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Patayin Mo sa Sindak si Barbara/Celso Ad Castillo

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NYMPHA was probably lost because Celso was also looking for a copy of that film. But I think Pete Tombs can answer that.

I'm also tracking LIHIM NI MADONNA, Noel.

The Kid, uninterrupted

On the set of ANG PINAKAMAGANDANG HAYOP SA BALAT NG LUPA with Lito Anzures, Gloria Diaz and Celso Ad Castillo.

MANILA, Philippines—As a child, he had the second-run theater circuit in downtown Manila as playground; his first “playmates” were King Kong, Suzie Wong and Gene Kelly.

“I could barely understand American slang, but I was mesmerized by the light and shadows, the framing, the composition, the rhythm, the editing,” recalls acclaimed filmmaker Celso Ad. Castillo.

Before young Celso even started school, his father Dominador had taken him to watch Hollywood movies—from MGM musicals to Elia Kazan dramas.

“He was a film buff,” recounts Direk Celso, known as The Kid of Philippine Movies. “My aunt and uncles were also crazy about movies.”

Dominador, who was also a lawyer, komiks novelist and producer for Larry Santiago Productions, was hesitant to allow young Celso to join show business.

Teenaged Celso protested that he was merely following in his father’s footsteps. Dominador had created the classic komiks heroine “Cofradia,” immortalized by Gloria Romero in the Sampaguita film version in 1953 and Gina Alajar in the 1970s.

Like father...

“I started out as a komiks illustrator,” Celso relates. “I’m also fond of drawing.”

He eventually wrote the komiks novels “Tartaro,” “Vampira” and “Palalong Kuba.” After all, he notes, stories about dragons, mermaids and vampires were “part of my childhood memories.”

He acknowledges that his komiks sojourn primed him for filmmaking: “It taught me how to visualize the frame.” Yes, komiks panels were the first storyboards for this English Literature graduate. “Komiks also taught me how to choose commercially viable projects.”

From there, Celso, at the tender age of 18, crossed over to the movies as scriptwriter. “I started by doing spoofs of James Bond films. For Chiquito, I wrote ‘James Bandong, Secret Agent 02-10.’ For Dolphy, ‘Dr. Yes.’”

VM Cinematic Films took notice because these movies had done very well at the tills.

“VM gave me my first break, ‘Misyong Mapanganib’ in 1965. It starred Tito Galla, Ruby Regala, and Helen Gamboa in her first starring role,” Celso says.

Local movies’ whiz kid was also a law student at the time. “My father allowed me to direct only because I promised to continue my law studies.”


He churned out six potboilers, one after the other, among them “Zebra Jungle Girl” with Ruby Regala and “Mansanas sa Paraiso” with Stella Suarez.

He admits that, inevitably, both his legal and film endeavors suffered. “I was flunking in school and my first seven movies were half-baked. I had to make a choice.”

Celso’s gambit yielded his first critical success, “Nympha,” a black-and-white bomba film starring Rizza. “I wanted to prove that sex films could be artistic if they didn’t offend the sensibilities and intelligence of moviegoers,” he explains.

The cache brought about by “Nympha” allowed him to make “The Virgin,” again with Rizza. “[It was] my first avant-garde movie,” he remembers fondly. “Eighty percent of the film had no dialogue. The story was told through ballads.”

Alas, “The Virgin” wasn’t as profitable as “Nympha.” With candor, he says, “It was a big flop. It was ahead of its time. Moviegoers were stumped—they couldn’t understand why no one was talking!”

The indie maverick then surprised the industry by plunging head first into the mainstream.

After megging “Ang Gangster at ang Birhen” (with Dante Rivero and Hilda Koronel) for Lea Productions, Celso caught the eye of Fernando Poe Jr.

Da King’s direk

“At 26, I was directing the King of Philippine movies,” he reminisces with pride.

“Asedillo,” his first outing with Da King, was not just a box-office smash; it also won a Famas Best Actor trophy for FPJ in 1972.

“That movie started our collaboration. In a span of two years, we made three more movies: ‘Santo Domingo,’ ‘Ang Alamat’ and ‘Esteban.’”

Working with Da King, Celso felt obliged to prove his worth because, “You had to earn his respect.”

After those four action movies, Celso was itching for another change of pace. “I wanted to go freelance … to do my kind of movies, innovative and experimental films that are commercial at the same time.”

His next gambit, “Ang Mahiwagang Daigdig ni Pedro Penduko,” starring Ramon Zamora, hit the jackpot as well.

“I never wanted to be boxed in one genre. So I followed up the fantasy movie ‘Penduko’ with a kung-fu flick, ‘Return of the Dragon,’ also with Ramon. I also made a zombie film with Alona Alegre entitled ‘Kung Bakit Dugo ang Kulay ng Gabi.’”

In 1974, he crafted the horror hit “Patayin Mo sa Sindak si Barbara,” for FPJ’s wife, Susan Roces. They followed it up with “Maligno,” for which Susan won Famas Best Actress in 1978.

Celso says, “When it was first shown, people didn’t know what to make of ‘Maligno.’ But I recently caught it on cable. I almost cried at the end. It was surreal and grotesque.”

By then, Celso had become the master of the unexpected.

After casting sweet Sampaguita star Susan in gothic tales, he re-imagined Miss Universe Gloria Diaz into “Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa,” in 1975.

Wet look

Celso wistfully describes “Hayop” as “the killer” because it started the “wet look trend and single-handedly demolished the predominantly macho star system.”

He remembers that, before “Hayop,” female stars were mere “adornment” in local movies. “Pang-display. ‘Hayop’ [changed that].”

He continued to give prominence to women in his films—most notably “Burlesk Queen,” an entry in the 1977 Metro Manila Film Festival.

“That movie created a furor at the film fest,” he says.

“Furor” is really an understatement.

“Burlesk” swept the awards in that year’s MMFF, resulting in a controversy that led to the wholesale return of trophies. In spite of the scandal, “Burlesk” is still regarded by critics as the “quintessential” Filipino film.

“Hinamon ni Brocka si Tinio ng suntukan (Lino Brocka dared Rolando Tinio to a fight),” Celso remembers. “Tinio, who was the head of the jury, heralded ‘Burlesk’ as the most beautiful Filipino film—past, present and future.”

Vi’s turnaround

Adding fuel to the fire, “Burlesk” had stunned moviegoers because it unveiled a new Vilma Santos—from ingénue to wanton woman.

Vilma says of “Burlesk”: “It marked a transition in my career. Working with Celso Kid is a privilege. He’s a genius.”

With good humor, Vilma recalls a “quarrel” on the set of “Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak,” which she produced in 1978. “It took so long to finish. I lost money on that. But we’re still friends. ‘Burlesk’ and ‘Pagputi’ brought a lot of honor to me.”

Gloria Diaz agrees: “Not too many people [would appreciate] his style [of filmmaking]. He’s a no-nonsense guy kasi. I consider myself lucky that I got to work with the best.”

In “Burlesk” and “Pinakamagandang Hayop,” as in all his films, Celso challenged his stars to improvise, “not to stick to the script [and] say the lines... from the hearts.”

Love letter

In the case of “Burlesk,” that’s because it was, for him, a love letter to his youth.

“That was about my adolescence. I was a regular in Clover, Inday Theater, Grand Opera House. I watched Canuplin and Bayani Casimiro. I witnessed both the peak and the decline of bodabil,” he remarks.

If there’s a common thread in his 61 movies, he points out, it’s that each one seeks to capture on film “a time of transition.”

He expounds: “‘Burlesk’ was about the end of the bodabil era; ‘Pagputi,’ the Huk movement; ‘Ang Alamat ni Julian Makabayan,’ the Philippine revolution.”

Coincidentally “Julian Makabayan” signaled Celso’s own personal transformation. “In 1983, I attended the Asean Film Festival in Malaysia, where ‘Julian’ was an entry. In my brief stay there, I discovered Islam. Six years later, I returned to Malaysia, to convert.”

Islam, he says, allowed him to “mellow and discover myself. Islam is a tough religion. Perfect for the hard-headed.”

The serenity that he thus found can be gleaned from his subsequent choice of address: Siniloan, Laguna, location for his major works.

He waxes poetic here: “Siniloan was where I was born. That place has everything—ricefields, mountains, rivers.”

Nowadays, he spends most of his time in his chestnut farm there. At the time of this conversation (just before the recent holidays) he is ready to harvest. “I’m always busy with something,” he insists.

Lifetime Achievement

Being the recipient of two Lifetime Achievement honors in 2007 (from the Famas and the Film Academy of the Philippines), Celso thought it was also apropos to pick up a long-shelved project: His biography, “Celso Kid of the Philippine Movies” by independent filmmaker Ron Bryant.

“Ron was my student in the Celso Ad. Castillo Filmmaking Institute in 1999,” he says. Celso played the role of Epy Quizon’s paralytic father in Ron’s award-winning Cinemalaya film, “Rotonda,” in 2006.

“He’s a very professional actor,” Ron says of his mentor. “He never meddled in my directing and remained focus on his acting.”

Ron, however, points out that the Celso book project has evolved into a “documentary.”

“The scope is too wide, especially in the context of 1970s Filipino cinema,” Ron explains. He hails Celso as a true vanguard of “the indie spirit.” “He made inventive films on a shoestring budget.”

Coming full circle, Celso is now tinkering with digital technology, with two indie movies in the works—“Sanib 2” and “OFW.”

The technology is new, but trust Celso to rely on the same “improvisational” tricks with his actors.

“OFW” actor Coco Martin says he finds The Kid’s method exciting. “On the set, we keep improving the dialogue. It’s a different experience. Direk Celso is so cool!”

Proof that Direk Celso is hip and happening still can very well rest in the fact that his old films are continuously being remade on both the big and small screens.

After “Pedro Penduko,” his “Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara” and “Maligno” have been turned into teleseryes by ABS-CBN 2.

His “Pinakamagandang Hayop” has also been snapped up by GMA 7.

If you ask him, reviving his old movies is the ultimate tribute. As bonus, his 1984 film “Snake Sisters” has been picked up by British firm Mondo Macabro for DVD distribution abroad.

Dream project

Says critic Pete Tombs of Mondo Macabro: “I think he’s one of the most visually gifted filmmakers to come out of the Philippines. A true original.”

Celso is positive, “I’m far from slowing down. I’m more aggressive now. My goal is to make an international movie soon!”

That dream project would be “Where Willows Grow,” which is set in the Land Down Under and tells the story of a Filipino mail-order bride who becomes the prime suspect in the murder of her Australian husband.

“My wish,” he concludes, “is for my films to transcend their ethnic origin and merge with different cultures of the world.”


Some trivia on PATAYIN MO SA SINDAK SI BARBARA from the blog of Mike Relon Makiling.

Even while still shooting “The Dragon…” Celso discussed with me a project for Rosas Production of Susan Roces. He had a title, “Patayin Mo Sa Sindak Si Barbara.” and asked me to come up with a concept for his title.

As soon as we wrapped up shooting “The Dragon…” I went back to my typewriter and came up with a concept for “Patayin…” which Celso forwarded to Susan.

We were in the post production phase of “The Dragon…” at LVN studios when we were invited by Susan to Hacienda Luisita where Fernando Poe, Jr. was shooting a movie to discuss “Patayin…”

And so one night, with Tsing Tong Tsai as our driver, Celso and I traveled to Hacienda Luisita of the Cojuancos. We missed Susan Roces by several hours but I got to meet the Salvador brothers, Ramon and Philip, who treated me kindly as if I wasn’t a newcomer in the movies. That made an impression on me Both of them were still in the production staff of the FPJ Production with Philip still playing minor roles in FPJ movies.

We were served dinner and I remember to this day how the Salvador brothers advised me not to be shy. “Pakapalan sa pelikula, Mike, kaya wag kang mahihiya! Di uso dito ang hiya-hiya. Lalo na sa tsibugan, magugutom ka! Relaks ka lang.”

After dinner Celso decided to proceed to Baguio where we arrived around midnight and spent the night in a hotel.

Early the next morning we left the hotel and proceeded to La Trinidad valley where the Poe’s had their vacation house.

Susan was at the market when we arrived. It was Ronnie who met us and forthwith told me that he had read the concept I’ve written for “Patayin…” and liked it. He was eager to read the sequence treatment and asked me several questions on how the story would be resolved.

By the way, when you write a concept, don’t reveal all that’s going to happen, especially the ending. There are unscrupulous people who would steal your idea. I have been a victim quite a few times. Reveal everything that you have cooked up when you’re already sure that you’re dealing with the “right” person.

It was also then that I met with Serge Lobo, FPJ resident cameraman and elder brother of Ben who was to become my cameraman for around 80 movies until he died unexpectedly. I felt I've lost not only a friend but a right hand. May his soul now rest in peace. I missed you, Pareng Ben!

And Rudy Meyer who was always carrying the little adopted daughter of Ronnie and Susan. Rudy was later to become a commissioner of PAGCOR during the tenure of Erap as president.

When she arrived from the market, Susan greeted me warmly and made me feel at home although I was very shy to be in the presence of the celebrated couple. While cooking, she discussed with me the concept and asked several questions, including my background as a writer. She was surprised to learn that “Patayin…” would be only my second screenplay. I told her of my experience as a komiks scriptwriter and she seemed not surprised at all.

That night, Fernando Poe, Jr. received an award as Best Actor at the Baguio Film Festival.Serge also received an award for Best Cinematography. The next day, we went back to Manila and I went home to Polo, Bulacan and started writing the sequence treatment for “Patayin…” When I presented the treatment to Celso. He had some comment which I quickly incorporated in the S.T. and which he forwarded to Susan and Ronnie. Days later, I received instructions to proceed with the screenplay proper without any comment from anybody.

We were in pre-production phase of “Patayin…” when “The Return of the Dragon…” was shown at the theaters and proved to be the highest grossing movie for Ramon Zamora. Celso and I went theater-hopping and enjoyed the sight of the SRO crowd in all the movie houses.

Thus, I started my second movie with Celso with newfound confidence.

Working with Susan Roces, Rossana Ortiz, Dante Rivero and Beth Manlongat made me feel at home in movie-making. My dreams of making good in the States further receded into the background. I was enjoying myself in the movies.

Normand Daza was Celso's assistant director for "Pataying..." Many years later, he went back home to the Phiippines from the States to die from kidney ailment. I remember consoling him and encouraging him in his illness early mornings until he finally told me via text messages that he had enough and would like to rest. I continued to send text messages to him but received no answer until I was informed that he had died, leaving his wife and children in the States. Sad...

Again, I watched Celso translated my screenplay into a motion picture. This was when I learned I was hypertensive when a doctor sent to the set by Uncle Nes, an uncle of Susan Roces, and who was an insurance agent, to subject me to medical check-up for possible coverage. Later, Uncle Nes told me that I still could avail of life insurance but under certain condition. That gave me an excuse to beg off. I was really wary of being insured in the first place.

Celso and I became close to each other and there were nights when he would ask me to spend and overnight at his house in Moonwalk subdivision in Paranaque where we would talk about movie projects.

It was during one of those nights when Celso told me of a project he had in mind about a sexy woman who goes around a fishing village wearing thin clothes clinging to her voluptuous body with sea water. Celso already has a title for the project – “Ang Pnakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa.” With the newly crowned Miss Universe Gloria Diaz in the title role. I remember a movie of Charito Solis with almost the same title. He told me to ignore it and insisted on his title for the project.

A movie of Sophia Loren, “Boy on the Dophin,” came to my mind. In the movie, Sophia Loren goes around with wet clothes clinging to her body. Celso liked the idea and I started conceiving on the project.

But another movie assignment came Celso’s way and he asked me to set aside “Pinakamaganda…” for a while and concentrate instead on ”The Brown Gypsy” with Elizabeth Oropesa in the title role.

I remember reading about the mummies in the Mountain Province and broached the idea of basing his project on them. Celso approved it and I came up with a concept for “The Brown Gypsy.”
When “The Brown Gypsy” was ready to shoot, Celso decided to go on location-hunt in the Mountain Province where the mummies were. The producer rented an air-conditioned van and we traveled to the remote corners of the Benguet province with Elizabeth Oropesa and her mother Mrs. Freeman in tow.

It was quite an experience for me to see those centuries-old tattooed mummies and had more ideas for the final screenplay.

We finally ended up in Ifugao were we were billeted in a lodging house. We tried to cross the Chico River to visit a place where they said that the folks were still so primitive that the women go about bare breasted.

Chico River was raging then because of a storm and we failed to cross it.

Before going back to the lodging house, Gener Sulit and I picked up a hand-woven cloth that I had a weaver made, intending to sent it to Ruth in San Rafael, California, for sample in our projected business of selling Philippine handicrafts in the States And there in Ifugao that I almost landed in jail for jay-walking. Imagine! There were hardly any vehicle around and I got tagged for jay-walking. Gener had a good laugh at me. Fortunately, the local cop let me go with a warning that even in the remote Ifugao they have traffic rules that must be followed.

Back at the lodging house, I found Celso in bad mood for our failure to get to that island of half-naked women. At dinner time, we had a bitter misunderstanding that almost ended in violence. Thanks to Gener Sulit and our government adviser, Hadji Urao, nothing untoward happened. But still I decided I had enough of the temperamental Celso.

When we went back to Baguio city we received news that despite a storm raging in Manila, ”Patayin Mo Sa Sindak si Barbara” was a huge success at the box office with movie-goers going to the theaters wading in flood waters. Despite this I decided to immediately proceed back to Manila. But I soon found out that the storm had submerged the Candaba valley, effectively stranding us in the Pines City.


MALIGNO (Celso Ad Castillo, 1977)

There was a time when Celso Ad Castillo monopolized the horror genre in Philippine Cinema during the 70's, the peak of his career. From his horror masterpiece, PATAYIN MO SA SINDAK SI BARBARA, KUNG BAKIT DUGO ANG KULAY NG GABI, ANG MADUGONG DAIGDIG NI SALVACION, Castillo displays his visual flair to scare the audience and he always succeeds. MALIGNO is no fluke, sure it's less visual than PATAYIN MO SA SINDAK SI BARBARA but still maintains the Kid's genius to scare the hell out of you.

It's comparable to Polanski's ROSEMARY'S BABY and less hysterics than Richard Donner's THE OMEN. MALIGNO centers on a couple played by Ms. Susan Roces & Dante Rivero. Roces managed a business while her husband writes a book on Satanism & witchcraft. As Rivero interviews a criminal on the verge of death thru electric chair played brilliantly by Eddie Garcia, strange things begin to unravel on the couple after Roces born a child also which seems to be the reincarnation of the devil. Eddie philosophizing before his death predated Hopkins jail scene with Foster on SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Along with Celia Rodriguez, both she and Garcia have already honed their craft on villain roles. Celia displays her devilish grin and the late Mary Walter complete the cast. Less suspenseful than PATAYIN but the psychological horror and shock value creeps on you and will still sent your spine-chilling. I wish the Kid could go back to this genre, not the crap SANIB that he's done lately and he can still pull it off.

I liked Sanib. Not great, but not bad, either


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