Coming of Age of the Filipino Teleserye

Teleseryes create employment for otherwise dormant actors, creative staff, and production crew. They are also exported in increasing number to countries in Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Africa, and Latin America where they are dubbed in the local language.

Maja Salvador has just won Best Actress in the First Asia Contents Awards in Busan, South Korea, the first time that an Asia-wide TV festival for soap operas has been held. She won for her portrayal of a double character (Lily Cruz/Ivy Aguas) in the afternoon teleserye “Wildflower” aired over ABS-CBN in 2018.

I was thrilled by this win because I followed this teleserye. As I recuperated from an illness since mid-2018, I watched 14 of them in a period of 17 months. “Wildflower” was about a local political dynasty and the crimes that financed it, and Lily’s/Ivy’s determination to vanquish them.

Teleseryes emerged locally in the 1990s following Latin American formulas. They have been denigrated by the supercilious and deracinated upper-class Filipinos, and so Miss Salvador’s victory internationally affirms the creativity of this art form. The awarding festival was organized by the prestigious Busan International Film Festival and Asian Film Market. 

Teleseryes create employment for otherwise dormant actors, creative staff, and production crew. They are also exported in increasing number to countries in Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Africa, and Latin America where they are dubbed in the local language. In 2018, no fewer than eight of these local productions were playing worldwide. Perhaps most importantly, teleseryes convey Filipino culture to the wider world. They comprise a major creative output to the dreamed-of global Philippine pop, similar to the K-pop phenomenon of South Korea.

Some of our local soap operas obviously still need polishing. The storyline is often dilated as advertisers take advantage of high ratings, to the consternation of viewers. Teleseryes are notably deficient in developmental messages, something that the government (as TV regulator) could require. The classification system (content and time of viewing) should be closely monitored to protect minors. 

Finally, the Film Development Council of the Philippines should consider widening the scope of its subsidy to include developmentally oriented teleseryes. European countries provide subsidies so producers can make quality productions otherwise not commercially viable.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheLOBBYiST.
About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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