think that any major trouble in this part of the world (in addition to Vietnam) increased the possibility that we wouldn’t be able to get into Korea. Thus we thought maybe we should go there while we could. A big disadvantage was that Korea had cold winters, and we would need a whole new wardrobe. Besides, going to less developed countries was more exciting to me. .

We also knew that most of traveling in this part of world would be just traveling, since jobs were too scarce to give to outsiders. But jobs were supposed to be plentiful in both New Zealand and Australia, which we thought meant we would be able to work and travel in those countries. Also, I had friends in drama in Christchurch, New Zealand. Finally we also thought Japan would be another place where we could work since there was supposed to be a great demand for English teachers and tutors there.

How long we traveled, we thought, would depend upon how far we could stretch our money and/or the job situation, how involved I became in different theaters, and how much we enjoyed the life of a vagabond. I was thinking in terms of six or eight years, but Peggy tended toward two or three years. She was somewhat apprehensive of just striking out on our own in countries where we knew no one and none of the local languages. But I kept telling her that it would be much like trips around the Philippines, which she enjoyed thoroughly.

Peggy and Randy Ford

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Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 6th Installment

The head of the prop crew was sick, so Lino Brocka (who later became a famous Filipino movie director), Peggy and I went to a barrio to get props. (The play was set around the turn of the 20th Century. The tools they used then for planting and grinding rice were no longer in use in Manila, but people in small, rural barrios still used them). We only went about an hour’s ride (in a slow, very bouncy truck) from Manila, but it was the farthest we’d been from the city and the first time we’d been to a barrio. The people had paved roads and electricity, but the atmosphere was slower and more peaceful, and the people seemed friendlier. Although the road was very narrow, women all up and down the road had laid their rice to dry on big pieces of cloth, which took up one lane of the road, and we had to drive very slowly in order to dodge the drying rice. We saw several carts pulled by carabaos, and horse drawn kalisas far out numbered gas-powered vehicles. We hoped that at some point we’d get to spend enough time in a barrio so that we could see more than just superficial differences. And we hoped we’d get an opportunity after Christmas and after the show closed.

Because the Spanish once ruled the Philippines, people follow the idea that Christmas lasts until Three Kings Day. And for many people, Three Kings Day … and not Christmas Day … is the climax of the season. Thus, it seemed strange to us to still see people carrying around gifts with Christmas wrapping twelve days after we opened ours … but it was just as legitimate then as it was on Christmas day. All Christmas decorations on homes remained up, and radio stations were still broadcasting Christmas season advertising, while we longed for the season to be over.

Another Christmas season custom there that Peggy and I had a hard time getting used to was the asking for money. There were always lots of beggars on the streets, but we didn’t believe in encouraging such a life, so we practically never gave anything. But around Christmas all sorts of people came around wishing us a merry Christmas … and wanting money in return. Children (and sometimes adults) formed little bands, which serenaded outside homes. In return, they expected to be given anywhere from 50 cents to 5 pesos, depending on the size of the group and the wealth of the donor. The garbage collectors (who certainly never collected our garbage) came to our door saying, “I’m asking for a Merry Christmas.” Just answering “Merry Christmas” did nothing to get rid of them. (The garbage men even had the nerve to come in a group, and then to come back one by one.) Most Filipinos had godchildren (Peggy’s Tagalog teacher’s husband had 30), and during the holidays they all came around expecting to be handed money! “What a racket!” was how we responded to it all.

On the 25th we went to the home of Peggy’s Tagalog teacher for Christmas dinner. The food was quite elaborate, with four or five meat dishes. While we were there, all sorts of relatives and in-laws came and went, but the crowd was really quite small compared with what we saw a little while later. Enri (our landlady) had a heart attack almost a month before then, and she had been staying at the home where she had the attack. So, on the way home from Christmas dinner we stopped to see Enri. Only we could hardly get through to Enr’s room because of all the people: there must’ve been 40 or 50 guest. And others had already left, and still others were yet to come. The household was quite wealthy, so they could easily afford to feed such a crowd, but we understood that some poor families (especially in the smaller barrios) went into debt almost a year’s salary to entertain in grand style at Christmas time or for barrio fiesta.

18. Linda, our maid, was working out quite well. We had a misunderstanding and she thought we were supposed to pay her 5 pesos a month more than what we thought, but we just paid her the extra and everybody was happy. Filipino culture doesn’t permit much direct criticism. If you have a gripe, you go to a third person, who will carry the complaint to the person involved. This, as you can imagine, can cause changes to come about very slowly … if at all. Although Linda accepted criticism very well, Peggy couldn’t correct her as she would if she were our employee in the United States. If Peggy wanted a change … unless she felt it was major enough to get Enri or her maid to be a third party … she had to find a way to tell her without saying anything directly. So for weeks, Linda re-made our bed everyday, tucking the sheet in on four sides. But when Peggy kept making it tucking in only at the bottom, she finally caught on and started re-making it once or twice a week instead of every day.

Linda was really a top-notch cook, and we were satisfied with her. She mostly made soup and rice, with a little bit of meat sometimes. She did make our favorite Filipino dish, lumpia, very well, and she began experimenting with new things every now and then. In a letter home Peggy described Filipino food in this way: “Filipino food is mostly to use mother’s words … ‘the more bland oriental type.’ They use a lot of noodles or rice and lot of vegetables. I really like some of the dishes, and some just don’t appeal to me.” Filipino dishes varied considerably from one area of the country to another. Manila cooking showed a lot of Chinese and American influence, but we didn’t know what food was like in other places. .

Peggy and Randy Ford

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Lino Brocka The Philippines’ Greatest Director

      Note: During the two years I lived in Manila with my wife, Lino Brocka was a close friend of ours.   He gave us a dog he named PETA, named after the Philippine Educational Theater Association, and also gave us two chicks, which he named Chitty-Chitty and Bang-Bang, names inspired fittingly enough by a movie.   He also cast my wife Peggy as the Virgin Mary in a television drama.  Randy Ford

The following article was taken from http://www.ldsfilm.com/directors/Brocka.html

  Lino Brocka
The Philippines’ Greatest Director

Lino Brocka’s story is so unusual that if it was pitched to a movie studio it would be rejected — for being too unbelievable.   Yet ask most any Filipino Latter-day Saint, and they know the story: the man who is widely considered the greatest filmmaker in his country, was also a Latter-day Saint.   Beyond that, he could be called the “first convert” to the church, earning him forever a place in Latter-day Saint history and film history.   Before Richard Dutcher was old enough to hold a camera, Lino Brocka was making a film that drew on his missionary experiences — in a leper colony.

      Brocka was not an active churchgoer later in life, but never held animosity toward the Church. It appears that Filipino church members eventually rejected Brocka’s films because of “R-rated” content and GLBT themes. Yet when one considers Brocka’s themes, it is clear that his critically acclaimed films were deeply influenced by many Latter-day Saint values, even while portraying–at times accepting–some non-LDS values.

From “Filipino Film and Video Artists”:

      Filmmaker, actor, social activist, Mr. Brocka is widely considered as the most prominent Filipino filmmaker who broke grounds for Philippine cinema internationally when his films Insiang (1976), Jaguar (1979) and Bona (1980) were shown at Cannes Film Festival, both in Director’s fortnight and the Main Competition.   He had a colorful career until his untimely death in a car accident in Quezon City in 1991.   Known for the social and political causes he espoused like anti-censorship and human rights, he carried on these causes to his films notably, Miguelito, Ang Batang Rebelde / The young rebel (1986), Orapronobis / Fight for us (1989) and Gumapang ka sa Lusak / Dirty affair (1990).


“Philippine and Church History” and Church History in the Philippines:

      The first missionaries [to the Philippines], Elders Ray Goodson, Harry Murray, Kent Lowe and Nestor Ledesma, arrived in Manila on June 5, 1961.   The first two to be baptized by the missionaries were Jose Gutierez Sr. and Lino Brocka.

From University of the Philippines Diliman film festival notes:

      The best known and most highly regarded contemporary Philippine filmmaker.   The son of a fisherman and a schoolteacher, he converted to the Mormon religion after graduating from college and served briefly as a missionary in a leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.   Returning to Manila, he began acting, directing and writing for the stage and TV.   He directed his first film in 1970, but it was in 1978 that he first attracted international attention at the Cannes Festival, with Insiang (1976). Brocka’s films often carry a social message and are typically sympathetic to the poor and the working class.   They are frequently politically controversial.   His French co-production L’Insoumis (1989) mercilessly depicts the lawlessness and terror in the post-Marcos Philippines.


“Mission Impossible 1: Filipino Filmmaking 1896-1986”:

      Lino Brocka (1940-1991), like Gerardo de Leon, was the spokesman and master filmmaker of his generation.   Raised poor and rural, Brocka studied to be a Mormon missionary, worked with homeless in San Francisco, and taught in Hawaii before returning to the Philippines in his late-Twenties.   An aspiring actor, he also wrote and directed for the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) both on stage and for its television show.   In 1970, Brocka made his first film Wanted: Perfect Mother.   It combined the current hit The Sound of Music with a Filipine comic serial (a governess struggles with her brood of orphans), and achieved box office success.   Brocka’s career was built on the fact that, in three weeks, he could write and direct a film which could make as much money as an American import.   Over the next four years he made nine films.

      Brocka was a controversial figure, the subject of both praise and criticism.   But he was certainly a prolific filmmaker.   Among the best of the more than 70 films he made are Maynila: In the Claws of Neon (1975) and Jaguar (1979) which depict the Philippines in a gritty, realistic style.   He has was criticised for Bona (1980), which uses well-known movie stars to make a film that, he claimed, attacked the star system; Kontrobersyal (1980), a film condemning pornography, but which was itself deemed pornographic… and Ang Bayan Ko (My Country; Clinging to a Knife Edge, 1984), a Filipine entry in the 1984 Cannes Film Festival which was disowned by the Filipine government.   Brocka was a trenchant critic of the Marcos government, and despite being censored (during the latter period of martial law, his films were smuggled out of the country for screenings) and imprisonment, he continued to fight censorship and agitate against the Marcos regime in both his life and his films.

      This vigilance continued with the films he made after the fall of Marcos.   Brocka, along with other filmmakers, was disappointed with the policies of the new president, Corazon Aquino. Consequently, he continued to make films critical of the Filipine government.   Brocka, without a doubt, brought international attention to both the quality and value of the Filipine cinema as well as the transgressions and repression of the Marcos regime.



Lino Brocka Biography

Published by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

      This work attempts to present a comprehensive view of the artist’s life, with interviews and reviews of his most important films.   The volume includes a complete filmography of his works.   It also features essays written by highly qualified authors on the subject’s contribution to contemporary Philippine culture and history.

Available for online purchase from



Documentary: “Signed: Lino Brocka”

Online source:

Philippines 1987 Length 90 min.

Director: Christian Blackwood Screenwriter/ Producer/ Cinematographer: Christian Blackwood Editor: Monika Abspacher
Cast: Lino Brocka

1988 Peace Film Award Berlin International Film Festival

      Signed: Lino Brocka, is a documentary that portrays the late great Filipino filmmaker as patriot and socialist.   Brocka explains the importance of reflecting poverty and the culture of the masses on film not just to fulfill realism for realism’s sake, but in order for the audience to fully grasp the significance of their roots and move them to remedy the ills of their society.

      Christian Blackwood was born in Berlin, Germany in 1942.   His selected works are Black Harvest, All by Myself, Private Conversations, Observations Under the Volcano, Nik and Murray and Stephanie and the Madame. He died on July 1992 at New York, USA



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Randy-Author on living with the choices we make

      Old times, memories, choices: they have more to do with the present than one might think.   My wife Peggy and I had just, after two years, left Manila when Lino Brocka first started making movies (because of her white skin, Peggy played the Virgin Mary in one of Lino’s dramas on live national television).   So if we had stayed in the Philippines, I could’ve…  STOP!

      Here I go again with the old “I could’ve-should’ve game,” which I don’t like.

      We were not from the Philippines and had we stayed we would’ve always been transplants.   But the notion of envy and regret has sometimes come to me when someone I had been associated with became very successful and I had moved on and missed out: Lino was one example, and Preston Jones, another (both are dead and I’m alive, as I’m still trying and they’re tragically finished).   I can easily be envious.   WAIT!

      I have to tell myself the truth: I chose to leave the Dallas Theater Center and Manila and each move led to incredible experiences.   Soon these experiences offered different opportunities.   And consequently, I’ve had a very full life, nothing that I regret.   It’s only during the downtime, the in-betweens, that the could’ves and should’ves emerge.

      I lesetstats1ft the Dallas Theater Center (Preston Jones) and a theater that produced my plays to teach and work in the theater in the Philippines.   For two years I taught drama during the day at the University of the Philippines and at night and on weekends worked in a theater in Fort Santiago under the auspicious The Philippine Educational Theater Association.   Lino Brocka also worked there and directed and produced weekly television dramas.   I always had more than drama and theater in mind; for I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity I had to see the world and decided the best way to do that was by bicycle. 

       And just as we had left Dallas, we flew out of Manila and then bought bicycles in Malacca Malaysia, and from there commenced a three-year trek.   (Except for the chance that Peggy might’ve been pregnant, we would’ve started from Singapore.)   There is just so much you can fit into a lifetime, back to old times, memories, and choices.   I was a writer (in search of material) with an urge to keep going, and without a clue where I would end up.   I wanted the experience, and now that I have it I have to remind myself that it was all worth it.

      Randy Ford

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Reena Famy Digo-a tribute to an eminent Filipino film, television, and stage director, Lino Brocka

      Note by Randy Ford: Lino was a close friend.  He gave so much…and among other things, he gave my wife and me a puppy named PETA and two chicks named Chitty-Chitty and Bang-Bang (the dog and the chicks were named by Lino); both chicks suffered a violent deaths: PETA killed one and the other drowned in a toilet bowl.   I didn’t learn of Lino’s deaith until I went to buy a DVR of his last movie for a Christmas present.





Renowned Film Director

     Lino Brocka was an eminent film, television, and stage director who blazed the path for socially oriented Filipino films in the seventies.   He was born on April 3, 1939 in Nueva Ecija.   His father, Regino, was a skilled carpenter and boat builder as well as an itinerant salesman from Sorsogon.

      Regino Brocka settled his schoolteacher wife in Pilar, Sorsogon while he carried out his occupations around the country.   On a trip to Nueva Ecija, he fell in love with a 15-year-old lass named Pilar, who became Lino’s mother.   Despite the objection of Pilar’s parents, Regino took Lino and his mother to Bicol and, deserting his legal family, lived with them on an island off the coast.

      His legal wife filed a case of bigamy against Regino.   He was convicted and sentenced to two years in Muntinglupa Prison.   The young Lino and his mother moved into a house near the prison, where Lino’s brother, Danilo, was born.   After his sentence, Regino returned with them to their island-home in Bicol.

      Regino Brocka had a profound influence on Lino.   He poured his knowledge, time, experience, and love into the growing boy.   He taught his son the alphabet, arithmetic, and natural sciences, as well as the art of singing, dancing, and reciting poetry.

      Regino was an important man on the island, he took an interest in politics.   He often took the young Lino to his meetings.   His father was killed in what looked like a political murder.   With his father’s death, their family lost its financial and social position.   His mother had to accept odd jobs in town, and later, stayed with local fisherman who was kind to young Lino and his brother but who had been totally indifferent to his late father.

      His mother’s new life apparently did not work out well.   Pilar and her family went to her relatives in Nueva Ecija where they were split up.   Lino lived with his aunt.

      While living with his aunt, Lino was treated as a houseboy and subjected to insults and physical abuse.   He had to put up with everything for four years, until he had a heated argument with his aunt, who threw a large bowl at him, knocking him unconscious.   After that, he ran away to his grandmother, where he was reunited with his mother and brother.

      Upon learning about the maltreatment, Lino’s mother broke off with her elder sister and returned to San Jose, where she and her two sons were reduced to a hand-to-mouth existence.   He attended the San Jose Elementary School, studying there from 1947 until his graduation in 1952.

      Apart from school, the only respite Lino had from his daily chores was the movies.   He became an avid movie fan, and since most of the movies he saw were made in Hollywood, he developed a fondness for American lifestyles and movie plots.

      When his mother started teaching, Lino now focused his attention on being successful in high school.   He excelled in his academic subjects as well as in debate, oration, and in any other activity that needed performing.   He also read most of the books at the San Jose Library, and was influenced by authors like A.J. Cronin and William Somerset Maugham.

      Lino Brocka graduated from high school with six medals and won a scholarship to the University of the Philippines, where he enrolled in a pre-law course.

      However, he dropped his pre-law course and took only subjects, which interested him, like literature.   He lost his scholarship by the end of his freshman year, and he had to work to pay for his tuition.   By the time he left the University, he had enough English units for master’s degree but lacked credits for a freshman course in other subjects.

      While he was still at UP, Brocka joined its Dramatic Club.   When he applied for membership, he was not accepted because of his provinciano accent.   Disgusted, he again started watching American movies and practiced speaking like an American.   He returned to the UP Dramatic Club, but not as an actor but as a stagehand pulling curtains.   He also worked at the music shop of the UP Canteen and did publicity work for American B-movies shot in the Philippines but packaged in Hollywood.   Once, he worked as an assistant director.   Among the many friends he made at the Dramatic Club was Behn Cervantes, who later became a fellow stage and film director.   Cervantes introduced him to a team of young Mormon’s first Filipino convert and missionary.   He was sent to Hawaii, where he taught part of a course in world religion in the University of Hawaii.

      After completing his missionary work, Brocka enrolled at the Mormon College of Hawaii to try to complete his college education, but the balmy Hawaiian climate militated against it.   He found himself sleeping under the coconut trees instead of attending his classes.

      Brocka left Hawaii for San Francisco.   Having little money, he lived among the bums and hoboes of the city.   Later, he took a job as a busboy in a diner, where he had his first complete meal in months.   He worked next in a hospital for the elderly.   Its administrator offered him permanent employment and a chance at getting an American citizenship, but he refused.   After five months in San Francisco, he returned home in 1968.

      His friend from UP, Behn Cervantes introduced him to Cecille Guidote (now Mrs. Heherson Alvarez) who had founded the Philippines Educational Theater Association in 1967.   Brocka joined her group in 1969.

      At PETA, Brocka did everything.   He ran errands, wrote scripts, and led in theater exercises.   Eventually, he started directing for PETA’s drama show for television.

      In 1970, a movie producer asked Brocka to do a film, which his outfit, LEA Production, would enter in the Manila Film Festival.   The result was “Wanted: Perfect Mother,” based on “The Sound of Music” and a Filipino comic serial.   It not only won an award for best screenplay at the festival but also proved that Filipino films could earn as much prestige as foreign films.

      Also in 1970, Brocka directed “Santiago,” a war movie that won for him the best director award from the Citizen’s Council for Mass Media.   Later in the year his “Tubog sa Ginto,” a film about a wealthy married homosexual and his family, also garnered an award.

      For the next four years, he made seven more pictures for LEA Productions.

      Brocka realized that he had to make two moneymaking films for the company before he could make one that he really liked.   He exploited topics, which were usually taboo and approached these with sensitivity and sympathy, using actors and actresses with background in the theater.   He kept looking for new talents in scripts writing, musical scoring, and acting.   Among his now-famous acting “discoveries” were Hilda Koronel, Christopher de Leon, Philip Salvador, and Bembol Roco.

      In 1971, Brocka won another best director award from CCMM for “Stardom,” a film about a young performer forced tragically into stardom by his ambitious mother,

      Not wishing to be tied down permanently to filmmaking, he quit LEA Productions to teach film, drama, and speech at St. Theresa’s College and St. Paul’s College.   He impressed upon his students the importance of doing films and plays that would make the audience think.

      In 1974, with about 100 artists and 10 businessmen, he formed a film company, CINEMANILA, which he himself headed.   In the same year, he directed “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang,” a film about a teenaged lad growing up in a small town amid its petty and gross injustices.   A box office hit, it won another best director award from FAMAS for Brocka, apart from a best actor award, and was made a required viewing in religious classes in Catholic Schools.

      CINEMANILA however, was short-lived.   It made only three more films, after “Tinimbang…”   When it folded up, Brocka, who had been very liberal in signing checks and personally guaranteeing loans, found himself more than P800,000 in debt.   Despite his precarious financial condition, Brocka turned down offers by the Marcos administration to do films it “approved.”

      In 1975, Brocka went on to win another FAMAS best director award from “Maynila Sa Kuko ng Liwanag.”   Which was about a young man searching for his sweetheart in Manila.   The young woman was taken in by a “recruiter” who refuses his requests to see her.   The young man becomes enmeshed in the intrigues of criminal groups and the lower strata of society and finds out about the fate of his sweetheart.   He ends up taking revenge on the “recruiter,” a brother owner, and he was killed by a mob.

      Still another such award from FAMAS came his way in 1980 for “Jaguar.”   Brocka entered “Jaguar,” which also won the best director award from the Urian, a critics’ association, at the Cannes Film Festival in 1977.   Brocka entered two other movies of his, “Insiang” and “Bona”, in that prestigious film festival in France.

      In 1983, Brocka formed the Concerned Artists of the Philippines, which he led for two years.   His stand was that artists were first and foremost citizens and, as such, must address the issues confronting the country.   CAP, which was one of the organizations that gathered at then Manila International Airport to welcome Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino from his self-exile in the United states, became active in anti-government rallies in both Manila and the provinces after the Aquino assassination.   It also figured prominently in protest actions against media censorship.   After a nationwide strike supported by jeepney drivers in 1984, Brocka was arrested and imprisoned for 16 days.   That year, he became a national council member of the anti-Marcos Coalition of Organizations for the restoration of Democracy (CORD).

      While participating in rallies by day, Brocka made movies at night to support himself and pay off his debts.   After securing the support of Malaya Films, an outfit with anti-Marcos leanings, he came out with the movie, “Bayan Ko, Kapit Sa Patalim.”   In the title “Bayan Ko” referred to a popular protest song while “Kapit Sa Patalim” formed part of a Filipino saying concerning someone in desperate straits.   When he arrived at the Cannes Film Festival to show this film, Brocka wore a barong adorned by a blooded map of the Philippines within the country.   “Bayan Ko” gained rave reviews at Cannes and was later adjudged best film of the year by the British Film Institute.

      The government tried to stop its showing in the country, saying that it was subversive, but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of it.   However, before it could be shown to the public, the Board of Censors dubbed it “lascivious” and said it had to cut many scenes.   Another legal battle ensued at the Supreme Court before Brocka and Malaya Films secured the showing of the film in its uncut form, but only to audiences over 18-years-old.

      After his return to France, the government refused to renew Brock’s passport, but backed down after he was invited to speak at human rights conference by French Prime Minister.

      In 1985, Brocka, who had become the most popular and respected film director in the country, was honored with the Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts “for making cinema a vital social commentary, awakening public consciousness to disturbing realities of life among the Filipino poor.”

      With the overthrow of the Marcos regime, Brocka strove for a freer media atmosphere.   He was selected by the new government of Corazon Aquino as one of the members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission.   However, he and some other commissioners later resigned in disgust, saying that the new charter it was drafting was repressive and anti-Filipino.

      An anti-bases activist, Brocka vigorously campaigned against the presence of USS military facilities in the Philippines.

      In the film, “Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak,” he portrayed the abuse of power by self-serving politicians.   In another film, “Ora Pro Nobis,” which was shown in Cannes, he portrayed the abuses of the military and religious cults it had recruited in the anti-insurgency war in the country.

      Brocka made many films, which were actually rehashes of American originals.   He participated in many other film festivals, like those in Toronto, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Chicago, and was interviewed by prestigious magazines.

      On May 21, 1991, Brocka met his sudden death in a car crash in Quezon City.   At the time of his death, he was filming “Sa Kabila ng Lahat.”   Brocka, who had remained single, left behind his mother Pilar and brother Danilo.

Name: Reena Famy Digo

Cell no. : 09207832958

e-mail address: iloveyourina@yahoo.com




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