"It's not work anymore. It's really blood, sweat, and tears."
Critiques tend to be endless; mocks stay incessant; impediments continue to arise, but there's nothing that would hamper this man and his colleague's desire to help preserve the country's cinematic legacy and cultural heritage for future generations.
He is Mr. Leo Katigbak, head of the ABS-CBN Film Archives, who initiated the ABS-CBN Film Restoration Project or also known as Sagip Pelikula. It was a digital film restoration project of ABS-CBN Corporation in partnership with Central Digital Lab. The goal of the project is to digitally restore and remaster select Filipino films from the archives of ABS-CBN.
On its 10th anniversary, Mr. Katigbak shared to us the odyssey that they have embarked on for the realization of one of ABS-CBN's greatest milestones. In the midst of the media giant's retrenchment following the non-renewal of its legislative franchise, he explained the continuity of the project's advocacy.
"We try to have a lot of activities. Basically, restoration has stopped. Our last restoration was done August last year, and it was stopped because of the denial of the franchise. But ang lagi ko lang sinasabi, hindi siya napapansin ng mga tao. Akala nila tuloy-tuloy pa rin yung restoration. Sagip Pelikula is continuing, but that's a function of the fact that we have very long lead times. It takes several months or a year to restore a movie and since nagpaplano naman ako lagi, nabangko namin siya. People, I think, have to be clear that the advocacy is different from the operations of the restoration. Restoration is stopped, the advocacy to the extent that we can continue pushing it, we will try to continue it."
Looking back, he and his team set up the ABS-CBN Film Archives in 1994. The restoration was always part of what they wanted to do.
"Kaya lang ang problema at that time, there was no such thing as digital. So, it could have been analog restoration and before naman talaga ang nire-restore ay mga print but that was bit more complicated because here in the Philippines, wala rin naman sa huwisyo natin ang nagtatago ng negatibo in a good condition. In fact, our restorations are harder to do because more often than not, we only have one surviving material which is the print assuming that the negatives aren't there."
In addition, they wanted to do the restoration of 'Oro Plata Mata' in the late 90's. At that time, it would not have addressed a lot of the problems they had with the material, but the cost is prohibitive.
"It could have cost something as 25 million. I think at that time we are talking about, the exchange rate was only, wala pa yung Asian economic crisis, 24 to the dollar pa lang ang exchange rate noon."
A few years later, when Charo Santos-Concio was the President of ABS-CBN, one of the pitches that came to them was there had been sufficient developments in digital technology where they were able to do restoration digitally.