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Inside the Kapamilya film vaults

By Bayani San Diego Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:37:00 09/12/2010

Filed Under: Cinema, Entertainment (general)

In essence, the ABS-CBN cinema library has become the country?s de facto National Archives, according to Doy del Mundo, president of the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (Sofia), which was formed in 1993.

Mary del Pilar, manager of the ABS-CBN Film Archives and a Sofia member, pointed out that the current state of our nation?s audio-visual heritage is alarming.

5,000 films lost

Citing a 2005 study conducted by Sofia, Del Pilar explained that, from among ?8,000 movies produced since the beginning of cinema in this country, only 3,000 are still existing... 5,000 have been lost? ?either due to war, calamity or sheer neglect.

?Of the 3,000 extant films, 2,500 are stored in the ABS-CBN Archives,? she said.

The remaining 500 are kept in the University of the Philippines, the Mowelfund Institute, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the homes of some private individuals and collectors.

The Kapamilya archives was established over a decade ago to catalogue, organize and protect the movies produced by the media company?s film arm Star Cinema.

In 2003, the archives moved to the basement of the Eugenio Lopez Jr. Communication Center, the network?s Quezon City headquarters.

Del Pilar was present during most of the construction of the film vaults to ensure that the specifications would comply with global standards.

?We made sure the vaults had insulated walls,? she said, describing the purpose-built film vaults that cover at least 500 sq m and are divided between medium-term and long-term storage.

Fire suppression system

They are also protected with a unique fire-suppression system. In case of fire, gas will be pumped into the vaults to decrease the oxygen inside, since water can damage the film collection.

Two acclimatization rooms were constructed between the long-term vault and the exit. ?Before we take out a film from the long-term vault, it has to stay in Acclimatization Room No. 1 for 24 hours and Acclimatization Room No. 2 for another 24 hours to prevent damage caused by condensation due to rapid temperature change,? explained Del Pilar.

Temperature in the long-term vault is 10 degrees Celsius with 31 percent humidity. In the medium-term vault, temperature is 20 degrees Celsius with of 50 percent humidity.

It is imperative to manage the temperature and humidity round the clock to prevent the inevitable deterioration of films through the vinegar syndrome (degraded films release sour-smelling acid) and mold growth, she said.

The medium-term storage facility contains films (in 35mm, 16mm prints or Betacam tapes) that are accessed most often.

Stored in the long-term vault is the prized collection of LVN Pictures, over 130 titles, including one of the few remaining prewar films, ?Giliw Ko,? produced in 1939 and starring Mila de Sol and Mona Lisa.

Also in here is ?Tunay na Ina,? another 1939 production (Excelsior), which starred then 9-year-old child star Tita Duran, mother of FrancisM.

Social responsibility

Apart from Star Cinema titles, the ABS-CBN Archives also houses the film libraries of Fernando Poe Jr., Dolphy, Ramon Revilla and Rudy Fernandez, along with some Premiere, Reyna, Regal and Viva titles.

?It?s part of our corporate social responsibility,? Del Pilar said. ?Since the government has yet to establish a National Archives, we have opened up our storage facilities to other producers and film archivists. ?

The late filmmaker Joey Gosiengfiao left a 16mm copy of his 1974 movie, ?La Paloma: Ang Kalapating Ligaw,? with the archives before his passing in 2007.

Costumes, memorabilia

Movie out takes, bloopers, costumes, posters and other important documents are also stored in the archives.

The costumes and memorabilia in the vaults are mainly from Star Cinema movies, but there are also a few select items from the LVN Museum which closed down in 2005. (Most of the LVN pieces?12,250 photos, scripts, posters, music sheets, among others, are now housed in the Lopez Museum.)

?ABS-CBN is now a member of the Southeast Asia-Pacific Audio-Visual Archive Association,? said Del Pilar. ?It?s important to preserve these movies so that future generations would be able to watch them.?

The ABS-CBN Archives welcomes students, film scholars and researchers who can view vintage films within its premises.

?Researchers need only to write a letter of request,? said Del Pilar. ?We will schedule screening depending on the availability of preview facilities.?

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