On Valentines Day and Filipino Romance Films

By Jan Angelo Yvan Cabantog

Valentines Day. The day wherein you’ll see roses everywhere, pink and red balloons here and there, dinner promos for two in every restaurants, and couples holding hands or showing public display of affection. Filipinos are very enamored with this day. We can’t deny it, we are in love with the thought of love itself. Even the most cynic people in terms of love knows that inside their hearts, they wonder if they’ll ever love or love again. Consider it hopeless romantic, but Filipinos sure know that love is one of the standard and dynamic topic everyone can talk about. With this fact, the entertainment industry has constantly been banking that love sells. Films and television shows often, if not always, feature content with the subject of love in their premises. Given this fact, February is known to become the month through which entertainment outlets shower the general mass with content on love with the hopes of selling and gaining numbers all because of the fact the Pinoys certainly are in love with being in love.

This past week, two Filipino romantic films were released in line with the Valentines week. First is ‘My Ex and Whys’, produced by commercial film giant Star Cinema. The other one is ‘I’m Drunk, I Love You’, produced by Tuko Film Production and Artikulo Uno (producers of the biopic, Heneral Luna). Both film were released on February 15. It was released a day after Valentines day due to film release schedules in the Philippines wherein films are usually released on a Wednesday. Both films generated buzz prior to their scheduled release. The Valentines film by Star Cinema obviously did not lack with the usual marketing and advertising strategies that they practice for all their films, thus reaching the general mass from any medium you may think of–television, radio, social media. On the other hand, the indie film surely made headlines especially within the independent film circles, with the information on the film’s release generally passed around through word of mouth, generally through shares via social media. Both films were anticipated even before their primary screenings. I myself can attest to this fact, given that my social media timelines featured tweets and posts that are related to the two films. I can also attest to this fact given that I am guilty of being able to watch both films on its first week of screening during the Valentines week.
(Photo courtesy of: Star Cinema / Tuko Film Productions + Buchi Boy + Artikulo Uno)

‘My Ex and Whys’ features popular local loveteam Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil, which are known for their tandem “LizQuen”. The film revolves around the story of ex-lovers Cali (Soberano) and Gio (Gil) with the usual premise of the after-effect of a break-up. The story showcased how Cali utilized a blog called “The Bakit List” posting unanswered questions regarding love and break-up. Two years after parting ways due to Gio having a one-night affair with the manager of his band, the exes found their way on similar paths wherein both of them were hired as online ambassadors for a travel agency because of their popularity in social media. This, plus the trip to Seoul in South Korea for their best friend’s wedding paved the way to the closure, reconciliation, and eventually, the getting back together stage of the two characters. The film focuses on different aspects of loves, such as trust, change, indifference from love, and reconciliation.

Meanwhile, indie-film ‘I’m Drunk, I Love You’ stars famous actors Maja Salvador and Paulo Avelino. The premise of the film revolves around bestfriends Carson (Salvador) and Dio (Avelino) who are best friends for seven years, ever since they started college at UP Diliman wherein Carson is taking up a degree in social work while Dio is taking up film. For Dio, seven years had passed since he and Carson became best of friends. But for Carson, it has been seven years since she fell in love with Dio who doesn’t have the slightest clue with Carson’s feelings toward him. More than the significance of these things, both are also graduating after seven years of residency in the University, maxing out the maximum years of stay. Days prior their graduation day, the two decided to go on a road trip to La Union for a music festival, not having a clue to what will happen and the revelations that they’ll figure. The film features many aspects of love ranging from friendzone, drunk confessions, and secret love.

With different premises and promising storylines, both films aim to win the hearts of the Filipino audience and be considered classic Filipino romance films, more of the likes of ‘One More Chance’ and ‘That Thing Called Tadhana’ which both garnered affirmation from the general mass.

(Photo courtesy of: IG – @mac_watchero)

As of the moment, both films are still being featured in local cinemas. ‘My Ex and Whys’ is dominating the malls’ cinemas with the film being shown in more than one theater per mall. On the other hand, ‘I’m Drunk, I Love You’ was able to secure showtimes and regular cinema theaters in malls thanks to the buzz it made in social media. At the same time, given that it was produced by independent producers, the film is being featured at Cinema 76 Film Society, a micro-cinema located in San Juan city. As mentioned, I was able to watch both films. I was able to catch ‘My Ex and Whys’ at the Promenade in Greenhills last Friday night. Given its a Friday night, the movie house was full with women swooning over Enrique Gil, while guys like me just staring at the beauty of Liza Soberano. The film had the perfect “kilig” factor that’s just perfect for the Filipino taste. On the other hand, I consider myself lucky to be able to catch “I’m Drunk, I Love You” at the Cinema 76 Film Society. My best friend and I was able to catch the last seats for the online reservation, securing the last two seats in the 70-seater micro-cinema. That gives you the idea that the feature is on full house.

Five days since its release, both ‘My Ex and Whys’ and ‘I’m Drunk, I Love You’ are still being talked about in the web, especially in social media. Reviews of the films are being released by different bloggers and movie review websites. All main actors of both films have also attended TV guestings in local talk shows due to the release of their film. This shows that both films are still fresh in the consciousness of the public. Just look at your Twitter or Facebook timeline and you’ll see friends posting about the films. This maybe because it’s still the love month, or as they call it “Feb-ibig”.

Sustainability of both films has been greatly impacted by social media. Both films generated buzz through certain process and medium. For ‘My Ex and Whys’, photo memes of Cali (Soberano) asking Gio (Gil) the question, “pangit ba ako, kapalit-palit ba ako” (“am I ugly, am I not enough”) became viral for days with people jokingly giving negative reactions saying if Soberano is ugly, what more them who are ordinary people. This generated more excitement to the release of the film. On the other hand, ‘I’m Drunk, I Love You’ generated buzz due to the promotions of the indie film circles with them sharing through social media the release of the film. In addition to this, the film is being released in Cinema 76 Film Society half the price than that of cinemas in malls, thus encouraging more people to watch the indie film. Moreover, the fact that it’s Valentines made it easier for the media to make the films and the promotion of the film through content and news more relevant to the masses.
(Photo courtesy of: Buzzfeed Philippines)
(Photo courtesy of: Cinema 76 Film Society Facebook page)

According to Mirza Jan, “media are central to the provision of cultural or symbolic resources globally, and therefore integral to the exercise of cultural or symbolic power.” Mirza Jan in his paper Globalization of Media: Key Issues and Dimensions discusses globalization of media and trends unifying widely different societies, integrating them into one World. He also argued that although Western media play a prominent role in the global scene, media industries from a number of other countries are also heavily across the world. The scholar made use of Indian television as an example through which he noted that even though American and Western media tried to dominate the Indian market through cable television, the audiences in the country still have the intrinsic cultural longing which gives them the preference to go for locally produced content instead of those imported from foreign nations. This is also visible through the flourishing success of Indian films and the concept that is Bollywood, through which Indian films dominate their country, the masses support their local content, and even surpassing the number of films produced each year that Hollywood is producing. In lieu of this, we can relate how our film producers are aiming for this to happen in the Philippine entertainment industry. As mentioned, producers of both ‘My Ex and Whys’ and ‘I’m Drunk, I Love You’ aim for the film to be standard Filipino romance films. In the case of ‘I’m Drunk, I Love You’, it being produced by independent production namely Tuko Film Production and Artikulo Uno obviously aims to showcase and promote Filipino-produced films and encourages the public to support locally-produced films, and in this season of love, Filipino-produced romance films compared to Hollywood offerings such as ‘Fifty Shades Darker’.

Meanwhile, Mirza Jan also defined cultural imperialism as “a kind of cultural domination by powerful nations over weaker nations and is viewed as purposeful and intentional because it corresponds to the political interests of the United States and other powerful capitalist societies.” It is undeniable that Philippines, unlike India, paves way to the flourishing of foreign produced films. Every month, there are more foreign films being showcased in the cinema, giving priority to them over local films. In addition to this, local films try to model their content from foreign films, for example Star Cinema’s ‘The Break-Up Playlist’ which has similar premise to ‘Begin Again’ starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. In the case of ‘My Exs and Whys’, the premise of dealing with an old flame through blogging is a fresh storyline. Yes, romantic comedy films are extracted from the lucrative production of such content from the practice of Hollywood film producers. But Filipino films are now trying to make a name for its own with their fresh content, trying to get away with the idea that films being produced in the country are copycat of those produced abroad with the usual climax and conflicts of sthe story.

This gives nod to Mirza Jan’s argument that given the dominance of a First world countries and the extent to which global media culture represents a particular mix of cultural and social values that are associated with the Unites Sates and Western Europe, a truly global media culture that mingles cultural traditions and social values from many different countries has yet to develop. Even though it’s a cliche that romance films such as ‘My Ex and Whys’ and ‘I’m Drunk, I Love You’ are released on Valentines week, the main goal of producing these films are not just to entertain the Filipino audience. More than this reason, producers of the films are also aiming for the public to support Filipino films produced by Filipino producers in order show cultural identity, at the same time to produce fresh content original and designed for the local Filipino taste.

The Pakistani scholar also mentioned that media organizations operate in different markets. “First, there is the market for creative content, or the ability to produce and/or distribute material which is sufficiently compelling to audiences, readers or users for them to exchange money and/or time for access to such content. Second, there is the market for financial resources, or the ability to finance their ongoing operations as well as new investments in technology, distribution platforms, or territorial expansion of their operations.” In the case of ‘My Ex and Whys’ and ‘I’m Drunk, I Love You’, the creative content by the ones who have come up with the stories together with the exexcution into reality of the directors, Cathy Garcia Molina (My Ex and Whys) and JP Habac (I’m Drunk, I Love You), paved the way for market for creative content. On the other hand, the producers of the films, Star Cinema (My Ex and Whys) and Tuko Film Production / Artikulo Uno (I’m Drunk, I Love You), are the ones responsible with market for financial resources, thus funding, marketing, and advertising.

Given all of these arguments presented by Mirza Jan, we can safely say that Filipino film producers are striving to find ways in order to reinvent their craft in terms of film production, figuring out and doing their very best in the hopes of providing fresh and original stroylines, providng the general mass with relatable content that are suited to their taste, giving them something that is purely Filipino, with the goal of giving the Filipino movie fans the reason to support local films by preferring and choosing original Filipino movies instead of films distributed by foreign film production companies.

In summary, the flourishing of the news regarding this romance films will surely stay in the air for at least this month. Buzz for these films will surely be generated more until the end of February which is considered the month of love. What’s not yet sure is if both films will be able to stand the test of time in terms of being remarkable especially in the minds of the Filipino audience, whether lines from the movie will be remembered and be used from time to time, similar to John Lloyd Cruz’s “You had me at my best” line in ‘One More Chance’ or Piolo Pascual’s “I deserve an acceptable reason” line in ‘Starting Over Again’. A movie’s ability to become remarkable will depend on its content. Just like what I mentioned, if it’s something suited for the taste of the Filipino audience, it will generally become a classic for the people. For some topics, it will generate interest from the public, but certainty of having it as something remarkable in a household term kind of thing is a difficult process. Only a handful of news and trends are able to stay for a longer period in the media.

News and trends come and go based on the relevance it provide to the general public. The power of the media which is dynamic, ever-changing, and evolving has been a great instrument in delivering these news and trends to the masses. Social media’s ascent proved to become a vehicle for news and trends to reach more people in all places in the shortest possible time. But the faster the process for the message to reach the receivers, the faster it is as well for the receiver to let go of the message. In the case of the romantic films ‘My Ex and Whys’ and ‘I’m Drunk, I Love You’, buzz for its release has been generated already, and this buzz is ongoing. It’s up for its content to show whether it deserves to have a longer time in the spotlight. Only time can tell if they will be able to do so.

3 thoughts on “On Valentines Day and Filipino Romance Films

  1. The promotion and advertisement of movies on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like is interesting. I think that in this age, it does not matter whether a particular film is produced by a commercial or independent company–a simple status or online film review posts can create a buzz which potentially become a way for the audience to be more curious on a particular movie. In this case, I believe that the convergence of the use of social media to promote the films, as well as the relatable and timely concepts of these romantic films are the factors why the masses are getting more engaged. And I think that filmmakers in this generation are breaking boundaries while creating a separate and compelling space where the typical notion of Filipino romantic films are absent, and that the existence of a more interesting and substantial romantic films are present.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Gelo!

    I agree with your statement that part of what made these two movies successful is social media. For “My Ex and Whys”, the “pangit ba ako” line sure was all over my news feed the moment its trailer aired. For “I’m Drunk, I Love You”, there also were a lot of posts on my timeline saying that they want to watch the movie or that the movie was really good. I also agree that the new media is one of the primary reasons that these films became successful. People are able to share what their thoughts are regarding the films with just a click of a button. Memes and puns also became more prevalent which added to the buzz regarding these movies. New media then became a new form of word of mouth.


  3. I also agree that thru the help of social media, these films become popular. what makes people curious about these films are the memes and quotes floating around social media. you cannot relate unless you watch the film, and this is how you sell films nowadays. well, also thanks to these memes and quotes that I get to know some underrated films.

    Liked by 1 person

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