Could it be that the Filipino drama is weak because the K-Drama is strong?
As if the country isn’t already facing a multitude of problems already, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada suddenly zeroed in on his thoughts about having Korean dramas and other foreign-made entertainment banned in the country during the hearing for the 2023 budget of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).
His remark, he later explained, was only said out of frustration and that the thought only “crossed his mind” a few times. “In my observation, if we continue to show Korean telenovelas, it’s the Koreans that our countrymen admire, and our Filipino artists lose their jobs,” said Estrada, in Filipino.
And of course, this shocked thousands of Filipinos online who enjoy watching Korean dramas. Some Filipinos online called out the absurdity of his idea, while others made fun of the whole situation through the creation of memes.
Jinggoy Estrada's call to ban K-dramas is silly but it's consistent with how many Filipino politicians think.
We need more leaders whose approach to governance is to promote, not to prohibit. To support, not to punish. To build up, not to shut down. To cultivate, not to kill.
— Gideon Lasco (@gideonlasco) October 19, 2022
Or maybe invest more in film and culture? Help struggling artists and media workers? Give artists access to quality training and education? Or at least do not arbitrarily shut down privately owned networks that actually try to innovate!?!? pic.twitter.com/QomqTmBnak
— Don Kevin Hapal (@donkevinhapal) October 18, 2022
— Chel Diokno (@ChelDiokno) October 19, 2022
To help remedy this whole charade of a non-problem becoming a problem, here are some K-Drama recommendations that’ll hopefully help Sen. Jinggoy Estrada change his mind on how he sees these Asian telenovelas:
1. ‘Reply’ series, specifically ‘Reply 1988”
Short synopsis: The stories of 5 families living on the same street in a neighborhood (Ssangmundong) in Seoul.
Genre: Coming-of-age, Comedy, Romance
Why it’s popular with Filipinos: The experiences of the characters in the drama are relatable to real-life situations being experienced by parents, young adults, and teenagers now.
2. 18 Again
Short synopsis: 37-year-old Daeyong tries to fix his relationship with his wife and children when he suddenly finds himself in his 18-year-old body.
Genre: Melodrama, Fantasy, Coming-of-age
Why it’s popular with Filipinos: Aside from Lee Do-hyun’s acting, some Filipinos relate to Daeyong’s efforts of trying to fix himself and his family. That umbrella scene too. *Ugly cries*
3. Twenty-Five, Twenty-One
Short synopsis: A teenage fencer tries pursuing her big ambitions and meets a hardworking young man trying to rebuild his life.
Genre: Romance, Coming-of-age
Why it’s popular with Filipinos: That unexpected ending hurt. A lot. And yet, it’s a reality that couples often face—busy schedules leading to no time for each other, keeping secrets, long distance relationships failing, etc. At the same time, Hee-do’s pursuit for greatness while being repeatedly told that she’s untalented triggers some unresolved imposter syndrome.
4. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
Short synopsis: Ha-jin travels back in time to the Goryeo Dynasty and becomes involved in a power struggle between contenders for the throne.
Genre: Romance, Drama, Saegeuk (Historical), Fantasy, Melodrama
Why it’s popular with Filipinos: That ensemble cast, their acting, the storytelling, everything about it.
5. Our Beloved Summer
Short synopsis: Two ex-lovers find themselves back in each other’s lives after the documentary they made 10-years ago becomes viral.
Genre: Romantic comedy, Coming-of-age
Why it’s popular with Filipinos: Girl, Kook Yeon-su and Choi Ung’s story is just different and relatable for young millennials and Gen Z. Also, Kim Da-mi and Choi Woo-shik’s chemistry was something else. Watch it to see why we can’t move on from this drama.
6. Love in the Moonlight
Short synopsis: Lee Young, the Prince, becomes interested in Ra-On, a girl masquerading as a man (eunuch).
Genre: Romantic comedy, Sageuk, Coming-of-age
Why it’s popular with Filipinos: It’s undeniable that it’s one of the first dramas in 2016 which reached prominence in the Philippines because of its light-hearted story. Filipinos have been loving these types of storylines in the past (girl pretends to be a boy, falls in love with boy) and tbh, the story was straightforward—a romance with no frills, a modern message in the guise of a historical context, what more can we say?
7. Descendants of the Sun
Short synopsis: A soldier from the South Korean Special Forces falls in love with a surgeon. Their professions and circumstances try to keep them apart.
Genre: Romance, Action, Melodrama
Why it’s popular with Filipinos: HELLO, this is the one that started it all. The mother of the modern Hallyu wave in the Philippines. And, the rise of the Song-Song couple after this? Nothing else beats the original.
8. Beyond Evil
Short synopsis: Follows the story of two policemen who break the law to catch a serial killer.
Genre: Procedural, Psychological thriller
Why it’s popular with Filipinos: If you’re a fan of “Ang Probinsyano”, this could cut close if you’re craving to watch a K-Drama that isn’t too big on romance. Plus, the writing for this drama is just *chef’s kiss* that it could send shivers down your spine, especially when the lines are being delivered by the 2 main leads (Shin Ha-kyun and Yeo Jin-goo).
9. Move to Heaven
Short synopsis: A young man with Asperger syndrome and his uncle work as trauma cleaners, clearing out the possessions and things left behind by dead people, uncovering their life stories and telling them to their left loved ones.
Why it’s popular with Filipinos: The stories in some of the episodes may be a bit triggering for others to watch, but they were so beautifully written that you’ll shed a tear or two. It’s heartwarming, heartbreaking, uplifting, and eye-opening all at the same time. Rarely would you see a story about “trauma cleaners” and is a concept new to Filipinos.
10. Goblin: The Lonely and Great God
Short synopsis: Kim Shin, an immortal goblin, is in search for a human bride to end his immortality. He meets Ji Eun-Tak, a bubbly high school student with a tragic life when she accidentally summons him by chance.
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Drama, Comedy
Why it’s popular with Filipinos: Writing? Check. Cast’s chemistry with each other? Check. Original soundtrack? Check. There’s nothing that could go wrong with this drama and is very much popular with Filipinos till this day. Also, Kim Eun-sook, the mind behind “Lovers in Paris”, “The Heirs”, and “Descendants of the Sun”, wrote this and those dramas are also popular with Filipinos.
K-Dramas aren’t the ones in fault here. It’s not their problem that their storytelling, casting, and writing, among many other factors are popular to Filipinos. Maybe the film industry could use this as a wake-up call to further hone and sharpen their skills on the art of creating content for the consumption of the everyday Filipino. Or better yet, to tap into the untouched talents found in the independent scene and to use those talents for the betterment of Filipino media.
Let’s start veering away from the typical Filipino teleserye archetype and take some inspiration from Korean dramas and other foreign-made entertainment to enhance our own.
(The word some is bold and italicized in an attempt to emphasize that we shouldn’t plagiarize the ideas introduced by Korean dramas, if that isn’t obvious)
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