By Prince Luke Alicum Cerdenia

Cartoon by Billy Abistado

It is not a hidden fact that the Philippines is home to brilliant inventors in various fields of art. Doubtlessly, there are thousands of Filipino filmmakers who harbor creative and innovative ideas that can be manifested into reality with the appropriate amount of resources. 

From present-day crafts to timeless pieces that can be traced back to ancient times of the 1900s, the beauty of Filipino cinema has been deeply integrated into the aspects of our culture. Yet in spite of all these, a lot of our lawmakers still hold onto the belief that the sole way of boosting the allegedly declining support towards local shows is banning foreign ones in the country, particularly Korean dramas. 

During the budget hearing of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), Senator Jinggoy Estrada brought up the idea of prohibiting international shows in the country to help uplift and protect local films. 

According to Estrada, our country prefers to show South Korean television series and idolize Korean actors, all while local artists lose their jobs, and this “frustrates’ him. Furthermore, he added that because of this, he sometimes entertains the idea of banning foreign shows to give more value to our own artists.

The slow downturn of the native entertainment industry can be partly owed to the massive popularity of external entities, such as K-dramas and Hollywood shows – that is a non-negotiable reality. Popular South Korean films like “Kingmaker” and “The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure” alone were reportedly created at a cost of more than 10 billion won (PHP 400 million), respectively. This is well short of the production budget in the Philippines, which amounts to the median production cost average production of around PHP 8 million, according to former Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chair Liza Diño.

The bottomline here is that the film industries in these other countries are prioritized more by their respective governments, unlike ours, resulting in a massive disparity in the quality of films produced and the positive feedback from audiences in both the national and international arenas. In short, underfunded projects are less likely to generate support compared to films that enjoy more massive investments and resources.

Lawmakers like Senator Estrada fail to realize that prohibition is not the fitting solution. The concept of false nationalism can be seen in the proposal of prescription as it pretentiously claims that it aims to serve the Filipino masses. However, behind the patriotic facade, the proposed move not only strips the people of their option to choose and consume better entertainment choices, but it also indirectly shows that the Philippine film industry concedes defeat against its foreign competitors. What is the purpose of implementing isolationist policies in entertainment if the local production remains underfinanced? 

Fortunately, the local entertainment industry is not yet dead. It is true that traditional mediums for entertainment such as TV and movie theaters are slowly being drained of their life. 

Findings from a global measurement and analytics company state that television viewing level in the Philippines dropped to 13.5% in the first three months of 2021 from 17% in the same period a year ago, mainly due to the shutdown of ABS-CBN Corp.’s broadcast operations. Movie theaters have experienced a massive decline due to the several restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. With cinemas shuttered because of the pandemic, local film companies were forced to find new distribution channels for their newly produced movies.

However, this does not necessarily mean that traditional media are the sole remnants of the local industry. It is a must to accept that the trend is now focused on online subscription services — something that most popular entertainment networks have adapted to and succeeded in doing so. 

Although a couple of Filipino dramas and films have started appearing on vast streaming platforms such as Netflix and Viu, it is a sad reality that our industry is still immature in the field compared to other countries which have made such platforms their territories. As a matter of fact, the government limited the potential of media giant ABS-CBN to adapt to fast-paced technological advancements when it was forcibly and unjustly shutdown last 2020 over political purposes. 

Instead of entertaining the unintelligent idea of bans, it is more ideal and more scientific to provide local showrunners the appropriate resources to tell good stories in more entertaining ways in order to slowly revive and enhance the industry. To establish this requires long-term investments and the existence of both public and private contributors, who have the capability to trust the vision of world-class Filipino entertainment. On top of that, traditional practices that have limited the local industry must be slowly shattered and policies engineered according to successful foreign models must be implemented. 

The framework of successful fields must be admired and taken inspiration out of, not banned and antagonized. It is already a historically-proven fact that we are not short of talents and brilliant minds; they just receive inadequate resources and lack leaders who have the political will to inculcate attention and subsidy to the field of art and entertainment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Prince Luke Cerdenia is a campus journalist, student leader, marketing associate, and debater from Eugenio Lopez Junior Center for Media Arts Senior High School. He is currently a Grade 11 Senior High School student, taking the Media Arts Strand under the Arts and Design Track. Currently, he is serving as the Science and Technology Head of ELJCMASHS’ official campus publication, The Vanguard.

Explained By The People is a collaboration between Explained Opinion Desk and Explained Community that aims to give campus journalists, youth leaders, and other advocates a platform to let their voices be heard on the country’s current issues.

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