Abbo dela Cruz’s 1984 film Misteryo sa Tuwa has been fully restored, and is returning to the big screen in select screenings via the CinemaOne Originals Festival 2019.
A contender for Best Film at the 10th Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) when it first came out, Misteryo sa Tuwa’s theme of human greed is still a relevant topic in today’s society. The film, produced by the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines (ECP), begins with a plane crashing in one of the barrios subjugated by a group of rebels. Set in the 1950s, the story moves forward after three men (played by Ronnie Lazaro and the late actors Johnny Delgado and Tony Santos Sr.) found a suitcase full of cash in the crash site. They steal the suitcase, and don’t report it to the proper authorities. When the authorities approach the city mayor to help them find the suitcase, the latter devises a plan to steal the money for himself.
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ANCX spoke to ABS-CBN Film Restoration head Leo Katigbak about the journey Misteryo sa Tuwa, from restoration to its impending premiere this month.
Katigbak says it took 3,600 hours to restore the movie which runs only a little more than two hours. Like any other film that has been restored or are being restored by ABS-CBN, Misteryo sa Tuwa was handled by different film laboratories and film facilities in the Philppines and abroad.
The restoration group of ABS-CBN has been around for seven years now and Misteryo sa Tuwa was in the wish list from the beginning, says Katigbak. “But at the time, it would have cost us something like 30 to 40 million. Masyadong mahal. You wait for technology to catch up.” Hence other titles underwent restoration first. When Katigbak’s group got hold of the prints for the film, they found out parts of it were already highly damaged, and each print had its own defect: one was heavily scratched; another had burn marks; yet another one was warped.
The team had to fix each frame and each reel, and all the useful parts were stitched together to create a whole, restored movie. (Each reel is around 2000 feet, which is equivalent to only 20 minutes of running time. Misteryo sa Tuwa had six reels.)
Unfortunately, for the third reel, there was a five-minute portion that was so damaged it seemed like it was shot in black-and-white (the film is in full color). The restoration team then had to contact the original cinematographer, Rody Lacap, and seek his approval to fix the damaged part. Lacap decided to use sepia tones, instead. “Pag pinanood mo, iisipin mong flashback,” Katigbak reveals, adding that they could have spent extra money to colorize the scene, but it would cost around half a million pesos.
In the end, the restoration process for the film came up to 5 million pesos.
When the movie came out in the ‘80s, Misteryo Sa Tuwa was well-received although it did not get to the iconic status of, say, the earlier big-budget ECP films like Himala and Oro, Plata, Mata, both from 1982. In fact it lost to Mario O’ Hara’s Bulaklak sa City Jail at the 1984 MMFF. Screening the restored films to a new audience gives these works another chance at being appreciated, at being weighed via more contemporary tastes and standards. “Perceptions of movies will change overtime,” Katigbak says. “Some people will say, ‘Oh, this is a better movie than I thought it was,’ or ‘O, this is not as good as I thought it was.’ The reactions of people will change overtime, and sometimes you need a new lens to see a movie from a new perspective.”
By the end of the year, the ABS-CBN Film Restoration group would have already restored 187 of our local films, rescued from the ravages of time and decay, preserved for the present and future movie-watching generations.
The restored Misteryo sa Tuwa will have a special premiere night on November 11, 6:30 PM at the Ayala Malls Manila Bay cinema, followed by the screening of the restored Bulaklak sa City Jail at 9:50 PM. For the other screenings, go to the CinemaOne Originals Facebook page.