Burlesk Queen

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Burlesk Queen is a 1977 drama film directed by Celso Ad Castillo about a poor girl who finds herself working in the world of burlesque performers in order to alleviate her family's poverty. The lead role is masterfully played by Vilma Santos, who sheds her good girl image for the first time in this role.



To support her paralytic father, Chato (Vilma Santos) works as a utility girl at Inday Theater for a burlesque star Virgie Nite (Rosemary Gil). Chato desperately wants to earn money to help her ailing and paralyzed father. When Virgie gets drunk on the night of her scheduled show, Chato pitches in for her, and she becomes an instant sensation. Enthused by the initial acceptance of the audience, she defies her father's admonitions and presents herself to the manager, thus, becoming the new burlesque queen.

The aberrant lifestyle of a burlesque performer leads Chato to a misguided existence. She becomes pregnant and is abandoned by the father of her baby. Desperate for cash, she agrees to appear in a lavish stage show. In front of a screaming male audience, Chato bumps and grinds in a tour de force performance, unaware of the danger to her pregnancy.


There is an urban legend about "Burlesque Queen". The story goes this way:

      Released in 1977, Burlesk Queen gave director Celso Ad Castillo his first   
      critical acclaim. In the Metro Manila Film Festival, it swept all nine   
      artistic awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. However, the jurors' 
      decision caused controversy, and, forced by angry film-industry leaders and   
      members, the festival judges withdrew all awards a few days later.

This is very easy to believe as Burleque Queen competed in an MMFF which showcased the finest directors of the era. Further, it was also very controversial as there was a "confrontation" scene between Brocka and Tinio because of the "landslide" victory of Burlesque. With all the "issues" surrounding the awards, there were rumours spread that the awards committee recalled the trophies.

Out of respect to their colleagues, some of the award winners returned their trophies. However, there was no trophy recall that took place. The award winners were never changed and some of them still have their trophies with them.



  • Directed by: Celso Ad Castillo
  • Written by: Celso Ad Castillo and Mauro Gia Samonte
  • Original Music by: George Canseco
  • Cinematography by: Benjamin L. Lobo (as Ben Lobo)
  • Film Editing by: Joe Mendoza (as Jose Mendoza)
  • Production Design by: Jose Tamayo Cruz
  • Sound Department: Gregorio Ella


Despite the controversies surrounding Burlesque Queen and the first MMFF, it was truly a movie festival. Only the "finest" are nominated. Vilma Santos was against Liza Lorena and Armida Siguion-Reyna. Not nominated were Alma Moreno (in the same film as Armida) and Hilda Koronel.

Burlesque Queen won all the awards save for two - both went to Bilanggung Birhen.


  • Tobias, Mel. One hundred acclaimed Tagalog movies'. Canada: Peanut Butter Publishing, 1998.
  • "Burlesk Queen at imdb.com" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185968/ (accessed on 24 Nov 2007)



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