Metro Manila Film Festival

Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) is a film fest in Metro Manila, Philippines every December 25. It is the biggest and most popular film tilt in the country, drawing audiences and earning revenue of up to 1 billion pesos. Its schedule opens on Christmas Day, December 25, until January 7 of the following year.

History of Metro Manila Film Festival

Prior to Metro Manila Film Festival, it was preceded by Manila Film Festival organized by Mayor Antonio Villegas starting in 1966. Its primary goal was to allot a specific period during the year where Manila cinemas screened Filipino films. Villegas also began the rite of playing the national anthem before each screening as a way to inculcate patriotism. At that time, foreign films were shown in major theaters while those that were produced locally were relegated to the so-called “second-tier” screens. It was a twelve-day event, spanning from June 12 to June 24. Its schedule was book-ended by major holidays: Independence Day in the 12th of June and the founding date of Manila in the 24th of January.

In 1973, it was halted with the proclamation of martial law by Ferdinand Marcos in the entire country in the previous year. In 1974, Imelda Marcos led the organization of Metro Manila Film Festival and it was held in September 1975 under the banner “1975 Metropolitan Film Festival.” In its launching year, Diligin Mo ng Hamog ang Uhaw na Lupa directed by Augusto Buenaventura won Best Picture. It was changed to Metro Manila Film Festival in 1977.

According to Philippine Collegian, it commemorated the third anniversary of martial law while an article by PEP.PH stated it was simultaneously conducted with the birthday of Ferdinand Marcos. The first MMFF was led by Mel Lopez, then the President Pro-Tempore of the City of Manila. According to Joseph Estrada, the schedule was moved to December because September was considered a “lean” month.

The festival became an annual Filipino film competition organized through Metro Manila Commission Executive Order No. 86-09 and Presidential Proclamation Nos. 1459, 1485, 1533, 1533-A and 1647. It aims to stimulate the domestic film industry, to encourage Filipino filmmakers to create cinematic works of arts, and to motivate audience to watch films in theaters as a way to support and patronize Filipino films. Entries are shown during Christmas season and lasts for two weeks from December 25 to January 7. Within this period, only films that are entries of the fest are allowed to be shown in movie theaters nationwide.

Its organizing committee is composed of the chair of the Metro Manila Development Authority (composed of 17 cities and municipality in Metro Manila) and select members of the film industry. The income that is generated in the fest is channeled to fund a few institutions such as the Film Academy of the Philippines, Film Development Council of the Philippines, Motion Picture Anti-Film Piracy Council, Movie Workers Welfare Foundation (Mowel Fund), and Optical Media Board. In 1984, a special award called Gatpunong Antonio J. Villegas Cultural Awards was instituted as a tribute to the founder of the festival who died a year earlier and as a recognition of films considered to be beacon of Filipino pride.

Critics said that the fest saw some of the best films in the Philippines in what was called the second golden age in the country’s cinema from 1970s to 1979. In the turn of the century however, films that were considered to have better chances in earning in box office became the norm. The criteria for judging was also revised, incorporating ‘commercial viability’ (that is box office performance based on revenue) into the rubric. In 2010, commercial viability was scrapped.

In 2020, the fest moved online in streaming film entries due to COVID-19 threats. Screening in movie theaters resumed in 2021.

New Wave

In 2010, five films that were considered independent cinema were screened at Robinson’s Theater. They were not included in the list of official entries entitled to receive prizes during the awards night, and they were shown as part of the kick-off activities before the official opening of the festival. By the following year, in 2011, indie films (as they were called) were officially labeled “New Wave” and they became part of the festival within the term of Atty. Francis Tolentino who was the MMDA chair. In 2012, the Student Short Film Category was launched.

In 2016, the New Wave category was axed and that entries will no longer be subjected to categories of ‘indie films’ or otherwise.

Most Gender-Sensitive Film Award

Most Gender-Sensitive Film Award began being handed out in 2003. It was an initiative by the Quezon City Gender and Development Resource Coordinating Office. The award aims to give recognition to films with thoughtful engagement on themes covering gender, equal rights, and LGBT rights.

Metro Manila Film Festival Activities

Parade of Stars

Parade of Stars is the day dedicated to a parade of floats of the film-entries. Fans often await for actors who star in them to show up in decorative floats; the floats are entries for special award and the best receives prize during the awarding ceremony. It is characterized with road closures along the route of the parade, resulting in traffic jams in the metropolis. On December 19, 2021, the float parade was not conducted in the streets in Manila as was observed in previous years. Instead, it took place in Pasig River and the floats participated in the first-ever fluvial parade in ferries instead of makeshift platforms on moving trucks.

Gabi ng Parangal

Gabi ng Parangal (translates to Awards Night) is an evening program where plum film prizes are given away. Awards are given in the following categories: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Child Performer, Screenplay, Original Story, Cinematography, Production Design, Editing, Visual Effects, Make-up Artist, Original Theme Song, Sound Engineering, Float, and Gender-Sensitive Film. Special Awards include Gatpuno Antonio J. Villegas Cultural Awards, Fernando Po Je. Memorial Award for Excellencce, Special Jury Prize, Peopel’s Choice Awards, Star of the Night Awards, and Children’s Choice Awards.

Previously, a different set of awards were given to New Wave films and Short Films. Awards in Short Films continue to be handed out.

How to reach Metro Manila

The venue for Gabi ng Parangal and route for the annual grand parade are determined by the host city. Nevertheless, one can book an international or domestic flight to Ninoy International Airport and take a cab or bus to the venues.


Metro Manila Film Festival Summary

NameMetro Manila Film Festival
CelebrationArts, Film
DateDecember 25
Duration2 weeks
FounderAntonio J. Villegas
OrganizerMetro Manila Development Authority
Previous NameManila Film Festival