The Gawad Urian Through The Years 1/3

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1977 – 2002 – “…When the first Gawad Urian was staged in late February 1977, the awards presentation was held at the CCP Little Theater which has a seating capacity of about 700 people (if I’m not mistaken). The awards show had no TV coverage and the first time a television producer dared to touch it was only in 1980 – when Armida Siguion Reyna bought the TV rights for P25,000 (quite a sum in those days). Armida – I’d like to say again – was one of the few producers who did not rip off the Manunuri members (who all have a bad business sense) when it came to financial dealings. In 1983, the Gawad Urian was moved to the Manila Film Center (a mild earthquake shook the city as Best Actress winner, Vilma Santos, walked into the venue). The awards show was produced by a civic organization and I was told (I was not a member yet that time) that this group didn’t bother to pay the Manunuri members for the TV coverage. The following year, the awards presentation was moved to the Rizal Theater, but I’m not sure if that was ever televised. The late Pio de Castro’s wife, the former Joy Soler (the Manunuri First Lady) supposedly stopped the TV coverage because the producer had not given any downpayment minutes before showtime. The awards night returned to the CCP Little Theater in 1985 despite the then oppositions’ call to boycott the Imelda Marcos venues. On the Manunuri’s 10th year in 1986, the awards show was held at the Philamlife Theater because – for the first time – it was held on the month of May and CCP is always closed for renovation during this month (The awards presentation was delayed because of the events before and after EDSA). It was back to the CCP Little Theater the following year, but the year after that, there was no Urian because some (only some) members of the group didn’t think there was any film worthy of an award. The Catholic Mass Media Awards held its own awards night, but did not name a Best Picture that year. After a year’s absence, the Urian returned in 1989 and the show was produced by Dr. Grace Javier Alfonso, who – two years later – would join the group as a member (Starting with her, the Manunuri never had problems anymore collecting payments for TV rights). In 1990, the group took a deep breath and staged the awards presentation at the CCP main theater. To the surprise of even the members, the venue was filled to capacity. The producer that year was Tessie Celestino Howard and she would produce it for the next 12 years. During those 12 years, I have to say that Tessie (with the help of director Al Quinn) did a wonderful job producing the Urian awards night. …” – Butch Francisco, The Star, 11 May 2002 (READ MORE)

Numerous ‘TIEs” – “…On May 1, 1976, ten Filipino critics agreed to discuss the annual award-giving situation in the local industry. All in agreement that there must be an alternative to FAMAS, the only award giving body in the Philippines. The ten critics, mostly academics, were Pio de Castro, Behn Cervantes, Pete Daroy, Mario Hernando, Bien Lumbera, Doy del Mundo, Manny Pichel, Nick Tiongson, Gino Dormiendo, and Nestor Torre. Most of them were part of FAMAS roster of judges. Most, questioned the recent years winners. According to the website, Wikepedia: “The 1972 Best Actress tie that materialized between major star Boots Anson-Roa and then-rising star Vilma Santos” was a good example of the disillusionments experience by the academics. “…the tie was unheard of at that time, which resulted in accusations of lessening prestige on the part of FAMAS.” Ironically, Gawad will have numerous ‘tie” winners in their future set of winners, including a string of ‘tie” involving their early favorite, Nora Aunor. Headed by Nestor Torre, the nine critics agreed to review films and release quarterly citations of best films with the final nominations and winners announce at the end of the year. Over the years, the Manunuri Ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Filipino Film Critics) considered the equivalent of the United States’ New York Film Critics Circle, established themselves as the most credible award giving bodies in the Philippines. They are known for having a long discussion for each of their award categories resulting sometimes in heated debate and unfortunately the unavoidable “tie” between nominees. Since 1976, the group has eluded controversies that rival groups endured. The oldest award, FAMAS has experienced two renegade or break away groups resulting in costly legal battles and low television ratings. Another group, the Philippine Movie Press Club is considered second to Gawad Urian, Star Awards had experience a similar fate, they also had a break away group, creating their own awards, the Golden Screen Awards. With the advent of new awards, now ten, and still counting. Gawad Urian remained strong and the most sought after. Currently, the Manunuri are consists of: Rolando B. Tolentino, Grace Javier Alfonso, Butch Francisco, Mario A. Hernando, Bienvenido Lumbera, Miguel Q. Rapatan, Benilda S. Santos, Dr. Nicanor G. Tiongson, Tito Genova Valiente and Lito B. Zulueta…” – RV (READ MORE)

Pang-FAMAS vs Pang-Urian – “…It was in 1977 that the Manunuris began assigning movies for viewing to each member, to make sure‘that the group would not miss any of the 150 or so films being produced every year. The critics watched on their own time and budget, and recommended for group viewing any film which had any merit at all. To systematize the listing of films the group felt had achievements in any artistic or technical aspect, the MPP began to come out with their quarterly list of citations. The 1977 Urian Awards further established the reputation of the Manunuris as discoverers of new or ignored talents. Word spread around that “you don’t have to spend a cent for PR to win in the Urian” after Daria Ramirez (Sino’ng Kapiling, Sino’ng Kasiping) bested formidable co-nominee Vilma Santos (Burlesk Queen) for the best actress plum. The choice of Ramirez was not a popular one either, for her portrayal of a middle-class wife was devoid of the “pang-FAMAS” hysterics usually equated with good acting in Philippine movies…” – The Urian Anthology 1970-79 (READ MORE)

First Televised – “…It was in 1978 when the MPP reached out towards a larger audience. For one, that year’s Urian awards was televised, giving the Gawad Urian a greater impact on the public and introducing the Manunuris to a bigger audience. For another, it was the year when the Manunuris launched the Urian Film Festival. Co-sponsored by the Cultural Research Association of the Philippines, a group of teachers and scholars of Philippine culture, the festival aimed to show the possibilities of the Filipino film to students of the U.P. and the Ateneo (most of whom ignored the “bakya” Filipino film), and to convince them to support it. Before each screening of the eight Urian-Award-winning films, a Manunuri read a critique of the film explaining to the audience the merits of the film which made it win an Urian award. Eight award-winning films of the first two Urian years composed the line-up of the first Urian Film Festival, while the second film festival held in 1980 included some films nominated that year…” – The Urian Anthology 1970-79 (READ MORE)

Lino Brocka’s Rejection – “…The most severe attack on the Manunuris, however, came at the 1979 Awards night when Lino Brocka ascended the stage not to receive the directorial award for Jaguar, but to reject it. Reading from a prepared speech, he accused the group of prejudice, saying that “under the guise of impartiality they practice their prejudices anyway.” It is more difficult, he said, to combat prejudice than corruption. You can fight money with more money, but how can you, he asked, fight prejudice? He then refused all further awards and nominations from the Manunuris. The magazine and newspaper articles that came out on Lino Brocka’s rejection of the Urian Awards for the next so many months did the Manunuri a lot of good. First, it made the MPP realize that the attack was partly due to the fact that most Manunuris were no longer writing, so that the opinions of the few Manunuris were taken to be the group stand on films reviewed. Second, far from degrading the group, Lino Brocka made the Manunuri a household word….” – The Urian Anthology 1970-79 (READ MORE)

Noranians vs Vilmanians – “…Nora Aunor is clearly a Manunuri favorite. Most industry members (including Vilma Santos) are aware a lot of Manunuri members are “Noranians.” The Manunuri members, of course, do not necessarily operate on fan mentality. In the acting categories, they choose the ones who really deliver the outstanding performances of the year. In this sense, we can also call Gina Alajar a Manunuri favorite…unlike Nora, Gina, Jaclyn and even Chanda Romero (during the Manunuri’s early years) – was never known to be a Manunuri favorite. Ironically, she is the one with the most number of Urian acting trophies…” – Butch Francisco, The Star, 09 May 2002 (READ MORE)

The Gawad Urian Awards are annual film awards in the Philippines held since 1977. It is given by the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (the Filipino Film Critics) and is currently regarded as the counterpart of the United States’ New York Film Critics Circle. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

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