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Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag

Maynila: sa mga Kiko ng Liwanag (also known as Manila in the Claws of Brightness, Manila in the Crip of the Light, Manila in the Claws of Neon, or The Nail of Brightness in foreign countries) is a five time FAMAS award winning 1975 Filipino film directed by renowned director Lino Brocka based on a novel by acclaimed Palanca and Liwayway Magazine award-winning writer Edgardo M. Reyes. It is considered as one of the classics of Filipino cinema.

It stars then-newcomer Bembol Roco and Brocka-relgular Hilda Koronel, followed by a supporting cast of Lou Salvador, Juling Bagabaldo, and Tommy Yap. The movie's cinematography is by Brocka's protegè Mike de Leon (as Miguel de Leon), who later on became a great director himself. The movie also has a spin-off "Bankang Papel sa Dagat ng Apoy" starring action star and future president of the Philippines, Joseph Estrada and written and directed by Maynila's author, Edgardo Reyes.


The film is based on the story Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag written by Edgardo Reyes and serialized in Liwayway Magazine from 1966 to 1967. For each episode or installment, Reyes provides enough incidents - bringing the end of the installment to enough of a conclusion - to satisfy the reader, at the same time keeping enough elements unresolved to entice him back for more. After twenty or more installments full of subplots and side characters exiting or dying or having climactic fits, the reader notices several advantages and disadvantages.


The film was produced with a small budget, considering it to be an independent feature, and was backed up by Mike de Leon's company Cinemanila Corporation. Locations were shot in the actual vicinity of Manila.


Though the story is quite simple, many praise film for its renowned camerawork. Mike de Leon is able to focus angles on the dirty sidewalks, the clogged canals, the noise pollution from the motor vehicles. This is a clear example on how filthy a city like Manila can be.


  • Rafael Roco, Jr. as Julio Madiaga - The male protagonist of the story. He is a 21-year-old who hails from the province. He went to Manila to search for his love, Ligaya.
  • Hilda Koronel as Ligaya Paraiso - The female protagonist of the story and the love-interest of Julio. Unbeknownst to Julio until later on, she happens to work as a prostitute in Ah-Tek's brothel. Her name is literally translated in English as "joyful paradise".
  • Tommy Abuel as Pol - He is Julio's close-friend.
  • Lou Salvador as Atong - Julio's ill-fated friend.
  • Pio de Castro as Imo - Julio's friend.
  • Tommy Yap as Ah-Tek - The main antagonist of the story. He is a wealthy and cruel Chinese-Filipino who owns a brothel. He is keeping Ligaya as hostage.
  • Juling Bagabaldo as Mrs. Cruz - She works for Ah-Tek as the recruiter of the prostitutes.


Many who have seen Maynila have speculated on the symbolism of the characters. For example, some comment that Ligaya Paraiso represents Inang Bayan ("mother country" in English). Her name, literally translated in English as "joyful paradise", is a reference to how a prostitute is considered.

Julio Madiaga is regarded as a symbol of the typical Filipino everyman, living in hard conditions and suffering the pains given by the civilized hell of the city. His surname translated in English means "patience", a trait observed as he looks for Ligaya with hope and possibilities.

Mrs. Cruz is another example. Her surname, "Cruz", simply translates as "cross", a reference to the heavy burden the prostitutes have to bear. The antagonistic Ah-Tek is also considered an example; the character's name is derived from the Filipino word atik which is translated as "money", representing the greed and selfishness of the character.

The city itself is considered to be the main protagonist, not Julio or any of the characters. Plus, the film is presented as a portrait of one man's corruption and downfall.

Critical Reaction

The low-budget film was a breakthrough hit. Many critics around the globe who have seen the film gave it positive reviews. The local audiences found the movie very distinct that it was regarded as "possibly the greatest Filipino film of all time".

Awards and Recognition

The film won Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor at the 1976 FAMAS awards.

It is the only Filipino film that has consistently placed among the world's top 100 films of all time, and the only Filipino film that entered in the list of the book, 1001 Movies You Should See Before You Die.

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