Last year there was a small yet significant spurt of worthwhile Filipino films. The mini-renaissance began in earnest (though many would disagree with me) with Tikoy Aguiluz’s Tatsulok, in 1998; it came into full bloom with the Good Harvest Festival, which featured no less than four exciting new films.
There was Ed Leano’s fizzily entertaining Sabado Ng Gabi, Linggo Ng Umaga. (Saturday Night, Sunday Morning-- and yes the title does sound like the Tagalog translation of a well-known film, not the first time it's happened); Jeffrey Jeturian’s solidly constructed Sana Pag-Ibig Na (rough translation: If Only Love), script by Armando Lao; Lav Diaz’s flawed but brilliant Kriminal ng Baryo Concepcion. (Criminal of Barrio Concepcion); Mario O’Hara's inspired Babae sa Bubungang Lata (Woman on a Tin Roof) and insanely imaginative Sisa.
Then nothing. Not a peep, though there were bigger, more ambitious productions: Joel Lamangan’s Sidhi was noteworthy for the performance of Nora Aunor and for Glydel Mercado’s surprisingly fine acting; Erik Matti’s Scorpio Nights 2 showed a talented young director struggling with an incoherent script. Otherwise, silence-- the local film industry, after displaying much promise, slumbered for most of the first half of this year.
Pila Balde finally if belatedly fulfills that earlier promise. It’s another collaboration between Jeturian and the quietly formidable Armando Lao--who, judging from his last two scripts and the amazing Takaw Tukso back in 1986, has to be one of the most underrated screenwriters still active in this industry.