The Butcher | So, Urian is different. Is that bad?

An award-giving body for movies is supposed to honor the best in Philippine cinema. It’s not supposed to be giving prizes to the highest-grossing film because the Box-Office Awards is already doing that.

An award-giving body for movies is supposed to honor the best in Philippine cinema. It’s not supposed to be giving prizes to the highest-grossing film because the Box-Office Awards is already doing that.

The 2023 Gawad Urian was originally scheduled this coming November 26. But then, the Eddys Awards had problems with scheduling. Composed of entertainment editors, the Eddys is a relatively new award-giving body that also honors achievements in Philippine movies. It was supposed to be held early this month.     

They were in talks with Net 25. Unfortunately, the deal fell through and they had no other recourse but to settle for another date.     

The original venue of the Eddys was in a large auditorium at the Iglesia ni Cristo compound off Commonwealth Avenue. But as it turned out, another organization had beaten them to it. The Eddys officials therefore had to look someplace else where they can hold their awards presentation.     

Aliw Theater suddenly became available – but on November 26. That shouldn’t have been a problem because the Urian was going to be held at the UP Film Institute anyway.     

But then, I started thinking – both awards shows would suffer in the end. It’s never good to pit two special events on the same night.

That already happened in 1993 to the Star Awards and Binibining Pilipinas. The audience share was divided. The two events also had to fight for advertisers.     

In late October, I heard that People’s Journal editor Eugene Asis was looking for a padrino to talk to me – hoping I’d convince the members of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino to consider moving to another date because November 26 was their only option if they were to stage the Eddys within the year. December is a busy month for events places because it’s the Christmas season.     

Eugene should have known better than to look for a padrino. We are compadres many times over and I can never say no to him. But he used their producer, Tessie Celestino-Howard, just the same to mediate between the Eddys members and the Manunuri people.     

Tessie produced the Gawad Urian for 12 years and I can never say no to her either. She is one of my showbiz mothers, along with Malou Choa-Fagar. When Tessie eventually called me up, she didn’t have to finish her sentence and I said yes right away. I assured her that we will move the Gawad Urian to another date.     

Urian 2023 is being produced by TVUP. The advantage of having TVUP as producer is that it has access to so many venues within the UP campus.     

Of course, most of the Manunuri members are also UP professors and know the State University like the back of their hand. As a matter of fact, they were the ones who introduced UP Theater to the showbiz world.     

In 1994, the Gawad Urian was the first showbiz awards presentation to be held at the UP Theater. After that, everyone else followed suit – the FAMAS and the Star Awards – both for TV and movies.     

In time, even beauty pageants were held at the UP Theater – Miss Earth, Miss Asia Pacific and even the Great Bodies contest of Slimmers World International.     

Sadly, the UP Theater fell into a state of decay. It is still useful as far as I know, but lost most of its glory in the last several years.     

It’s been a long time since the Gawad Urian used the UP Theater. This year, the Manunuri event will be held at the UP Film Institute Film Studio, which is very near the Mass Communication Department. The date had been moved to November 30 at 5 p.m. Telecast is on Cgnal TV of TV5.     

This year’s Gawad Urian will be a very simple affair. That’s in keeping with the times: the hard times – when rice could be had for P20 ... per handful. Or in the vernacular – “isang dakot.”     

Overseeing the production, of course, are the TVUP people, composed of the best in the TV industry. They were there during the glorious days of Philippine television: one of the best scriptwriters of the 1970s, Agnes Caballa; one of the most reliable independent TV producers, Baby Barreiro, wife of top TV executive Bobby Barreiro and Malou Choa-Fagar, who turned Eat Bulaga (and to a great extent E.A.T.) into what it is now.  TVUP is headed by Dr. Grace Javier Alfonso, who is herself a Manunuri.     

Last week, the list of nominees of the Gawad Urian was released in the papers and via social media. It is very different from the other award-giving bodies. Why is that so?     

For one, the Manunuri included Nocebo and Plan 75. One may say that Nocebo and Plan 75 are foreign productions. Yes, that’s true. However, both had Filipino producers involved in the mounting of those productions.    

Nocebo, for instance, was put together in cooperation with the Film Development Council of the Philippines. So don’t be surprised that Chai Fonacier is nominated for best actress.     

The bigger surprise is the fact that the list of nominees is peppered with foreign-sounding names: Garret Shanley, who is nominated for best screenplay (Nocebo); Jason Gray and Chie Hayakawa, who are also in the running for co-writing the script of Plan 75; Jakuub Kijowski and Radek Ladczuk, who received nominations for cinematography in Nocebo and Hideho Urata, who is also being recognized for his photography of Plan 75.

Plan 75, incidentally, is set in Japan and is about the older generation being given the chance to cut short their lives, especially for those who have no more means to sustain themselves in this materialistic world.

I will no longer enumerate the names of the other foreigners listed as nominees in this year’s Gawad Urian. There’s more of them. Is that anomalous? No. That had been done before. In 1985, the Frenchman Pierre Rissient was nominated for best sound for Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim.

Besides, if we are going to be technical about it, Gloria Romero, who had been recognized by the Manunuri several times, wouldn’t have won in the Urian or in other award-giving bodies given the fact that she’s an American citizen.     

And let’s admit it, the Gawan Urian had always tended to be avant-garde. The other local awards bodies always go for the popular. And so it’s only in the Urian that films like Leonor Will Never Die and Kapag Wala Nang mga Alon are being recognized – ignored by the other award-giving bodies.     

There’s supposed to be one ignoramus who wrote an article claiming that the Gawad Urian had already lost its credibility. His reason: Nobody watches the films being recognized by the Manunuri. Huh?          

An award-giving body for movies is supposed to honor the best in Philippine cinema. It’s not supposed to be giving prizes to the highest-grossing film because the Box-Office Awards is already doing that.     

In the past years, the Urian has honored the following films: Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria, Women of the Weeping River, Angustia, Dukit, etc. These are regional films from Cebu, Bicol, Pampanga, and Mindanao.

If people from Manila didn’t bother to watch these pictures, then that’s not the fault of the Manunuri anymore. But it’s a fact that these are Filipino movies.     

The members of the Manunuri take pains in looking for these films even in far-flung provinces. Contrary to general belief, talented filmmakers aren’t concentrated solely in Metro Manila. There are also great talents spread across the archipelago.     

Sadly, the viewing public doesn’t even appreciate the Manunuri’s effort to locate well-made films in other regions. Some of the best are there.     

I cannot and do not want to claim that the Gawad Urian is the most credible award-giving body in the country. But it cannot be denied that it is the most thorough when it comes to selecting the best of local cinema.

 

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