Part of the special features of Cinema Rehiyon 11 was a lecture on the craft of National Artist for Cinema and Broadcast Arts, Eddie Romero held February 26 at the Lawak Kauswagan of Foundation University – the host institution.
Entitled “Ganito S’ya Noon, Paano Tayo Ngayon?: The Films of Dumaguete’s Pride Eddie Romero,” the talk was delivered by Elvert Bañares, the Assistant Secretary of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ National Executive Committee on Cinema.
During the said lecture, he elaborately discussed the journey of Romero as a filmmaker and his significant works that earned him the title as national artist and an icon in Philippine Cinema. Bañares even referred to him as one of the best directors of the Philippines.
Born in July 7, 1924, Edgar Sinco Romero was the lone child of school teacher Pilar Guzman Sinco and Philippine Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s in the United Kingdom, Jose Emeterio Muñoz Romero Sr. in Dumaguete City.
Foundation University’s founder and former University of the Philippines President, Dr. Vicente G. Sinco is the brother of Romero’s mother, Pilar. While on his father side, his uncle, Jose V. Romero Jr. was former Philippine Ambassador to Italy.
Early Years of Romero’s Career
At the start of the lecture, Bañares described Romero as a fine man who came from a fine family. He then mentioned about Romero’s love for reading. In fact, Romero started out not as a filmmaker but as a prolific writer of short stories.
It was Manila-based Director Gerardo de Leon who came to Dumaguete because of his interest in Romero’s stories. Romero, who wrote scripts for de Leon’s movies, was hesitant to write in Tagalog. This made de Leon hire a translator to work on the original scripts written in English.
“Ang Maestra, Ang Ganda Mo” (1941) was the first movie that Romero wrote with Director de Leon and there were more collaborations that followed. He also wrote for other directors in the later years.
De Leon saw a great a potential in Romero as a director. Though a bit hesitant to direct, Romero was then mentored by de Leon and brought the young Romero to the studio system. The national artist for Cinema began directing in 1948 but this was cut short due to his trip in the United Kingdom where his father worked as an ambassador.
While in the United Kingdom, Romero met with British filmmakers: David Lean, Karel Reisz, Thorold Dickinson and Roberto Rossilini. He loved the craft of these people whom he had the chance to converse and exchange ideas with and at the end of their conversation, he expressed his interest for their films. But the four filmmakers gave Romero a lasting advise and that was to create his own style.
In 1951, he came back to Manila and directed films not as Eddie Romero but took the pseudonym, Enrique Moreno. And this fresh start won him the Best Director Award at the prestigious Maria Clara Awards for “Ang Pulubi at ang Prinsesa” (1951).
Also, his films began to earn distinctions in the international scene and one of which was “Ang Asawa Kong Amerikana” which won Best in Screenplay at the Asian Film Festival in 1953.
Romero also did musical films like “Maria Went to Town” with Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran as lead casts. A trivia was even shared by the lecturer that the said musical film was the favorite of the late President Ramon Magsaysay. Malacañan Palace borrowed it but sad to note that since then, the copy was never returned to Romero.
Meanwhile, the esteemed director also worked most of his life in the United States’ Hollywood productions but never applied for citizenship. He chose to remain as a Filipino Citizen.
In fact, in 1957, he ventured into B-Movies which were often described as low-budget movies and were patterned after the taste of producers from the United States. Romero always had his own take when it comes to his craft. With the productions, he brought Hollywood to the Philippines by holding the shoot in his native country and by hiring local artists that can be at par with the skills of the foreign artists.
Aside from B-Movies, Romero was also fond of war movies. He did several movies which were set during wartime in the Philippines and to name a few, “The Raiders of Leyte Gulf,” “The Walls of Hell,” and “The Passionate Strangers” – which will be the closing film of Cinema Rehiyon 11.
During the next years of his directing career, Romero took a leap on horror movies. According to Bañares, Romero had his take on low budget movies and opted to produce horror films that are difficult and challenging instead of pursuing other types like romance or comedy.
On the other hand, Romero had this immense love for country. Among his great works that reflect Philippine history is “Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? (1975). In 1975, he pursued this movie project after coming home to the Philippines after his long stay in the United States. His desire of coming home was inspired by the dawning of the said to be “Golden Age of Philippine Cinema.” After all, with this film, he has been freed from the dictates of his American producers especially with his production of B-Movies.
Director’s Unique Mark
Bañares, during his lecture, pointed out that Romero had the talent of choosing people. This is usually evident in most of his films and one of which was “Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? (1975) with a powerhouse cast composed of high caliber artists namely: Christopher de Leon, Gloria Diaz, Eddie Garcia, Rosemarie Gil, Jaime Fabregas, Director Peque Gallaga and Odette Khan.
Another mark of Romero’s artistry is the timeless scripts evident in the movie, “Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? (1975). Bañares recalled that his film students, who are mostly millenials, laughed unceasingly with the lines delivered by the characters in the movie.
Romero, according to Bañares, had the opportunity to mix local and foreign talents in his productions. He sees to it that both artists appear to be of equal footing or at par with each other that no one is above the other or one of them may appear like a supporting actor.
One mark of Romero’s scripts is the dialogue exchanges of characters bear so much sense. And apart from that, he projects villains and bad characters as not totally bad people. He gives the audiences the eyes to see that behind these characters are people who love and care for their families. And lastly, Romero is not the type of writer and director who wants to have characters continuously caught in a clash with each other.
And for some who have known him personally, one can see that Romero had grandiose ideas. Despite this fact, Bañares told the attendees that as a director, he is often underrated and that for him is a sad fact that needs to be corrected.
On archiving, it was Romero who first told Bañares about film archiving. In fact, he called Romero as a passionate archivist pointing out that during his stint at the NCCA, the huge amounts of money are mostly spent on film archiving. Romero saw this as essential for the filmmakers and for the film industry that is why during his stint at the NCCA, he never uttered a word when the budget is mostly spent for the archiving works.
During the time when the resource speaker was head officer of the NCCA – Film Academy of the Philippines’ Cinema Program, he worked with and was under the mentorship of the late Eddie Romero for 10 years. Bañares shared that he did not only learn about filmmaking but also of social values – honesty, integrity and love for country. Such values have driven Romero to pursue his passion for filmmaking.
About the Resource Person
Elvert Bañares is a filmmaker, multidisciplinary artist and educator. He founded CineKasimanwa: Western Visayas Film Festival and has served as head officer of the NCCA-FAP Cinema Program where he worked with, and was mentored by, National Artist Eddie Romero for 10 years. For the span of ten years, Bañares would meet daily during week days and engage in conversations with him on Cinema Program projects, Philippine Cinema and films in general.
Bañares worked as production coordinator of the 1896 TV Series (then ABC 5) and Juan de la Cruz TV Series (NET 25 and IBC 13) which Romero conceptualized and co-produced with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
As a filmmaker, Bañares’ works have been screened across four continents. He has taught film courses as Special Senior Lecturer at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, De la Salle – College of St. Benilde, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Asia Pacific College, Lyceum of the Philippines and University of St. La Salle Bacolod.