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He was documentary photographer for the Department of Public Information in 1974 and stillman for the American produciton Hit Woman in 1976. He married Maria Saret, who is also a movie director.
His partners in this venture were his wife and two high school buddies, film assistant director Gregg de Guzman and sound director Amang Sanchez.
Their first movie production was Tanikala (Chain), 1980, a period film.
When not producing movies, they rent out their equipment to other filmmakers and conduct seminars and workshops for aspiring talents. His parents are Juan Abelardo, a scenic painter, and Cecilia Velayo, a designer of women’s costumes.
Aside from working in the movies as cinematographer and/or editor, Abaya also works as still photographer for commercial lay-outs and directs commercials for television. He studied at the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Fine Arts. Abelardo, brother to cinematographer Bayani Abelardo, and uncle to Ben Resella, art director of Sampaguita Pictures who later became a scenic artist in Hollywood.
His other movies that received nominations in the best- cinematography category are: Tanikala and Working Girls, Urian; Brutal, Moral, and Desire, MMFF; The Graduates, Pinulot Ka Lang sa Lupa (You Were Merely Plucked From the Earth), and Nagbabagang Luha (Blazing Tears), Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) Awards; and Hari sa Hari, Lahi sa Lahi (King to King, Race to Race), Star Awards. To him have been attributed such awesome and wondrous cinematic effects as human princes turning into figures of stone and vice versa in Ibong Adarna (Adarna Bird), 1941; the fantastic floating castle in Prinsesang Basahan (The Princess in Rags), 1949; the biblical Red Sea parting at the stroke of a cane in Tungkod ni Moises (Moses’ Cane), 1952; handsome Jaime de la Rosa transformed into a horrifying bat creature in Taong Paniki (Bat Man), 1952; Bayani Casimiro dancing upside down from ceiling-to-wall-to-floor in Big Shot, 1956; and the terrifying giant reptile monster sowing havoc in Tuko Sa Madre Kakaw (Gecko at Madre Cacao), 1959. Francisco aka Botong Francisco for the production design of some films that he directed, among them: Haring Kobra (King Cobra), 1951, where a mythical Balinese country near the Philippines was created; and Higit sa Korona (Above the Crown), 1956, where the illusion of ancient Egypt provided the backdrop for the longest swordfight in local movie history. He finished high school at the University of Manila.
The other films Abelardo directed include: Malikmata (Phantasm) and Engkantada (Enchantress), 1948; El Diablo (The Devil), 1949; Mutya ng Pasig (Muse of Pasig), 1950; Ang Nuno Sa Punso (The Old Man on the Anthill) and Doctor X, 1950; Shalimar, 1951; Krus na Bakal (Iron Cross), 1954; Zarex, 1958; and Miranda and Lastik Man, 1966. He was married to Josette Collin Macalalag, sister of actor Mario Montenegro, with whom he had six children.Abelardo was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Film Academy of the Philippines in 1985 for his outstanding contributions to the movie industry. In 1939 he was recruited to work in Sampaguita Pictures by Pedro Vera, a provincemate who was one of the founders of the studio. After learning all that he could about film in London, Abaya returned to the Philippines to set up the family’s own movie production outfit, Cine Filipinas, Inc. After two years of college in the University of Santo Tomas, he went to England and took up a diploma course in filmmaking at the London International Film School. He studied at De La Salle Greenhills from grade school to high school. Abaya and Catalina Roxas, he is married to movie director Marilou Diaz-Abaya with whom he has two children.