News Trends

What are the wonderful movies of the 2021 Metro Manila Film Festival?

Written by: Maine Dela Cruz

Many Filipino traditions revolve around the Christmas season. Family get-togethers, carol singing, gift exchanges, and other traditions abound over the holiday season. Thanks to fiber home internet, we still get to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones anywhere in the world amidst the pandemic.

The annual Metro Manila Film Festival is another Christmas tradition that has become ingrained in Philippine culture over the years. Only Filipino films are shown in theaters from Christmas Day to the first week of January during the MMFF, making it one of the country’s most well-known celebrations of Filipino cinema. The 2021 Metro Manila Film Festival will take place from December 25 to January 7 in 2021. Last year’s event was conducted entirely online due to the outbreak. MMFF, on the other hand, will make a cinematic comeback this year.

Before we delve into the competing entries this year, let’s get to know more about the Metro Manila Film Festival.

Metro Manila Film Festival History

It began in the early months of 1966, when Mayor Antonio Villegas, the city mayor at the time, launched and established the event. During its inception, it was known as the Manila Film Festival or the Manila Tagalog Film Festival, but it was subsequently renamed to Metro Manila Film Festival under the Marcos dictatorship.

It is an annual film festival held in Metro Manila that celebrates and promotes various Filipino films over the course of 12 days. The approach is patriotic since it aids and promotes the country’s own cinema rather than allowing it to be overshadowed by foreign and Hollywood productions. Furthermore, international films are not eligible for entry into the festival, and foreign films are not permitted to be shown in theaters or movie houses throughout the event time. A parade of actors from participating films as well as non-participating actors who are being showcased and attending the festival are among the festival’s events or activities.

Early years

Despite the fact that it highlights Filipino film’s core, the festival’s first few years were not very fruitful. The earliest film submissions had titles in English, which contradicted the festival’s purpose. It was only reasonable, given that the festival’s organizers and those in charge of enabling the regulations and activities are still working to close the gaps in the first judgment.

Over time, each picture was modified and provided to ensure that all criteria were met until all film creators were able to fulfill the standards. The first MMFF took place in 1975, with the prize ceremony taking place at the Metropolitan Theater. It is one of the Philippines’ oldest theaters, however, the last time it was used for an awarding night was during the 25th MMFF festival in 1999.

The Philippine International Convention Center, Aliw Theater, SMX Convention Center, Meralco Theater, Sofitel Philippine Plaza, and KIA Theatre are now larger venues that can handle a better setup and a considerably larger crowd during the event. In comparison to the old yet historic Metropolitan Theater, the amenities are also more sophisticated.

The Metro Manila Film Festival is now in its 47th year. The Filipino film industry has continued to thrive and flourish for 47 years, from 1975. In reality, being one of the world’s low-tech nations, the Filipinos have worked harder to keep up with technological advancements such as CGI and other visual effects, which have been adopted by most countries to generate a higher quality movie that provides a meaningful experience for spectators.

The Gabi ng Parangal

The Gabi ng Parangal (literally, ‘Awards Night’) is the awards ceremony for films that have been selected to participate in the Metro Manila Film Festival.

Festival Awards Categories

Gabi ng Parangal recognizes the efforts behind the festival entries under the following categories:

  1. Best Picture: since 1975
  2. Best Director: since 1975
  3. Best Actor: since 1975
  4. Best Actress: since 1975
  5. Best Supporting Actor: since 1975
  6. Best Supporting Actress: since 1975
  7. Best Child Performer: since 1980 (except 2016)
  8. Best Screenplay: since 1975
  9. Best Original Story: 1975-2016
  10. Best Cinematography: since 1975
  11. Best Production Design: since 1986 (formerly named as “Best Art Direction” from 1976-1986)
  12. Best Editing: since 1975
  13. Best Visual Effects: 1990-2015
  14. Best Make-up Artist: 1990-2015
  15. Best Original Theme Song: since 1989
  16. Best Musical Score: since 1975
  17. Best Sound Engineering: since 1975 (also known as “Best Sound Recording”)
  18. Best Float: since 1992
  19. Most Gender-Sensitive Film: 2003-2013; 2019 onwards

Special awards

Special recognition during the Gabi ng Parangal may or may not be given annually. Annually, MMFF selects various entities to be awarded the Gatpuno Antonio J. Villegas Cultural Awards, the Fernando Poe Jr. Memorial Award for Excellence, and the Special Jury Prize. Meanwhile, the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Posthumous Award for Film Service and Excellence are not awarded annually.

Other awards

Aside from the aforementioned categories, MMFF also bestows the People’s Choice Awards, Children’s Choice Awards, and Star of the Night Awards.

Short film categories

A significant shift at the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) often goes unnoticed, but it is significant nonetheless. Since then, short films have been exhibited alongside the major section entries during the MMFF’s run. The category also has its own set of awards namely Best Short Film, Special Jury Prize, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.

Criteria for Selection

The following are the criteria for being picked for the MMFF lineup: 40% creative excellence, 10% commercial appeal, 10% Filipino cultural sensibility, and 10% global appeal. The awards ceremony will take place on December 27.

Metro Manila Film Festival 2021 Movies

Last year’s event turned all-digital due to the pandemic. This year, though, the MMFF will return to the theatres just like it did in the past years. In November, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), organizer of the annual Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), announces this year’s lineup for the annual film festival that will return to cinemas on Christmas. The eight films selected for MMFF 2021 were picked from a pool of 19 submissions. The following are the eight official entries that will be shown at the Metro Manila Film Festival in 2021.

1. A Hard Day

This film is a local remake of the 2014 South Korean film of the same name, directed by Law Fajardo. The story revolves around a detective named Villon (Dingdong Dantes) who accidentally kills a man. On the day of his mother’s funeral, he tries to bury the body in her coffin. However, when he gets into a fight with a fellow cop, further issues develop (John Arcilla). This action film was supposed to premiere at the first Summer MMFF in 2020, however, it was canceled due to the pandemic.

2. Big Night

Jun Robles Lana’s illustrious career includes films like Kalel 15, Die Beautiful, and Bwakaw, all of which include a social critique. Big Night, his most recent picture, aims to achieve the same. Dharna (Christian Bables), a homosexual beautician, has recently learned that he is on a municipal drug watch list in this submission for the 2021 MMFF. Dharna, perplexed as to why he’s on the list and fearful for his safety, embarks on a mission to find out why he’s on it. The all-star ensemble includes Eugene Domingo, Janice De Belen, and John Arcilla in this comic perspective on the drug war.

3. Huling Ulan Sa Tag-araw

RitKen fans are ecstatic because the RitKen love pair are starring in their first film. This romantic comedy, starring Rita Daniela and Ken Chan, is about a sultry dancer who falls in love with her closest friend, who happens to be studying to be a priest. The RitKen duo is looking to bring their chemistry to the big screen after a few successful TV shows together.

4. Huwag Kang Lalabas

This year’s MMFF wouldn’t be complete without a horror film, and this one promises to deliver. Huwag Kang Lalabas is a horror trilogy directed by Adolf Alix Jr. It is unique in that it is a trilogy. The film is divided into three parts, each of which tells a different story about creepy animals and things that go bump in the night. Kim Chiu, Jameson Blake, Beauty Gonzalez, and Aiko Melendez are among the cast members.

5. Kung Maupay Man It Panahon

Kun Maupay Man It Panahon (Whether the Weather is Fine) is the festival’s awards favorite. The story follows Miguel (Daniel Padilla), a young guy who is trying to live and adjust in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. In the aftermath of the devastation, he seeks his girlfriend Andrea (MNL48’s Francinne Rifol) and mother Norma (Charo Santos-Concio) and must decide whether to rebuild their life in Tacloban or flee to safer skies.

Carlo Francisco Manatad’s latest film has been selected to compete in a number of major film festivals, including the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland and the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada. It has also received a few accolades, including best director at the London East Asia Film Festival for Carlo Francisco Manatad.

6. Love At First Stream

Love At First Stream takes place in a future where everything has gone digital. Vilma is a rising streamer on the lookout for her big break. Tupe, with whom she vlogs, assists her. Then there’s Megumi, the girl next door who enlists Gino’s help in her quest for stardom on the internet. Each of these people will pursue love and friendships online in order to escape their daily lives in the film. The single submission from Star Cinema for the 2021 MMFF is expected to make a big splash. That’s not without cause.

First and foremost, it is directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina, a major motion picture director. Second, it’s Kaori Oinuma and Jeremiah Lisbo’s first collaboration. Originally, Rhys Miguel was cast in the film, but he stepped out due to personal issues, and Jeremiah was cast in his stead. Daniela Stranner and Anthony Jennings, two up-and-coming performers, also feature in the film. Finally, this is Kumu’s first work with Star Cinema. The movie will be heavily influenced by the streaming service. The fact that many of its co-stars were recruited from Kumu demonstrates this.

7. Nelia

This suspense thriller comes from director Lester Dimaranan. Winwyn Marquez, a former beauty queen turned actress, plays the main woman in the film. She is a nurse who believes that strange things are going on in the hospital where she works. Her search for the truth behind the mysteries will take her to some very dark places. Raymond Bagatsing plays a doctor in the film.

8. The Exorsis

The Exorsis is the final submission for the 2021 Metro Manila Film Festival. For the second time since Mary, Marry Me in 2018, Toni and Alex Gonzaga will be in the same movie again in this horror-comedy and spoof of The Exorcist. Toni and Alex portray sisters who have a troubled relationship in the film. When Alex’s character is possessed by a demon, however, they must put their differences aside. Fifth Solomon is the director of the film. Under the working title The Exorcism Of My Siszums, it was also in contention to be a part of MMFF 2020.

Check Out MMFF 2021 Short Films with Streamtech!

Supporting Filipino films has never been easier as Metro Manila Film Festival continues to celebrate creative Filipino storytelling by partnering with Meta (the new name of the Facebook company). The MMFF jury will choose a winner whose work goes beyond mere entertainment and demonstrates creative excellence.

The short films premiering on 25 December on their respective creator’s pages are Let It Simmer by Erwan Heussaf on; Kandado by Pio Balbuena on; Dito Ka Lang by Beverly Cumla on; Then and Now by Discover Mnl on; Pepe sa Lockdown by Rayn Brizuela on

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Events and Observances News

See How Filipinos Value the Celebration of Simbang Gabi This 2021

Written by: Maine Dela Cruz

Christmas is in the air in the Philippines as the “-ber” months begin to unravel. According to reports, Filipinos celebrate Christmas for the longest period of time than any country on Earth. Although Advent begins in the final week of November, Filipinos begin playing Christmas music and displaying Christmas decorations as early as September.

While there are still online masses, thanks to fiber internet, unlike the previous year, churches have opened their doors to a restricted number of churchgoers in accordance with government-issued health guidelines.

What is this Filipino Christmas tradition anyway that we have come to celebrate for many centuries? How has it changed throughout the years especially now that we are in the midst of the pandemic?

Read on to find out.

What is Simbang Gabi?

Simbang Gabi (Filipino for “Night Mass”) is largely a Filipino advent tradition honoring the blessed Virgin Mary among Filipino Roman Catholics. They join her and follow her for nine days as she prepares for her son’s birth. There are nine dawn Masses in Puerto Rico called Misa de Aguinaldo, which is similar to the nine dawn Masses that happen before Christmas.

This Filipino advent tradition happens every day from December 16 to 24, but it happens at different times. In some places, the pre-dawn mass starts at 3 a.m., while in others, it starts around 5 a.m. The service is renamed Misa de Gallo (Spanish for “Rooster’s Mass”) on the final day of the Simbang Gabi, which is Christmas Eve. It plays a significant significance in Filipino culture.

History of Simbang Gabi in the Philippines

Simbang Gabi began in 1587, when Fray Diego de Soria, superior of the Convent of San Agustin Acolam, petitioned the Vatican for permission to offer Christmas Masses for farmers who would labor early in the fields.

Pope Sixtus V decreed in the 16th century that morning Masses be celebrated in the Philippines from Dec. 16 to Dec. 24 to allow farmers to attend Mass before heading to the fields.

The First Plenary Council of the Philippines petitioned the Vatican in 1953 to continue with Simbang Gabi. The petition was granted by the Papal Indult.

Agricultural practices during the Spanish era

The Philippines is a rice, coconut, and sugarcane-growing country. Numerous tenant farmers (also referred to as sacadas, campesinos, and casamacs) labored all day with only a little respite at midday, when the heat was at its greatest. Farmers worked long hours and budgeted their time in dread of the local encargado, who handled land for the Spanish feudal lord or encomendero/hacendero.

Between the planting and harvest seasons, indigenous are forced to endure a pause in the corvée. Those who were old enough to perform physical labor were gathered under the tributo system, which required males to work for free on construction projects for the Spanish colonial administration. Women were also responsible for caring for their vegetable gardens (tumana) and working as home servants for the affluent.

When the Christmas season began, it was normal to offer novenas in the evenings, but the priests recognized that the faithful would attend despite their exhaustion from the day. As a compromise, the clergy began saying early morning masses in the morning before people went out to work the field.

After-mass delicacies

During the Spanish and early American periods, parishioners brought nothing more than bags of rice, fruits and vegetables, and fresh eggs to Mass. Following the ceremony, the Church would distribute the fruits to the congregation.

After Mass, Filipinos purchase and consume festive dishes provided in the graveyard. Bibingka (rice cakes fried on both sides) and puto bumbong (steamed purple rice pastries seasoned with butter, shredded coconut, and brown sugar) are popular and are frequently served with tsokolate (hot chocolate made with local cacao) or salabát (ginger tea).

Today, parishioners may purchase local specialties on the church grounds. Puto bumbóng, bibingka, suman, and other rice-based foods are all freshly prepared on-site. Children are sold latik and yema, while adults can purchase uraró (arrowroot), barquillos, lengua de gato, and otap (ladyfingers). Kape Barako (a very strong coffee cultivated in Batangas), hot tsokolate, or salabat are the most popular beverages, while soups such as arróz caldo (rice and chicken porridge) and papait (goat bile stew from the Ilocos area) are also available.

Rice-based dishes were traditionally offered to farmers to satisfy their bellies, as rice is a relatively inexpensive and primary staple. The pastries were packed with carbohydrates, which colonial Filipinos required for work in the rice farms and sugar mills.

How Filipino Catholics celebrate Simbang Gabi today

While some of the current Simbang Gabi practices have remained, some traditions have changed over time. Here’s how Filipinos celebrate Simbang Gabi today:

1. Waking up way too early

The Mass often begins around 4 a.m. Pope Sixtus V commanded that Mass be sung before daybreak, as it was harvest season, and farmers needed to be in their fields immediately following the service. Today, church bells are ringing or playing traditional Christmas songs as early as 3 a.m. to welcome churchgoers. Early morning mass is possibly the only moment in the world when most Filipinos would want to get up early in order to avoid missing any scheduled mass.

2. Wearing thick-clothed clothes

Our nation is often hot or humid due to our geographical position. Nonetheless, when December arrives and you’re out for a midnight stroll to church, we pull out our coziest gear to combat the cold morning air.

3. Evening masses

Some churches also hold evening celebrations of Simbang Gabi from the 15th through the 23rd of December. Often referred to as “anticipated Simbang Gabi” due to the fact that Vigil or Anticipated Masses are only valid on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, these are performed predominantly in metropolitan areas. However, these Masses employ the propers and readings prescribed for the day. Although it is permitted in some parishes, “anticipation” of the propers and readings for the following day is not.

4. Complete attendance grants wishes

For others, the sacrifice of attending pre-dawn Masses equates to a panata, an oath of fealty taken in the hope or anticipation that one’s prayers would be granted by the infant Jesus. Panata petitions ranged from the spiritual to the material, from wishes for peace and reconciliation to protection against natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes, to good health or healing, completion of studies or board exams, obtaining a good job locally or internationally, or even acquiring a house.

5. Lighting of lanterns

In the same way that people in Spain are lighting small oil lamps on Christmas Eve, people in the Philippines decorate their homes with paról, which are colorful star-shaped lanterns. A lot of people think that these were used by worshippers to help them get to church at night. They are also thought to have been used as a symbol for the Star of Bethlehem. Paróls are still popular Christmas decorations in the Philippines, and they are as well-known and symbolic as Christmas trees in the West.

6. Simbang gabi in malls

Simbang Gabi is frequently observed at shopping malls, typically in open areas. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle advised against holding Mass in shopping malls unless the mall had its own chapel.

7. The use of purple

White is the liturgical color reserved for Masses said during the novena; violet is reserved for all other Masses offered throughout the day, as these are still regarded to be part of the Advent season.

8. Re-enactment of the nativity scene

The nativity scene, or Belen, is shown in anticipation of the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. It depicts Jesus as a newborn in a manger beside Mother Mary and Saint Joseph. Shepherds and farm animals coexist. The Belen’s whole narrative includes the three wise men delivering their gifts to the newborn Jesus and the Bethlehem star that led them on their journey.

9. Virtual mass

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued Simbang Gabi rules that adhere to IATF norms for mass congregations. They’ve expanded their offerings to include more Mass celebrations and online timetables. Christmas Vigil Masses may begin as early as 6 p.m.

10. More people in churches than last year

This is the Philippines’sSecond Simbang Gabi during the COVID-19 pandemic but more people are attending churches as restrictions have been eased. Churches were nearly empty last year due to COVID-19 restrictions during the observance of the custom.

11. Churches not in full capacity

Under the Philippines’ current quarantine classification, Alert Level 2, churches can currently accommodate 50% of their seating capacity indoors and 70% outside. This is in contrast to the 30% seating capacity formerly permitted in churches in regions subject to broad community quarantine, such as Metro Manila.

12. Kakanin after mass

Of course, who would forget about after-mass food? For many years, Agape meals following Mass were frequently sponsored by an individual family or group of families, an organization (such as an association), or a firm. Local delicacies included bibingka, a clay pot-cooked rice cake, puto, puto bumbong, a rice roll made from purple rice, kutsinta, biko, and pan de sal or arroz caldo porridge, as well as a variety of rice cakes. This was a time of year when many of these delicacies required a lot of time and effort.

The Reason for Celebrating Simbang Gabi

While Simbang Gabi is a cultural custom, it is also a spiritual preparation for Christmas and the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. If you complete all nine sunrise services, most people think your requests will be granted by the Lord if you pray for them enough times.

Simbang Gabi is also celebrated by Filipino Catholics residing outside of the Philippines. Simbang Gabi, regardless of how or when it is celebrated, is a powerful indicator of the Catholicism of the Filipino people.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, of the Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay, said in his invitation to Filipinos to take part in Simbang Gabi: “Let us receive Holy Communion with our hearts filled with hope for our safety amid this crisis.”

Celebrate Misa de Gallo Safely with Streamtech Internet

Filipinos are very religious, and many people usually attend holy masses. However, despite the importance of faith and devotion, our primary concern must always be our own safety. And to do everything we can to ensure the safety of both ourselves and others around us. Make sure to follow and observe social distancing guidelines. Most importantly, wear a face mask and distance yourself from others by at least one meter if you intend to attend church.

Meanwhile, as much as possible, Catholic faithful restrained by poor health from physically attending Simbang Gabi may join the dawn mass online in the comfort of their homes. Virtual Simbang Gabi would enable the elderly, the sick, as well as minors to join the traditional dawn mass.

With the growing threat of COVID-19’s Omicron variant, the vulnerable ones, especially those with pre-existing medical disorders, should be extremely cautious. Thanks to the advent of technology, celebrating Simbang Gabi is possible as long as you are connected online through fiber internet or mobile data. Today, masses can be streamed on Facebook and YouTube, and to make this possible, you need a dependable internet provider in the Philippines.

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