Simon Santos: The man behind a film haven

Jonathan Baldoza
'No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does...' - Ingmar Bergman

THE FILM MAN. Santos stands at the doors to his very own haven. All photos by Jonathan Baldoza

MANILA, Philippines – It all began when Simon Santos saw the film “Mapusok na Paghihiganti,” starring his idol, Fernando Poe Jr. He was a young grade school student, growing up in a family of artists. 

Since then, his love affair with cinema has not only grown in a deeper and more personal way, but has also produced an undoubtly useful offspring — a haven of rare and beautiful gems for filmmakers and filmgoers alike: Video 48. 

The shop, located in a family-owned building along West Avenue in Quezon City, has an extensive collection of films, documentaries, TV series and numerous other film memorabilla. 

With hundreds (perhaps, thousands!) of titles kept in its inventory, one cannot help but feel overwhelmingly astounded with its variety and abundance: old Hollywood classics like Casablanca, Sunset Blvd. and All About Eve; foreign movies by legendary film masters such as Federico Fellini, Francois Truffaut, Yasujiro Ozu and even the more contemporary ones such as Lars Von Trier, Pedro Almodovar and Ang Lee; and, of course, movies by our very own crop of talented filmmakers such as Gerardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Ishmael Bernal and Lino Brocka. 

Beginnings 

Santos established the shop in October 1988, at the time when Betamax was the craze. Back then, he was already a film enthusiast, and had collected numerous movies, mostly by two of his favorites, Alfred Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa. Eventually, his collection grew, and friends started renting out his copies which gave him the idea of putting up a video rental store. 

FLOWING WITH THE TIMES. He started with Betamax; today, he has DVDs. The man with the mop-top can go with the flow.

In establishing the business, his biggest dilemma was what he would call it. He had a lot of name suggestions that kept on being rejected, until the Department of Trade and Industry suggested using the street number where the shop would be located — #48 West Avenue.

So there was it: Video 48.

To beat his competitiors, Santos needed to be creative and innovative, and so he focused on showcasing classic, foreign and rare films; aimed at the more sophisticated filmgoers, and other non-mainstream markets. 

The reception was a modest success, and from a collection of 200-300 titles, all in beta tapes, it gradually increased to include new names that made it more diverse and wider in scope. 

Famous clientele

The distinctness of the shop has attracted so many people through the years; among them, a couple of celebrities and renowned Pinoy artists. 

Many of them praised Video 48’s varied collection of films, most especially the old Filipino ones, which are hard to find. The only 5 surviving films of the pre-war era are available for rent in the shop: Zamboanga (1937), Giliw Ko (1939), Tunay na Ina (1939), Pakiusap (1940) and Ibong Adarna (1940).

Personalities like Maryo J. delos Reyes, Laurice Guillen, Celso Ad. Castillo, Joel Torre, Ricky Lee and Jeffrey Jeturian have come by and rented titles. National Artists Nick Joaquin and Lino Brocka also frequented the shop.

THE LEGEND LIVES. Lino Brocka's legacy lives on in the list of films he happily borrowed from and promptly returned to Video 48.

Photo by Jonathan Baldoza

Brocka, who used the shop as backdrop in the movie Kislap sa Dilim, was amazed with the collection and became a regular client. The last time he rented was on May 12, 1991, and he returned the films on May 20, 1991 — a day before his death. Brocka’s borrower card, displayed on one of the shop’s cabinets, is one of Santos’ most cherished treasures. 

Decline of the video rental industry

Santos says that piracy and cable TV slowed down the industry, and so he started thinking of ways on how to boost sales. He offered promos, and also sold posters, magazines and toys to add to the shop’s revenues. 

He also started two blogs: www.video48.blogspot.com which features titles from his collection and rare flyers and posters of Filipino films, and www.fpj-daking.blogspot.com devoted to his idol, “Da King” Fernando Poe Jr. 

IDOL FOREVER. A photo of the deceased Fernando Poe Jr. in his younger years is kept dearly by Santos in his store.

The two blogs have helped in the promotion of the shop. According to Santos, the page views average at around 6,000 per day. 

Santos shares, “Surviving the almost 24 years in this business is already an achievement for me, considering that the video rental business is practically dead in our country. ACA Video is gone, Video City has closed many of their branches. I’m still breathing.”

Almost 24 years

This October marks the 24th anniversary of the shop. When asked what his wish is, Santos says, “I only wish and hope that things would go well and survive for a few more years. I will continue running Video 48 for as long as  I can with the same passion that has sustained my shop for almost 24 long years.”

For almost 24 years, Video 48 has provided a paradise not only to those who make and study films, but also to those who view and appreciate them. 

Whether you’re a film student looking for that old Krzysztof Kieslowski trilogy or an aspiring screenwriter searching for inspiration in old Hollywood films, its existence is a gift to you. 

NO FILM UNTURNED. Just as bookworms lose track of time in a bookstore, film aficionados lose themselves in Video 48.

The shop has given many the opportunity to seek an art beyond the usual, to explore places and mysteries, to seek for answers to questions — all through the power of film. – Rappler.com

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