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UPD in celluloid: an exhibit on movies with UPD as film location

Exhibit opening:  Exhibit curator Gerard Rey A. Lico delivers his opening remark as UPD Chancellor Caesar A. Saloma, OICA Director Jose Danilo A. Silvestre, OICA Board members Dr. Prescelina A. Legasto and Information Office Director Maureen Anne Araneta and Designed Environment Committee member Zenaida Galingan look on.

(June 24)—Tall cogon grass covering Diliman’s expanse, young acacia trees hardly noticeable along the Academic Oval, the dusty and dirt road that is the University Avenue and massive colonnaded buildings standing few and far between: this was how UP Diliman (UPD) looked in its early years, images that present occupants can only get to see in pages of old yearbooks.

Now, UPD has the rare privilege of seeing how the campus evolved since UP’s transfer from Manila in 1949 through the exhibit The Celluloid Campus: The University of the Philippines in the Cinematic Imagination at the University Theater Lobby.

The exhibit features eight stills from vintage Filipino movies, 16 photos of UPD buildings from the 1940s to the 1960s and an aerial photo of UPD in the 1960s—all reproduced in large scale.  Also featured are footages of 23 Filipino movies from the 1950s to early 2000 which were shot on location in UPD and the movie Charito, I Love You (1957), a musical romance set in UP starring then film luminaries Charito Solis and Leroy Salvador. 

The exhibit is under the curatorship of Campus Architect Dr. Gerard Rey A. Lico, a professor of architecture and head of the National Committee on Architecture and Allied Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

A promenade to the past: OICA Board member
and Human Kinetics professor Dr. Leilani Gonzalo
views a large-scale wall mounted stills of a 1950s
movie shot in UP Diliman.

Launched on June 18 to cap the 105th UP anniversary celebration in UPD, the exhibit was an Office of the Chancellor offering through the UPD Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts (OICA).

Lico said filming on campus began in the early 1950s “when the campus was newly formed out of a pastoral landscape destined to catalyze Manila’s urban expansion after the Pacific War.”

“Diliman’s campus architecture championed the modernist capacity to facilitate a new social order in the aftermath of war by embracing a new aesthetics—the utilization of reinforced concrete, steel, glass, the predominance of cubic forms, geometric shapes, Cartesian grids, and absence of applied decoration—divorced from colonial reference,” he said.

The campus’ architecture even attracted filmmakers of period or epic dramas.  One example was the film Pagsilang ng Mesiyas (1952), where the basement of Quezon Hall doubled for the film’s nativity scene.

The partnership of Filipino cinema and UP flourished when the Diliman campus’ architecture figured prominently in the “collegiate romance” movies of the 1950s and 1960s. 

UP was always visualized by film studios like LVN and Sampaguita as a “picturesque campus of stately colonnaded modernist buildings set amidst a green open space with small trees; coeds, books in arm escorted by young men vying for their attention,” Lico said.

The grand AS steps:  A scene from the movie,
Tiya Loleng (1952) shows the grandeur
of the Palma Hall steps with the LVN movie stars. 
At the foreground are four
of the country’s bankable stars of the 1950s,
Armando Goyena, Tessie Quintana, Delia Razon
and Nestor de Villa.

Movies of the era featured Philippine icons like Rogelio dela Rosa and Nida Blanca (Babaeng Hampaslupa, 1952), Carmen Rosales and Ric Rodrigo (ROTC, 1955), Nestor de Villa and Delia Razon (Dalagang Taring, 1955), to name a few.

Celluloid Campus likewise features clips of movies shot within UPD dating back to as early as 1952 (Armando Goyena and Tessie Quintana’s Tiya Loleng) to as late as 2008 (Kambyo, a film dealing with homosexuality).

Lico said UP as an imagined space in films possesses its “own materiality symbolic of academic excellence, social commitment and personal sacrifice.”

“Such awe-inspiring beauty and functional elegance plays essential roles in the creation of a distinct sense of place, a milieu that hones the minds, shapes, values and nourishes the critical spirit and creative imagination.  Truly, Diliman’s spirit of place projected in the cinema will always be cherished in the hearts and minds of those who once passed through its halls and broad avenues,” he said.

The exhibit likewise fosters OICA’s theme of pride of place. 

OICA Director Prof. José Danilo A. Silvestre explained pride of place “can only emerge in places where there is a strong bond between people and setting.”

Pride of place is a concept by the UPDOICA Board at the term of immediate past OICA acting director Rubén D.F. Defeo.

Wave of the future: A UPD student poses beside
a large-scale stills of the movie Tiya Loleng (1952)
shot near the UP Oblation at the newly-built
Quezon Hall.

Meanwhile, Silvestre said he hopes in the future, students would “pick up the theme and somehow translate into projects which they themselves would feel is embodying their understanding of what constitutes pride of place in UP.”

At the exhibit were UPD Chancellor Caesar A. Saloma, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs José Wendell Capili, UP Press Director J. Neil Garcia, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ronald Banzon, UPDIO director Maureen Anne Araneta, University Registrar Evangeline Amor, Diliman Interactive Learning Center director Peter Sy, members of the OICA Board, Professor Defeo, and other Diliman and UP System officials.

Special performances were rendered at the exhibit opening by the UP Concert Chorus, fresh from their successful stint at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia and the UP Dance Company.

The Celluloid Campus: The University of the Philippines in the Cinematic Imagination runs until July 31 and is open for public viewing Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University Theater Lobby.—MDJ

Photos except the Exhibit opening courtesy of OICA/Tomo dela Cuesta