The World of Local Animation: 8 Animated Films Made By and For Filipinos

With the recent release of Avid Liongoren’s Hayop Ka! on Netflix last October 29, Filipino animators have once again proven their high caliber and brilliant take in creating animated films. Nevertheless, even before the creation of Hayop Ka!, the animation industry has been active in crafting animated features and short films and molding the skills of aspiring Filipino animators through various animation festivals, workshops, lectures, and research. However, some of these films have been accessible to only a few audiences due to lack of fundings and platforms. So, we create a list of a few animated films that some of you might have probably watched when you were younger to promote the local animation industry in the country. There is no denying that our local animated films and animators deserve to be recognized by many people worldwide. 

1. Adarna: The Mythical Bird (1997)

Recognized as the first full-length Filipino animated movie, the film is an adaptation of the famous local epic book of Ibong Adarna that tells the story of a king with a rare disease that can only be cured by a singing bird. His three sons set out on a journey to capture the magical bird, but the long travel will be tainted with treachery and greed among the three siblings. 

Written and directed by Gerry Garcia, one of the pioneers of Filipino Animation, the animated film featured the voices of famous singers and actors, including Regine Velasquez, Martin Nievera, Boots Anson Roa, Marvin Agustin, and Jolina Magdangal (who gave voice to the magical bird).

Filipino animators took many years to finish the film due to limited funding and animation tools.  

2. Urduja (2008) 

The film was based on a local legend in Pangasinan. It follows the life and struggles of Princess Urduja, a brave warrior of the Tawilisi tribe. She falls in love with Limhang, a Chinese pirate who has escaped from the evil conqueror Wang. The film starred the voices of actors Regine Velasquez, Cesar Montano, Eddie Garcia, Johnny Delgado, and Jay Manalo. 

Created by father and son Mike and Antonio Tuviera, the film is a crash course on Philippine folklore and Indigenous practices. The film was a product of various Filipino animators who used the traditional handwriting style to create a unique photographic-like animation. 

3. Dayo: Sa Mundo ng Elementalia (2008) 

Dayo was the country’s first all-digital full-length animated film. It shows the adventure of a young boy who accidentally thrust into the land of Elementalia while searching for his kidnapped grandparents. The magical land shelters some famous Philippine folklore creatures such as kapre, tikbalang, and aswang. 

The film featured the voices of actors like Nash Aguas, Michael V., Peque Gallaga, and Trina Legaspi. More than 500 animators worked on finishing the film combining the traditional and 3D styles in animation. Dayo was directed by Robert Quilao. 

4. RPG Metanoia (2010) 

Hailed as the first and one of the best Filipino films in 3D animation, this sci-fi animated film revolves around Nico, a timid young boy with a great interest in playing online games. Nico turns into a digital hero whenever he logs into Metanoia, an RPG online game. When the game gets infected with a virus, Nico and his bunch of friends go on a journey to the online world to prevent the virus from spreading, bringing harmful effects to the real world. 

The film was directed by Luis Suarez and one of the entries to the 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival. The film used the voices of Zaijian Jaranilla, Aga Muhlach, Mika dela Cruz, Vhong Navarro, and Eugene Domingo. 

5. Manang Biring (2015) 

Debuted as part of the Cinema One Original Film Fest in 2015, the dark drama-comedy film is about Manang Biring, played by Erlinda Villalobos, an old lady diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer and has only a few months to live. As she has learned to accept her imminent demise, Manang Biring will receive a letter from his daughter abroad announcing her return for Christmas, which will motivate the terminally-ill lady to do everything to prolong her life. 

The film was written and directed by Carl Joseph Papa and is presented in a black-and-white format to perfectly depict the sensitive topics of death, disease, and longing for someone. The film won Best Picture and Best at the 2015 Cinema One Film Fest making Papa one of the directors to hold two Best Pictures Awards in the said festival. 

6. Saving Sally (2016) 

It follows the story of Marty (Enzo Marcos), a young aspiring comic book artist who falls in love with his long-time best friend, Sally (Rhian Ramos), a gadget inventor. A combination of live-action and animated features, this 2018 Metro Manila Film Festival took ten years to finish due to shortage of funds and problems with initial casting and editing works. 

The film was directed by Avid Liongoren and recently added to the catalog of Filipino films on Netflix. It competed in various film festivals, both local and international (including the prestigious Brussels Film Festival), and bagged several awards and nominations. 

7. Paglisan (2018)

This Cinema One animated musical drama film follows a couple’s story as they go through a rough patch trying to save their marriage as one suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and the other one sinks deeper into depression. 

Carl Joseph Papa directed the film. Eula Valdez and Ian Veneracion lend a voice to the married couple. The film won four major awards at the 2018 Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay.   

8. Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story (2020) 

This light, comical, innovative, 2D animal story from the “Saving Sally” creator was recently premiered on Netflix on October 29. It follows the story of Nimfa (Angelica Panganiban), a perfume sales kitty, and her romantic relationship with the “macho mongrel” janitor Roger (Robin Padilla). Nimfa’s love for Roger will be put to the test when she meets Iñigo (Sam Milby), a “bourgeois business dog.” 

The film was produced by Rocketsheep Studio and Spring Films and marked as the first Filipino animated film for adults. 

If you are looking for more Filipino films to watch, you can visit Cinema Centenario’s MOOV.

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