By RICA AREVALO
What a noble way for art lover Danny Dolor to celebrate the National Heritage Month (NHM) celebration this month by opening his pre-war movie ads collection to the public via an exhibit called “Alitaptap Kikilapkilap sa Escolta” at the historic First United Building built by Andres Luna de San Pedro in 1928.
Comedian Dolphy used to stroll over the Art Deco building as his RVQ Productions used to have an office there. The former Gusaling Perez-Samanillo is now owned by Roberto Sylianteng, and wife Lorraine Young-Sylianteng.
The exhibit houses more than 100 posters from the different studios. There are only five surviving pre-war films: Tunay na Ina, Pakiusap, and Giliw Ko were all shown in 1938, Zamboanga (1936) and Ibong Adarna (1941).
“Giliw Ko is the first movie produced by LVN Pictures and the first movie of Mila del Sol. At that time, she was only 13 years old but pinagmukha siyang dalaga(she was made to look mature). The success of Giliw Ko spearheaded the success of LVN Pictures,” says this Dangal ng Haraya awardee.
In Batangas, Danny became the chairman of the Batangas Historical and Cultural Commission. One of his projects was to open the old houses to the public. “One house was owned by an old maid who at that time died 20 years ago. The relatives locked the house,” he recalls.
“With the help of the mayor, the house was opened. Under her bed, I saw a box full of movie flyers!” exclaimed the former banker. It took him 10 years to gather the pre-war movie ads.
“Kung meron palabas na bagong movie sa probinsya, yung kalesa, goes around the bayan (If a new movie is showing in the province, a horse carriage goes around the town) with a band and they distribute flyers. That old lady collected all those flyers. That started the collection.”
Among the prominent stars during that period were Fernando Poe, Rudy Concepcion, Leopoldo Salcedo, Rogelio dela Rosa, Norma Blancaflor, Corazon Noble, Tita Duran, Mona Lisa, Rosa del Rosario, Lucita Goyena and Anita Linda.
Among the “living” stars, at 94, Anita Linda is the oldest active Filipino actress. She has an upcoming film, Circa, with director Adolfo Alix, Jr.
Mona Lisa, 96, known as Fleur de Lis, was part of Carlos Vander Tolosa’s Giliw Ko (1939). Her granddaughter Celine Fabie, a member of the Ryan Cayabyab Singers wrote the 2013 National Book Awards (NBA) Best Book of Non-Fiction in English winner, Mona Lisa: A Portrait from the Memoirs of a Grandmother.
“She’s a very good actress and she is still alive. Maganda siya, sexy siya (She is beautiful and sexy),” he muses.
“I started going to the movies when I was seven years old,” reminisces the 80-year-old philantrophist. He first saw Cobra Woman (1944) starring Maria Montez and directed by Robert Siodmak produced by Universal Pictures. “That was the first English movie I saw. The first Tagalog movie I saw during Liberation was Oo Ako’y Espiya (1946) starring Jose Padilla Jr. and Norma Blancaflor,” he added.
The Dolor family had drugstores all over Rizal Avenue, Azcárraga now Claro M. Recto and Escolta established in 1926.
“At that time Avenida Rizal and Escolta were the so-called Downtown. Avenida was the Broadway of the city of Manila. There you will find all the movie houses and Escolta,” he shares. “The price of first run theaters was P1.20 centavos in the orchestra and P1.80 centavos for balcony.”
Why is he an advocate of preserving Filipino culture and heritage? “I was born like this. At the age of seven, I know gusto ko ’yon (It is my destiny). I love art. I was supposed to be a painter. My dream was to be a painter. My parents did not allow me to take up painting at the UP. So I took up Commerce,” says the recipient of the 2011 Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) Dr. Jose R. Perez Memorial Award.
He graduated from Colegio de San Juan de Letran with a Business Administration degree. “That is why from Letran, naglalakwatsa ako (I wandered), I just cross the Jones Bridge, it’s Escolta already. Escolta and Avenida Rizal were heaven for me,” he reflected. “At night in Avenida, all the department stores, all the theater, all the eateries, they have neon lights just like Broadway.”
As an avid movie fan, what makes a good movie? He stated: “It must have a moral lesson. There must be good cinematography. Lastly, it must have good sound and beautiful story.”
The longevity of an actor’s career depends on “discipline, their love for the arts, and talent.” For him, the most beautiful face onscreen of all time is Susan Roces.
“Our actors now are OK except on the moral side. Before, affairs are not made public. There is no propaganda. Unlike now, you watch Youtube, naghubad si ganyan (sex videos),” he disclosed.
The pre-war movie ads had titles, Flores de Mayo, Gagamba, Kalapating Puti, Walang Sugat, Señorita, Milagro Nazareno, Dalaga, Florante at Laura, Bituin, Pagsuyo, Kwintas na Ginto, Cadena de Amor, among others, when life was much more peaceful and simpler. All these titles are just memories because these films are now lost forever. It takes only one Danny Dolor to take a lead in preserving and promoting our lost cultural heritage.
“Alitaptap Kikilapkilap sa Escolta” is located at the 5th floor of the First United Building, 413 Escolta Street, Binondo, Manila.