Balintataw/Balintataw II/Radyo Balintataw

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Balintataw/Balintataw II/Radyo Balintataw

Balintataw/Balintataw II/Radyo Balintataw

(figuratively The Mind’s Eye; literally Iris)

Balintataw I: / 19 Aug 1967 to Mar 1972 / 8:00-9:00 pm, Saturdays / ABC Channel 5 / Producers: Cecile Guidote-AlvarezAlberto S. Florentino / Literary Manager and Head Writer: Alberto S. Florentino / Script Consultant: Mauro R. Avena / Executive Producer: Olive Montecillo / Head TV Director: Lupita Concio / Acting Director: Nick Lizaso / Pool of Directors: Lizaso, Lino BrockaJoey GosiengfiaoElwood Perez, Jose Roy Jr / Pool of Writers: Tolentino, Avena, Orlando Nadres, Pierre Salas, Tony PerezWilfrido NolledoNestor TorreNinotchka RoscaWilfredo Sanchez, Alfredo Yuson / Floor Director: Roger Velilla / Spinner: Romy Rivera / Host: Robert Arevalo

Balintataw II: / 1987–early 2000s / PTV 4 / Producer: Cecile Guidote-Alvarez / Literary Managers: Isagani CruzDomingo Landicho / Directors: Lizaso, Nadres, Jose Gruta, Maryo J. de los ReyesLupita A. KashiwaharaJose Mari Avellana / Writers: Rolando TinioLualhati BautistaLito Casaje, Henry Nabong, Dodi Anzures, Ronaldo TumbokonMars D. Cavestany JrLav Diaz, Suzette Doctolero / Hosts: Arevalo and Guidote-Alvarez

Radyo Balintataw / premiered 2007 / DZRH 666 / 11:30 pm to midnight, Mondays-Fridays / 6:00-6:30 pm, Sundays / Producer and Host: Guidote-Alvarez

Conceded by many as the exemplar of Filipino drama on television, the pre-martial law Balintataw was a joint venture of ABC-5, then owned by Marcos Roces, and the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), which Cecile Guidote-Alvarez founded and headed at that time. The program brought to the mass television audience the best in Philippine literature, especially prize-winning short stories, plays, and excerpts from novels adapted for TV, and original teleplays by established and new writers and playwrights. It ran for a total of 250 weeks.

The title Balintataw, proposed by Mauro R. Avena and highly recommended by writer Clodualdo del Mundo Sr, specifically refers to the mind’s eye, a “space within which the creative imagination can freely breathe, move, and expand.” Lupita Concio and Joey Gosiengfiao, who were then on the pool of artists of Channel 5, were involved with PETA in the planning and execution of the program. Concio served as the program’s first director and Gosiengfiao the show’s first stage manager, a job that would subsequently be handled by Jose Roy Jr, Elwood Perez, and Lino Brocka.

Avena wrote the pilot scripts of the program. The first script he wrote was “Ang Mananayaw” (The Dancer), an adaptation of Alberto Florentino’s one-act play The Dancers. The first script, however, that went on air when Balintataw premiered on 19 Aug 1967 was “Inulang Tipanan” (Rain-drenched Rendezvous), an adaptation of a story written by Concio, about a middle-class young lady, played by an uninitiated in drama, socialite Chingbee Kalaw.

The weekly drama program follows a standard format. The opening billboard that announces the title of the show is embedded with a voice-over of Vic Silayan providing a brief explanation of the term balintataw. Host Arevalo then makes his appearance to introduce the teleplay. Next is the drama proper. The host returns at the end to round up the presentation.

Unlike its contemporaries, Balintataw was not star-oriented. It had no acting mainstay. Actors for both the main and supporting roles, including short appearances, came mainly from theater and film. For example, the episode “Inanod ng Biyaya” (Swept by Grace), an adaptation by Avena of Linda Ty Casper’s short story “The Dead Well,” had stage actor Adul de Leon. “Kabalyerong Tanso” (A Fake Knight), an adaptation by Wilfrido Sanchez of a Filipino literary piece in English, had stage actors Tommy Abuel and Jimmy Asencio essaying roles with respected movie actors Vic Silayan and Barbara Perez. Some of the program’s notable performers included Leopoldo SalcedoMary WalterTita MuñozDindo Fernando, Tommy Abuel, Liberty Ilagan, Perla Bautista, Alicia Alonso, Anita LindaRita GomezFred Montilla, Marie Tuazon, and Eddie del Mar. During the height of the show’s popularity, it featured the varied talents of a motley group: international beauty queen Gemma Cruz-Araneta, beauteous socialites Amelia de la Rama, Armida Siguion-Reyna, Elvira Manahan, and Chingbee Kalaw; ballet dancer Tina Santos; opera singers Aurelio Estanislao and Fides Cuyugan-Asensio; stage thespian Jose Avelino III; critics Anthony Morli and Nestor Torre Jr; foreign actors Claude Wilson, Mary Vigard, and Ed Murphy; and would-be popular stars Vilma SantosTina Revilla, and Tirso Cruz III.

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Rosemarie Gil, left, Tita Muñoz, and Barbara Perez in an episode of Balintataw, 1967 (Pinoy Television, The Story of ABS-CBN: The Medium of Our Lives, edited by Thelma Sioson-San Juan. ABS-CBN Broadcasting, 1999.)

 

From the first to the last, the major star in the anthology was the teleplay. Balintataw had a complete and carefully thought-out script for each teleplay, which was a rarity during the period for both television and film, when scripts, if any, were mostly improvised on the taping day itself. Mimeographed copies of the script were distributed to each member of the production team. Prior to the taping session, the stage director rehearsed the script with the cast for dialogue delivery, characterization, and blocking. Rehearsals were held at the Concio residence in La Vista Subdivision.

 

Some examples of Filipino literary pieces adapted for Balintataw were “Kudyapi” (Lute) written by Brocka based on the short story “The Day the Dancers Came” by Bienvenido N. Santos; “Kabalyerong Tanso” (Fake Knight) by Wilfrido Sanchez, from the “Rice Wine” by Wilfrido D. Nolledo; “Isang Gabi ng Tagsibol” (A Night of Spring) by Alberto S. Florentino, from “May Day Eve” by Nick Joaquin; and “Salambaw” (Fish Net) by Pierre Salas, from the one-act play The Sign of the Seagulls by Jesus T. Peralta. Other short stories that were featured in the program were Nick Joaquin’s “Summer Solstice,” “Guardia de Honor” (Guardian of Honor), “Three Generations,” and “Difficulties of a Diplomat;” Isabelo Crisostomo’s “Earthen Image,” “Mother of the Queen,” and “The Lonely Room;” Claro M. Recto’s “Shadow and Solitude;” Amador Daguio’s “Wedding Dance” and “The Woman Who Looked Out of the Window;” Rogelio Sicat’s “Impeng Negro” (Black Impen) and “Moses, Moses;” Jose Garcia Villa’s “Valse Triste” (Sad Waltz) and “The Man Who Looked Like Rizal;” Kerima Polotan’s “Sounds of Sunday” and “The Virgin;” Gilda Cordero-Fernando’s “A Secret Ageing;” Andres Cristobal Cruz’s “The Quarrel” and “White Wall;” Erwin Castillo’s “Ireland” and “The Fairy Child;” Wilfrido Sanchez’s “Moon Under My Feet;” F. Sionil Jose’s “The God Stealer;” Rony Diaz’s “The President of the Tribe;” Ninotchka Rosca’s “Piniling Lipi” (Chosen Race) and “Bakas ng Daliri” (Imprint of a Finger); and Joe Quirino’s “Night Song.” Among the plays adapted for Balintataw were Jesus Peralta’s The Somnambulists; Marcelino Agana’s New Yorker in Tondo; Julian Balmaceda’s Dahil sa Anak (Because of the Child); Wilfrido Nolledo’s Rice Wine and SekoyaEstrella Alfon’s Tubig (Water), Bigas (Rice), and With Patches of Many Hues; Sister Maria Angela Barrios’s Hellow…Soldier (Hello… Soldier); and Alberto Florentino’s The World is an AppleCavort with Angels, and Cadaver. Younger writers of the period, such as Tony Perez and Franklin Osorio, also contributed memorable teleplays for Balintataw. Some original teleplays were Elwood Perez’s “Ina sa Lupang Malaya” (Mother in a Free Land) and “Ang Pagdalaw ng Isang Kahapon” (The Visit of a Yesterday), and Pierre Salas’s “Ang Aguinaldo Ko ay Ikaw” (You are my Gift) and “Wanted: A Secretary.”

 

Balintataw also featured foreign literary classics. Among the plays that it adapted to Filipino life and to the television medium were Paddy Chayefsky’s The Mother, Rod Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and All My Sons, Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire and This Property is Condemned, Anton Chekov’s Three Sisters, Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, and Robert Anderson’s Tea and SympathyBalintataw also adapted for television stories and novels of D. H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, Julio Cortazar, Anatole France, W. Somerset Maugham, and O. Henry.

 

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Print advertisement for Balintataw (Photo courtesy of Simon Santos/Video 48)

 

The program explored human and social relationships through a social realist lens that contextualized the struggles and challenges faced by the characters of the drama in concrete political conditions of the country. Characters included the prostitute, the other woman, a drug pusher, an ageing actress, a Protestant missionary, a revolutionary, a lovelorn landlady, a labor leader, a senator, a poet, a hero, a swinger, and a socialite.

 

Balintataw introduced many “firsts” in Philippine television. One was the first kiss on local TV, with actor Nestor Torre kissing on the lips a theater actress from the University of the Philippines in the episode “Goodbye, My Gentle”. Most of its episodes concluded with an “unhappy ending,” which was uncommon during the period when much of the drama on TV was romantic and idealist. It also introduced themes unexplored by local soaps during the period: the bakla or gay in “Duplex;” blatantly political issues in “Idolo ng Madla” (Idol of the Masses); religio-sexual themes in “Mambo Girl;” poverty, prostitution, and squatter demolition in “Oli Impan (Holy Infant);” and social unrest, such as those resulting from agrarian conflict in “Lagablab sa Karimlan” (Conflagration in the Twilight) and the massacre of farmers in “Sa Bawat Patak ng Dugo (For Every Drop of Blood).” Other social issues tackled by the program included the Intramuros of the 1800s, postwar Intramuros slums, the bleak Ilocos landscape, a logging camp, indigenous peoples such as the Igorot, issues in a fishing village, sensitive liaisons, the presence of US military bases in the country and its consequences, such as the G.I. baby, and many issues concerning social injustices.

 

Most of Balintataw’s stories were tragic, the characters ending up dead, defeated, or dehumanized. It presented society as a prison from which the characters could not escape. The program, however, also explored other genres like situational comedy, farce, period play, and dance drama.

 

Balintataw introduced innovations in local television production: the use of a full script based on quality material; the appointment of a script supervisor to oversee the quality of the scripts; the use of a stable of scriptwriters instead of one regular writer and a pool of stage directors; and the use of serious actors from theater and film instead of box-office stars. Most importantly, the drama anthology respected its audience as thinking and discriminating individuals.

 

The program went off the air in Mar 1972. Guidote-Alvarez revived the program on the government station PTV-4 in 1987 upon her return to the Philippines from self-exile in the United States. The post-EDSA Balintataw maintained its original format. It also went into radio in 1987, but reformatted as a cultural magazine program aimed at confronting the global challenges of poverty and climate change. Radyo Balintataw, hosted by Guidote-Alvarez, is aired daily on DZRH. It features drama, poetry, music, and storytelling during weekdays, and interviews, reports and commentaries on socio-political issues with focus on eco-cultural concerns every Sunday.

 

Balintataw and its directors, writers, and performers won 18 Citizens’ Awards for Television (CAT) from the Citizens Council for Mass Media from 1967 to 1972, including five for best drama anthology, plus the CAT Hall of Fame Award in 1972. The revived Balintataw received the Gawad CCP Para sa Telebisyon in 1988 and 1991. Radyo Balintataw won the KBP Golden Dove Award for best culture and arts program, 2008 and 2014; best drama program, 2008; best drama series, 2013 and 2014; and best documentary, 2012. It won best drama and best entertainment program, both in 2014, from the Catholic Mass Media Awards.

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