Over 130 homegrown films find home in Iloilo’s regional film festival

Rhick Lars Vladimer Albay
Over 130 homegrown films find home in Iloilo’s regional film festival
The festival kicked off in December 2019 but due to popular demand and support from the local government, it has been extended until January 24, 2020

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – The regional cinema is alive in Iloilo.

The Western Visayas Film Festival dubbed CineKasimanwa hosted some 137 homegrown short and full-length films on its 7th year.

First founded and championed by veteran Ilonggo filmmaker Elvert Bañares in 2013, CineKasimanwa catered as host to some 700 local and international films in its 7-year history, reigniting interest in regional independent cinema and empowering local filmmakers in Western Visayas.

The film festival remains to be the largest region-based celebration of cinema in the Philippines. 

With the theme “One Visayas Islands,” the festival kicked off on December 6, 2019, and ran until late that month, showcasing more than 130 films in 4 major Iloilo cinemas: SM City Cinema Iloilo, Festive Walk Iloilo Cinema, Cinematheque Center Iloilo, and the University of the Philippines (UP) Visayas  Cinematheque. There were also satellite screenings at the Negros Museum in Bacolod City.

However, due to popular demand and the support of the local government, CineKasimanwa’s run has been extended on its 7th iteration, to coincide with the festivities of Iloilo’s annual Dinagyang Festival celebration. 

KUNTENTO. Charlton John Jocson's 'Kuntento' bags the Best Short Film at the CineKasimanwa 2019 Winners' Circle Competition. Screenshot courtesy of CineKasimanwa


The renewed CineKasimanwa program called “Hala Bira! Sinema” features highlights and award-winning films from the previous year’s lineup. 

This will run until January 24, the eve of the Dinagyang Festival weekend. Admission is free.

‘Relevant Regional Lens’

“The role of a filmmaker is to hold a mirror to reality, pagsaysay niya sing suguilanon sing iya tiempo (retelling the stories of his time),” CineKasimanwa festival director Noel G. de Leon told Rappler. 

“What CineKasimanwa has done is to enable local directors to narrate stories through our own unique and relevant personal lens as Ilonggos, as regional filmmakers. Regional cinema in Western Visayas is definitely alive,” De Leon added.

An integral part of the annual CineKasimanwa is the Western Visayas Film Grants Program spearheaded by the Department of Tourism (DOT)-Western Visayas, with the support of DOT-6 Regional Director Helen Catalbas, who co-founded the festival with Bañares.

JURY PRIZE WINNER. 'Singkal' by Rovic Lopez of the John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University bags the the CineKasimanwa 2019 Student + Youth Film Competition Jury Prize. Screenshot courtesy of CineKasimanwa


With the grant, the DOT subsidized the production of 7 films in 2019 – all recounting compelling local stories and featuring popular Western Visayan locales and tourist destinations.

The 7 Western Visayas Film Grants Program recipients are the main feature films of the 7th CineKasimanwa Film Festival:

  • Subli (Inheritance) by Kenneth de La Cruz, a full-length folkloric mystery drama shot in Iloilo and Guimaras Island
  • Abel’s Revolution by Julius De La Peña, a short psychological drama set in Negros Occidental 
  • Dungan: The Spirit Within by Kyle Fermindoza, a full-length post-apocalyptic drama shot in Antique and Iloilo 
  • Ang Imo Duyan Sa Panganod (Your Hammock In the Clouds) by Dennis Hubag, a domestic drama set in Guimaras
  • Exorcismo by Carlo Navarrete, a horror short shot in Silay City, Negros Occidental
  • Ang Tumuluo (The Faithful) by Aldrich Rosano, a thriller short film set in Cadiz City and Bacolod City, Negros Occidental
  • Azucar (Sugar) by Kurt Soberano, a romance drama shot in Negros Occidental

On its 7th year, CineKasimanwa also served as a homecoming of sorts for the award-winning film The Chanters directed by James Robin Mayo. 

Set in rural Calinog, Iloilo, The Chanters follows 12-year-old Sarah Mae (played by Jally Nae Gilbaliga) of the indigenous Panay Bukidnon tribe, and her grandfather Ramon (Romulo Caballero), one of the last living bearers of their community’s rich oral tradition.

Told entirely in Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a, the film features a cast of entirely local and largely first-time actors. It was premiered during the 2017 QCinema International Film Festival, earning Gabaliga the Best Actress plum, and Mayo the Best Screenplay award. 

CineKasimanwa’s screening of The Chanters was one of the highlights of the film festival. This also paved the way for members of Calinog’s Panay Bukidnon community, including Caballero and Gabaligo to witness the film on the big screen for the first time. 

The Chanters also bagged awards during the 2018 Urduja Film Festival as the Best Heritage Film, Best Director, Best New Actor (Caballero), and Best Young Actress (Gabaliga) awards.

For its role in championing regional films, CineKasimanwa was also recognized by the Film Development Council of the Philippines as one of the country’s luminary film festivals in September 2019, for its Sine Sandaan tribute in celebration of 100 years of Philippine cinema.

The regional festival has proven instrumental in empowering Western Visayas’ burgeoning group of young filmmakers. CineKasimanwa’s Student + Youth Film Competition, for instance, remains to be a fertile ground for the region’s fledgling talents. 

Notably, after a windfall of awards in the 2018 CineKasimanwa Festival, young Ilonggo directors Richard Jeroui Salvadico and Arlie Sweet Sumagaysay made waves in the 2019 national Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino with their short film Chok, winning the Audience Choice trophy in the Sine Kabataan showcase.

BEST SHORT FILM. 'Utwas,' a film by young Ilonggo directors Richard Jeroui Salvadico and Arlie Sweet Sumagaysay, 
 wins CineKasimanwa 2019 Student + Youth Film Competition Best Short Film Award. Screenshot courtesy of CineKasimanwa

The budding filmmakers Salvadico and Sumagaysay similarly dominated the 2019 CineKasimanwa Student + Youth Film Competition, their winning entry Utwas set to represent the Western Visayas in the upcoming Cinema Rehiyon in Dumaguete – along with other big winner Singkal by Rovic Lopez of the John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University.

Here is the full list of winners of the 2019 CineKasimanwa Film Festival:

Student + Youth Film Competition

  • Best Short Film: Utwas, Richard Jeroui Salvadico and Arlie Sweet Sumagaysay 
  • Jury Prize: Singkal, Rovic Lopez 
  • Best Director: Richard Jeroui Salvadico and Arlie Sweet Sumagaysay for Utwas
  • Best Female Performance in a Film: Joane Paulet Libo-on, Gulut-anon Nga Dulot
  • Best Male Performance in a Film:  Aljon Flores, Singkal
  • Best Screenplay: Arlie Sweet Sumagaysay for Gulut-anon Nga Dulot
  • Best Cinematography : Richard Jeroui Salvadico for Utwas
  • Best Production Design: Singkal
  • Best Editing : Utwas
  • Best Sound Design and Recording: Singkal
  • Best Original Score: Singkal
  • Best Original Theme Song: Kasiguradohan, composed and performed by Brian Angelo Vargas and Kayne Alag; arranged by John Randie Orbe

Winners’ Circle Competition

  • Best Short Film: Kuntento, Charlton John Jocson
  • Jury Prize: Sikway, Daniel Jeff Telic 
  • Best Director: Charlton John Jocson
  • Best Actor: Marco Cornejo, Kuntento
  • Best Actress: Krissele Kate Anotado, Sikway
  • Best Screenplay: Kuntento
  • Best Cinematography: Kuntento
  • Best Editing: Kuntento
  • Best Supporting Actress: Vienne Yap, Kuntento
  • Best Supporting Actor: Jason Gonzales and Axl Arceo, Kuntento

CineKasimanwa and the Western Visayas Filmmakers Network partnered with the Iloilo Festivals Foundation Incorporated, the Iloilo City government, and the Office of Iloilo City Councilor Jay Treñas to be part of the first Hala Bira! Dinagyang Arts Festival. 

For the full schedule of screenings, you may check CineKasimanwa’s official Facebook page– Rappler.com 

Rhick Lars Vladimer Albay is a Rappler Mover based in Iloilo. He reports mostly on the local cultural community and art scene.

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