This article explores the contradictions that surrounded evocations of the clean, hygienic, healthy body in 1920s and 1930s Manila film culture, where moviegoing ephemera such as advertisements, exhibition artifacts, and popular media interfaced with other systems of knowledge implicated within the colonial project, such as bodily piety and public health. This juncture between consumer culture, cinema, and discourses of cleanliness places the cinema within an uncanny archive of aspirational embodiment that evokes older orders of power: accounts of cinemagoing measured theaters' worth in terms of sanitation and cleanliness; and in both English and Tagalog popular film magazines, advertisements for doctors, medicines, cleaning agents, and beauty products sat beside images of local and foreign stars. Circulating within a context of impending independence and cultural transition, this archive not only bolstered US colonial regimes of hygiene, sanitation, cleanliness, gender, and race, but also evoked residual formations of religious piety and Catholicism.

This article explores the contradictions that surrounded evocations of the clean, hygienic, healthy body in 1920s and 1930s Manila film culture. Employing a conjunctural mode of analysis, it investigates the ways that moviegoing ephemera such as advertisements, exhibition artifacts, and popular media interfaced with other systems of knowledge implicated within the colonial project, such as bodily piety and public health. This juncture between consumer culture, cinema, and discourses of cleanliness placed the cinema within an uncanny archive of aspirational embodiment that evoked older orders of power: accounts of cinemagoing measured theaters' worth in terms of sanitation and cleanliness; and in both English and Tagalog popular film magazines, advertisements for doctors, medicines, cleaning agents, and beauty products sat beside images of local and foreign stars. Circulating within a context of impending independence and cultural transition, this archive not only bolstered US colonial regimes of hygiene, sanitation, cleanliness, gender, and race, but evoked residual formations of religious piety and Catholicism. I am interested in how this ensemble of images, spaces, and sensory experiences constitutes what Ann Laura Stoler calls the vernacular, “practicing epistemologies” that shape colonial worlds in capricious ways.1

The interwar period offers an apt historical window onto these dynamics, as it was when the public practices of cinemagoing and nation-building began to intersect. As discourses of national independence spread, a corresponding, more intimate discourse of bodily conduct and consumerism bolstered them. Conventional histories often date the beginning of Philippine cinema to 1919, with José Nepomuceno's Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden).2 Nepomuceno had founded Malayan Movies two years earlier, in part as a counterpoint to growing US cultural influence. The United States had spent the previous decade transforming its new territory into a market for US products, including cinema, despite continued guerrilla resistance to occupation. In 1911, Manila had approximately twenty-five cinemas, many owned by US nationals and favoring US pictures. The United States accounted for 91.7 percent of the total footage imported in 1921, and 83.2 percent in 1928. By 1929, the Philippines had 275 theaters.3 By the early 1930s, movie theaters had spread across the capital city. As US cinema proliferated, elite nationalists, many educated abroad and of mestizo heritage, established a discourse of Philippine modernity as a means of advocating for national independence.

Manila was not alone in this transformation. In modernizing metropolises around the world, the period from 1919 to 1939 witnessed the paradoxical forces of growing global economic interdependence, and conversely the rise of political nationalism as a challenge to these forces.4 The Philippines encapsulated these contradictions. For the US colonial administration, the interwar period was premised on notions of teleological progression, in which the Philippines would “evolve” from an unincorporated territory, to a commonwealth, to a sovereign state. In 1916, the Jones Act had stated the US intention to “withdraw their sovereignty over the Philippine Islands as soon as a stable government can be established therein”; the 1934 Tydings-McDuffie Act superseded this policy, activating a ten-year transitional period before the Philippines would take independence on July 4, 1946.5 While nationalist moves to protect the domestic economy thrived during this period, this impending sovereignty was ambivalent. Even as the Philippines and United States began the process of separation, economic, military, and cultural policies kept them closely entwined.6

In US colonial discourse, the nation itself became a maturing, embodied youth, a construct that differed from the revolutionary image of the suffering inang bayan (mother nation). As scholars of Philippine culture have observed, nineteenth-century playwrights and revolutionaries constructed a maternal nation whose suffering at the hands of foreign invasion was to catalyze revolutionary action.7 Concepts of pain and suffering became linked to long-standing structures of gender, religion, and sexuality. As Martin Manalansan describes, this confluence was tied to the body; illness and disease were synonymous with a kind of suffering that intersected with religion and sexuality.8 Images of suffering femininity became a trope of popular culture.

But if the inang bayan construct became an emblem of revolutionary nationalism, this highly gendered vision of the mother nation contrasted with other, postrevolutionary representations that emphasized different models. As historian Reynaldo Ileto has described, the turn-of-the-century revolutionary years became an origin myth for the founding of the Republic under the “tutelage” of the United States.9 Progressivist discourse abounded, sometimes framed within biological metaphors. In 1926, Filipino nationalist Conrado Benitez's History of the Philippines became the canonical historical text for high schools, a position it would hold for more than three decades.10 As Ileto describes, the book's overarching “metanarrative” is progress, mirroring other books in circulation at the time, such as Stanley Porteus and Marjorie Babcock's 1926 Temperament and Race.11 Benitez describes Filipinos as “highly emotional, impulsive and almost explosive in temperament,” “a race in an adolescent stage of development.”12 His text depicts the advancement from national adolescence to adulthood, citing democratic, revolutionary demands as evidence of “a people growing into social and political maturity and imbibing liberal ideas.”13 As Ileto observes, “The image here is a biological one: the Filipino as a child grows and matures whilst fed with liberal nourishment from Europe and America.”14

At times this progressivist body discourse surfaced in seemingly unlikely places, for instance the cinema. Two decades later, for example, a June 1946 issue of Filamerican Movie and News featured a congratulatory spread from various Hollywood studios sending “Best Wishes” to the new nation through portraits and handwritten notes from their coteries of women stars. Representing RKO Radio Pictures, Maureen O'Hara wrote, “Best wishes to all my friends in the New Republic.” The copy above her photograph read, “Compliments on Your Coming-of-Age” (fig. 1).15 Hollywood whiteness refracted the discourses of aspirational embodiment that had anchored nationalist rhetorics. This colonial perspective traded the suffering, maternal view of the nation for a model based on national adolescence, figured against a backdrop of Hollywood femininity.


Biological metaphors of the new nation-state in RKO Radio Pictures Inc., “Compliments on Your Coming-of-Age,” Filamerican Movie and News, June 1946, 20. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.


Biological metaphors of the new nation-state in RKO Radio Pictures Inc., “Compliments on Your Coming-of-Age,” Filamerican Movie and News, June 1946, 20. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.

That cinema became a key instrument within this discursive matrix is unsurprising. As scholars such as Vicente Rafael and Bliss Cua Lim have argued, with the rise of cinema as a cultural force in the mid-twentieth century, the star body became a fixture of Philippine visual culture.16 Rafael contends that the Filipino star system that emerged with the consolidation of the local studios in the 1950s was founded on what he terms “mestizo envy,” a system based on the Philippines' historical imagination: “Mestizoness in the Philippines has implied, at least since the nineteenth century, a certain proximity to the sources of colonial power.”17 The hybrid mestizo/a star arbitrated between power and marginalization. Rafael analyzes Jessica Hagedorn's account of Pucha and Rio, two women watching a Douglas Sirk film in the novel Dogeaters (1990), set in the 1950s. As Rafael describes, they see Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson as “saintly icons.” The differences between themselves and the stars is “somatically marked,” with Pucha's mestiza features placing her closer to the US stars: “Mesitzoness comes to imply a perpetual and, as we shall see, privileged liminality: the occupation of a crossroads between Spain and the Philippines, Hollywood and Manila.”18

This essay is not about mestizoness or stardom per se. Rather, it is about the structures of knowledge that laid the foundation for what Filipino stardom would eventually become—a system predicated on proximity to colonial history, represented through the body. If, in the case of 1950s studio-era stars, this embodied proximity was indexed through race, in the 1920s and 1930s it took slightly different form: the cleansed, hygienic, healthy bodies of cinema consumers. If the 1950s mestizo star's embodiment of a hybridized, Filipino/whiteness connoted the end product of a civilizational discourse, I propose that this civilizational discourse was rooted in earlier representations that mediated the transition from colonization to independence that took place across the 1920s and 1930s. During this transitional period, discussions of movie theaters as healthful, sanitary spaces and cinema consumers as healthy, cleansed bodies mediated rhetorics of teleology and national becoming. They invoked a hygienic, modern order, revealing the persistence of racial, gender, and class disparities amid discussions of democratic egalitarianism. US colonial public health discourse claimed that Filipinos were not yet what Charles Briggs and Clara Mantini-Briggs have called “sanitary citizens,” “subjects who possessed a full set of normative economic, cultural, familial, legal, educational, sexual and medical characteristics.”19 They were instead seen as “sanitary subjects” who did not yet fulfill the characteristics of modern citizenry.20 In contrast, sectors of nationalist discourse promoted the notion of Filipino maturity, and cinema became one field upon which these competing discourses played out, mediating the transition from Spanish to US colonial regimes through a discourse of bodily maintenance and control.

The matrix of cultural artifacts I examine below implicates the cinema within the US colonial state's “civilizing” mission, not through filmic representation or distribution patterns, but through a more dispersed ensemble of ancillary paratexts. The analysis considers how this discursive confluence of progress, race, gender, and embodiment resonated with older cultural structures. There has been much scholarship on the role of the Filipino body as a canvas for the inscription of colonial power; this operated in different ways for Spanish versus US administrations. For the US colonial regime, cinema became a critical site within a new, secular form of bodily piety, and the following sections trace two fields in which this discourse of the body circulated.

In the first two sections, I examine the cinemagoing space, which transitioned during the interwar period from being seen as a space for potential bodily contamination (sexual encounters, foreignness, sensory excess) to a space of sanitation and modernity. I trace a progressivist discourse of cinema culture and embodiment across a range of artifacts: a 1920 theatrical play about the new medium, titled ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!!; a 1922 political cartoon titled “Sa Sine” (In the Cinema); debates about the building of the new Metropolitan Theater; and a 1935 painting that hung in the Capitol Theater. The final section looks more closely at a range of film magazines, examining the “rituals of intimacy” promoted alongside films.21 Such rituals suggest a residual through line between Spanish and US colonial regimes. Historians Julius Bautista and Mercedes Planta describe Spanish colonial rituals of intimacy not as a means of cultivating secular, modern citizens, but as a way of producing disciplined, medieval Christian bodies.22 These disciplinary rituals of bodily maintenance and behavior became a means of preparation for the afterlife. Within US colonial discourse, these rituals of intimacy continued, taking a different form.

Pedagogies of the body—how to clean, behave, and comport oneself—became a key aspect of what Ann Laura Stoler calls vernacular epistemic practices, which exceed specific calculation. As Stoler writes, imperial formations relied on questions of epistemology, elevating concepts of “reason, race, science, and civility” to human universals. And while histories of empire often focus on more explicit epistemologies, more inchoate forms of “worldly practice” can be powerful epistemological formations.23 If US colonial power rested on epistemologies of aspirational embodiment, the cinema culture that emerged within it promoted an implicit frame of knowledge that resonated with older forms of bodily pedagogy. During this transitional period, images of spatial cleanliness and bodily hygiene became a vernacular, practicing epistemology, appearing across a range of cinema practices and objects.


To offer a sense of how these epistemologies came into being, it is worth providing a brief history of how colonial regimes in the Philippines envisioned Filipinos as embodied subjects. From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, the Spanish colonial authority sought to partition the body into the sacred and the profane, in part through publishing “Manuals of Urbanity,” pamphlets distributed by the church to direct Filipinos in everyday behaviors. Small in size so they might be carried on the person, the manuals' aim was to create an unassuming, pious populous. They instruct Filipinos not to cough, spit, or create noise during Mass. Filipinos are not to stare or open their mouths in shock, yawn, make noise with their throats, fix their hair. They are not to use perfume, but neither are they to allow unpleasant bodily odor. They are not to wink or look pensive, as this is the behavior of lunatics. They should not move too much. They are told, “Keep your head straight, your body still and your feet together.”24 The manuals regulated the posture and bearing of Filipino subjects, constructing their bodies as worldly flesh to be overcome in the quest for godliness.

The most famous of these manuals of urbanity was Urbana at Felisa, penned in 1864 by Tagalog friar Modesto de Castro. Written as a fictionalized series of letters between sisters based in the city and the country, it met with success thanks in part to the rising, literate middle class and burgeoning mercantile culture of the nineteenth century. The book remained popular for more than one hundred years, across translations into various dialects; its final edition was published in 1938, at which point it was promoted as a tool for the preservation of local, Hispanicized culture against US forms of Westernization. These practices encompassed a mode of bodily comportment that aligned with ideals of femininity, as Soledad S. Reyes describes: “Some remarks [in Urbana at Felisa] are quite precise directives—the way one uses one's hands, the manner of walking in the street, or the way a girl uses her eyes—and these comments certainly indicate an intense preoccupation with the body, as if through prescription, the body parts could be contained within set rules.”25 Through promoting a gendered form of bodily comportment, the canonized text provided a link to a residual culture as emerging forms of material culture promoted a new bodily order.

When the United States began its involvement with the country at the beginning of the Philippine-American war in 1899, it translated this religious order into a different regime of bodily knowledge. As Bryan Turner argues in his influential work on the social body, The Body and Society (2008), modernity transformed the regimes of religion into regimes of medicine, becoming a new form of social control.26 The body became a “unit” of secular, scientific administration, regulated through scientific programs of personal hygiene, bacteriology, public health, and sanitization. Historian Warwick Anderson similarly argues: “American military and civil health officers thus dedicated themselves to registering and refashioning Filipino bodies and social life, to forging an improved sanitary race out of the raw material found in the Philippine barrio. Hygiene reform in this particular fallen world was intrinsic to a ‘civilizing process,’ which was also an uneven and shallow process of Americanization. … Experiencing hygiene thus could also be a means of experiencing empire and race.”27 Hygiene and the body were not simply one arena for inscribing colonial power. As Anderson and others argue, they were among the most important arenas where this power took root. Integrated into the public school system, where children would build latrines as class projects and encourage their parents to do the same at home, these regimes of hygiene were primary mechanisms for legitimating US power.28


The cultivation of a controlled, embodied populace so crucial during Spanish rule would take a different but no less vital role as the US colonial state attempted to stabilize its power. The space of the city was integral to this process. In her work on the body as a sociocultural artifact, Elizabeth Grosz has argued that “the built environment … is the condition and milieu in which corporeality is socially, sexually, and discursively produced.”29 Rather than seeing the city as a reflection or a product of bodies, Grosz proposes a model in which they mutually constitute one another—the city's geographies, architecture, and municipal arrangements become one part of the body's social constitution, while bodies themselves transform urban landscapes to suit demographic needs. I am interested in how pedagogies of the body persisted after the Spanish period, underpinning burgeoning discourses on cinemagoing. Cinemas became new social spaces of colonial modernity, and this section investigates how discourses of sanitation and cleanliness intersected with cinema consumption and evolved as cinemagoing gentrified, structuring relations of class and gender.

When cinema spaces entered the Philippines, they grafted onto an existing geography of bodily piety. The ties between bodies and space had long intersected in colonial culture, and venues like the cinema corrupted spatialized forms of devotion. Spanish religious piety involved spatial practices, and this worked on both a literal and a metaphoric level. As scholars of religion have written, the development of a Catholic body politic created the notion of a Catholic nation-state.30 In part, this was achieved through geographic policy. From the sixteenth century, the papacy and the Spanish colonial state enacted a process of “reductions,” which consolidated indigenous settlements based on kinship and alliances in centralized towns that fell within colonial jurisprudence. These towns followed a grid pattern that placed the church within the central plaza, surrounded by civic buildings and the homes of elite citizens.31 All who resided beyond the sound of church bells lived in a fallen world. As Jose Francisco writes, these religious settlements had to be attentive to the possibilities of members' desertion, or intrusion from outsiders; in the same way, the Christian body was to be protected with the sign of the cross over the forehead, heart, and lips, to ward against “the devil's entry.” Those who fled the reductions were dubbed remontado, “apostates from both Christianity and colonial civilization.”32

In this way, forms of religious piety rendered the body a spatial construct. Bodies were divided into loob and labas, inside and out, with the former elevated above the latter, and bodily protocols defined social space by guarding the doors between these realms.33 This embodied spatialization was also literal. Manuals of urbanity took place in scenes at home, at church, at school, and the roads that linked them, and bodies were not meant to circulate outside these realms. As Resil Mojares argues, “This economy of space extends to the organization of time,” in which “theatrical performances (comedia), secular romances (corrido), lewd books and songs, shocking dances, drinking taverns (tanguayan), crowds, and disreputable company” constituted an “Other.”34 These manuals erase crowds and mass gatherings, addressing their readers as private individuals who must guard their bodies' thresholds. Cinema became one of these “others,” sullying more pious ways of occupying space and time.

The US colonial state was also interested in spatial transformations as a means of governing Filipino subjects. But this new, spatiotemporal management emphasized material pleasures within the context of modernity—specifically, a modern form of capitalism that required a consuming, open body politic. The Manila cityscape radically altered in the first three decades of the twentieth century, as US colonial planners sought to transform the spatial logics of Catholicism into a civic, secular design.35 This US colonial space required embodied, consuming citizens to fulfill its self-appointed civilizational mission, and the cinema was a symptom of how the space of the metro was changing under US colonial rule.

The cinema was not necessarily the most obvious space for achieving this task. When cinema made its way into Manila's leisure culture, the local intelligentsia saw it as a space for sensational, corrupting entertainments and illicit bodily encounters. The script for a 1920 Jose Maria Rivera zarzuela (musical play) titled ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!! depicts a burgeoning urban culture in which Manila was becoming a space of physical danger, racialized class difference, and state surveillance.36 The character Don Tiburcio introduces the city to the audience, describing it as a hot and steaming space where he was almost run over by a tramvia. Manila, he laments, has become a space only for businessmen; white-skinned people make endless demands of the poor, while the rich, who own their own homes, make endless requests. Don Tiburcio wishes he could live on an “aeroplane” to escape the city and its costs, pointing out that if, in seven years, the Philippines shows itself capable of looking after itself, then the US will consider giving the country its liberty.37 As this opening suggests, the play positions the cinema amid the corrupting forces of the changing city, with its new racial and class hierarchies.

The cinema became one of these transformations, reorganizing time and creating a new spatial economy. In ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!!, the movie theater is a space of sensation and alimentary pleasures. The song opening the second act, titled “Let's Go to the Cine!” couches its proclamations in satire: “Let's go! Let's go to the theater. Let's go entertain ourselves! How fun! How good! How enjoyable! In the movies we can watch a lot of amazing things. It's fun to watch people hurt themselves!”38 Bodily pleasure, combined with the spectacle of bodily harm, has become a part of the cinema's sensory experience.

Other forms of consumption accompany the experience of the cine. The script describes the exterior space of the movie house, with details about the foods available: “Lifting the curtain, we see a picture of a well-known street in Manila, which could be Azcarraga Road or any other street. In the center can be seen the exterior of a fine cinema. … To the right of the cinema is a shop with a sign: mango with evaporated milk. On the left, there is a woman selling rice desserts [kakanin].”39 Calle Azcarraga was known at this time for theaters and restaurants, catering to more affluent crowds of Manilenyos and Americans who came to see zarzuela at places like the Teatro Libertad and the Zorilla theater.40 In ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!! these bodily pleasures come at a bodily cost. As one character tells his son, Beteng, the cinema corrupts you, and its darkness ruins your eyes. Beteng himself becomes ill with a stomachache from eating ice cream and nuts.

The play extends its criticism of cinema to US imperial surveillance in the city, likening the new regime to their Spanish predecessors. While the US colonial state sought to reform Spanish policies, the play suggests that many Filipinos saw the situation as a continuity. For instance, outside the cinema, a police officer confiscates Beteng's dog because he has failed to pay a tax for it. The policeman asks a dog for a cedula, a Spanish-era form of identification needed to avoid arrest. To escape their woes, they go inside the cinema.

The food vendors surrounding the theater are also caught in the new medium's snare. One young street vendor, Peli, is known for sneaking into the cinema on a daily basis. He explains his desire for the movies as the unnatural outcome of his mother's bodily indiscretions:


Why do you love the cine?


Of course, I was raised in the cine by my mother.


Is that right?


That's what my mom said to me. She was pregnant, so they decided to go into the Cine. They were halfway through the movie they were watching when she gave birth to me.


Where were you born?


In the cine, sir.41

If elite, Hispanicized Manilenyo culture required a system of regimented bodily control, ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!! depicts a world of irrepressible corporeal abandon. This is not the corporeal expressiveness of suffering, as with other models of nation and motherhood; rather, that ennobled affective form has been replaced by its inverse, a corrupted form of maternity that implicates the cinema's addictive draw. The cinema is a space where the play's characters consume food and films, make plans for illicit romance, and even give birth to a new generation of cinema addicts. The notion of the theater as a space for physical indiscretions is pushed to its limits with the story of Peli's delivery in the midst of Zigomar, a 1911 French serial. If the young character portrays the new generation of Filipinos, they are literally born inside the cinema.

US films make their way into the play as well, as when Don Tiburcio sides with the Native Americans in Westerns. In ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!! the cinema is clearly a space of materiality, labas (outside), where bodies are freed from the strictures of Spanish colonial, religious comportment while being corrupted by different forms of bodily pleasure and entertainment. But at the same time, the audience is not homogenous, nor is it passive. The play depicts youth and working-class laborers as caught up in the cinema's charms; meanwhile, more affluent characters critique the new institution, recognizing the racial systems it promotes and identifying with the films' “primitive” enemies as opposed to their putative cowboy heroes. The play constructs a complex system of class-divided spectatorship.

This idea of an active, heterogeneous audience immersed in a collective, sensory experience appeared in a 1922 cartoon titled “Sa Sine” (In the Cinema), published in the journal Pakakak (Horn) (fig. 2).42 The cartoon's diverse crowd depicts how the cinema space mediated issues of gender, class, and race. A raucous group of Filipino men sit alongside US teachers and Chinese laborers. The captions explain their different interpretations of the film: “Those embracing, who are carrying a book—there's no clear story, and it's all dirty”; “The one smoking: You're smoking [the cigarette] like a mango tree!” (this may refer to a practice of smoking mango trees to produce early flowers and kill pests); “The Chinese: Wa ka nga!! Do it with gusto!”; “The ones with their feet up: Huuu! That's the way!”


“Sa Sine” (In the Cinema), Pakakak, July 22, 1922, 9. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.


“Sa Sine” (In the Cinema), Pakakak, July 22, 1922, 9. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.

The cinema was a space that divided bodies into hierarchies according to intersecting vectors of class and ethnic difference; the poor occupied the cheaper front rows, while the more affluent patrons sat behind them.43 As “Sa Sine” suggests, collective cinemagoing was titillating, interactive, and experienced differently across class and gender. Spectators prop up their feet, smoke, and yell at each other and at the screen. Across various social groups, their ribald calls to the film's explicit content suggest a cinemagoing culture that embraced the sexualized pleasures of a new sensory experience. Meanwhile, rival forms of romantic encounter compete. A woman in the corner stands with her mouth agape, her books and dress evoking the US “Thomasites,” or public school teachers who came to the new colonial state at the turn of the century. Her date holds her waist protectively as they watch the hypersexualized kiss on-screen, standing apart from the crowd.

Like ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!!, the cartoon critiques the new economies of space that were emerging across the transition from Spanish to US rule. The cinema space became another Other within a changing city. Its borders were not closed and disciplined, but porous, open to the contamination of the material world. As the cinema became a means of reorganizing space and time, manuals of urbanity like Urbana at Felisa circulated among elite, Hispanicized Filipinos, offering a nostalgic antidote to a new colonial order through their residual models of gendered bodily comportment.

In the transition from Spanish to US colonial rule, the body became a site of medicalization. But as the accounts above demonstrate, counter-narratives emerged that aligned this new order with bodily corruption. This was not always a radical, progressive discourse. The examples above suggest that hierarchies of class, gender, and ethnicity persisted within these critiques of colonial transformations.


More than a decade later, the cinema would occupy a very different place in the imaginaries of elite nationalists as cinema spaces gentrified. Within this transition, the figure of the moviegoer shifted. Previous depictions of film consumption portrayed a figure of bodily appetites; cinema spaces were obstacles in the path toward national becoming, appealing to the basest instincts of the crowd. But the discourse surrounding the construction of the Metropolitan Theater suggests how cinema venues could act as a signal of modernization and a space for emergent, sanitary citizens.

In 1931, an article in the Philippine Graphic described the rapid proliferation of the city's theaters, characterizing this as a signal of modernization. It included an image of the Metropolitan, which was under construction at the time, its skeletal frame a promise of new levels of modernization yet to come:

Time was when Padre Burgos street's principal edifice-to-be-proud-of was the Legislative Building. Today that distinction has perhaps been annexed by the new Bureau of Posts structure. And tomorrow, maybe, visitors to Manila passing through Padre Burgos Street will gasp primarily at the Metropolitan Theatre. Rapidly approaching completion, said theatre is one of the many in Manila that are either being or have been recently constructed. They are springing up like the proverbial mushrooms and practically all of them are of the first-class variety.44

The theater becomes here part of a teleological timeline that frames urban development as gasp-inducing spectacle, moving from the seat of US colonial governance, the Legislative Building, to the primary hub of its communications infrastructure, the Bureau of Posts, to the Metropolitan, the grandest variation of the city's quickly multiplying cinemas.

These structures were part of a larger project of urban development that had its origins in the US colonial order's racial ideologies. Secretary of War William Howard Taft had commissioned US architect Daniel Burnham to spearhead much of Manila's planning.45 Burnham had grown to fame designing the neoclassical “White City” of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, a fantasized city space that positioned the West as civilization's core, with racially typologized, Orientalist exhibitions on its periphery. So it was in some ways fitting that Burnham became the architect of the United States' imperial ventures. Burnham transferred the Haussmann-inspired City Beautiful movement developed through the White City to the new colonial capital, advocating parks, symmetrical pathways, classical motifs, and the upkeep of waterways for moving commercial goods, thereby unifying the city. As Rolando Tolentino points out, Burnham's vision required a bird's-eye view of the city; he and his codesigner Peirce Anderson could only attain this all-seeing view from the tower of Bilibid, a prison (fig. 3).46


An aerial view of Manila from a 1960s postcard.


An aerial view of Manila from a 1960s postcard.

Bilibid would later be celebrated as a city within the city, complete with commerce, recreation (including a cinema), and its own jail within the jail. This rhetoric obscures the use of its inmates, both living and dead, as “representative samples” for colonial administration, including the group of racial “types” sent to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.47 The prison became an emblem of progress despite (or perhaps because of) its involvement in anthropometric surveys, couched within the rhetoric of scientific achievement. Cinema consumption also became a part of this prison-as-progress discourse, serving as evidence of its reform-minded ideals. A 1923 article suggests that Bilibid, along with other prisons, would eventually become a marker of US benevolence. The article frames the prison as a microcosm of the larger city. Here, the state could effectively control and reform bodies within the confines of the sanitary, colonial prison system: “A city within a city! Like a well-oiled machine, Bilibid functions smoothly. … The shops and departments are large, well-equipped, and sanitary. … Cinema shows are flashed on the screen every Saturday and Sunday evenings.”48 Again, sanitation and cinema become twin markers of benevolent modernization, obfuscating the racialized underpinnings of both institutions.

The art deco Metropolitan Theater, which opened in December 1931, was built into this existing cartography. Designed by Filipino architect Juan Arellano and situated within Burnham's White City–inspired government district, the theater, discussed as “the largest and the best in the Philippines,” would serve as another marker of Filipino modernity.49 Arellano had also designed the neoclassical Legislative Building, which acted as an icon of democratic governance, and the Bureau of Posts, a reminder of the city's position within a trans-Pacific network of trade and communications. Situated on a small plot of land overlooking the central business district across the river, the three structures integrated arts and culture, infrastructure, and government as facets within a variegated system of power. Cinema played a key role in this assemblage. While the Metropolitan's film ads didn't appear as frequently as those of other theaters, it advertised the pre-Code, backstage Hollywood musical Wonder Bar (1934) as “The show of 10,000 wonders comes to Manila,” and it billed One Night of Love (1934) alongside the Manila Symphony Orchestra.50 This was more of a high-art space compared to the space of embodied, corporeal pleasures censured in ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!! and “Sa Sine.”

The Metropolitan featured multiple types of seating that ranged across a spectrum of ticket prices. However, these socioeconomic divisions would ostensibly melt away once inside thanks to the theater's “mirrorphonic” sound system, developed by Bell Telephone Laboratories. The system marketed each position within the theater as part of a technologically enabled, homogenous seating system, which countered tiered ticket prices through the “uniform distribution of sound throughout seating area.” Thanks to the D-Phonic Speaker system, the advertising promised, “everything recorded on the sound track … is evenly distributed to every seat. With MIRRORPHONIC there are no ‘corner seats,’ no ‘dead spots’” (fig. 4).51 Spectators here are universalized, positioned in classless relation to the screen before them. It is a discourse of equal access across a disembodied, mass audience, provided via benign, US technology.


“Mirrorphonic Latest Sound System Being Installed at Metropolitan,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, August 1, 1937, 23. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.


“Mirrorphonic Latest Sound System Being Installed at Metropolitan,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, August 1, 1937, 23. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.

However, the racialized binaries of affect and reason persisted in the theater's investment promotions, undercutting these rhetorics of technologically enabled parity. The Metropolitan Theater Company was a joint venture between US trade executive H. B. Pond and the Spanish Filipino Zobel-Ayala family. The company advertised for investors in both Tagalog and English, framing the project as an opportunity for all who joined to “become partners,” “irrespective of creed, color, or nationality, including those with modest incomes” (fig. 5). But the differences between its English and Tagalog marketing strategies complicate this notion of parity. The former emphasizes profit, emphatically noting that it is not a civic enterprise: “The Metropolitan Theater Company does NOT wish to encourage the purchase of stock as a donation for a civic enterprise, but as an investment in a business enterprise.”52 It frames its appeals within the capitalist reason ascribed to English-language readers. Meanwhile, the Tagalog variation appeals to nationalist sentiment, calling the project “a patriotic act”: “The absence of a proper and orderly theater in Manila stirs the emotions of the Philippine national audience. The nationalist leaders of the city asked the citizens whether they are willing to cooperate with the building of a new theater, and the consensus is, ‘We will help.’”53 In this way, the project mobilizes the rhetorics of democratic parity while also upholding the systems of difference underlying these discourses. Capitalist reason contrasts with nationalist sentiment, evoking contemporaneous, colonial assessments of Filipinos as excessively emotional.54


Left: “Tutulong Kami,” Liwayway, January 31, 1930, 24, right: “Invest in Art for Profit,” Graphic, January 29, 1930, 13. Images courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.


Left: “Tutulong Kami,” Liwayway, January 31, 1930, 24, right: “Invest in Art for Profit,” Graphic, January 29, 1930, 13. Images courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.

Such incongruities were not lost on observers, and rhetorics of hygiene, sanitation, and class become an explicit part of this dynamic in later discourse around the Metropolitan. A satirical 1935 letter to the editor of the journal The Critic cited the theater as a cause of concern to the director of the Philippine Health Service, Jacobo Fajardo. Calling themselves “A Citizen,” the writer asks, “May I ask of your good offices to kindly inquire if Dr. Jacobo Fajardo has ever been up the gallery of the Metropolitan Theatre? The reason for this query is the stench pervading the entire floor up there.” The editor replies:

A citizen's query need not be forwarded to the esteemed Dr. Fajardo. It could be taken for granted that the gallery seats would be much too low for such a station which the good doctor represents. We doubt, however, if he would notice or smell any difference of that luxuriant pollution referred to from the exquisite aroma of his Camia. (That is, if he uses Camia [a fragrant flower].) The magnificent structure is now corroding fast. We could only surmise that the distinguished management needs quite a program of fumigating. As a matter of fact, the Bureau of Health itself needs one very badly.55

The Metropolitan was built as an emblem of a modernizing city, but in this satirical portrayal, its corrosion, stench, and need for fumigation signal modernization's failures. If sanitation and cinema claimed Bilibid prison as an emblem of the United States' modern benevolence, here, the Metropolitan's sanitation failures present a counter-narrative. This intersection between sanitation rhetorics and cinematic space reveals how they operated as parallel institutions of bodily management, drawing connections between the “low station” space of the embodied crowd (the gallery seats) and the elite space of the public health bureaucracy.

While I found it difficult to surmise the letter's precise critique of Fajardo, the accusations of elitism through the Metropolitan Theater are interesting. Nationalist leadership during this period was tied to scientific progress, paralleling the ways that institutions such as cinemas were linked to rhetorics of cultural development. Warwick Anderson and Hans Pols have argued that in the early twentieth century, the Philippines was one of at least three Asian countries where “decolonization was yoked to scientific progress” in symbolic as well as practical ways. In these cases, nationalist leaders were often physicians or scientists. Such physicians and scientists represented universal laws and knowledge on par with colleagues in imperial metros; importantly, they tied science more specifically to nation building and governmentality, a rhetoric that countered the baseless US emphasis on science's role within a broader, “civilizing” mission.56 During the 1930s, under Fajardo's direction the Philippine Health Service focused on public health measures aimed at the education of the masses, moving away from the racialized hygiene regime of the US colonial medical bureaucracy to a focus on the socioeconomic causes of disease. Nonetheless, while Fajardo's Health Service troubled the dichotomy between white US medical practices and the Filipino populace, Anderson argues that class structures intersected with internal hierarchies of ancestry and color to frame public health interventions, which were still informed by colonial methods.57

In the case of The Critic's parodic critique of Fajardo via the Metropolitan, the theater becomes a space whose ideals of an egalitarian, sanitary citizenry, formed in the shadow of infrastructure and legislature, conflict with the realities of class difference. A 1953 history of medicine in the Philippines provides insight into the doctor's bodily presentation; the writer describes Fajardo as “well-built and of aristocratic mien.”58 Alongside the progressiveness of his policies, long-standing hierarchies of race and class endure in the background, complicating more idealized images of smooth teleological progression. The Metropolitan Theater project became a point of juncture among sanitation discourses, (dis)embodied crowds, and the conflicting rhetorics of colonial modernity. The cinema's status as an arena for gathering the masses became an unlikely ground for satirizing the colonial public health bureaucracy.

If the discourses surrounding the Metropolitan Theater project reveal the instability of modernization, more idealized images could be found in another modern art deco cinema established at the same time as the Metropolitan, just across the Pasig river. In 1935 the Capitol Theater opened its doors on Calle Escolta, a main thoroughfare in Manila's downtown business and leisure district. The Capitol continued this vision of the modern cinema as a sanitary space, as exemplified in a 1937 advertisement marketing the cinema's healthy, cool air: “Capitol: The Show Place of the Nation, Healthfully Cool.”59 Describing theaters as a healthful escape from the tropical environment was not unique; more than a decade earlier, a Tagalog-language advertisement described the Empire Theater as “cold” and “clean,” and the Cine Ideal marketed itself as “Manila's Fresh Air Theater.”60 But the Capitol's proclamations of clean air fit within its larger design, which offered a reflexive image of the cinema as a part of national identity and modernization.

The mural installed in its entrance hall offers a sense of how the transformations of colonial, urban modernization populated nationalist imaginaries in the Philippines during these interwar years. Victorio C. Edades's Rising Philippines projects three idealized models of embodied national subjects while positioning the institution of cinema among other institutions of democracy and religion (fig. 6). The first figure is the rising nation, embodied in feminine form and dubbed the “New Philippines.” Wearing diaphanous robes, she ascends above US and Spanish figureheads, clutching a film reel. The US figure is masculine, wearing an olive-branch crown and holding a miniature Statue of Liberty; the feminized Spanish figure bears a cross. Between them, muscled, shirtless Filipino workers handle machines and dig, while at their side, more formally dressed locals kneel and pray. A Spanish galleon, the University of Santo Tomas, and the Manila Cathedral stand in for the country's Spanish histories. As artist Galo B. Ocampo wrote in his review of the work, the dwelling in the lower center made of the local thatching material, nipa (commonly called a bahay kubo, or cube house), represents the Asian contribution.61


Victorio C. Edades, Rising Philippines, 1935, Capitol Theater lobby, Manila. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.


Victorio C. Edades, Rising Philippines, 1935, Capitol Theater lobby, Manila. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.

The mural also contains an image of the Capitol Theater itself, sitting beside the neoclassical Legislative Building, surrounded by a steamship and an airplane. Rendered in the stylized, modernist mode that would become the hallmark of Edades's oeuvre, this image of national becoming reflects the ambivalences of the period that produced it. Galo B. Ocampo would later observe, in 1939, that the mural's style had scandalized the “bourgeoisie” with its “obvious disregard for the third dimension.”62 On the one hand, it is a buoyant celebration of modernity in both its radical style and its representation. Technologies of transportation and culture unbind the rising nation from her colonial histories. She shoots above a kinetic city, existing as pure idealization, transcending corporeal materiality, lifted by the cinema reel. But this incorporeal flight contrasts with—or is made possible by—her subjects, who exist as bodies, their corporeality ennobled through the parallel practices of physical labor and supplicative devotion. Their control over their physicality becomes their path toward economic or religious salvation. The tensions within Rising Philippines mirror the contradictions of modernity in the city.63 If the inang bayan figure mobilized maternal suffering to stir revolutionary action, this mural presents another version of the gendered, embodied nation for a modern age.

As these representations suggest, the cinema became a microcosm for a changing colonial city. Elizabeth Grosz argues that the body and the city exist in isomorphic relation, mutually defining one another. In these accounts of interwar Manila, the cinema plays a role in this relation, not merely as one component in an assemblage of architectural, infrastructural, cultural, and economic systems, but as a critical metaphor for understanding the embodied crowd and its relation to an impending, modern nation.


The movie theater and its viewers became an extension of the spatial and biological metaphors that shaped the burgeoning nation in the early twentieth century. In this section, I am interested in how the cinema became part of a more intimate regulatory order, taking shape within protocols of personal hygiene and beauty. There has been some scholarship on the links among commodities, class, and race. Anne McClintock has written about the overlap between soap and empire, arguing that advertisements for soap became a part of the “commodity spectacle” that translated racist ideologies to the masses.64 In cinema and media studies, scholars such as Sarah Berry and Jackie Stacey have analyzed ads for beauty products and soap in terms of whiteness and class during the classical Hollywood period.65

In the Philippines, such images were woven into discourses of medicalization and colonial power. Moreover, their focus on the body resonated with older forms of “ritual intimacy” tied to Catholic religious practice. In their extension of historian Resil Mojares's work from the Spanish to the US colonial regimes, Julius Bautista and Mercedes Planta argue that the US colonial state imposed new ways of life as a response to health regulations. This imposition took two main forms: efforts to control a landscape (their geographic space) and a people (Filipino bodies). “Rituals of intimacy” around bodily comportment and cleanliness became a part of self-imposed routines, rather than the outside surveillance of religious or colonial authorities.66

While the previous sections discussed how the theater space became an arena for imagining sanitary citizens, this section examines how cinema magazines endorsed new rituals of intimacy, promoting hygiene and cleanliness in a way that bolstered nationalist ideologies of bodily presentation. As Raquel A. G. Reyes argues, nationalism was constituted through tensions between anxieties about Westernization, on the one hand, and desires to prove the civilized status of local elites, on the other.67 Ensuring the uniquely civilized nature of the elite classes involved signs of distinction such as “property, propriety, and social polish,” which solidified the borders around class, sex, gender, and nation; as the previous section demonstrated, life in the city had made these borders threateningly porous. Because this distinction was a key rationale for national independence, elite intellectuals were alarmed at Western prognoses that depicted Malays as sexually promiscuous “savage races.”68 Many elite nationalists claimed Malay ancestry as a means of drawing distinctions between themselves and the country's more “savage” groups: Muslim Moros of the south, as well as highland indigenous peoples.69 Rituals of cleanliness and hygiene became a means of racialized distinction.

Print culture was a key vehicle for these ideas, as it was a critical part of the transition to US rule. Denise Cruz observes that due to the US promotion of public education, a generation came of age in the 1920s and 1930s who were literate in the English language. Manila became the capital of literary production, and Filipinos produced a slew of journals, newspapers, and magazines. Their readers were primarily the elites—those who were university educated, urban, and working in government, politics, or education.70 As cinemas spread across the city, elite nationalists' justifications for Philippine sovereignty involved the signs of propriety and social polish that offered evidence of Philippine civilization. Print media became a space where the intermingled discourses of hygiene and cinema suggested a malleable, evolving citizen-consumer, educated in bodily comportment through a combination of advertising and film culture. Consider the following examples.

The year 1922 saw the launch of Liwayway (Dawn), a Tagalog-language entertainment magazine. Two pages from 1929 are fairly typical. One from February 15 (fig. 7, left) offers gossip about Hollywood stars Renée Adorée, John Gilbert, John Barrymore, and Greta Garbo. Beneath their images, an ad for Dr. M. G. Virata declares his expertise in skin diseases and tumors. He can analyze urine, blood, saliva, and feces at his office on the Escolta, home to Manila's department stores and movie theaters (including, five years later, the Capitol Theater). Beside Dr. Virata's announcement sits an image of Bo-Kay talcum powder, which combines perfume and boric acid: it will both scent and disinfect the body. The next ad, for insect repellent Flit, reminds the reader that the body is not the only site that needs to excise pests: Flit promises to rid spaces of flies and mosquitoes.71 In the issue of December 20 (fig. 7, right), the back of the magazine provides a catalogue of doctors and diseases, flanked by Hollywood gossip. Beside a story about Dolores del Río, advertisements for internationally trained doctors list their specialties: birth, the uterus, children, consumption, hemorrhage, asthma, blood, diarrhea, pain, appendicitis, hemorrhoids, sprains, vomiting, conception, stomach, intestines, cough, chest pain, gasping, dizziness, edema, rheumatism, diseases of the brain, nerves, and insanity.72


Left: Liwayway, February 15, 1929, 40; right: Liwayway, December 20, 1929, 62. Images courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.


Left: Liwayway, February 15, 1929, 40; right: Liwayway, December 20, 1929, 62. Images courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.

For the malleable consumer-citizen, the cinema becomes tutelage in the norms of sanitation, beauty, comportment, and health, filtered not only through the film star, but also through a medicalized system of bodily care and maintenance. The innocuous hawking of beauty and hygiene becomes a placeholder for the country's longer histories of colonial power, and the embodied spectator that the magazine addresses is one whose “civilization” is fragile, requiring maintenance to uphold it. The space of the Philippines itself is a challenge to be overcome with pesticides, which aligns with official public health discourse on the specific dangers of the tropics, whose heat elicits both disease and uncivilized behaviors. The body and the space it inhabits become sites to be cleansed.

This attention to sanitary domestic space is also evident in a series of late-1930s advertisements appearing in the “Movie World” section of the Philippines' Sunday Tribune Magazine, an English-language newspaper. Urging readers to invest in domestic plumbing, ads for the United Plumbing Co. counsel movie fans that “today the desirability of a home is judged by the bathroom,” and thus you should “plan your plumbing carefully.” In a showroom space labeled “Bath,” a man in a suit and tie uses a pointer to demonstrate his plumbing wares to a browsing couple (fig. 8, left).73 In another scene in the series, a stylishly coiffed young woman bathes in a porcelain tub. “Hot Days Are Here Again,” the ad announces, inquiring, “Have you adequate bathroom facilities?”74 “A bathroom you can be proud of,” another ad declares, advising, “A modern bathroom is no luxury. It is a necessity for health and convenience, and the cost is surprisingly low.” A couple—the man in a suit, the woman with finger-waved hair—gaze proudly at a well-appointed bathroom (fig. 8, right).75 The women in these scenes resemble the “Modern Girl,” the image of modern femininity that emerged in a range of localized versions across the world alongside global capitalism and commodity advertising.76 At the same time, the Modern Girl is here aligned with sanitary private property, a site of aspiration for bourgeois readers.


Left: “The Movie World” section, Sunday Tribune Magazine, March 6, 1938, 1; right: “The Movie World” section, Sunday Tribune Magazine, March 20, 1938, 29. Images courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.


Left: “The Movie World” section, Sunday Tribune Magazine, March 6, 1938, 1; right: “The Movie World” section, Sunday Tribune Magazine, March 20, 1938, 29. Images courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.

The Sunday Tribune Magazine covered a mixture of local and Hollywood cinema, with particular attention given to the latter. These sparkling, modern bathrooms fit well with the paper's usual collection of images, which presented modes of upward mobility for the discerning consumer. Wristwatches divide time into quantifiable units, pharmaceutical elixirs allow one to enjoy “The Vitality of Youth the Success of Life,” and deodorants prevent embarrassing odors from impeding romance. Coverage of Hollywood stars follows suit, offering a vision of sparkling, modern whiteness. Beneath the headline “Glamour Girl Down on the Farm,” a series of photos show Carole Lombard tending horses and milking cows on her ranch, a vision of fresh-faced, pastoral health (see fig. 8, right).77 In a different vein, starlet Virginia Grey demonstrates correct office posture (fig. 9). Divided into images labeled “right” and “wrong,” the graphic prohibits facial expressions that “denote mental lassitude” and “lounging” positions that appear “slovenly.”78 If manuals of urbanity advised readers to keep their backs straight, their feet together, and their heads still in order to overcome corporeal weakness, then here Catholic rituals of religion have been supplanted with US rituals of gendered, bureaucratic labor, mediated through feminine cinema stardom.


Stardom (Virginia Grey pictured here) mediates cleanliness, health, posture, and office labor in “Correct Office Posture,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, October 30, 1938, 30. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.


Stardom (Virginia Grey pictured here) mediates cleanliness, health, posture, and office labor in “Correct Office Posture,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, October 30, 1938, 30. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.

These didactic visions of modernity achieved through the body parallel elite nationalists' broader campaigns for economic autonomy. Established in 1934, the National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA) brought together Filipino entrepreneurs in a campaign to promote domestic industries.79 Such campaigns included attention to building the national physique through consuming local food products, including domestically grown sugar. A 1937 article titled “Sweet Patriotism” directs readers to “Eat more sugar!” to support the country's sugar industry (fig. 10).80 The image accompanying it resembles an evolutionary chart of sugar consumption, with the first-place figure from Denmark towering above the diminutive, last-place “Filipinas.”


“Sweet Patriotism,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, July 18, 1937, 13. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.


“Sweet Patriotism,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, July 18, 1937, 13. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.

These directives made their way to the domestic film industry. In a title that brings NEPA's “buy local” imperatives to stardom, Filippine Films director Cecilio Joaquin notes that stars must be of “romantic height,” “taller than the average, with a perfect or nearly perfect physique” (fig. 11).81 Started in 1933 through a mixture of US and Filipino investment, Filippine Films brought the US-style studio system to the Philippines, separating production practices, signing stars to exclusive contracts, and creating a publicity department.82 It was an early iteration of the studio system to come, with its mestizo/a stars, the remnants of colonial history.


D. V. Bakilar, “Pick a Star—NEPA Version,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, September 19, 1937, 9. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.


D. V. Bakilar, “Pick a Star—NEPA Version,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, September 19, 1937, 9. Image courtesy Lopez Museum and Library.


As this diverse collection of artifacts suggests, rhetorics of health and hygiene became a point of tension within a progressivist discourse of elite nationalism during the Philippines' transitional period. Occupying the intersection between medicine and consumer culture, this bodily pedagogy resonated uncannily with older forms of corporeal control, evoking a residual colonial order. While conventional historiographies posit a linear evolution of Philippine publics, couched in biological metaphors, this account suggests a more complex pattern in which the teleological discourses of the body that underpinned colonial culture ebbed and receded, encompassing older ways of understanding. While the US colonial enterprise universalized epistemologies of science, medicine, civility, and reason, the images above suggest that these discourses required localized and quotidian practices to take root. Sometimes these forms of body knowledge took shape in formalized educational systems, but other times they became a part of worldly practice—the implicit, material frames of knowledge that shaped everyday life. As a multifaceted assemblage of quotidian practices, cinemagoing was implicated in this discourse. The practice of cinema consumption offered a vital platform for imagining the impending nation-state's ideal, embodied, hygienic citizen-consumer.



Ann Laura Stoler, “Epistemic Politics: Ontologies of Colonial Common Sense,” Philosophical Forum 39, no. 3 (2008): 349–61.


Though this is the common narrative, it is not uncontested. Historian Nick Deocampo posits that the first “Filipino” film was La conquista de Filipinas, made in 1912 by Chinese-mestizo producers. Nick Deocampo, Film: American Influences on Philippine Cinema (Quezon City: Anvil, 2011).


Kristin Thompson, Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market, 1907–1934 (London: BFI, 1985), 45, 144.


See Tani Barlow, “The Modern Girl as Heuristic Device,” in The Modern Girl around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization, ed. Alys Eve Weinbaum et al. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008).


Amanda Lee Albaniel Solomon, “Managing the (Post)colonial: Race, Gender and Sexuality in Literary Texts of the Philippine Commonwealth” (PhD diss., University of California, San Diego, 2011).


Solomon, “Managing the (Post)colonial,” 2.


Christine Balance, “Dahil Sa Iyo: The Performative Power of Imelda's Song,” Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory 20, no. 2 (2010): 119–40; Martin Manalansan, Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila Press, 2006); Rolando Tolentino, National/Transnational: Subject Formation and Media in and on the Philippines (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2001).


Manalansan, Global Divas, 180.


Reynaldo C. Ileto, “The Philippine Revolution of 1896 and U.S. Colonial Education,” in Knowing America's Colony: A Hundred Years from the Philippine War (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Center for Philippine Studies, 1999), 1.


Ileto, “The Philippine Revolution of 1896 and U.S. Colonial Education,” 8. The original publication information is Conrado Benitez, History of the Philippines (Manila: publisher unknown, 1926 and 1954).


Stanley Porteus and Marjorie Babcock, Temperament and Race (Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1926).


Ileto, “The Philippine Revolution of 1896 and U.S. Colonial Education,” 6.


Benitez, History of the Philippines, quoted in Ileto, “The Philippine Revolution of 1896 and U.S. Colonial Education,” 6.


Ileto, “The Philippine Revolution of 1896 and U.S. Colonial Education,” 9.


RKO Radio Pictures Inc., “Congratulations on Your Coming-of-Age,” Filamerican Movie and News, June 1946, 20.


Vicente Rafael, White Love and Other Events in Filipino History (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2000); Bliss Cua Lim, “Sharon's Noranian Turn: Stardom, Embodiment, and Language in Philippine Cinema,” Discourse 31, no. 3 (2009): 318–58. See also José B. Capino's discussion of the “desire for whiteness” in Philippine cinema in Dream Factories of a Former Colony: American Fantasies, Philippine Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010).


Rafael quoted in Lim, “Sharon's Noranian Turn,” 325.


Rafael, White Love and Other Events in Filipino History, 163, 165.


Charles L. Briggs with Clara Mantini-Briggs, Stories in the Time of Cholera: Racial Profiling during a Medical Nightmare (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004), 33.


Bonnie McElhinny, “‘Kissing a Baby Is Not at All Good for Him’: Infant Mortality, Medicine, and Colonial Modernity in the U.S.-Occupied Philippines,” American Anthropologist 107, no. 2 (2005): 183–94.


For more on rituals of intimacy see Julius Bautista with Ma. Mercedes Planta, “The Sacred and the Sanitary: The Colonial Medicalization of the Filipino Body,” in The Body in Asia, ed. Bryan S. Turner and Zheng Yangwen (New York: Berghahn Books, 2009), 147–64.


Bautista and Planta, “The Sacred and the Sanitary,” 154.


Stoler, “Epistemic Politics,” 349.


Bautista and Planta, “The Sacred and the Sanitary,” 152–57.


Soledad S. Reyes, “Urbana at Felisa,” Philippine Studies 47, no. 1 (1999): 16.


Bryan Turner, The Body and Society: Explorations in Social Theory (Newcastle, UK: SAGE, 2008).


Warwick Anderson, Colonial Pathologies: American Tropical Medicine, Race, and Hygiene in the Philippines (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 1–3.


Bautista and Planta, “The Sacred and the Sanitary,” 159, 162.


Elizabeth Grosz, “Bodies/Cities,” in Space, Time and Perversion: Essays on the Politics of Bodies (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 381–82.


Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993); Jose Mario C. Francisco, “People of God, People of the Nation Official Catholic Discourse on Nation and Nationalism,” in “Filipino Catholicism,” special double issue, Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints 62, nos. 3/4 (2014): 341–75.


Francisco, “People of God, People of the Nation Official Catholic Discourse on Nation and Nationalism,” 317.


Francisco, “People of God, People of the Nation Official Catholic Discourse on Nation and Nationalism,” 317.


Resil Mojares, “Catechisms of the Body,” in Waiting for Mariang Makiling: Essays in Philippine Cultural History (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2003), 176–77.


Resil Mojares, “Catechisms of the Body,” 177, 178.


Ian Morley, “Modern Urban Designing in the Philippines, 1898–1916,” Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints 64, no. 1 (2016): 3–42.


The play was originally written in Tagalog and translated in collaboration with Danicar Mariano. Under the direction of Severino Reyes, the Gran Compania de Zarzuela Tagala first performed it in 1918 at the Rizal Theater. It received acclaim and was published in 1920.


Jose Maria Rivera, ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!! (Manila: Imp. Ilagan y Cia., 1920), 6.


Rivera, ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!!, 24.


Rivera, ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!!, 24.


Cristina Evangelista Torres, The Americanization of Manila, 18981921 (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2010), 173.


Rivera, ¡¡¡Cinematografo!!!, 25.


“Sa Sine” [In the Cinema], Pakakak, July 22, 1922, 9. Pakakak was published by the Cristianos Filipinos.


See Clodualdo Del Mundo, Native Resistance: Philippine Cinema and Colonialism, 18981941 (Manila: De La Salle University Press, 1998), 53.


“Old Theaters and New,” Graphic, May 6, 1931, 12.


Rolando Tolentino, “Cityscape: The Capital Infrastructuring and Technologization of Manila,” in Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context, ed. Mark Shiel and Tony Fitzmaurice (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), 164.


Tolentino, “Cityscape,” 164.


Francis A. Gealogo, “Bilibid and Beyond: Race, Body Size, and the Native in Early American Colonial Philippines,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 49, no. 3 (2018): 372–86.


“Bilibid Prison Is One of the Most Successful Institutions of Correction in the World,” Philippine Republic, December 1923, 10–11.


“Metropolitan Theater to Be Largest in P.I.,” School News Review, October 1, 1931, 8.


Literary Song-Movie Magazine, November 1934, 2; Literary Song-Movie Magazine, January 1935, 59.


“Mirrorphonic Latest Sound System Being Installed at Metropolitan,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, August 1, 1937, 23.


“Invest in Art for Profit,” Graphic, January 29, 1930, 13.


“Tutulong Kami,” Liwayway, January 31, 1930, 24, my translation.


For more on these binaries see Ileto, “The Philippine Revolution of 1896 and U.S. Colonial Education,” 1–17.


“Communications,” The Critic, March 23, 1935, 11.


Warwick Anderson and Hans Pols, “Scientific Patriotism: Medical Science and National Self-Fashioning in Southeast Asia,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 54, no. 1 (2012): 93, 103.


Anderson, Colonial Pathologies, 226, 227.


José Policarpio Bantug, A Short History of Medicine in the Philippines during the Spanish Regime, 1565–1898 (Manila: Colegio Médico-Farmacéutico de Filipinas, 1953), 148.


Advertisement, Foto News, November 15, 1937, 14.


Advertisement, Liwayway, February 6, 1925, 33; advertisement, Graphic, September 3, 1927, 32.


Galo B. Ocampo, “Something New in Local Art,” Philippines Free Press, January 12, 1935, 33. Ocampo sees the piece as a hybrid celebration of “Occidental civilizations” and “Oriental culture.” Given the tenor of the mural's portrayal, it is worth noting that the Philippines Free Press was known for its pro-US bias, though it was also a staunch critic of US government corruption. Hector Bryant L. Macale, “The Political Cartoon's Checkered Past,” Philippine Journalism Review 8, no. 6 (December 2002): 35–38.


Galo B. Ocampo, “Mural Painting in the Philippines,” Philippine Magazine 36, no. 10 (October 1939): 409.


See Elmo Gonzaga, “Consuming Capitalist Modernity in the Media Cultures of 1930s and 1960s Manila's Commercial Streets,” Journal of Asian Studies 78, no. 1 (2019): 75–93.


Anne McClintock, “Soft-Soaping Empire: Commodity Racism and Imperial Advertising,” in The Visual Culture Reader, ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff (London: Routledge, 1998), 508.


Sarah Berry, Screen Style: Fashion and Femininity in 1930s Hollywood (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000); Jackie Stacey, Star Gazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship (New York: Routledge, 1994).


Bautista and Planta, “The Sacred and the Sanitary,” 161; Mojares, “Catechisms of the Body.”


Raquel A. G. Reyes, Love, Passion and Patriotism: Sexuality and the Philippine Propaganda Movement, 18821892 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008).


Denise Cruz, Transpacific Femininities: The Making of the Modern Filipina (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012), 78.


Cruz, Transpacific Femininities, 78.


Cruz, Transpacific Femininities, 12.


Liwayway, February 15, 1929, 40.


Liwayway, December 20, 1929, 62.


Sunday Tribune Magazine, March 6, 1938, 1.


Sunday Tribune Magazine, April 3, 1938, 28.


Sunday Tribune Magazine, March 20, 1938, 29.


See Weinbaum et al., The Modern Girl around the World.


Sunday Tribune Magazine, March 20, 1938, 29.


“Correct Office Posture,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, October 30, 1938, 30.


There is little consensus in Philippine studies about the nature of this economic protectionism; see Yusuke Takagi, “Economic Nationalism and Its Legacy,” in Routledge Handbook of the Contemporary Philippines (London: Routledge, 2018), 254–61.


“Sweet Patriotism,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, July 18, 1937, 13.


D. V. Bakilar, “Pick a Star—NEPA Version,” Sunday Tribune Magazine, September 19, 1937, 9.


Michael Gary Hawkins, “Co-producing the Postcolonial: U.S.-Philippine Cinematic Relations, 1946–1986” (PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2008), 80.