Video 48, The Last Rental Shop in Manila, Keeps a Bygone Era Alive
To find rare copies of old movies, cinephiles often troop to Quiapo, to browse for them among piles of "dibidis." Those in the know head for Quezon City, to a shop called Video 48, and strike up a friendship with its owner, Simon Santos.
Amid the shelves well-stocked with discs and tapes, and glass cases that hold film memorabilia, Simon rattles of the names of his well-known clientele, virtually a who’s-who of Philippine cinema, a list that will send any film student into spasms of ecstasy. Among the well-known customers over the years have been National Artists Lino Brocka and Nick Joaquin; the directors—Luciano ‘Chaning’ Carlos, Celso Ad. Castillo, Gil Portes, Elwood Perez, Maryo J. delos Reyes, Jeffrey Jeturian, Laurice Guillen, Khavn dela Cruz, Adolfo Alix, Jr., Raya Martin, Quark Henares; writers Conrado de Quiros, Pete Lacaba, Lualhati Bautista, screenwriters Ricky Lee, Armando Lao, Jake Tordesillas, Senedy Que; actors like Bembol Roco, Joel Torre, Mark Gil, and German Moreno.
Lino Broca even immortalized the store in film by using it as a location for shooting a scene in his 1991 movie Kislap sa Dilim, which starred Christopher de Leon, Gabby Concepcion, and Lorna Tolentino. “Brocka was amazed at our inventories and became a regular customer of ours,” says Simon.
In fact, the store's records can show that Brocka actually returned a tape that he borrowed a day before his untimely death. “The last time he rented was on May 12, 1991, as recorded in his Borrower Card. He returned the tapes on May 20, the day before he died in a fatal car accident on May 21, 1991. I wasn’t able to get his autograph, but I was able to keep the borrower's card with the initials 'LB' on it. It’s one of my cherished treasures of the late National Artist,” he says.
Aside from the cinematic luminaries, students, film collectors, and movie enthusiasts visit the shop. “Network giants ABS-CBN and GMA are also our regular customers, supplying all their video requirements in case they need something for their upcoming tributes or shows. Film students usually come over searching for hard-to-find titles. Students from UP, Ateneo and UST also come over to visit us,” he smiles.
A treasure trove of artifacts
It was an FPJ movie that got him hooked, he says. “My interest in the movies started in the early '60s when my aunt and I watched a movie, Markado, in 1960, which starred a very young FPJ. That also started my admiration of Da King. I was around ten years old that time, collecting all of his movie ads and photos from newspapers and fan magazines and pasting them up in spiral notebooks.”
As the son of the late, great painter Mauro Malang Santos—who was also known as an illustrator and a cartoonist—Simon was surrounded by art and pop culture. “I grew up in an environment where I had the luxury of having and reading most of the current newspapers and magazines in town—The Manila Times, Manila Chronicle, Kislap-Graphic Magazines, Literary Song-Movie, Liwayway, and Bulaklak, among others.”
His father, who worked as an Art Director at the Manila Chronicle, loved collecting books, comics, art books, and magazines, and so, as a child, Simon learned went with his dad to visit the booksellers along Avenida and Azcarraga. “That inspired me to have my own sets of collections. As a youngster, back in the '60s, one of my usual, regular Sunday [habits] was to browse the movie section of The Manila Times. I love seeing all those movie ads—about six pages were devoted to these ads back in the day—with your favorite stars in their current and forthcoming movies.”
He recalls, “Those were the times when Philippine cinema was very much alive—I remember three or four new movies coming out and screening every week.” He has amassed quite a sizable collection, consisting of pre-war, post-war, '50s and '60s movie fan magazines (Sinagtala, Ilang-Ilang, Kislap, Bulaklak, Liwayway, Literary Song-Movie, among others); 50s and 60s Komiks (Pilipino, Espesyal, Hiwaga, Tagalog Klasiks, Aliwan, Pioneer, among others); theatrical posters (local and foreign), lobby cards, movie flyers, wallet-sized photos of actors and actresses, books (The URIAN Anthology, The Cinema of Manuel Conde, Doña Sisang Filipino Movies, etc) magazines, souvenir programs (Famas, FAP, URIAN) on Philippine Cinema.
When Betamax and VHS video cassettes came in the early '80s, Simon's collection started to include award-winning Hollywood and foreign-language films—first in those tape formats, and then in laser discs and DVDs. Now, he says, in keeping with the times, "We are saving them in digital files.”
He admires the works of such film greats as Akira Kurosawa, Francois Truffaut, Vittorio de Sica, Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock and the works of our very own, National Artist for Film, Gerardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Manuel Conde, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, all the way to new crop of talented local filmmakers, Lav Diaz, Brillante Mendoza, Jeffrey Jeturian, Chito Roño. Their works were part of his collections.
As his inventory grew, the need for an outlet was necessary. He decided to set up his own video rental shop in 1988, calling it Video 48 after its address, 48 West Avenue in Quezon City.
One thing led to another. “It was during the course of my business that I started collecting toys. It was at this juncture that McDonald's released Happy Meal toy sets based on the current movie releases, movies like Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, A Bug’s Life, Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan, Jungle Book, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo.”
These toy figures prodded him to collect other toy lines—Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and '80s toys like Ghostbusters, Thunder Cats, He-Man, and Masters of the Universe, along with Marvel Legends such as Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk along with characters from the DC Universe like Superman, Batman. He also has McFarlane’s Movie Maniacs Collection with Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Scream, Hot Toys, and most recently, the LEGO town.
“Most of these toys are displayed prominently around the shop to add life and color. The movie posters and still photos to add a cinematic touch,” he explains.
Sharing Is Caring
There used to be a dearth of local movie materials, which is now a challenge to online researchers looking to learn about Philippine cinema. “To somehow address this problem, I put up Video 48 blog as a virtual library and archive on Philippine Cinema in 2007, where I feature and post all and everything [about] Philippine cinema—movie ads, magazine covers, selected filmography of stars and various articles on local cinema from pre-war, post-war up to the present."
The internet provides Simon with a new venue to share his collections. “Just seeing an old movie ad layout, let’s say, Carmen Rosales-Rogelio dela Rosa’s Kampanang Ginto (1949) or Jaime de la Rosa- Delia Razon’s Luksang Tagumpay (1956) is already a feast for one’s eyes as one reminisces and savors the past.”
As a big FPJ fan, he also put up another blog, which features everything about Da King. Yet another pays homage to Filipino Komiks, where enthusiasts can browse the complete Komiks serial of National Artist Francisco V. Coching’s Dumagit. “Most of these komiks serials like 'Hagibis, Darna, Dyesebel, Captain Barbell, MN, and El Indio were adapted into the big screen. Reading komiks used to be the favorite pastime of many Filipinos,” he says.
He hopes that these sites will help rekindle interest in classic Filipino cinema. “From the various messages and comments I received, [it seems that] people are gradually appreciating Philippine Cinema as there are lots of people inquiring old titles from LVN, Sampaguita and Premiere.”
Meeting Da King
He has met many of his idols over the years. Among those he mentions are Rogelio de la Rosa and Carmen Rosales, Leopoldo Salcedo, Jaime de la Rosa, Nida Blanca, and Nestor de Villa, Delia Razon and Mario Montenegro, Efren Reyes, Dolphy and Chiquito, and of course Fernando Poe, Jr. and Susan Roces.
His most memorable encounter with Da King and his "Queen," Susan Roces, happened when he presented them with his book. “I put together a hardbound 200+ page book titled A Comprehensive Look: FPJ Movie Ads (1955-2003). I only made two copies, one of which I gave to FPJ personally during the 2004 Presidential election."
"The book, which he signed, is fully illustrated with the movie ads, articles, and photos, which I painstakingly compiled since the '60s. It is divided into six chapters—the '50s, the '60s, the '70s, the '80s, the '90s and 2000s chronicling almost five decades of FPJ's colorful movie career, from Anak ni Palaris in 1955 to Pakners in 2003.”
Eight years later, in 2012, he was able to have the book also signed by the Queen herself, Ms. Susan Roces. “That made the book priceless (and very precious to me) with both the signatures of the King and Queen of Philippine Movies on it.”
Movies Past and Present
As for the state of local cinema today, he takes a pragmatic view. “Movie-making is business, and producers make movies simply to make a profit. Doing movies with socially relevant themes are just secondary in their agenda, since it will not make money.” He says this common denominator exists between Dona Sisang of LVN, the Santiagos of Premiere, and the Vera Perez of Sampaguita Pictures and the film producers of today—Regal, Viva and Star Cinema.
“They produced and make movies that the public like. LVN produced Anak Dalita, Badjao, and Biyaya ng Lupa—all these movies didn’t make money in the tills, but they were critical successes later. Anak Dalita, for instance, was no box office hit, but it won the Golden Harvest Award and the FAMAS International Prestige Award. When Director Lamberto Avellana and Manny de Leon brought home the trophies, Doña Sisang teased, them: ‘Ano ngayon ang gagawin ninyo sa mga kopang iyan? Makakain niyo ba iyan?’” This, he says, was also the sentiment of Regal Films’ Lily Monteverde when she bankrolled Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L. “Both producers want to do a quality film, but they need a movie that will make money to survive in the business.”
Through the years, he's seen moviegoers' tastes change: The '50s favored musicals and costumed epics based on komiks-serials. The '60s saw more action and comedy, while movies in the '70s and '80s had more sex and violence. The 1990s to the present skews more to rom-coms; and now we're witnessing the growth in popularity of indie films with socially relevant themes.
“Most moviegoers still watch the mainstream movies. They pack the theaters to watch a Daniel Padilla-Kathryn Bernardo starrer or to see Vice Ganda. However, independent films are also making headway, with outlets like Cinemalaya, Cinema One Originals, and QCinema. I’ve seen Lav Diaz’s Ang Babaeng Humayo, Carlos Siguon-Reyna’s Hari ng Tondo, Jun Lana’s Barber’s Tales, and Die Beautiful and Alberto Monteras II’s Respeto, which are all exceptional, but moviegoers just ignore them [during their] regular theatrical run,” he muses.
He does observe that some moviegoers nowadays are more educated, as far as their film choices and preferences are concerned. “This may be attributed, in part, to our schools and universities offering film courses in their curriculum. Students are made to realize the importance of past and present cinema in our culture and in our lives. Things like this when sustain effectively through the years will have positive effects on people’s awareness and consciousness.”
For Pinoys to be able to achieve this consciousness, he suggests, “movies by our great filmmakers like Gerardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Manuel Conde, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Celso Ad Castillo, Mike de Leon, among others should be made available. They must be seen and appreciated. More and more movies, especially those from the 70s, are being digitally restored and remastered. We now have great films like Genghis Khan, Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon, Batch 81, Asedillo, Himala, Oro, Plata, Mata, Virgin People, and Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag for our younger generations to see and enjoy.”
Video 48 is at Ground Level, Mary Santos ARTcade Building, 48 West Avenue, West Triangle, Quezon City. For more information, visit Simon Santos’ blogs and the official Video 48 Facebook page.