On the Phone with Cirio Santiago

Photo by Pietro Jeng on Pexels.com

I did a short phone interview with director Cirio Santiago today (I wasn’t able to catch him at the photoshoot, where I interviewed director Eddie Romero) for Rogue. It’s amazing how, in just a five minute conversation with this man, I learned more about the Philippines during the American era than I did in four years of high school.

He and Eddie Romero were cinematic pioneers, even though the Philippines was too insular to notice. The duo thought that the local film industry was too stifling, and that there were creative opportunities available elsewhere, if they knew where to find it. And find it they did, both of them working and making names for themselves on Hollywood B movies.

I was very fascinated by Mr. Santiago’s approach to moviemaking, which he tackles from an economic point of view. I was saddened by his statement that the movies that he really wanted to make were ones that the (Filipino) public would not want to watch. It drove home how, even after more than a century of freedom, most of us still live our lives in accordance to what we think would appeal to our colonizers.

I have friends who will not read, listen or watch anything that was not a best seller, blockbuster hit or platinum-charting, and who let their in-the-loop friends dictate their tastes. It’s sort of like that. Mr. Santiago mentioned something to the effect of “I’m not well known in this town.” But with Hollywood filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Jonathan Demme (and this is the important part) telling Filipinos about Mr. Santiago’s influence on their filmmaking, maybe that might change.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.

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