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Mario O'Hara


Mario O'Hara

Mario O'Hara
Born Mario Herrero O'Hara
(1946-04-20)April 20, 1946
Zamboanga City, Zamboanga
Died June 26, 2012(2012-06-26) (aged 66)
Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Occupation Film director, actor, screenwriter, theater director, playwright, radio announcer
Years active 1963–2012

Mario Herrero O'Hara[1] (April 20, 1946[2] – June 26, 2012) was an award-winning Filipino film director, film producer and screenwriter known for his sense of realism often with dark but realistic social messages.[3]

Early life

He was born in Zamboanga City on April 20, 1946. His mother was Basilisa Herrero, who has Spanish lineage and hails from Ozamis Oriental. His father Jaime O'Hara was the son of Irish-American Thomasite; Jaime was a member of the UP Dramatic club. Mario had eight brothers and three sisters. Because Jaime was the son of an American citizen, Mario's family was eligible to apply for US citizenship; however, Mario rejected any such offers.[1]

Originally from Zamboanga City, the O'Haras moved to a middle-class community in Pasay City; behind their house was a slum area, and Mario claimed that some of his works were inspired by real-life incidents that happened in this area. He took up Chemical Engineering at the Adamson University but at the same time also auditioned for a radio show sponsored by Procter and Gamble. In 1963, at the age of 17, Mario stopped attending classes to focus on his work in radio drama with the Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC) and DZRH.



From 1963 to 1970, besides working at radio stations, he also worked for channels 2 and 11. He directed the drama series "Lovingly Yours, Helen", "Flordeluna" (featuring Janice de Belen) and "Alitaptap sa Gabing Madilim."

While at the MBC, he met Lino Brocka, who offered him a job as an announcer for his TV drama anthology Balintataw. Since then, O'Hara and Brocka frequently collaborated. Brocka offered O'Hara a role in his 1971 film Tubog sa Ginto ("Goldplated) and also casted him in dramatic productions at the Philippine Educational Theater Alliance (PETA). O'Hara, in turn, wrote the screenplay for Brocka's You Were Judged and Found Wanting (Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, 1974), about life in a small provincial town; in the movie, he also played the role of Bertong Ketongin (Berto the Leper) vis-a-vis Lolita Rodriguez, who played Berto's love interest Koala.

He wrote a teleplay which became the basis for Brocka's Insiang (1976), which is about a woman who was raped by her stepfather. O'Hara claimed that the script was inspired by a real story which happened in the slum behind their backyard. The film later went on to be screened at the Director's Fortnight, the first time that a Filipino film was accorded such honor at the Cannes Film Festival.

On the same year, he directed Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Godless Years), considered as O'Hara's masterpiece, which starred Nora Aunor; the movie was the first of many other collaborations O'Hara and Aunor had. The movie earned O'Hara his first nomination (for Best Director) at the FAMAS Awards.

From 1976 to 1980, he directed Alma Moreno's weekly TV drama anthology "Alindog", and Rosa Rosal's Weekly TV drama anthology "Ulila" for BBC Channel 2.

In 1978, he wrote the screenplay for Lino Brocka's Rubia Servos. This led to the first award in his film career (Best Screenplay at the Metro Manila Film Festival).


During the 1980s, O'Hara collaborated anew with Nora Aunor: Kastilyong Buhangin ("Castle of Sand", 1981), featuring Lito Lapid; Bakit Bughaw ang Langit? ("Why is the sky blue?", 1981), which gave O'Hara a FAMAS nomination for Best Director ; and Condemned (1984). For Bulaklak sa City Jail (Flowers of City Jail, 1984), both O'Hara and Aunor garnered wins at the Metro Manila Film Festival (for Best Director and Best Actress, respectively); nominations at the Gawad Urian; and a nomination for O'Hara and a win for Aunor at the FAMAS Awards.

In 1986, after the first EDSA Revolution, he filmed Bagong Hari ("New King") starring Dan Alvaro. The film was censored by the MTRCB and enjoyed a limited run in the theaters after an appeal with the MTRCB was overturned.


Under the auspices of Lily Monteverde and her pito-pito system (lit. "seven-seven") (wherein a filmmaker is given a modest budget to shoot a film in 7 days and complete 7 days of post-production, hence the name "pito-pito"), O'Hara created two films in just single span of the allowed time.

The first pito-pito was the drama Babae sa Bubungang Lata featuring veteran actress Anita Linda and set at the Manila North Cemetery.

The second one was the historical fantasy fiction Sisa. It is loosely based on the life of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal and the Sisa, a character in Rizal's novel Noli Me Tangere; in the movie, both Rizal and Sisa met and shared scenes.


O'Hara's 2004 film Babae sa Breakwater addressed issues of poverty in Manila and was met with some considerable success.

in 2010, he filmed Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio (The Trial of Andres Bonifacio), which entered the Director's Showcase category of the Cinemalaya film festival. It was his last movie.[4]

In 2011, he worked with Nora Aunor on the mini-series Sa Ngalan ng Ina (In the Name of the Mother) for TV5.[5]

When not doing films, he wrote, directed and acted in a number of plays. He has collaborated with the Tanghalang Pilipino and Philippine Educational Theater Alliance theater groups.[4] He was supervising the production of his play "Stageshow", which is scheduled on October 2012, up until he was confined in the hospital until his death.[2]


He was admitted at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Pasay City, Philippines on 15 June 2012, to seek treatment for leukemia.[5] Because of his religious beliefs, he refused to have a blood transfusion, but relented on undergoing chemotherapy.[6]

He succumbed to the disease eleven days later, on 26 June 2012, at age 68.[7]


NB: Official English titles (if available) are under "Title"; literal translations are under "Notes"

Year Film Functioned as Notes
Director Writer Actor
2012 Sa Ngalan ng Ina
(TV series)
Yes Translation: "In the name of the mother". Co-directed with Jon Red
2010 Ang paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio Yes Yes Translation: "The Trial of Andres Bonifacio"
Presented at the 2010 Cinemalaya Film Festival - Directors' Showcase
2003 Babae sa Breakwater
(Woman at the Breakwater)
Yes Yes Cinemanila International Film Festival - Best Director (nominated)
Gawad Urian - Best Direction and Best Screenplay (nominated)
Young Critics' Circle - Best Screenplay (nominated)
2000 Pangarap ng Puso
Yes Yes Translation: "the dream of the heart"
Co-written with Red de Castro and Rosario Cruz Lucero. Uses poems by Amado Hernandez, Florentino Collantes and Denise O'Hara
1999 Sindak Yes Translation: "Terror"
1999 Sisa Yes Yes Based on the character in Jose Rizal's novel Noli me Tangere.
Young Critics Circle - Best Direction (won), Best Screenplay (won)
1998 Babae sa Bubungang Lata
(Woman on a Tin Roof)
Yes Yes adapted from a play by Agapito Joaquin
1997 Manananggal in Manila Yes "Manananggal" refers to a winged vampire-like mythical creature in Philippine folklore (usually a woman) whose body separates from the lower trunk
1997 Mama Dito sa Aking Puso
(Mother in My Heart)
Yes Directed by Frank Rivera
1994 Fatima Buen Story Yes Gawad Urian - Best Director (won)
1994 Johnny Tinoso and the Proud Beauty Yes
1989 Gabriela Yes As Ador
1987 Tatlong Ina, Isang Anak
(Three Mothers, One Child)
Yes Yes co-written with Frank Garcia
1987 Takot Ako, Eh! Yes Yes Translation: "I'm afraid, eh!"
Co-written with Tito Rey
1987 Prinsesang Gusgusin Yes Translation: "Scruffy Princess"
1986 Halimaw
(segment "Halimaw sa Banga")
Yes Yes As "Abe"
Other segments directed by Christopher de Leon
Metro Manila Film Festival - Best Director (won)
Main title means "monster", while the segment title translates to "monster in the big jar"
1986 Bagong Hari Yes Translation: "New King" Gawad Urian - Best Direction (nominated)
1985 Bed Sins Yes
1984 Bulaklak sa City Jail Yes Translation: "The Flower in City Jail"
FAMAS Awards - Best Director (nominated)
Gawad Uwian - Best Director (nominated)
Metro Manila Film Festival - Best Director (won)
1984 Condemned Yes Yes co-written with Jose Javier Reyes
1984 Ibulong Mo sa Puso Yes Translation: Whisper to the Heart
1983 To Mama with Love Yes
1983 Uhaw sa Pag-ibig Yes Translation "thirst/thirsty for love"
1981 Gaano Kita Kamahal Yes Translation: How much do I love you
1981 Bakit Bughaw ang Langit? Yes Yes Translation: "Why is the sky blue"?
Co-written with Lydia Collantes Villegas and Greg Tadeo
FAMAS Awards - Best Director (nominated)
1980 Kastilyong Buhangin Yes Yes Translation: "Sandcastles"
1980 Kasal? Yes Translation: "Wedding?"
Directed by Laurice Guillen
1979 Marcelino pan y vino
(TV movie)
1978 Rubia Servios Yes Directed by Lino Brocka
Metro Manila Film Festival - Best Screenplay (won)
1978 Gumising Ka, Maruja Yes Translation: "Wake up, Maruja"
As Freddie
Directed by Lino Brocka
1977 Hayop sa Hayop Yes Translation: "An animal for an animal"
Directed by Lino Brocka
1977 Mga Bilanggong Birhen Yes Yes Translation: Virgin Prisoners"
Co-directed with Romy Suzara
1977 Tahan na, Empoy, Tahan Yes Translation: "Be still, Empoy, be still"
Directed by Lino Brocka
1975 Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag
(Manila in the Claws of Neon)
Yes Title literally means "Manila in the Claws of Light"
Directed by Lino Brocka. Based on the novel by Edgardo Reyes.
1976 Tatlong Taóng Walang Diyos
(Three Godless Years)
Yes Yes Can also be translated as "Three Years Without God"
FAMAS Awards - Best Director (nominated)
NB: accent placed on the "o" in "Taong" because there is a similar Tagalog word (with a different accent) which means "person/human being" (táo/táong)
1976 Insiang Yes As "Berto the Leper". Directed by Lino Brocka. Co-written with Lamberto E. Aquino
1976 Mortal Yes Yes
1974 Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang
(You Are Weighed But Found Wanting)
Yes Yes As Berto the Leper (Bertong Ketongin)
Directed by and co-written with Lino Brocka
1974 Tatlo Dalawa Isa Yes Yes Translation: "Three, Two One"
Acting as Miguelito in the "Bukas, Madilim Bukas" (Tomorrow, It's Dark Tomorrow) segment
Directed by Lino Brocka
1971 Lumuha Pati Mga Anghel Yes Translation: "Even Angels Cried"
Directed by Lino Brocka
1971 Cadena de Amor Yes Directed by Lino Brocka
1971 Tubog sa Ginto Yes Translation: "Goldplated"
As Diego
Directed by Lino Brocka
1971 Stardoom Yes As Emong Perez. Directed by Lino Brocka
1970 Santiago Yes As "Diego". Directed by Lino Brocka

Awards and Nominations

  • Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival
    • 2010 - Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio - Best Director (nominated)
  • Cinemanila International Film Festival
    • 2004 - Netpac Award (awarded)- For a lifetime of achievement and dedication to the advancement of Philippine films, which are lauded and appreciated by film audiences around the world.
    • 2004 - Babae sa Breakwater - Lino Brocka Award/Best Director (nominated)
    • 2000 - Lifetime Achievement Award (awarded)
  • Cinema One Digital Film Festival (Cinema One Originals)
    • 2011 - Honorary Awardees for Pioneering Efforts in Independent Cinema[8][9]
  • FAMAS Awards
    • 1985 - Bulaklak ng City Jail - Best Director (nominated)
    • 1982 - Bakit bughaw ang langit? - Best Director (nominated)
    • 1979 - Gumising Ka, Maruja - Best Supporting Actor (nominated)
    • 1977 - Tatlong taong walang Diyos - Best Director (nominated)
    • 1975 - Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang - Best Supporting Actor (nominated)
    • 1972 - Stardoom - Best Supporting Actor (nominated)
    • 1971 - Tubog sa Ginto - Best Supporting Actor (nominated)
  • Gawad Urian Awards
    • 2011 - Babae sa Breakwater - Dekada Award: Best Film of the Decade (Natatanging Pelikula ng Dekada) (won)
    • 2004- Babae sa Breakwater - Best Direction (Pinakamahusay na Direksyon) (nominated)
    • 2004 - Babae sa Breakwater - Best Screenplay (Pinakamahusay na Dulang Pampelikula) (nominated)
    • 1995 - Fatima Buen Story - Best Direction (Pinakamahusay na Direksyon) (won)
    • 1987 - Bagong Hari - Best Direction (Pinakamahusay na Direksyon) (nominated)
    • 1985 - Bulaklak ng City Jail - Best Direction (Pinakamahusay na Direksyon) (nominated)
    • 1977 - Insiang - Best Screenplay (Pinakamahusay na Dulang Pampelikula) (nominated with Lamberto E. Antonio)
  • Golden Screen Awards, Philippines
    • 2006 - Gawad Lino Brocka Award (won)
  • Metro Manila Film Festival
    • 1986 - Halimaw - Best Director (won)
    • 1984 - Bulaklak ng City Jail - Best Director (won)
    • 1978 - Rubia Servios - Best Screenplay (won)
  • Young Critics Circle, Philippines
    • 2004 - Babae sa Breakwater - Best Film (won)
    • 2004 - Babae sa Breakwater - Best Screenplay (won)
    • 2000 - Sisa - Best Film (won)
    • 2000 - Sisa - Best Screenplay (won)
    • 1999 - Babae sa Bubungang Lata - Best Film (nominated
    • 1999 - Babae sa Bubungang Lata - Best Screenplay (nominated)


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Senses of cinema
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