The Famas fiasco is not only about Eva Darren

The Famas fiasco is not only about Eva Darren

It could have been a scene out of a Joseph Mankiewicz, or a Maning Borlaza: For the big night, a long-retired actress spends a fortune to have a gown made and to go to a salon for her hair and makeup. She brings along her grandchildren, never mind if she had to pay a hefty sum, to show them the world of glamour of which she was once a part, to share with them that moment when she would be onstage again: a movie star. 

Sadly, it did not happen. She was not called onstage to present the award she was supposed to; a young, yet unknown, entertainer was called in her stead. They said she could not be located, perhaps lost among the shimmering crowd of bigger and brighter stars. 

What award-winning actress Eva Darren experienced at the 72nd Famas (Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences) Awards Night on May 26 is now a prologue—or a major narrative—in the discourse on the state of the Philippine movie industry. Which is ironic, because two days earlier, the “Eddie Garcia Bill” was signed into law.  The continuing struggle of the film community was eclipsed by the Famas fiasco—a reflection of the state of the industry.


A day after the awards night, Fernando dela Peña, a son of Ms Darren, posted on social media that his mother was not called as a presenter, despite an invite and after paying P5,000 each for her and her three grandchildren’s dinner. 

Immediately, Famas public relations officer Renz Spangler issued an explanation, purportedly from the Famas itself, saying the production team could not locate Ms Darren and thus had to replace her. 

Netizens and showbiz insiders reacted strongly. Nobody was buying the “could not locate” explanation as Ms Darren was seated somewhere near the stage with other veteran actresses. Everyone and his aunt expressed opinions on the matter, blaming the production team, the Famas as an institution, even the young singer who replaced Ms Darren as presenter with Tirso Cruz III.

Frannie Zamora, himself a theater and events director, said everything boiled down to the director of the event. “At the end of the day, the director makes the call. What happened was a bad judgment call,’ Zamora said.

The production company that mounted the award ceremony was barely named early in the exchanges, but showbiz insiders knew it was Philippine Stagers led by Vince Tañada, who was scriptwriter and director of the event, and a presenter of the Best Film Award opposite Charo Santos.

The plot thickens

Philippine Stagers, through its president Johnrey Rivas, posted a long explanation of the circumstances surrounding the controversy, complete with screenshots of exchanges in the Famas group chat. The finger now points to the public relations officer Renz Spangler as the center of miscommunication and miscoordination.  

Spangler—inexplicably a one-time Famas awardee for journalism—invited Ms Darren to be a presenter (and apparently sold her the tickets for P5,000 per plate). Rivas said Spangler did not inform the production team of Ms Darren’s confirmation, and two days before the ceremony, the actress’ name was removed from the list of presenters. There were apparently a few others who begged off to be presenters for various reasons, and were all stricken off the list. 

When the controversy broke out on social media, Spangler issued a statement in the name of Famas. In a separate Facebook post, he said he was out at the lobby receiving guests when the program was ongoing. 

But Rivas said Spangler did not attend the coordination meeting, and left the chat group on the day of the awards ceremony. The PR man did not inform the production team that Ms Darren had arrived. But even if he did, Ms Darren’s name was no longer among the list of presenters. 

“I can believe that,’ said George de Jesus, another events director. ‘It is possible that Vince was not informed because in a live show, different staff members are tasked to move things along in the program.”

Still, De Jesus added: ”Bottom line is, if you are the organizer and director of the show, anything and everything that happens is under your command responsibility.”

Beyond the faux pas, there were questions on the unknown hosts and presenters, many if not all of them talents of Philippine Stagers, a theater company that also produced the movie “Katips.” The film received mixed reactions when it was screened in 2021 but it won six major Famas awards, including best actor and best director for Tañada, best supporting actor for Rivas, and best cinematography. Philippine Stagers also handled the production of the Famas awards night that year, prompting questions when other films like “Kun Maupay Man It Panahon,” “Big Night,” “A Hard Day” and “Arisaka” were bested. But “Katips” also garnered major citations in the Film Academy of the Philippines’ Luna Awards. 

Rivas defended the roster of presenters and guest entertainers, saying Famas has no big budget to pay. “There’s no producer to shell out money,” Rivas said, so they had to make do with their own talents who were willing to accept a low talent fee or none at all. He said Tañada received no pay. 

Here, De Jesus stands by Philippine Stagers. ‘We may question the aesthetics of Philippine Stagers, but they deliver as producers at least, and are able to mount shows,” he said.


And so it has come to this. The Famas Award, the grand old lady of the Philippine movie industry awards, is once more mired in controversy, its integrity questioned despite the past efforts of the group of Ricky Lee and Paolo Villaluna to revive its relevance and honor. 

At a time when award-giving bodies are a dime a dozen, the Famas Award is now simply one of them, no longer the most coveted.

Aktor, League of Filipino Actors, issued a statement on the fiasco: “Now, more than ever, it is crucial to safeguard and honor the Filipino film industry, restoring both respect and authenticity to its events.”

Read more: New chair of film council to lead ‘Parangal ng Sining’

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