Since its posting on November 21, the video has logged in more than 700,000 views, 25,000 likes, 5,200 shares and 1,100 comments. Who knew a black and white Pinoy movie clip from 1962 could ring in such numbers in this day and age?
The clip we’re talking about comes from the FH Constantino movie “Jam Session,” and it features one of the most unforgettable love teams and dancing partners in Philippine cinema history: Nida Blanca and Nestor De Villa. In the nearly 3-minute sequence, the two actors display their impressive grasp of the “Pachanga,” a lively dance from Cuba that involves a lot of fancy footwork. They are joined, after a while, by other guests in a typical 60s house party, but we all know it’s the petite lady wearing pearls and her handsome kapareha—the guy in a graphic shirt—that everyone’s eyes are on.
“Walang sinabi ang mga artista ngayon!” the post’s caption said. “We may never see the likes of this again!”
“It may have hit a nerve,” says Mike de Leon who posted the clip on Casa Grande Vintage Cinema, the 5-year old Facebook page which celebrates movies from the glory days of LVN Pictures. Mike is, of course, the director of “Kisapmata,” “Batch ‘81,” “Itim” and a few more acclaimed Filipino movies. He is also grandson of the founder of LVN Pictures, Narcisa “Doña Sisang” de Leon, whose films, at least those whose copies still exist, are often excerpted in Casa Grande.
While it was Doña Sisang who produced “Jam Session,” it was no longer under the banner of LVN which in 1961, according to Mike, was past its prestige movie days and has shut down all movie production work due to longstanding labor problems. The movie musical was produced under the name Dalisay Pictures while using the facilities of LVN. Nida and Nestor, for their part, were likewise past the peak years of their silver screen tandem but have conquered television via “The Nida-Nestor Show” which often featured the two doing the dance craze of the hour.
Combos and house parties
Mike tells ANCX he wasn’t exactly a fan of “Jam Session” around the time it was made. The way he describes it, the film is no more than a series of dance numbers strung together by a barely-there narrative. “I found it corny because there was no story, only dancing from beginning to end but ends with a moral lesson, most probably still a directive of my grandmother,” he tells ANCX.
Not that the film sold itself as anything more: the movie poster promised “Wholesome fun and modern dances,” as well as big stars and the period’s “favorite combos” performing The Twist, The Fly, and the Pachanga “in the most joyous musical comedy.”
While he wasn’t at all into the entire film, Mike liked that the director FH Constantino called for very few cuts in the movie, depending mostly on rigorous preparation before a take. “Nida told me that they would have endless rehearsals,” recalls Mike of a conversation he had with the legendary star. “And that is what I like about ‘Jam Session,’ especially the pachanga scene, there was no faking. They were really good. They were perfectionists.”
After seeing the movie again recently, Mike liked the pachanga clip so much that he “decided to extract it and upload it directly on FB.” And then, boom! The thing just blew up. “I was in Baguio when it went viral,” Mike recalls.
Brotherhood on the dance floor
Indeed, there’s something about that pachanga sequence. It’s enthralling to watch, for starters, and the dancers’ energy coupled with the clear delight in what they’re doing just jump out of the screen. Nida and Nestor, who play dance instructors in the film, also make this very complicated dance look like it was a breeze to do.
Mike would find out just recently, however, that it wasn’t at all that easy. The thing with viral posts on social media, it eventually reaches the screen of someone with whom it will strike a different chord. Just as it did when the pachanga clip eventually found its way to Joni Feliciano, a name that should be familiar to OPM fans from the 1980s. Joni was a stunningly talented vocalist from that era, the soulful interpreter of the inspiring Metropop entry “Kinabukasan.”
Joni also happens to be the daughter of a quite famous dancer by the name of Chito Feliciano who headlined his own Sunday variety show sometime in the early 1960s called “Dance Time with Chito” over at Channel 7. According to Joni, it was her father who choreographed the pachanga dance between Nida and Nestor in “Jam Session.”
In messages to Mike de Leon, the singer says that, according to her mother, “Tito Nestor was so nervous about how he looked in that film as a dancer.”
To hear Joni say it, Nestor was so determined to deliver a good performance in “Jam Session” that he requested Chito to choreograph the pachanga sequence—even as Al Quinn, who would become a famous TV musical director in the 70s and 80s, is the one whose name appears as choreographer in the film’s opening credits. After all, Al and Chito were good friends as well, with Chito being much older when a young Al Quinn started guesting and dancing in “Dancetime with Chito.”
Apparently, according to Joni, Chito and Nestor were very good friends—and that friendship was clear in the way Nestor trusted Chito’s guidance, and how Chito showed his support for his buddy on set. “My mom said my dad worked with him for a long time on how to throw his legs side by side in the pachanga,” Joni says. In fact, according to Joni, the film crew even took a few close ups using her dad’s feet dancing beside Nida, one clip from which even ended up in the final reel.
Joni herself was able to witness the rehearsals for that number and recalls her mother even joining her dad Chito at one point to show Nida how to dance her parts. Despite Nestor’s worries, the actor pulled off the performance quite impressively—as the clip proves. Says Joni, “My dad was thrilled to see Tito Nestor actually do it better than he gave himself credit.”
As for the singer, seeing the clip brought out memories of her dad Chito whom she lost in a plane crash, and she was overcome with emotions. “I wasn’t prepared to see something too close to how my dad really danced,” says Joni who calls herself a daddy’s girl. “I started sobbing in front of my computer screen.”
The Nida and Nestor pachanga clip is now officially the most successful post on Casa Grande Vintage Cinema which Mike runs. And its numbers continue to rise by the day. “It’s basically nostalgia but also fun,” says Mike, responding to our question about why he thinks the video got so popular. “There were some comments about how decent the actors looked, walang retoke, natural, may half-slip pa si Nida, ngayon pati singit kita na,” offers the veteran director. “I think many refer to the ‘kalaswaan’ of TikTok which my household showed me in Baguio. F@#k! Even kids are made to dance sensuously!”
The short video of two Philippine screen legends having the time of their lives dancing is indeed a much-needed throwback to a more uncomplicated period. Like the veteran director says, it may indeed have hit a nerve. “I mean, [it shows] a life imagined to be simpler and less complicated than the situation today, when messy doesn’t even come close to describing it.”