Emmanuel Borlaza, director of ‘Darna’ films and ‘Bituing Walang Ningning,’ passes away

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Emmanuel Borlaza. (Photo courtesy of DGPI)

Filmmaker, screenwriter and occasional actor Emmanuel H. Borlaza passed away due to cardiac arrest. He was 81.

Considered as one of the pillars of the Philippine film industry, Borlaza was vice chairman of the Movie and Television Review Classification Board as well as a member of the board of the Directors Guild of the Philippines, Inc. or DGPI.

With a career that spanned almost five decades since 1957, Borlaza began to make a name for himself as a prolific screenwriter for the then mighty Sampaguita Pictures. In 1969, he won his first FAMAS award for Best Screenplay for a film called “Psycho Maniac” which starred Divina Valencia and Dindo Fernando.

Among his other noteworthy early works as a screenwriter included two biopics of former president Ferdinand Marcos, “Iginuhit ng Tadhana: The Ferdinand E. Marcos Story,” which saw the rise of Marcos into political prominence, and its sequel “Pinagbuklod ng Langit,” which chronicled his life as president.

As director, Borlaza was known for the branding of his movies as “An Emmanuel H. Borlaza Film.” He has directed Vilma Santos for at least two dozen films in the 1970s and 1980s, possibly the most times any filmmaker has worked with the Star for All Seasons.

Most of his films with Vilma were adaptations of serialized komiks novels including Mars Ravelo’s “Dyesebel” in 1973. He also directed one of the segments of the trilogy, “Lipad! Darna! Lipad!” in 1973 and its sequel, “Darna and the Giants” in 1975. Both films were based on characters also created by Mars Ravelo.

His other memorable films included “Mrs. Eva Fonda, 16” (1976) which officially launched Alma Moreno to sexy stardom, “Campus Beat” (1984), the launching vehicle of Aga Muhlach as a teen star, “Blusang Itim,” (1986) a big hit for Snooky Serna and his last high profile project, a remake of “Dyesebel” headlined by Aga’s wife, Charlene Gonzales.

Perhaps Borlaza’s best known work, however, is “Bituing Walang Ningning” (1985) starring Sharon Cuneta. The film is famous for the iconic line uttered by Cherie Gil, “You’re nothing but a second-rate trying hard copycat.” It was later adapted for television as a soap opera and onstage as a theater musical.

As for accolades as filmmaker, Borlaza was nominated for Best Director three times by the FAMAS. He won the 1988 Film Academy of the Philippines Best Director award for “Paano Tatakasan ang Bukas” starring Dina Bonnevie, Gabby Concepcion and Jay Ilagan.

Borlaza was such a recognizable name in Filipino pop culture that he was even parodied on at least two occasions. The first is when the late comedian, Bert “Tawa” Marcelo portrayed a “Direk Borlaka” during a moviemaking sketch for the kiddie sitcom, “Kaluskos Musmos” during the late 1970s.

The second is when comedian-TV host Joey de Leon created a character called “Maning Borling” when he parodied the late showbiz talk show host Inday Badiday as “Indoy Budidoy” in the gag show, “T.O.D.A.S.”

Borlaza’s last known film credit as director was “Mapagbigay,” a sexy comedy drama written by Jun Lana and starring Nini Jacinto, Miya Nolasco and Rodel Velayo while his last screenwriting credit was as one of the writers of Romy Suzara’s “Tinik,” an entry in the 2013 Sineng Pambansa All-Masters National Film Festival organized by the Film Development Council of the Philippines.