After discovering Cinema ’76 and Black Maria Cinema in the Mandaluyong area, I next heard of Cinema Centenario in Quezon City which, according to filmmaker Tim Rone Villanueva, opened in December 2017 and was a joint project created by film enthusiasts in time for Philippine cinema’s centennial year. What prompted me to go out of my way to see the place for the first time was the chance to see the restored version of Lino Brocka’s “Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag” (Manila, In The Claws Of Light) which most critics and film groups have hailed as the greatest Filipino film of all time. I remember my grandmother (Nanay) telling me that she watched this film’s theatrical release and that she felt “very depressed” after seeing the movie because of it’s tragic ending.
“Maynila” is about the tragic love story between Julio Madiaga (Bembol Roco) and Ligaya Paraiso (HIlda Koronel). Ligaya, in her desire to help her poor family in the province, heads for the big city since she is made to believe she will be given a job and a better life but is instead fooled and sold by an evil “Mrs. Cruz” to a Chinese. Julio decides to look for her in the city and along the way meets all forms of oppression – as a construction worker who is denied his just wage and as a reluctant male prostitute who goes into the flesh trade for a fast buck. The movie shows how poor people are oppressed by those who prey on them like the illegal recruiter Mrs. Cruz, the greedy employer of the construction firm, the Chinese guy who makes Ligaya his sex slave, the gay clients of the whore house with tragic consequences and their inability to rise above their poverty.
Directed by the late National Artist Lino Brocka with cinematagraphy by acclaimed director Mike de Leon, this film was restored by the World Cinema Foundation group of American director Martin Scorsese, who is regarded as one of the most influential and significant fimmakers in cinematic history. “Maynila” is considered by many as director Lino Brocka’s greatest film because of it’s brave depiction of an oppressive society. It makes a bold statement of how a society made up of abusive people can oppress the helpless poor and shatter their little dreams.
Discovering Cinema Centenario was such a pleasant experience. For cineastes like myself, it is great to know that we now have alternative venues to catch up on indie films and classics from the past which we either failed to see or would like to see again. Indeed seeing classic movies is food for the soul.
Cinema Centenario is located at 95 Maginhawa St., Teachers Village, Quezon City, the food and art hub of Quezon City. Seating capacity is for 65 people. Contact 0945-536-7054 to confirm screening schedules.