Davao City: the "Hollywood" of Mindanao

Shooting a scene at Quezon Park (City Hall) for Bagane Fiola's "Way to the Sunset" (2009)
Having one of the most active filmmaking landscapes in the southern Philippines, Davao City could well position itself as Mindanao's Hollywood albeit on a lesser scale.

For one Davao is not a stranger to film productions, it once had an active Bisayan film industry in the 1950s well into the early 1970s sadly prints of the films from that bygone era has been inexistent with only a few old-timers recalling its heyday.

It was only in the past decade when an active independent digital film movement began to take shape. The rise of guerilla filmmaking style, which refers to micro budgeted hit-and-run film productions using digital video technology has given rise to newer breed of visual artists, the guerilla filmmakers.

In 2003, two Dabawenyo friends, Dax Canedo and Drei Boquiren opened a workshop which they called the Guerilla Filmmaking Workshop to teach interested and budding local filmmakers the intricacies of making films, the workshop's film showcase eventually evolved into the Mindanao Film Festival, one of the longest running independent film festivals in the country.

The workshop provided the core of active Dabawenyo filmmakers who had churned full-length and digital films which have been screened not just locally but also in Manila and other film festivals. Among these included John Paul Seniel, Ronald Gary Bautista, Bagane Fiola and Orvil Bantayan.

Orvil Bantayan's "Mananabang" (2010)
Other notable Dabawenyo local filmmakers included award-winning playwright Arnel Mardoquio, whose Davao shot films are being exhibited in foreign film festivals and has been garnering awards from national award giving bodies, Charliebeb Gohetia whose debut film "The Thank You Girls" was a Davao-shot pink movie screened in various festivals around the world and Sherad Sanchez, whose full-length features shot in Davao have won numerous honors and accolades.

There are other notable filmmakers/film directors with Davao roots which had keenly supported the local film movement among these included Tikoy Aguiluz, Briccio Santos, Yam Laranas and Paul Alexander Morales.

Yam Laranas, a proud product of the Davao City National High School, is the first Filipino movie director to have his film remade by a Hollywood studio.

What good would a Dabawenyo cinema bring to the city?

One good would be the continued revitalization of the city's culture and arts. Local independent filmmaking has been about synergy with different arts, for instance playwright Arnel Mardoquio has always tapped the Kalumon Ensemble, a performance arts group for his films, then there is his collaborations with iconic Dabawenyo musician Popong Landero who not only provides musical scoring but also is an actor.

Dabawenyo literary pieces such as Macario Tiu's Palanca award-winning short story, "Balyan" has been adapted into a full-length film by Orvil Bantayan titled "Tambara".

A vibrant film industry can contribute to the local economy. Current film productions are no longer your micro-budgeted films they could now involve independent productions with budgets running to several hundred thousands up to a million pesos. There are now film festivals and other similar programs like Cinemalaya, Cinema One and the Film and Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) which are providing grants for the production of independent films, a number of those who availed have been local filmmakers.

Since 2006 there is at least one full-length indie movie being produced in the city annually. These could provide key livelihood opportunities for barangays where the films are shot. Production design could need some carpenters and laborers working in tandem with Dabawenyo artists in building film sets as what was done in Sherad Sanchez 2006 film "Huling Balyan ng Buhi" shot in Marilog.

Several people could be employed to fill in production spots like actors, cameramen, sound crew, musicians, video editors, graphic artists, administrative and logistics staff plus other services like catering and transportation.

Davao's emerging filmmaking industry could provide the much needed boost to Davao tourism particularly in its Life is Here branding campaign. A developed filmmaking industry in Davao City can be a window to the rest of the world.

Interesting locales can be developed as film locations. In Charliebeb's Gohetia's "The Thank You Girls," the film was shot in scenic areas around Buda and Calinan. Bagane Fiola's full-length film "Way to the Sunset" about 60% of it was shot around San Pedro Street.

The Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC) property in Punta Dumalag has also been the location of numerous short and full-length films and so are the public spaces around the city like the Peoples Park and Magsaysay Park.

Cinema could be a pivotal tourism economic driver with the holding of film festivals in the city.

2011 Cinemarehiyon Davao City
Film Festivals can contribute a million pesos to the local economy in the form of expenditures like cinema rentals, hotel rooms, transportation, catering and marketing collaterals.

These Festivals can be packaged as a tourism come-on for the city. Cities like Busan in South Korea, Hongkong and Dubai have cashed in on a growing market for film festival tourism.

This coming June, the FDCP in partnership with the City Government and the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries is planning to hold the first Davao City International Film Festival. Where national and local movies along with international films from the countries of Italy, France and Czechoslovakia are slated to participate.

Crowds at a film festival
The Davao Cinematheque a 150-seat cinema is scheduled to be finished in time for the film festival though it was originally slated to be opened during the Araw ng Dabaw celebrations. The cinema facility is hoped to connect more Dabawenyos to gems from the country's independent filmmakers, old Filipino movies and the varied works of world cinema. Providing a fresh perspective to an audience regularly exposed to mainstream Hollywood and Filipino studio movies usually shown on mall cinemas.

Davao life is here
Submitted as an entry to the 75th Araw ng Dabaw Blog Competition


  1. i remember the thank you girls... =)

  2. yes Sweet, a very funny film. I remember direk Bebs rummaging thru my collection of Davao rock songs which he would use to score for the film. If you noticed the songs in the film were original compositions made by Dabawenyo rock bands. Truly a synergy between Davao musicians and filmmakers.

    1. Hello po! if ever gagawa kayo ng bagong film, san po malalaman ang auditions for casting?

  3. Greetings of Peace!
    I sent you an email, Sir Rudolph.
    I hope you got it.

  4. hello betsy, parang wla po ako nareceive na email from you


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