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Filipino film buff, Dokvader, shares his list of favorite fantasy films from the Philipines with his fellow Imagination Connoisseurs.

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Hey Rob,
Thanks again for reading my last letter. Anyhow, let me add more to Filipino Fantasy movies. Just like science fiction, there is a lot of incorporation of fantasy elements in comedy, horror, and action movies.

The first medieval fantasy classic we have was from poet Francisco Balagtas. He wrote his epic narrative while imprisoned. Its full title translated to English was The History of Florante and Laura in the Kingdom of Albania. Ultimately, it is a story of love between the two main characters with both having his and her own adventures and come across a common adversary in Count Adolfo who wants to rule the kingdom.

Another epic poem is Ibong Adarna (E-Bong Ah-dar-nah) written during the 16th century, its full title in English was Corrido and Life Lived by the Three Princes, children of King Fernando and Queen Valeriana in the Kingdom of Berbany. The story mainly was about the three princes vying for their father’s throne. They are all tested when sent on a quest to capture the magical bird Adarna which said to have songs that can heal their depressed and sickly father. Both stories have been adapted into movies and tv series throughout the years. Two of its more popular reiterations are comedies led by industry legends Dolphy and Rene Requestas (same actor who played Joker in Alias Batman and Robin).

Filipino comics was the best source material for fantasy as previously mentioned almost all of our superheroes jump out from this medium with Darna being the most popular. In contrast we have Pedro Penduko. He is a common man that fights off the supernatural without having any powers but although protected by a magical amulet called a Mutya. Debuted in the 1950s, the character was rebooted in the 90s as a comedy film but now starring his coward descendant continuing with his own misadventures.

We also had our own crime buster version of Phantom in Alyas (Alias) Phantom and maybe some more from American Comic Strips in that era.

Many took inspirations on fairy tales. We had our own version of Cinderella with Bulilit (Small) Cinderella and Ang Hiwaga ni Maria Cinderella (The Mystery of Cinderella). We also had the crossover Pinokyo en Little Snowhite (Pinnochio and Little Snow White). Furthermore, we had versions of a mermaid story with Dyesebel at ang Mahiwagang Kabibe (Ma-he-wa-gang Ka-bee-beh) [Dysebel and the Mysterious Shell], a genie story with Ang Mahiwagang Lampara (The Magic Lamp) and finally, a folk legendary tale in Si Malakas at Maganda (The Strong and the Beautiful) in which was a locla take on Adam and Eve.

During the late 80’s a comedy sitcom Okay Ka, Fairy Ko (You’re Okay My Fairy) premiered on TV. It was about a regular guy, Enteng Kabisote (Ka-Bee-Saw-Te), being married to a fairy and shows random slice of life situations where he often finds trouble and always was chided by his Mother in Law who also happens to be the Queen of Fairyland. The series has gone on to be adapted to 10 movies from 1991 up to 2016.

Lastly, we have Anak ng Bulkan (Children of the Volcano) set in a Volcanic island, in where a young boy befriends a giant bird Goliat. Released in 1959, it was remade in 1997 with Cirio Santiago at the helm.

Generally, I think science fiction and fantasy movies suffer from a need for a higher budget and I do think the cost of production design has curtailed producers in creating new narratives for a film to be viable. They have more luck through TV series like Mulawin (a fantasy based on Philippine bird species as birdmen) and Encantandia (a fantasy world of four kingdoms where peace hangs by a thread). Although these are fantasy series, all fall to the same formulaic cliches that the audience loves.

That it is for me, until the next. Fly you fools!