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Ganito Kami Noon Paano Kayo Ngayon 1976

Ganito Kami Noon Paano Kayo Ngayon 1976

Related Movie: Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos 1976

Ganito Kami Noon Paano Kayo Ngayon 1976

Ganito Kami Noon Paano Kayo Ngayon 1976: Firstly, Set at the turn of the 20th century during the Filipino revolution against the Spaniards and, later, the American colonizers, it follows a naive peasant through his leap of faith to become a member of an imagined community.

Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? (English: “This Is How We Were Before, How Are You Doing Now?”) is a 1976 Filipino romantic musical drama film set in the era of Spanish colonization in the Philippines. It was directed by Eddie Romero and starred Christopher De Leon and Gloria Diaz. The film was selected as the Philippine entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 49th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.

In 2013, ABS-CBN Film Archives in partnership with Central Digital Lab digitally restored and remastered the film and was subsequently released in select theaters for a limited period of time. The digitally restored version was also released on DVD and iTunes.

Set at the turn of the 20th century during the Filipino revolution against the Spaniards and, later, the American colonizers, it follows a naive peasant through his leap of faith to become a member of an imagined community.

A picturesque tale of Kulas, a country bumpkin, whose misadventures symbolize the search for the elusive Filipino identity at a time when Spain was being replaced by the United States as the colonizer after a short-lived period of Philippine independence. A sprawling historical epic, which details the country’s struggles in establishing its cultural identity dating from the Revolution against Spain until the Philippine-American War, as seen through the eyes of a provincial young man.

Unanimously celebrated by audiences and critics alike, Ganito Kami Noon was chosen as Best Picture of the Year by the Manunuri Pelikulang Pilipino, and was eventually cited as one of top ten films of that impressive decade. In 2002, it was selected as one of the best films of the past 30 years from Pepper Marcelo.


The film actually depicts the painful reality of life for “Indyos” during Spanish Era in the Philippines. An innocent “probinsyano”, namely Kulas, turned into an epitome of wealth after helping a phony priest in saving his son and then in the end turning back to who he was at the beginning. The story uplifts and honors the label “Filipino” which shows who Filipinos really were and who we should be yesterday and today: dignified, innately benevolent and does good acts without asking for anything in return. In this film, I saw three main values: what happens when you do good unexceptionally, the honor of being a Filipino and the uncertainty of life’s course.

When it comes to technicality and cinematography, I would rate it excellent: the script and lines were appropriate for the scenes; the setting and production design is above excellent; the audio is satisfactory (maybe because I saw the restored version); and the shots and camera angles are very impressive as well.

I am very grateful that the ABS-CBN Film Archives is spearheading the Film Restoration Project. Without it, youth today like me, who are film and literature enthusiasts as well, would not be able to have the chance to see such classic masterpiece.


On the occasion of the film’s restoration and brief commercial screening in SM Manila

Ganito reconsidered

When I first saw Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? (rough translation: The Way We Were, The Way We Are, 1976)–easily his best-known, most beloved film–so many years ago, I didn’t like it.

I liked a lot about it; loved the literate, sophisticated world-weary tone, loved the tongue-in-cheek humor, loved the fact that it tackled a weighty issue (“who is the Filipino?”) without being weighty or (worse) dull. Loved many of the performances, from Leopoldo Salcedo’s relentlessly self-dramatizing Mang Atong (my favorite performance in the picture) to Gloria Diaz’s thespically ambitious Diding Patron to E.A. Rocha’s ever-irritated Padre Corcuera. Loved the many songs and music, which sometimes make sly commentary on the onscreen action.

The film’s camerawork I found more problematic. “Flat,” I thought. Competently done, but compared to some of the work that came out in this period–Conrado Baltazar’s slum noir photography in Insiang, Ely Cruz and Rody Lacap’s evocatively gothic atmosphere in Itim (Rites of May), Baltazar’s painterly images in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God), Ganito suffered in comparison. I couldn’t get beyond the fact of the film’s comparative visual poverty, like sitting through a wonderful performance of a brilliant play with your back to the stage: you sense something great happening, but have a less than ideal view.

Seeing it so many years after is liking meeting an old acquaintance with which you’ve had a troubled, trying history: you feel embarrassed at having disliked him so much, the same time you want to discover that the passage of time and accumulation of history has worn away his rough edges, made him companionable and perhaps even charming.

Well…somewhat. You can’t force Romero to tilt the camera any more than he actually tilts it, can’t force him to move the camera forward, backwards, sideways further and more often than he does, can’t force him to adopt a more memorable color palette (one that doesn’t look made-for-television). To be fair, hardly anyone demands that comedies be cinematic, and Romero clearly intended to tell his story in as plain and unshowy a manner as possible–but must it be this plain?

On the other hand my appreciation for the script has grown. Sophisticated comedies in Philippine cinema are rare; sophisticated comedies that use humor to break open attitudes and ideas on the Filipino identity–apparently there’s been one masterful treatment of the subject, and this is it.

I don’t mean the obvious symbols: young Nicholas (‘Kulas) Ocampo (Christopher de Leon) as We the Filipinos, Padre Corcuera as The Abusive Clergy, Diding as the Anti-Maria Clara, who in turn is Emblem of Virtuous Womanhood, Don Tibor (Eddie Garcia) as The Powerful Landed Upper-Class.

More interesting is Romero’s treatment of the question “who are the Filipinos?” which Kulas asks again and again, getting a different reply each time, the range and variety of responses–from observant to self-absorbed, from thoughtful to defiantly proud–being itself a an eloquent and powerful answer: we are all Filipinos, we all represent the Filipino identity in our own flawed, gloriously varied, inimitably individual manner.

Kulas will never get a satisfactory response because he will never get a final response; every Filipino he will meet will react differently, each response more perplexing, more thought-provoking than the next.

More interesting than the characters’ allegorical surface traits are their contrary moments of humanity–Padre Corcuera is often truculent and dissembling, but when Kulas catches him off-guard he replies that we Filipinos will never change even if we do manage to free ourselves from Spanish oppression (what when you think about it can be more honest than a predator’s opinion of its longstanding prey?). “Never be poor,” Padre Corcuera declares. “God loves the poor, but only God–no one else would bother.”

He’s lied to, deceived and manipulated Kulas throughout the film, but here he really does seem to be functioning as a concerned father, giving thoughtful advice.

Diding is if anything a more complicated knot to untangle. Easy enough to see her as a parody of Maria Clara, virginal heroine of Jose Rizal’s classic Noli Me Tangere, but if we remember that Rizal himself was a superb satirist, and that Maria might have been meant to be a parody and not a paragon of Filipino womanhood–suddenly Diding seems knottier, more interesting: a response to Rizal’s parody instead of a mere parody of a parody.

Instead of Rizal’s passive, helpless female Romero gives us a self-starter with innovative ideas about a woman’s role in Filipino society; instead of a spineless idealist we have a clear-eyed pragmatist, who doesn’t hesitate to use a man’s strengths (translate: his libido) against him in a feat of sexual jiu-jitsu. Diding turns out to be as honest and witty a philosopher as Marilyn Monroe’s Lorelei Lee, whose enlightened self-interest in Howard Hawks’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes seems positively Libertarian, almost Ayn Randian.

Is she flawed? Yes, but Romero gives us fleeting glimpses into her motives, brief flashes of insight into her character so charming and seductive (in a philosophical rather than sexual–though there is that–sense) one is tempted to say we Filipinos need more (we probably don’t but for a moment there I was swayed).

By film’s end Kulas is sadder, wiser, etc., etc.; he is also far less happy than when he first started out. Beyond the obvious lesson–that experience only sharpens a man’s mind and attitude–Romero also makes the larger point that one loses when gaining something, that time means inexorable change, that a man who stops moving stops living (improvement being at best a temporary reprieve from the general decline).

Romero in direct contradiction to one of his inspirations (Voltaire’s Candide, whose eponymous hero comes to the painful conclusion that we “must cultivate our gardens”) and as a salute to Mark Twain’s great The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn pushes Kulas right out of the film frame into the realm of the Filipino imagination.

So is Ganito a great film? I submit that Ganito is a great film script, and that its career as a work of literature is (or should be) only beginning–what’s to stop this from being performed on the radio, or the theater stage? Take away the rather pedestrian visuals to focus on nimble storytelling and sharp dialogue? What’s to stop this from becoming musical, perhaps? Monique Wilson would make a smashing Diding.

Ganito Kami Noon Paano Kayo Ngayon 1976 full movie

Kulas is a slow-witted young man. People take advantage of his naivety. He lost his house, wealth, and ladylove. But, one thing they cannot take away from him is his Filipino identity.

Who/what is a Filipino? The film’s greatness lies in its exploration of the Filipino question.

Kulas gets confounded with the different definitions of ‘Filipino.’ It originally referred to a person of pure Spanish descent born in the country. However, the term evolved. A travelling Chinese merchant born in the country is also called a Filipino. Being born in the country seems to be the main criteria.

Kind-hearted and gullible Kulas searches out for a boy named Bindoy and reunites the kid with his grateful father, a friar named Padre Gil Corcuera. The latter endows Kulas with a house and a huge sum of money. He gets transformed from a lowly indio into a rich senyorito. He asks a Visayan lawyer named Tibor if he can rightly be called Filipino. Tibor says that in order to be called a Filipino, one must be a worthy and valuable person.

The young man finds a worthy cause to live for. He is disgusted at so-called Filipinos collaborating with the enemies, the Spaniards and the Americans. Just like Jose Rizal, who was heartbroken, he abandons his love for Diding and shifts his love to his country.

Kulas, in the end, realizes that a Filipino is someone who loves or will love the then newly created Filipino nation. It is not enough to be born in the country in order to be called a Filipino. One should also love his country through actions. Kulas approaches a group of orphans and reminds them to call themselves Filipinos. He then hikes off to join the insurrectos.

This great film started strong, puttered somewhat in the middle, and then bounced back in the last act. The script by Romero and Roy Iglesias oozed with spot-on humor as seen in Kulas’ transaction with a potential property buyer and his second encounter with a notorious jailbird.

A raw and fresh Christopher de Leon is a joy to watch. He is still decades away from becoming the hammy actor that he is today. His Kulas Ocampo is no different from Forrest Gump. Both characters find themselves caught up in their respective countries’ upheavals. De Leon manages to show his character’s naivety without resorting to stuttering and doing acts of stupidity.


Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon depicts the transition of administration, the colonial intrusion, and a lost identity. It is brave to ask a question that hides a discourse under the cloth of humor.

In the beginning, we see the protagonist Kulas Ocampo (Christoper de Leon) as he traverse a river going to Manila. In this journey, Kulas is comparable to the body of water; he flows free. His fluidity to the ways of the world is what makes him both pleasant and frustrating. He moves with simplicity and most times, naivety, even if the world is not often kind to him. In spite of it all, he looks at life with hope and curiosity.

He begins with a question mark, “who is the Filipino?” and ends the story with a declaration, a realization.

The film is light in its approach to inject humor to a Spanish colonization backdrop, with light musical scoring, and an antihero protagonist that you couldn’t help but think if it is serious in what it wants to relay. But as the film progresses, there lies the depth, the root problem of Filipinos at the time.

There is Diding (Gloria Romero) –young, ambitious, flirtatious, and in simpler terms: a social climber. She is the anti-Mara Clara. She follows her dreams ruthlessly and in the process, breaks Kulas’ heart. Then there’s also Don Tibor (Eddie Garcia) a greedy elite, posing as a friend to Kulas but deems him as a competition not just to Diding’s heart, but also in the quest for nationality.

The film is interesting to note the search for identity in an era when nationhood was still a blurry concept. Its call for the striking differences of provincial and city living and the luck and misfortunes of life and love in general. Kulas’ journey is a roller coaster ride –to some extent it felt dragging but it ended with a strong message, nonetheless.

Finally, the film poses a question valid for any generation: with all the activism and heroism that pushed for the nation’s independence and clearer identity back then, is it necessary to do the same at our time today?

Perhaps it is a question that will be best to ponder at every now and then.

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Original Title: Ganito Kami Noon Paano Kayo Ngayon 1976, Ganito kami noon… Paano kayo ngayon? 1976, C’est ainsi que nous vivons 1976, As We Were 1976

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Directed by Eddie Romero
Produced by Dennis Juban
Written by Roy C. Iglesias, Eddie Romero
Starring Christopher De Leon, Gloria Diaz
Music by Lutgardo Labad
Cinematography Justo Paulino
Edited by Ben Barcelon
Distributed by Hemisphere
Production Companies Hemisphere Pictures, Hemisphere
Distributors NHK (1983) (Japan) (TV)

Genre: Drama, Musical, Romance
Country: Philippines
Language: Filipino, Tagalog, English, Spanish
Length: 136 min
Release Date in Philippines: 25 December 1976
View: 100
ContentRating: TV-PG
Publish Date: 2019-09-20


Christopher De Leon … Nicolas ‘Kulas’ Ocampo
Gloria Diaz … Matilde ‘Diding’ Diaz Patron
Eddie Garcia … Don Tibor
Dranreb Belleza … Bindoy (as Dranreb)
Leopoldo Salcedo … Fortunato ‘Atong’ Capili
Rosemarie Gil … Concordia
Johnny Vicar … Onofre ‘Kidlat’ Biltao
Tsing Tong Tsai … Lim
E.A. Rocha … Padre Gil Corcuera
Jaime Fabregas … Komandante
George Albert Romero
Peque Gallaga … Spanish Officer
Odette Khan … Don Tibor’s Wife
Laida Lim-Perez … Lim’s Wife
Teresita Non … Leonor
Joey Romero … Soldier

Produced by
Dennis Juban … producer
Eddie Romero … producer

Music by
Lutgardo Labad

Cinematography by
Justo Paulino

Film Editing by
Ben Barcelon

Production Design by
Peque Gallaga
Laida Lim-Perez

Sound Department
Demetrio de Santos … sound engineer

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