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No rescue for the rescuers: ABS-CBN’s film restoration unit shuts down

No rescue for the rescuers: ABS-CBN’s film restoration unit shuts down


Congress’ rejection to the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise was an evident blow to the network’s television programs and entertainment shows including all its TV personalities, cast and crew members and their families. Its TV and radio audiences, who relied on the network for news and updates, are also now left in the dark. To top it off, this rejection is also affecting a significant portion of our culture and heritage—specifically, cinema.

Following Congress’ decision, the ABS-CBN Film Restoration unit was one of the first casualties to officially shut down by Aug. 31.

Established in 2011, the ABS-CBN Film Restoration Project,  also known as Sagip Pelikula, is a digital film restoration project of ABS-CBN led by Leo Katigbak. For years, they have successfully digitized, restored and remastered over 100 Filipino films into a 1080p format with maximum resolution. 

Much of our country’s history and culture are reflected in these age-old films. Movies like “Himala,” “Oro, Plata, Mata,” and “Bata, Bata…Paano Ka Ginawa?” which contained political and controversial themes portrayed in a manner of artistry, garnered critical acclaim and are currently considered as Philippine cinema classics. These movies paved the way for cinema as we know it today.

Through ABS-CBN’s Film Restoration Project, what used to be old rolls of films that could easily be damaged and forgotten were restored into something timeless.

However, they were only able to restore around a hundred Filipino films—only a very small percentage of the 3,000 archived films still housed and left untouched in the network’s buildings. These thousands of films, and all of its themes, messages and memories, are now in danger of being forgotten, especially as they may no longer have a home. 


In memory of the restoration

The jobs of those working for the ABS-CBN Film Restoration Project was no easy feat. It included manually scanning rolls and rolls of film negatives or a digital picture and sound raw format. The thousands of frames of the films will go through a digital restoration process which involves the digital removal of dirt, scratches, fingerprints, discolorations, molds, tape marks, and other damages. Afterwards, editors will have to adjust brightness, contrast and colors to match the original film. 

Dozens of technicians, engineers, and artists dedicated hundreds of hours for each film to preserve the artistry behind it and provide the consequent generations with these significant pieces of our cinematic heritage.

Notably, they were able to restore Uro dela Cruz’s “Misteryo sa Tuwa” (1984), which tells the story of three men finding millions of pesos from an airplane crash. Even though it was considered almost impossible to restore this film as the rolls of films seemed to be too damaged, they were still able to cobble together a restored version of the film from degraded and reedited negatives. It also restored drama films known for being tearjerkers such as “Tanging Yaman,” “Maalaala Mo Kaya: The Movie” and “Sana Maulit Muli.”

Other than restoring films, they made sure it was accessible to the audience by holding screenings for the films as well as releasing behind-the-scenes videos of the restoration process. The restored films, up to this day, can be availed on many streaming sites such as Apple TV, iWant and Amazon Prime.

Prior to quarantine, the ABS-CBN Film Restoration was just starting the “Weekend Cinema Classics,” a series of screenings of digitally restored films at the cinema at Greenbelt 1. It was able to show classic romcom “Kailangan Kita” last Mar. 10, but had the rest of the lineup cut short due to the pandemic. Now, it is yet to be determined if the “Weekend Cinema Classics” will continue its run after quarantine. However, if they do, the number of films they’ll be able to show stops only at the hundred restored before the franchise shutdown.

The loss of the ABS-CBN Film Restoration program due to the government’s rejection proved their insensitivity not only towards the Filipino people, but also towards the country’s culture and heritage as shown in cinema. Now, other than being held accountable for attacking press freedom, the government must also be accountable for this callous act towards our cinematic heritage—especially when they show no rescue for cinema’s rescuers



Header photo courtesy of Grig Montegrande from

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Read more:

What will happen to retrenched ABS-CBN employees? Roque says DOLE will help

After nonrenewal of franchise, ABS-CBN will lay off workers by end of August

Gov’t might “temporarily” use ABS-CBN’s former frequencies for “effective distance learning”

Writer: THEA TORRES © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.


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