Sunday, February 2, 2014

Remembering Cousin Rey

 Radio in the 50's
   In Pasay City, in 1955 a home with television was rare.  People had radios the size of a console cabinet.  Movies were too expensive and movies for children played only during the Christmas season.  There were movie theaters that showed double feature for the cost of a ticket.  Joy Theater in Libertad Street was one that showed all Hollywood films.  There was another in the same area that showed all Filipino movies.  The theaters didn’t have air-conditioning and smoking inside was allowed so imagine the air quality during the 4 hours of black and white entertainment (approximately 2 hours each movie).  Snack vendors walked the isles even during the main feature and shout out “Pepsi, popcorn”.  Someone hungry from across the room would call the snack vendor over everyone’s head.  If you were born in the 80’s the preceding sounds ridiculous funny.  But wait!  There’s more.

   How did food manufacturers advertise without television and theater ads?  There were mobile theaters that showed their commercials.  A big van or small truck with a sound system circled the neighborhood announcing a free movie showing on a specific street, on a specific date and time.  Obviously this show can’t happen during the day because like a regular theater darkness was required.  On the evening of the show the street was closed to traffic.  People came out of their homes carrying their own chairs, their snacks and arrange themselves all facing the portable screen that hung on the side of the van/truck which hid huge speakers.  A projector on a stand was set behind the audience and showed either local Tagalog movie or Hollywood film without subtitles.  This proved there was no English movie ever made that a Filipino in any era could not understand.

   During the gaps between the mobile theater and the occasional  double feature movies the children of Ibarra Street were treated to an exclusive entertainment, a homemade theatre created by an ingenious young boy of 13, my cousin Rey. 

Similar home theater characters
   Rey framed white fabric and mounted it on the edge of a table.  A couple of candles behind lighted the screen.  Male and female figures made of cardboard moved with the aid of sticks and strings.  The children audience sat in front of the screen and watched the shadow of characters.  Sometimes it’s a love story and the cardboard characters would actually kiss.  There were fights over a girl when cardboard arms would swing to hit the villain.  Rey narrated the story and voiced the dialogues accordingly.  There were no repeats.  Every show had a different story and set of characters.  We didn’t need television when we had cousin Rey’s home theater.

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