Surprised at the sudden interest in Philippine cinema. If I may address as many posts as I can:
On recommendations on Philippine films, I posted a list of 13 favorites here:
with the added warning that anyone who begins covering Filipino films from the '80s onwards (much as Alexis and I have) struggle against the deterioration of film prints, even of films as recent as from the '80s (I note that in the article); in fact our earliest available prints come only from 1939--we have an increasingly serious state of amnesia, in effect, with regards to our film heritage.
If I were to rewrite that article, I'd finally try do a comprehensive list and include Gerardo de Leon's El Filibusterismo (The Filibuster, 1962) as a great adaptation of an important social- protest novel; and Celso Ad Castillo's Burlesk Queen (Burlesque Queen, 1977) for its sheer visual poetry. Plus Lav Diaz's 5-hour drama Batang West Side (West Side Avenue, 2001) and Mario O'Hara's war/horror/lyric/love story Pangarap ng Puso (Demons, 2000) for pointing out new directions for our cinema--Diaz applying the narrative styles of Hou Hsiao Hsien and Tarkovsky to his philosophical dramas, O'Hara employing the low-budget techniques of Edgar Ulmer and Larry Cohen to an imaginative and even poignant view of the world.
(Edit: and as a matter of fact I did rewrite that article, here:
As to zarzuelas, I'm surprised any textbook would mention '70s musicals; not that there weren't any, but that they were less like filmed zarzuelas (which had their heyday in the '30s and '40s--the charmingly simple Giliw Ko (My Love, 1939) being the oldest surviving example) than like Hollywood musicals on a shoestring budget. Maybe the most innovative recent musical is Mike De Leon's satire Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (an intricate pun on the word "worried" (kakaba) and "are you?" (ka ba?) which translates, lamely, into "Worried?") in 1980.
I'd also agree that de Leon's Batch '81 (1982) is sadistic-- effectively so, I'd say, and it's correct to assume de Leon meant the violence allegorically, as a metaphor for Marcos' fascism, but that this is hardly his best work; Kisapmata (Blink of an Eye, 1981) suggests the violence psychologically, and is far more personal and evocative (there are those that say it's autobiographical, at least with regards to certain characters). The writer of the Film Comment article that covered de Leon's works (from Itim (Rites of May, 1975) to Batch '81) did a good job, but I think he really missed out when he failed to see that film.
Incidentally, wrote about de Leon here:
As for available copies of Lino Brocka's Maynila sa Mga Kukong Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon, 1975); I remember seeing VHS copies in New York's video stores, presumably subtitled. A DVD is being planned, but that's in the future.
Two Brocka films can be found at Facets in Chicago; Orapronobis and Macho Dancer. I wouldn't know if they have subtitles or not.
Recent Filipino films I recommended can be found on VCD or even DVD format here:
and search for titles like Mario O'Hara's Babae sa Bubungang Lata (Woman on a Tin Roof), Sisa, Pangarap ng Puso (Sisa is hard to recommend--think really, REALLY cut-rate Ulmer--but insanely imaginative); Peque Gallaga's erotic noir Scorpio Nights; Lav Diaz's science-fictional Hesus Rebolusyonaryo (Jesus the Revolutionary). All, unfortunately unsubtitled.
There are some classics to be found here:
And I imagine other recent films, including Viva.
(Update as of 3/29/06) Apparently you can find in Kabayan Central four worthwhile films with English subtitles: Mario O'Hara's Babae sa Breakwater (first Filipino feature film to go to Cannes in fifteen years), Lino Brocka's Macho Dancer (not his very best, but quite good), Ishmael Bernal's Relasyon and Manila By Night (both among his best; Manila in particular being his masterpiece).
Another alternative is Cinema One in The Filipino Channel (TFC), which a lot of Filipinos seem to subscribe to; they show almost all the films I've mentioned above (untitled, unfortunately); if you have a friend who has a subscription, he could tape it for you, maybe even do "benshi"...
(9/23/06) And for those in the United States and members of Netflix, a list of recommended Filipino films available on Netflix