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By: Heinrich Domingo

It’s that time of the year again when film buffs crowd over CCP to see the new and most-talked-about Pinoy indie films of the year.

L and I decided to have a full-on Cinemalaya experience where we blocked off our entire week to attend the entire duration of the festival.  Here’s a reflection of our experience and some realizations on how we could have improved our experience.


Buying our tickets

Films in Cinemalaya are shown to various cinemas all over the metro. In 2019, the organizers were able to bring screen films in other cities. In our case, we opted to watch at CCP because it is the center of the festival. The entire place is designated for the festival. Also, it is the only venue where the festival passes are accepted.

Since we decided to spend the whole week in Cinemalaya, we bought an All-Access pass worth P3,500 (P4,000 for this year). This pass allowed us to watch all the films shown in the CCP for the entire festival run. Additional perks include being in the priority lane entry for queues. The priority lane became the best part of this pass. Films were scheduled to be screened one after the other. You might not have enough time to move from one theatre to another. When you do, the priority line gets long fast. Also, an All-Access pass gives you the chance to attend the opening and closing ceremonies. Here, you will be given the chance to watch the opening and closing films. The organizer picks popular films for these segments, so attending them makes the pass more worth it.

This pass also entitled us to watch foreign films as well as films part of last years’ competitions. This gave us a chance to catch films that we missed in 2017 and no longer have commercial screenings. In our case, we watched Respeto, Baconaua, Paki, and many others.

Another festival pass type is the Films-in-competition (FIC) pass. Here, you are entitled to 12 screenings in total. This pass is best for those who have attended previous festivals.

If you happen to be a student, we suggest that you avail the individual tickets. Discounts are given to students as high as 50% of the original price. This means that the students’ tickets are more affordable than the FIC pass when tickets are accounted for individually.


Finding where to stay

Since we were based in QC last year, we decided to stay at an Airbnb accommodation to save from transportation cost. The last screening typically ends at around midnight, and we wouldn’t want to take the risk of commuting from CCP to QC.

In fairness to Airbnb, they have a lot of affordable homes near CCP. We suggest that you take accommodations from homes or hotels located along Roxas Boulevard or Taft Avenue.

In our case, we ended up renting a studio unit in Green Residence located beside DLSU. We were just one jeep away. We noted that the orange jeepneys (with route Vito Cruz to CCP/PICC) take trips until midnight during the Cinemalaya week. We relied on these jeepneys for much of our transportation to and from CCP.

For those who live outside Manila City, Pasay, or Makati, you might have to consider staying in nearby hotels. Watching three to five films for a day is exhausting. You do not want to spend additional time for exhausting driving or commuting.

Tip: August is a rainy season. We made it a point to bring umbrellas during Cinemalaya throughout the years. We sure do not want to get sick in the middle of the Cinemalaya week.

Choosing where to eat

Cinemalaya’s film programming is inconsiderate of your tummy needs. You have at most 30 minutes to catch the next showing, but you might want to end up spending most of it for queueing to have the best seat. While there are few food stalls within the vicinity of CCP, their food offerings are not for big eaters like me. Plus, most of these food items are pricey. We ended up dining at the fast food stalls several meters away from CCP (Harbor Square). We suggest that you bring packed and easy-to-eat food that you can munch while on the line. Also, bringing your own bottle of water can save you money and the possibility of getting hungry.


For coffee lovers, there is an awesome coffee shop located on the second floor of the CCP. There, you will get your caffeine fix without the need to leave the CCP premises.

About the films we watched

The spotlight of the entire festival was directed towards the films in competition. There were 10 full length and 10 short narrative films. Each of the full-length films had its gala showing. In a gala showing, the director, production staff, and some actors and actresses are given a few minutes to talk about their film before the screening.

Some of these films are so great that they are worthy of a second watch. Try to watch all the films in competition in the first few days, so you still have time to watch your favorite films again in the succeeding days. In our case, we ended up watching Liway and Pan de Salawal twice. Both films are a tear-jerker, and we want to know if they can make us cry twice.

We found that some of these films were disappointing. Last year, some films did not live up to our expectations. Some still needed major post-production works, while some we didn’t really get why they were included in the Cinemalaya lineup. Just be reminded that these filmmakers have to face major challenges – budget constraints and time limitations.

Meanwhile, the 10 short films are divided into two screenings. Be sure to catch both screenings because you won’t be sure which of them has the best films. Do note that Cinemalaya short filmmakers tend to be braver than their full-length filmmaker counterparts. They can be experimental (Nangungupahan) or can be extra-vulgar (Mr. Wiggles).


CCP’s Gawad Alternatibo coincides with the Cinemalaya screenings. Last year, the mini film festival was shown at Tanghalang Manuel Conde. Gawad Alternatibo showcased various genres (animation, experimental, narrative, and documentary) for free.


The Cinemalaya experience is great. Aside from being the first viewers of this year’s best Filipino films, the entire experience gives you a sense of belonging to the independent film community. The crowd exudes an energy that makes you fall in love with Philippine cinema.

See you at this year’s Cinemalaya! Send us a message if you wish to join us for a post-screening discussion.

All photos are from cinemalaya.org.