Show business in the Philippines

It is said that the need for entertainment is in human nature, and thus there will always be a universal demand for entertainment enterprises. All sectors and all age groups in civilized society always have a natural or instinctive craving to be entertained. It is even acknowledged scientifically that depriving people of entertainment is not good for their mental and emotional health. Thus, in the military, in hospitals, in nursing homes, on ships and planes, various forms of entertainment are provided regularly. Even in jails, the condemned are not deprived of entertainment in the form of books and hobbies. And in the Philippines especially, where the people—rich and poor—are described as among the happiest in the world, entertainment means big business.

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Show business in the Philippines is a huge and highly competitive industry. The players in it—the movie producers, television networks, publishing companies and individual entertainers and workers—all enjoy great financial rewards and are held in high esteem or are envied for the prominent lifestyles they tend to promote or showcase. Indeed, Philippine show business has weathered a great many storms in the nation’s history since the granting of its independence. Through the glory days of post-WWII prosperity and through the turmoil of political upheavals, and even through the long martial law years and other ups and downs, Philippine show business has remained busy and strong. This just goes to show yet again that people will always need to momentarily escape from harsh reality. There’s even a maxim that the tougher the times are, the greater will be the tendency for escapism.

During the post-WWII era and through to the 1960s, Philippine movie producers were already making great movies. For those sectors of society that claim refined taste, Nepomuceno Productions established itself as the leading light in the field. But the demand from the masses for easily digestible and lower-cost movie fare and slapstick comedy soon became stronger and more lucrative for producers. And so production houses churning out so-called “bakya” shows greatly outnumbered the serious filmmakers.

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Probably the greatest factor that helped build-up and shape Philippine show business is the same as in many other countries. The spread of radio and TV networks that provided news and entertainment gave rise to sponsorship opportunities for many large companies that wanted a powerful presence throughout the entire country. There have always been many of these corporations with big advertising budgets, and some small businesses with modest budgets, and as a result of the continuous and sustained exposure of their brands to the consuming public, they have become household words and their sales have grown steadily. Entertainers and other showbiz personalities are of course happy to endorse them for a fee—and the fee is never peanuts.

Even with the unfolding of the present global crisis, show business in the Philippines is showing no signs of slowing down. It won’t. Remember, show business thrives on harsh realities.

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