The newly scanned version of the 1959 Manuel Silos film, Biyaya ng Lupa will be available to a bigger public on May 26, via the Filipino cable channel Cinema One.
Based on a story written by novelist and scriptwriter Celso Al. Carunungan, Biyaya ng Lupa begins with a wedding of a young couple, Maria (Rosa Rosal) and Jose (Tony Santos). The opening scene is a depiction of a typical barrio celebration: a big crowd, loud music, and cheering—a production spectacle that in that era, dubbed the First Golden Age of Philippine Cinema, was demanded from films.
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It’s an epic melodrama, what with its elements or murder, rape, a prodigal son, and villagers carrying bolos. Today’s generation will be privileged to see it on their small screen come Sunday.
In the film, after the festivities, Maria and Jose start their new life with a lanzones orchard, and soon after, they spawned four children: Miguel (Leroy Salvador), Arturo (Carlos Padila, Jr.), Angelita (Marita Zobel), and Lito (Danilo Jurado). Miguel is deaf-mute; Arturo wanted to leave the barrio for a more glamorous life in Manila; Angelita is the sweet and obedient daughter; and Lito is the innocent child. Their quiet family life is disrupted when a stranger and widower, Bruno (Joseph de Cordova), goes after Jose’s niece, Choleng (Mila Ocampo, Snooki’s mom in real life), who does not return Bruno’s affection. Bruno is also rumored to be the main suspect behind his wife’s murder. The conflicts within the family heighten, as the chaos of their neighborhood explodes and affects the lives of all the village people—yes, all.
Produced by LVN Pictures, Biyaya ng Lupa, with screenplay written by Carunungan and Pablo Naval, was an entry to the 10th Berlin International Film Festival under the Golden Bear for Best Film category. It also won the Best Picture and the Best Original Story awards at the 8th Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS). Leroy Salvador won the Best Supporting Actor award at the Asian Film Festival for his role of the deaf-mute eldest son.
The visual and storytelling marvel is an integral element to the ongoing celebration for the 100th year of Philippine Cinema, according to Ronald Arguelles, head of Cinema One. The film’s re-launch is also in time for 25th year anniversary of Cinema One, which is under Creative Programs, a subsidiary of ABS-CBN.
Julie Galino, head of ABS-CBN Film Archives, told ANCX that Biyaya ng Lupa remains a property of LVN Pictures. One of the biggest film studios in the ’30s to the ’40s, LVN (de Leon, Villongco, Navoa) was eventually taken over by Doña Narcisa “Sisang” de Leon, grandmother of the director Mike de Leon. LVN went bankrupt in the ’60s, but managed to pull one last box-office hit, Kakabakaba Ka Ba? in 1980 for the last time.
According to Galino, ABS-CBN acquired cable rights for the movie in 2005 (under limited terms) and online rights (which already expired). During the time, it was under the management of Doña Sisang’s heirs. At present, LVN Pictures is managed by Raymond Moreno.
As part of the original agreement between LVN Pictures and ABS-CBN, all existing films from the film studio that are in 35mm and 16mm format will be stored in the vault of the ABS-CBN Film Archives, “until the license lapses.” The ABS-CBN Film Archives also have copies of the film in Betacam format.