The Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences is the oldest film award-giving body in Asia. It was instituted on May 31, 1953 by a group of writers: Atty. Flavio G. Macaso (who became the first president of FAMAS), future FAMAS president Vicente Generoso, future FAMAS winner Mario Mijares Lopez, Paulo Dizon, Amado Yasoma and Eddie Infante at a meeting at Far Eastern University in Manila. It was a move that would give the Philippines a counterpart of the United States' Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The original name of the Academy was Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of the Philippines; however, the United States' AMPAS protested on the use of its name on a similar organization. Movie legend Jaime de la Rosa suggested the name "fame" for the award; however, movie legend Rosa Rosal insisted that the name of the award should be in Filipino. Thus, "fame" was roughly translated into Filipino as "famas", and the famous acronym FAMAS was formed. To make an Oscar statuette equivalent, Rosa Rosal posed for the easily recognizable and prestigious FAMAS Award of Merit statuette designed by Manuel Barreiro.

             The FAMAS replaced Manila Times Publishing Co.'s Maria Clara Awards as the sole award-giving body in film in the Philippines, which was established in 1950 (see the Maria Clara Awards page to see its history). On its first meeting it has elected the following officers: Atty. Flavio G Macaso, President; Vicente Generoso, Vice-President; Delfin Ferrer Gamboa, Secretary; Lynn Strait, Treasurer; and Vivencio Isaac, Public Relations Officer. Aside from these officers, a Board of Regents (precursor of today's Board of Directors) was also elected. The Board of Regents represented the big studios and production companies of the day. The Regents were Julio Esteban Aguila of Lebran International, Gerardo de Leon of Premiere Productions, Fred Montilla of Sampaguita Pictures, Rosa Rosal of LVN Pictures, as well as representatives of independent production companies such as Ben Perez, Eddie Romero, Ariston Avelino at Pedro Santos. The Board of Regents were the studio's eyes on the new organization. For the next ten years, the Board of Regents would have the unsopken agreement that each of the major FAMAS Awards would go to every one of the major studios, an agreement that would have a profound effect on the 9th FAMAS Awards for the films of 1960.       

           The FAMAS was the sole award-giving body for film in the Philippines from 1952 until 1976, when the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (MPP) formed the Gawad URIAN (FAMAS was also contested by the Manila Film Festival, established in the 1960s, but a film festival cannot be considered as a major award-giving body). From 1952 to 1976, FAMAS alone has awarded the most foremost performers and craftsmen of Filipino films, from screen legend Rosa Rosal to master director Gerardo de Leon. Winning a FAMAS Award became the target obsession for many film craftsmen, for it was, after all, the Philippines' counterpart of the Oscars. The awards itself, then held mostly in the Manila Hotel, was the biggest annual event in the Philippine movie industry.

            In 1960, Sampaguita Pictures and Vera-Perez Productions withdrew their participation from the Academy's Board of Regents out of delicadeza because of complaints from other movie studios about the recent outcome of the 8th FAMAS Awards (1959). LVN Pictures' Biyaya ng Lupa (1959) garnered only two FAMAS Awards including Best Picture while Kamandag (1959), Sampaguita Pictures' offering, garnered 7 awards without winning Best Picture, the most number of FAMAS Awards won by a film to date. In total, Sampaguita Pictures won eight awards that night while LVN Pictures movies won  4 awards, leaving the other big studios empty-handed.

            The other producers have argued that each studio should equally receive the top awards in such a way that if one studio wins Best Picture and/or Best Director, the other major awards like the acting awards should go to the other studios. That year, Sampaguita Pictures productions scooped four of the six major awards (Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress) while LVN Pictures movies picked up two (Best Picture and Best Actress), leaving the other studios empty-handed. Because of the criticism it received and allegations of vote-buying, Dr. Jose Perez, Sampaguita Pictures mogul, decided to return all the FAMAS Awards that it had received that year by placing them up for grabs by the FAMAS in his Vera-Perez Gardens and promptly withdrew from membership in the Board of Regents. Following suit were the other movie studios, which were convinced of allegation of vote-buying by Sampaguita Pictures. However, they did not return their statuettes. FAMAS was about to die, according to some publications, but the astute hand of FAMAS president Gemiliano Pineda saved FAMAS. He abolished the Boad of Regents and invited more members from the film writing circles and the academe, thus giving shape to FAMAS' current member make-up.

             In 1973, the FAMAS was rocked by a terrible scandal. It awarded the first tie in the lead categories in the history of Philippine cinema. Before this, the only recorded tie was in 1968, when Tito Arevalo and Tony Maiquez shared the Best Musical Score honors. The tie was in the Best Actress category, with both Boots Anson-Roa and Vilma Santos sharing the honors. Because a tie in the lead categories was unheard of, the public dissented the vote. Therefore, for the next years, the FAMAS invited film critics to be members of its nominating and awarding committee. These critics left the FAMAS in 1976 to form MPP and subsequently, the Gawad Urian (Urian Award), named after the Tagalog word for gold standard.       

             In 1981, the FAMAS' monicker, "the Philippines' counterpart of the Oscars," was finally rescinded by the government when it established the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) under Executive Order No. 640-A. The FAP was patterned after the AMPAS of the United States. The formation of the FAP almost spelled the last days of FAMAS because according to the FAMAS charter, the FAMAS will continue to hand out awards until the industry becomes "united and mature." The creation of the FAP fulfilled those requirements. Also, there was a dispute on the word "Academy" that was employed by both organizations.  Since the FAP Awards and the FAMAS Awards cannot be named "Academy Awards" at the same time, the FAP Board of Governors then decided to have three options regarding the case with FAMAS, namely 1) to allow FAMAS to continue on with awarding provided that they replace the word "Academy" in FAMAS with the word "Award" (to become "Filipino Award of Movie Arts and Sciences"), 2) for FAMAS to wholly turn over the functions of award-giving to FAP and 3) to co-exist. The resolution asking FAMAS to hold its last awards in 1982 was forwarded by FAMAS Award-winner Joseph Estrada (who was also a proponent of the FAP), to Ros Olgado, the FAMAS President at that time. Olgado appeared in the FAP meeting, and he promised the Board of Governors that FAMAS will turn over its functions to the FAP. He also asked the FAP to allow them to hold its last Academy Awards. In addition to these, FAP also wanted to have a hand in future FAMAS selections. FAMAS agreed, nevertheless, there was an obvious voting rights stalemate as FAP members outnumbered FAMAS members, which led to further re-negotiation. FAMAS then called a general membership meeting and it saved the award-giving body. FAMAS decided that it will not turn over its award-giving rites to FAP and that it will continue as a separate, independent award-giving body.

             On April 27, 1983, the FAP held its 1st Film Academy Awards night at the Manila Film Center while FAMAS went ahead with its 31st Annual Awards in May 28, 1983 at the Film Center. Both organizations retained the word "Academy" in their acronyms.

             In addition, around this time up until the 90s, other award-giving bodies have sprung up over the years: among the most notable are the the Catholic Mass Media Awards of the Catholic Church (in 1978), Star Awards for Movies of the Philippine Movie Press Club in 1985, the Young Critics' Circle Awards of the Film Desk Critics' Circle of the University of the Philippines (in 1990), the Gawad Pasado of the Pampelikulang Samahan ng mga Dalubguro, and recently, the Golden Screen Awards of the Entertainment Press (in 2003).

             In 2002, the FAMAS celebrated its golden jubilee with the longest FAMAS Awards telecast yet. The awards night, which was held at the FAMAS Awards' original home, Manila Hotel, held on graciously and extravagantly from 9 PM to 3 AM.

            In 2003, the FAMAS was rocked by yet another terrible scandal. The Best Actress Award of the 51st FAMAS Awards went to Aleck Bovick for a role in a bold movie, Tampisaw, much to the chagrin of some people in the industry. Many people, including FAMAS winner Amalia Fuentes, felt that FAMAS had killed itself when it gave a FAMAS to Bovick. Others have alleged that Bovick could have paid FAMAS for the Award. In Bovick's speech, she thanked a certain lawyer, which further prompted suspicion within the industry. Nevertheless, FAMAS did its own cleansing. FAMAS President Art Padua restructured the FAMAS by inviting more Palanca Award-winners (Pulitzer Prize of the Philippines) to the Academy and dismissing members who have gone AWOL.      

            On May 6, 2003, due to non-compliance with reportorial requirements, the corporate charter of the FAMAS was revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission. This move of the SEC gave FAMAS three years to wind-up its activities. This move also prohibited the staging of an awards night, which is the major activity of the FAMAS. Nevertheless, under the presidency of Art Padua, the FAMAS was able to stage the 52nd and 53rd FAMAS Awards.

           For the 53rd FAMAS Awards (2004) on June 26, 2005, FAMAS set another trend. It partnered with the Philippines' largest television network, ABS-CBN Channel 2 for the production of the annual awards night. ABS-CBN held the broadcasting rights to the awards night telecast. As a result, the 53rd FAMAS Awards became the first awards night in the Philippines to be telecast all over the world, since ABS-CBN also aired the awards through one of its international satellite stations, Pinoy Central TV.

           In 2004, fifteen new members of the FAMAS were allowed by FAMAS president Art Padua to vote on the annual elections. This was questioned by some members of the FAMAS, some of which are lifetime members of the corporation, who then walked out of the election. FAMAS president Art Padua considered this as a resignation from the corporation, which sparked further unrest in the corporation.

           On June 25, 2005, Col. Jimmy Tiu was elected unanimously by 34 of the 53 members of the FAMAS. Nevertheless, Art Padua did not acknowledge the results of the voting, and he considered the elected officers as the "FAMAS breakaway group" and resigned from the Academy. This leadership crisis would have a tremendous effect on the 54th FAMAS Awards.                   

               In April 2006, the FAMAS, as represented by Art Padua, released the Official Nominees and on the next months had released the date and venue of the awards. On July 15, 2006, the day of the set awards night, a 72-hour temporary restraining order was issued by Judge Felixberto Olalia of Manila against Art Padua and his set of officers from holding the 54th FAMAS Awards night. The ruling favored Col. Jimmy Tiu, whose group Art Padua called as the breakaway group. The order was issued because, as presented by Col. Tiu, FAMAS ceased to exist as an registered organization of the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 26, 2003. As a SEC non-registered organization, all the FAMAS could do was to hold "winding-up activities" which does not include an awards night. This led to the postponement of the 54th FAMAS Awards night.

               In order to go around the SEC restriction of holding the FAMAS Awards, the FAMAS headed by Tiu decided to resurrect the Maria Clara Awards in order to continue the long legacy of the still-belaguered FAMAS and to continue awarding Filipino motion picture excellence. In holding the Maria Claras instead of the FAMAS, the FAMAS indeed does not hold its primary and only function, which is the holding of an awards night, which is not therefore a violation of the SEC ruling. The Maria Clara Awards were held on October 13, 2006 in a simple and humble event at Golden Fortune Restaurant in Manila. In retrospect, the FAMAS would not be awarded until the leadership crisis and the registration revocation issues of the corporation are not resolved.

               Nevertheless, the group of Art Padua still held the 54th FAMAS Awards on November 12, 2006 at the Main Hall of the National Broadcasting Network, despite the SEC ruling against holding the organization's main function, which is holding the awards night. The awards night set a trend because it is the first awards night in Philippine history to be shown as a feature of another TV program (Pilipinas, Ngayon Na of Channel 4) instead of being a television special.

               In 2007, just right before the 55th FAMAS Awards, the Supreme Court of the Philippines finally resolved the leadership crisis of FAMAS and handed the leadership to Art Padua, who is currently the longest-reigning president in the history of the Academy. An appeal to the Court of Appeals by Col. Tiu is still pending though.

Manila Bulletin
Rolfie Velasco (1st Film Academy Awards Souvenir Program)
CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Vol. VIII