10 Notable Movies We Almost Didn't See Because of the MTRCB

The government agency has censored a lot of films.

PHOTO Stills/The Da Vinci Code ILLUSTRATION War Espejo

(SPOT.ph) The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board drew flak on September 3 after the government agency told the senate that they want to "regulate" streaming platforms like Netflix. "Just because sa Internet siya pinalabas, hindi na siya covered ng MTRCB law," legal affairs division chief Jonathan Presquito said during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship.

Established in 1985, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) is in charge of classifying and reviewing television programs and movies in the Philippines before they're shown to the public. The government agency collects fees for every show they rate and monitor. The review fee for commercial films is at P12,550, while rate for movies shown in festivals is at P6,100. MTRCB fees for short films cost P850, P8,785 for independent films (after assessment that they're qualified in this category), and P6,275 for restored Filipino films. There are separate fees for use of digital theater, which range from P11,750 (movies in DCP format) to P550 (short films in non-DCP format).


Ratings include G (viewers of all ages are admitted), PG (viewers below 13 years old must be accompanied by an adult), R-13, R-16, and R-18. X-rated films are deemed not suitable for public screening. Right off the bat, movies with nude scenes (even those with tasteful execution, or are essential to the story) wouldn't get a G rating.

These 10 notable films almost weren't shown in the Philippines because of the MTRCB: 

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

It was probably not a surprise that a conservative Catholic country had strong reactions when a fictional film claimed that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene had a relationship. The Philippine Alliance Against Pornography went as far as asking for the help of Pope Benedict XVI to stop the showing of the film in the country. Eventually MTRCB gave The Da Vinci Code an R-18 rating, but it wasn't screened in the city of Manila and all SM Supermalls nationwide.

Orapronobis (1989)

With graphic depictions of cruelty and the military's cold-heartedness during the administration of Corazon Aquino, Orapronobis was banned for commercial exhibition. It stars Phillip Salvador, who played the role of Jimmy Cordero, a priest-turned-underground revolutionary who became a political prisoner during Martial Law. The political masterpiece directed by Lino Brocka and written by Jose Lacaba was later shown at the prestigious 1989 Cannes Film Festival. It was screened during the 2008 Active Vista Film Festival and 2009 Cinemalaya Film Festival, both in Metro Manila.

In a 2013 opinion piece in the Inquirer, Manoling Morato—chairperson of the MTRCB from 1986 to 1992said that he "did not ban Lino Brocka's Orapronobis." He explained that it was the board members who "x-rated" it, and he called for an en banc review. But the Theater Association, according to Morato, was threatened that rightists would bomb theaters should Orapronobis be shown.

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The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

The Clint Eastwood-directed movie received an X-rating from the MTRCB because of a three-second partial nudity scene where Meryl Streep looks at herself in a mirror. "There is pubic hair exposure, which ... is contrary to our good customs and is injurious to the prestige of Filipino women," MTRCB chairperson Henrietta Mendez said in a letter to Warner Bros. Philippines in 1995. "The MTRCB has to take into account the film's artistic value as a whole," Lucas Pasiliao, general manager of Warner Bros. Philippines responded. The film was later shown in an international film festival held in Manila.

The Piano (1993)

The 1993 period drama The Piano about a psychologically mute Scottish woman almost didn't make it to Philippine theaters, probably because of a sex scene. But the decision was reversed in 1994.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Again under the leadership of Morato, Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ was banned for alleged anti-religion themes. The film has several sex and nudity scenes, including breast and pubic hair exposure, full frontal, and Jesus Christ's relationship with Mary Magdalene.

Fisting (2018)

Whammy Alcazaren’s Cinema One entry Fisting: Never Tear Us Apart got in trouble with MTRCB when the word "fisting" appeared in its title and posters. According to the board, promotional materials "have not been submitted to the Board for appropriate review and classification." The production eventually decided to drop the word.

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

Erotic romantic drama film Fifty Shades of Grey received an R-18 rating from the MTRCB in 2015. But it came with a warning from the government agency about  "scenes of nudity, strong and/or sexual language, and sexual aberrational behavior with elements of bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism." Plus noticable blurs and blacked-out portions onscreen.


Serbis (2008)

Serbis, an indie film by Brillante Mendoza that's said to have launched the career of Coco Martin, almost didn't make it to Philippine cinemas after three sex scenes were found to be inappropriate by the MTRCB. It was first screened at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, where it was nominated for the sought-after Palme d'Or. A month later, the board changed the rating from X to R-18 after the director "tamed" the scenes in question.

Ganito Tayo Ngayon, Paano Na Tayo Bukas? (2010)

Part of ABS-CBN's AmBisyon series, Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ganito Tayo Ngayon, Paano Na Tayo Bukas? was given an X-rating twice. MTRCB said that the short film "tends to undermine the faith and confidence of the people in their government and/or the duly-constituted authorities," "defamatory to the good name and reputations of any person," "tends to threaten economic and political stability of the state, and "depicts excretory functions in a patently offensive and demeaning manner." The story follows an actual newspaper issue in January 2010 that headlined President Macapagal Arroyo's achievements. The paper eventually ends up wiping feces from the foot of a cart vendor. It was eventually aired on ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).

Schindler's List (1993)

A few scenes from the American epic historical drama film depicting the atrocities carried out by the Nazis during World War II were asked to be deleted by the MTRCB before it was shown to the Philippine audience. But it wasn't the horror in the depiction of the Holocaust that censors considered offensive. Instead, the deleted clips involve some 30 seconds of a sex scene between Oskar Schindler and a mistress and a couple of shots of a woman's breasts. Steven Spielberg, the movie's director refused, so President Fidel Ramos overruled the board and decided that the uncut film could have an R-16 rating.


Schindler's List is currently on Netflix.

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