Prof. Joel David wins Gawad Balagtas for film criticism

David was founding director of the UP Film Institute and served as founding secretary of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino.

Manunuri film critic and author Joel David won the Gawad Balagtas (Balagtas Award), a life-achievement prize named after Tagalog poet Francisco Balagtas, for film criticism in English. The award is conferred by the Writers Union of the Philippines or the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL), the largest organization of Filipino writers. Founded in 1974, UMPIL holds an annual Writers Congress and publishes Mithi (Ideal), a literary journal.

The Gawad Balagtas is David’s fourth life-achievement prize for film criticism, after the FACINE International Film Festival’s Art-Nurturer Award in 2016, the Glory Award of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication in 2017, and the Platinum Stallion Media Citation from the Trinity University of Asia in 2020. FACINE is held annually in San Francisco, California, while the other events including the Gawad Balagtas are Philippine events.

David completed bachelor’s degrees in film and journalism (both cum laude) at UP, an M.A. in Cinema Studies at New York University via a Fulbright grant, and a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies also at NYU. His first reviews and criticism appeared in Who magazine, where The FilAm publisher and founding editor Cristina del Carmen Pastor edited the Features section. David was founding director of the UP Film Institute and is currently professor of Cultural Studies at Inha University in Incheon, Korea.

In Korea, where David is a professor of Cultural Studies at Inha University.

He has written several books on Philippine cinema, including Fields of Vision, the first winner of the Manila Critics Circle’s National Book Award for Film Criticism. His current volume, a monograph on Ishmael Bernal’s 1980 movie Manila by Night, is part of Arsenal Pulp Press’s acclaimed Queer Film Classics series and has garnered positive notices from several journals including Jump Cut, the U.S.’s top feminist journal. David was founding secretary of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Filipino Film Critics Circle) as well as of the Young Critics Circle.

With YES Magazine and Philippine Entertainment Portal editor Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon, David is finalizing a volume on Philippine film classics centered on the best one hundred-plus Filipino feature films of all time. He maintains a bibliography of Philippine and FilAm film books, titled Authoring Auteurs, on his archival blog Amauteurish (at, where he has also posted all his out-of-print material.

The other Gawad Balagtas winners are: Albert Alejo, SJ, for poetry and Filipino translation; Patrick Flores, for art criticism in English; Luisa Igloria, for poetry in English; Michael Obenieta, for poetry in Cebuano; Bibeth Orteza, for scriptwriting; and Jessica Zafra, for fiction and essay-writing in English. Lily Rose Tope won the Gawad Paz Marquez Benitez, for the teaching of literature, and the Communication Foundation for Asia won the Gawad Pedro Bucaneg, for supporting writers and literary culture.

The UMPIL winners will be honored at an online ceremony on April 30, 2021, and will receive trophies designed by internationally renowned artist Manuel Baldemor.

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