If free movies were the only privilege of my young life, it sure was enough for a girl born in 1940 to a family that owned Cine Ideal, the exclusive distributor of MGM movies—the roaring-lion movies.
Cine Ideal went back to the days of the silent movies, when the projector was still hand-cranked and a live orchestra provided the music. It was managed for the family by Lolo Rafael and his brother Marcos.
The property was sold in 1977, after the theater had burned down. I don’t know how the family could have profited from the business when all of us in our huge family, joined sometimes by friends to whom the privilege extended, watched all the movies there for free.
The 1950s-’60s were, truly, the golden years of my life. I had been set up to enjoy them. My oldest living uncle, Jesus, was vice mayor of Manila from the late forties; Arsenio H. Lacson was the mayor. My dad, on the other hand, became the representative for Manila’s second district—Cine Ideal’s Sta. Cruz district—in 1953 (and went on to win four more elections successively until he was forcibly retired by martial law).
Another uncle, Anding, was secretary of education during Diosdado Macapagal’s presidency. Another branch of the family owned The Manila Times; Tito Chino—Joaquin P. Roces—was its publisher, a first cousin of Dad’s and a namesake, too, differentiated only by his middle initial; my dad’s was “R.”
It was important: before entering politics, Dad had written a daily column for the Times (“My Daily Bread”). He only wrote; Tito Chino published and partly owned the paper.
At any rate, those privileged circumstances of birth could have gone to my head, but nothing gave me a sense of entitlement more than the privilege owed to Cine Ideal. The privilege extended to my own children, who on certain Sundays joined me in the preview room to watch movies yet “coming soon.”
Those were different times; delicadeza and palabra de honor were still the norm, and it was hardly unusual for business rivals, some of them family friends, too, to exchange gallant gestures. The Rufinos and the Roceses were such rival-friends.
I don’t really know who started it, but annually renewable movie passes were exchanged between them. We were ahead in the exchange; we only had Ideal, they had State, Avenue and Ever. But, in their culture, nobody saw it as unequal. If the situation were reversed, they knew the deal would be the same.
It was always such a thrill to be recognized by the taquillera in the booth; I needed only to be spotted, and she would call out my movie pass number to signal me to come for my loge tickets for two—one for me, another for my companion.
Now, the privilege has come full circle, and it is for all the theaters in Makati, any day, at any screening time—for a senior. I guess I’ve never stopped loving movies, although the interest began to wane in my septuagenarian years, perhaps because of depleted energy and the new lure of the comforts of home and television.
There are more TV channels now, and we happen to be hooked particularly on Cinemaworld, which shows foreign movies, mostly European, with subtitles, and Classica, which shows operas, ballets and concerts.
Even such as it is, local television keeps us at home from 9 p.m., or brings us back home by then because of our news habit. Local TV, save for news, don’t really get in the way of our movie time, usually not later than 6 p.m. Indeed, the political situation seems to demand we seek relief or escape from certain realities.
The comforts of home viewing used to keep us away from movies, but not anymore. Greenbelt’s Cinema 4 comes close to beating them. Imagine our pleasant shock when we saw those first-class airplane seats that flatten like beds with a table between us, big enough to accommodate two hotdog sandwiches and a tumbler of popcorn with individual places yet for our drinks. No wonder all that space between rows!
The movie we saw At Cinema 4 was a science-fiction flick called “Arrival.” I was beginning to find it fascinating, thought-provoking, when I heard Vergel’s soft snore. Ah, the dangers of having the comforts of home inside a movie house!
I certainly didn’t need a bed-chair for “La La Land,” though. I was in fact brought back to my days at Ideal watching MGM musicals! Except, this time, there wasn’t the usual Hollywood ending. The powerful chemistry and passion between the lovers prove not enough for them to end up together. Shucks!
Vergel himself didn’t care for a bed-chair for “La La Land,” although he was grateful he had one for “Arrival.” Movies have indeed come a long way, and with our senior privilege, we have no reason to miss out.