Isusumbong Kita sa Tatay Ko is worth reliving neither because of its blockbuster success nor its well-loved cast. This film invites the audience to have a peek on a curious moment in the history of Philippine cinema – a moment when the biggest film studio is building the idea of classical films and national cinema while using its own criteria and qualifications.
An adolescent daughter struggles to keep good relations with her father despite complications related to college life, rivals in school, and secrets kept from her by her family. It is a film combining the genres of comedy, action, and drama to tell a sweet tale of father-daughter love.
This film will forever be remembered as the first Filipino movie to reach the 100-Million (Php) profit mark. Both the lead acts, Fernando Poe Jr. (as Badong Rivera) and Judy Ann Santos (as Joey Rivera) were sought by cinema studios because of their huge fan bases. Alongside this A-list cast is the film’s “blockbuster” story. Isusumbong Kita sa Tatay Ko combines two genres that are known to appeal to the general crowd – comedy and action. This film, alongside dozens of others in the ’90s and early 2000s, paved the way for the formulaic, slapstick, shallow pop cinema that we know today. While this is the case, it is interesting to note that this film, joined by the likes of Magic Temple (1996), Sana Maulit Muli (1995), Tanging Yaman (2000), is a part of a campaign that intends to build a roster of films tagged as classical films.
While the academic film community has been, for so long, in the process of building the qualifications and boundaries of classical films, the power and resources of a corporate giant made it capable of doing/undoing a task that the academe has tried so hard in the past years. We are in a juncture of Philippine cinema history when the biggest and richest media network in the country is in the process of defining what constitutes classical films and what constitutes otherwise.
The category of classical films is significant for film scholars and filmmakers in building a national cinema as well as the canons of filmmaking. It is through classical films that we are able to weave together the Philippine cinema’s past, present, and future. For film critiques and academics, works such as Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag (1975), Himala (1982), Kisapmata (1981), and Oro Plata Mata (1982) among several others are regarded as classics for emphasizing the social reality of their times, for forwarding a social cause or advocacy, or for disrupting the status quo and other hegemonic forces. Yet, for ABS-CBN’s film restoration project, popularity also plays significant in determining this category. Hence, we see additional films in their list such as Basta’t Kasama Kita (1995), Labs Kita… Okey ka Lang (1998), and Kokey (1997), that might be frowned upon by academics and scholars.
While the debate on defining classical films can be long and winding, examining Isusumbong Kita sa Tatay Ko is an exercise for the viewing public to see and understand the extent of power that media companies and academic institutions have over them. In a sense, it is a minute but essential step towards demystifying and even countering systems found in our cinema experience.
The film continues to appeal to the public until today. Aside from occasional die-hard Juday fans joining you in cinemas, movie viewers will still find the script and the acting effective. When watching the film on the big screen (or on television), pay attention to its entirety. Find its place in the bigger phenomenon of classical films in the Philippine cinema industry.