PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) remembers director Lino Brocka who gave so much of his creativity and vision to Filipino movie making that his sudden death in a car crash on May 21, 1991 was a shock that reverberated not only in local show business but all over the country. He was only 52.
He was posthumously honored by the FAMAS (Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences) Hall of Fame as Best Director in 1991 and declared National Artist for Film in 1997.
He has been called one of the greatest directors of Philippine cinema. Indeed, he thrived in its so-called Second Golden Age when his peers were making their own masterpieces, like Ishmael Bernal, Mike de Leon, Celso Ad. Castillo, Laurice Guillen, Marilou Diaz- Abaya, and renowned veteran from the 50's Eddie Romero. Many of today's stars owe their rise in showbiz and acting trophies to Lino Brocka. At the peak of his career in the 70's and 80's, he made films that won critical acclaim and awards for their social and artistic impact.
Mario Hernando of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, the film critics group that gives out Gawad Urian, lauded Brocka for presenting true and believable characters and powerful stories. One thing that Lino had was the "complete control of the art and his fellow artists and workers."
Yet the measure of Brocka's greatness must take account as well of his life outside the accolades. It was the deep well from which he drew the intensity, if not themes, for his films. He grew up in a broken family and experienced poverty and child abuse. The decade of the 60's found him struggling with issues of the soul and survival. In Hawaii, he tried hard to be a Mormon missionary but the rebel in him could not keep the faith.
Of Brocka's sojourn in Hawaii, Hernando wrote in 1993:
"Brocka had a lot of time to think and he began to put his own life into some kind of perspective. He had gone from being a prize-winning high school graduate with the world ahead of him, to a university dropout whose mother compared him unflatteringly to his former classmates, and his search for meaning in life through the Mormon faith was unfulfilled.
"Gradually, he formed his own credo for living: to be grateful for what he had, not to clutter his life with non-essentials; to reject the excuse that something is futile and therefore not worth doing; and finally resolving that ‘life will never put me down, I shall prove stronger than life.'"
After ending his missionary assignments he flew to San Francisco and lived among hoboes, worked as a busboy and in a hospital for the elderly. Still struggling with his personal issues and feeling utterly homesick he returned to the Philippines in 1968.
He resumed his long-standing interest in theater through PETA (Philippine Education Theater Association), from doing menial tasks to eventually becoming executive director. On the road to becoming a movie director, he directed television shows (Balintataw, Lino Brocka Presents, Hilda, Tanghalan) and worked as script supervisor for director Eddie Romero's films.
PEP retraces Lino Brocka's achievements in film over two decades. He made over 60 movies. Many were commercial quickies, some were box-office hits; and others, powerful enough to pass the test of time.
Early Acclaim (1970-1972). Lino Brocka made his first movie in 1970 under Lea Productions' Wanted: Perfect Mother with the cast of Boots Anson-Roa, Dante Rivero, Eddie Mercado, and Gina Alajar. He also wrote this melodrama, which won Best Screenplay in the 1970 Manila Film Festival.
That same year, he directed Santiago, winning his second award, this time as Best Director from the Citizen's Council for Mass Media. This action drama starred Fernando Poe, Jr. (FAMAS nomination for Best Actor), Hilda Koronel (Best Supporting Actress), and others in a powerhouse cast.
Brocka's other movies for Lea Productions included: Tubog sa Ginto (1971), which was controversial for its homosexual theme; Lumuha Pati Mga Anghel (1971), and Stardoom (1971).
Stardoom, a dark, tragic view of movie showbiz, garnered FAMAS nominations for Lolita Rodriguez (Best Actress) and Caridad Sanchez (Best Supporting Actress). The cast included Walter Navarro, Hilda Koronel, Mario O'Hara, Eddie Garcia and several other seasoned actors.