By Eva Angeline Trinidad
Nostalgia was almost palpable in the air as “The Celluloid Campus: the University of the Philippines in the Cinematic Imagination” exhibit was launched Tuesday to commemorate UP’s 105th founding anniversary.
Located at the University Theater lobby, the black-and-white exhibit transported the attendees to one of two places—UP alumni to their unforgettable days of glory, and current UP students and visitors to a familiar yet almost imaginary place where the brightest minds of generations past once resided.
The exhibit takes its name from celluloid, the material used to make photographic and motion-picture film, and brings to the forefront how the UP Diliman campus was often used as the setting for prominent films produced during what has been dubbed as the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema.
The Celluloid Campus featured enlarged black-and-white still shots of the University as seen in local films from the 1950s under the LVN Pictures and Sampaguita studios, as well as aerial photographs that displayed the picturesque and breath-taking landscape that was the campus. Dr. Gerard Rey Lico, a professor in the UP College of Architecture, was the curator of the exhibit.
The prints depicted UP in a way the present Isko and Iska can only imagine, yet still somehow relate to. It showed a younger, pristine campus, with teenagers their age decked out in A-line dresses and pinch-toe heels, gelled hair and ironed polos and slacks with knife-cut creases.
Despite the photographs being in various shades of gray, they illustrated UP in vivid texture through the curves of the landscape, the smiles of the students, and the softness of the shots. The images create a sense of yearning for a simpler age, untouched by traffic jams and technological dependency.
UP alumni of all ages took their time in looking at the pieces, ooh-ing and aah-ing over fond memories of their youth made fresh in their minds by the sentimental and romantic nature of each photograph.
Professor Jose Danilo Silvestre, the Director of the UP Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts, spoke about the backbone of the entire exhibit, which was the concept of “Pride of Place,” and underscored that there exists the understanding that the “place” – the University of the Philippines – was not only the physical and tangible location, but also the character of its students, professors and residents.
A special feature of the exhibit launch was a film showing of a musical number from Charito, I Love You, one of the films shot on-campus during that decade. It was masterfully juxtaposed with present-day clips of the architectural structures of UP, from the Carillon Bell Tower, Melchor Hall, Vinzons Hall and Palma Hall, highlighting both the similarities and the contrasts between UP in the 1950s and the UP we know today.
The exhibit, although incredible and aesthetically pleasing, presented the University through a limited lens. Photographs project reality only on a two-dimensional degree. The gritty side of UP – students attending classes in tsinelas and instigating social movements and rallies, to name a few – were left out in the much-romanticized UP in The Celluloid Campus. UP students today might find it difficult to correlate the version of the University which they are familiar with, against this version of UP in films and literature.
The Celluloid Campus succeeded to take viewers 60 years back, but only within a few shots of the full-length 1950s experience.
The exhibit is open for viewing at the University Theater lobby until July 31, 2013.