Fragility, Perseverance, and Survival in State-Run Philippine Archives


This article considers the consequences of the 2004 dissolution of the Philippine Information Agency’s Motion Picture Division (PIA-MPD) on three key collections entrusted to it: films from the National Media Production Center; from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (themselves remnants of the previous archival collapse of the Film Archives of the Philippines in 1986); and lastly, a number of films produced by LVN Pictures, a studio founded in 1938. Using approaches from cultural policy, archival theory, feminist epistemology, and postcolonial historiography, the essay draws on an array of sources—archival films, legislative records, PIA documents, oral history interviews, and personal papers from members of the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film and the South East Asia Pacific Audio Visual Archives Association. The aftermath of the PIA-MPD’s abolition underscores the drawbacks of a narrowly profit-driven perspective on state film archiving that devalued analog cinema in relation to digital media while also ignoring the unique demands of audiovisual (AV) archiving by conflating it with paper-based librarianship. This study affirms the Filipino AV archive advocacy’s repeated calls for legislation to safeguard the institutional continuity and autonomy of Philippine film archives from the vagaries of political whim. Reflecting on the archivist-activists who endured the decline of various state-run film collections, the article concludes by conceptualizing archival survival as not only involving the material preservation of analog or digital AV carriers but as also entailing exhaustion and persistence on the part of archivists who persevere in institutional conditions they work to change.