National Artist for Cinema (2009)
(October 9, 1915 – August 11, 1985)
Born on October 9, 1915 and christened Manuel Pabustan Urbano, Manuel Conde grew up and studied in Daet, Camarines Norte.
In the decades before and after World War II when Philippine society was being inundated by American popular culture, Conde invested local cinema with a distinct cultural history of its own through movies that translated onto the silver screen the age-old stories that Filipinos had told and retold from generation to generation for at least the past one hundred years. Among the narratives that Conde directed and/or produced for the screen were three of the most famous metrical romances in Philippine lowland culture: Siete Infantes de Lara, Ibong Adarna, and Prinsipe Tenoso.
Through the more than forty films he created from 1940 to 1963, Manuel Conde contributed in no small measure to the indigenization of the cinema, specifically: by assigning it a history and culture of its own; by revitalizing folk culture with urgent issues, fresh themes and new techniques; by depicting and critiquing Filipino customs, values and traditions according to the needs of the present; by employing and at the same time innovating on the traditional cinematic genres of his time; and by opening the local cinema to the world.
With a curious mind and restless spirit that could not be contained by what is, Conde went beyond the usual narratives of the traditional genres and ventured into subject matter that would have been deemed too monumental or quixotic by the average producer. Conde dared to recreate on screen the grand narratives of larger-than-life figures from world history and literature, like Genghis Khan and Sigfredo. In doing films on these world figures, Conde had in effect forced the Filipino moviegoer out of the parochial and predictable concerns of the run-of-the-mill formulaic film and thrust him into a larger world where visions and emotions were loftier and nobler and very very far from the pedestrian whims and sentiments that constituted the Filipino moviegoer’s usual fare.
Serendipitously, as these movies opened the vistas of the Filipino film to other cultures, they also unlocked the doors of western cinema to the Filipino film, allowing it entry into one of the most prestigious film festivals of the globe. Later, when these films were bought by foreign distributors, they were exhibited in all parts of the cinematic world of the time, establishing the presence of the Filipino cinema in the eyes of that world.
For investing the local cinema with a culture and history of its own, for revitalizing the tradition with timely and urgent concerns, for describing and reevaluating folk customs and practices in the context of the times, for employing but innovating on the traditional cinematic genres to make them responsive to new audiences and concerns, and for opening Filipino cinema to the world to enrich and honor it, Manuel Conde deserves the title which his contemporaries had attached to his name in the 1950s – Conde the Magnificent.
Major works: Ibong Adarna (1941), Si Juan Tamad (1947), Siete Infantes de Lara (1950), Genghis Khan (1950), Ikaw Kasi! (1955) Juan Tamad Goes To Congress (1959).