1985-1986 Natatanging Gawad Urian


Agustin Sotto

In the shaky transition from silent to sound films, not a few actresses owed the continuation of their career to William Smith, the first Filipino sound recording engineer. Among those hastily rejected by studio bosses were Mary Walter and Rosa del Rosario whose voices had to be recorded with filters ingeniously devised by William Smith.

William “Bill” Smith was born of a Thomasite father and a Filipina mother on February 12, 1913 in Echague, Isabela. At an early age, he showed brilliance as an electrical engineer and, while still in his teens, was employed by Lyric Film Exchange to install sound equipment in theaters not only here in the Philippines but also in Indonesia In 1931, he worked for a year as sound recording engineer on George Musser’s Ang Aswang, the first accredited local sound film. He set up the sound booth and laboratory at the Musser residence in Pandacan where the studio, Manila Talkatone, still stands. In 1934, he worked with Directors Manuel Silos and Carlos Vander Tolosa at Filippine Films. The American entrepreneurs, Eddie Tait and George Harris, were so impressed with the local crew that they sent back home the American technicians commissioned to improve filmmaking in the country.

In 1935, he worked at Parlatone Hispano-Filipino when it was first incorporated. Among his achievements there as head of the studio’s sound department was the crisp recording of the film coverage of the Commonwealth rites. In 1937, along with Luis Nolasco, he chose the location of Sampaguita studios in Gilmore for the rolling terrain and the area’s noise proof qualities. For Sampaguita, he set up the first Reeves black and white laboratory and developed its first optical sound equipment which was functioning up to 1970. It was for this reason that the pre-war Sampaguita films bore the credit: Recorded by Smith Sound System.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, he helped establish the sound studios of Excelsior. During the war, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and supervised the supply and servicing of army communications equipment. He was captured by the Japanese and detained in three of Manila’s most dreaded Kempeitai garrisons, starting with Fort Santiago. He was eventually released to work on the sound recording of Gerardo de Leon’s Tatlong Maria (1944).

After the war, he produced the first Filipino film in color, Si Malakas at si Maganda (1947), starring Rosa del Rosario, Violeta del Campo and Tony Benroy. The movie was shot in Hollywood, using 16mm Kodachrome (color reversal), which was later blown up to 35mm in Ansco color for theatrical release. He had to maintain a balance of color temperature and exposure in the film’s entirety in order for it to be blown up with only one light and one filter change. The technique was at the time, considered an achievement by International Photographer and subsequently adapted by Walt Disney for his African wildlife series.

In 1949, he supervised the filming and processing of LVN’s Batalyon XIII, the first 35mm local film shot in color. The processing, however, was undertaken in Hollywood. In 1951, he personally set up LVN’s color lab, the first of its kind in the country, and processed films like David at Goliath, Prinsipe Amante sa Rubitanya and Amor Mio. In 1952, he adapted the negative-positive processing for Rodrigo de Villa.

Also in the early fifties, he established Smith Sound Systems Laboratories which pioneered in the reduction of 35mm films to 16mm. In 1956, he popularized magnetic film recording.

Bill Smith has helped train many veteran soundmen, cinematographers, editors and labmen — among them, Julio P. Hidalgo. It is for such achievements that he has earned the respect and gratitude of the film industry and occupies a revered place in its history.


Bago masimulang pag-usapan ang isang pelikula bilang likhang-sining, kailangan itong makapasa muna bilang likhang-teknolohiya. Walang sining ng pelikula, samakatwid, kung wala ang mga inhinyero at teknolohista sa laboratoryo.

Tagapagpauna sa paglalapat ng tunog at sa paggawa ng pelikulang maykulay si William “Bill” Smith. Sa paglalapat ng tunog, siya ang naging sound engineer ng unang pelikula ng talkies sa Pilipinas, na “Ang Aswang” (1932) ni George P. Musser. Siya rin ang nagbuo para sa Sampaguita Studio ng unang kagamitan para sa optical sound, na kinilala sa tawag na Smith Sound System. Sa larangan ng pelikulang maykulay, si Smith ang lumikha ng mga unang pelikulang may-kulay, ang “Si Malakas at si Maganda” (1947) at “Batalyon II” (1949). Siya ang nagtayo ng unang laboratoryo para sa pelikulang may-kulay, ang LVN Laboratories. Kanya ring ambag ang pagtatayo ng unang laboratoryong Reeves para sa pelikulang black-and-white sa Sampaguita Studios, at ang paglilipat ng pelikulang 35 mm sa 16 mm, na isinagawa ng Smith Sound Systems Laboratory.

Bilang pagkilala sa kanyang naging ambag sa pagpapa-unlad ng teknolohiya ng pelikulang Filipino, karangalan ng Manunuri ng Pelikulang Filipino na ipagkaloob kay William “Bill” Smith ang Natatanging Gawad Urian ng taong 1984.


The haunting aria of Sisa in Noli Me Tangere, the plaintive song of Dyesebel, the playful children’s chorus of Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo, the romantic “Irog, Ako ang Mahalin” from Pedro Penduko, the effusive “Ikaw ang Mahal Ko” from Paltik, the dramatic musical score of El Filibustismo: these are some of the most memorable music ever written for Filipino movies.

The composer is Tito Arevalo, scion of the famous Ilagan clan sarswelistas. Born Eustacio Ylagan in Manila on March 29, 1911, Arevalo (his mother’s maiden name) was introduced early to composing by his father, Hermogenes Ilagan, who is known as the father of the sarzuela. He would hear his father hum the melodies he was composing in his study. Early in his youth, he appeared as part of the chorus in his father’s sarzuela, most notably Dalagang Bukid. Along with his brother, Gerardo de Leon, he played the piano as accompaniment to silent movies. This later proved helpful to his career as he was continuously improvising melodies for the action on the big screen.

As show business was then considered only as a sideline by the Ilagan clan, Arevalo decided to study law. He passed the bar in 1938. As a student, he appeared as bit player in movies like Ang Dangal. He graduated into lead roles with Ama’tAnak, Gerry de Leon’s second feature, and Joaquin Pardo de Tavera’s Ang Tiktik. Also during this time, he worked as a musician in many of Escolta’s top niteclubs.

Arevalo joined the National Bureau of Investigation as a lawyer when Joaquin Pardo de Tavera founded the agency before the war. During the war, the Japanese abolished the office and he found himself composing music for many of the stage shows popular at that time.
His first efforts at musical scoring were with films of his brother — Estrellita and Panambitan. He also composed the theme of Parlatone’s first picture, Diwata ng Karagatan.

After the war, he was lured away from his NBI job by Fernando Poe, Sr. He scored many of Royal Productions’ presentations: Aawitan Kita, Lola Basiang, Sanggano, Kasalanan Kaya? He also acted in several films but found the job tiresome. By the middle fifties, he concentrated on musical scoring.

Tito Arevalo worked for many companies: Sampaguita, Premiere Productions, Everlasting, PMP Productions, Tamaraw. Among his outstanding efforts are Diego Silang (for which he won the 1951 Maria Clara award), Buhay Alamang, Huwag Mo Akong Limutin (Famas’60),Apat na Kasaysayang Ginto, Day of the Trumpet, Daigdig ng mga Api.

He also broke new ground. In Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo, the folk song frames the action of the movie. His songs are never intrusive but are subtly woven into the scene. In the early sixties, he experimented with dissonance for action films.

Along with such leading scorers of his generation as Constancio de Guzman, Santiago Suarez and Miguel Velarde, to name a few, Arevalo formally broke away from the tradition of using available canned music. Like his contemporaries, he started composing new songs, writing orchestration and creating musical scores for the movies. He became one of the leading figures of his time as he began to approach music as an essential element of the artistic film; composing an appropriate theme and using music as an integral part of the entire film. Arevalo has always believed that music should be effectively cued at the right time and at the right moment in the film. Arevalo has endeared himself to the movie industry, especially to the more progressive-minded filmmakers of his time, for having experimented with music as an integral part of the action or narrative. His is a legacy of musical scores which are appropriate to the theme and genre, as well as with the various requirements of the film. He developed in the process film music that has become an indispensable part of the entire picture.

Presently, Arevalo continues to fulfill his duties as a member of good standing of the Film Music Directors’ Guild and as Director of the Filipino Composers and Publishers, an organization he helped establish many years ago, which is now affiliated with leading international groups and has helped constantly raise local standard of music writing and scoring.

He has won the FAMAS award for best musical scoring several times, in Noli Me Tangere (19 61), El Filibusterismo (1962), Lilet,(1971) and the Asian Film-fest award for Igorota. It is with pride and distinction that the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Filipino has conferred on Tito Arevalo the Natatanging Gawad Urian for his achievements and contributions as a musical scorer in the Filipino film.”

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