By Jason Paul Laxamana
When a commodity is branded an IMPORT, it means it was created—with raw materials not necessarily acquired within the territory—by foreign producers and was brought into the perimeters of a certain community for its members to purchase and/or consume. Whether something is imported depends on perspective, however, as one community's import is another community's export.
For example, a desktop computer made in Japan was brought to the Philippines for citizens, in general, to buy. In the perspective of a Filipino residing within the archipelago, the computer is a product imported from Japan, hence, making it an IMPORT. In the perspective of a Japanese residing within the territory of the Land of the Rising Sun, on the other hand, it is an EXPORT. Such scenario makes Japan the EXPORTER and the Philippines the IMPORTER.
Usually, if not absolutely, the exporter possesses the necessary forces and means of production, sufficient capital, and appropriate intelligence and skills that allow it to manufacture commodities to sell not only to the members of its immediate community, but also to people belonging to other communities, or, as we have labeled, the importers. Because a community doesn't have the essential ingredients to make its own desired product to sell to its own people, it has to import the camera from a manufacturer abroad.
Who earns? If we are to talk national (e.g. Philippines), it is the region (e.g. Manila) who did the importing upon selling the imports to the weaker regions (e.g. the provinces). But if we are to talk global, it is the exporting nation (e.g. Japan).
In a macro-economic view, a nation that is able to sustain the exportation of several of its locally manufactured commodities, including cultural products, becomes what we call an IMPERIALIST. A nation that keeps on importing, on the other hand, becomes the IMPERIALIZED. Because it is the exporting nation that is able to send its products outwards, it is no surprise then it soon is able to affect the culture of the receiving communities, to the extent of causing several members of the importing nations to suffer from neocolonialism and extreme patronage of foreign products.
Imports and exports often come in the form of a corporeal object—tangible commodities such as food, devices, spare parts, fuel, clothes, vehicles, etc. However, there are those commodities that stimulate us not physically, such as information and entertainment. Because these products are psychologically and/or intellectually consumed, not physically, they give members of the importing community the illusion that they are not consumers of foreign products. If a closer look will be given to the scenario, however, importation and continued patronage of these non-physical commodities contribute to the imperialization of the importing community.
Filipino entertainment thrives in the Philippines side by side with foreign entertainment. Songs played on radio are either OPM (Original Pilipino Music) songs or songs exported by capable foreigners like Americans (e.g. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Guns N Roses), Japanese (e.g. anime soundtracks, Utada Hikaru), and Englishmen (e.g. The Beatles, Westlife). A great number of locally made TV shows have a fair number of local consumers as well amidst the penetration of canned shows from abroad (e.g. Korean dramas, American cartoons, Spanish and Mexican soaps). Movie houses also screen both local and foreign flicks.
Even though Filipino entertainment is able to occasionally compete with imported entertainment, it is made possible only within the Filipino turf. And even though some Filipino dramas (e.g. ABS-CBN’s “Pangako Sa ‘Yo,” GMA-7’s “Boys Nxt Door”), movies (e.g. “The Masseur,” “Kubrador”) and musical records (e.g. Christian Bautista, Billy Crawford) have been distributed to other countries for the consumption of non-Filipinos, it still fails to export its entertainment to foreign lands in a frequency high enough to make the Philippines an IMPERIALIST when it comes to entertainment, unlike what the Koreans have achieved in the past decade.
Such poor general condition of Filipino entertainment has failed to make Filipino culture globally appreciated, i.e., appreciated by a throng of non-Pinoys—a far cry from the achievement, again, of the Koreans.
All of these hold theoretically true, if we are to imagine ourselves as members of this community called the Philippines. Within the Philippines, however, if we are to discontinue imagining the Philippines as one nation and instead imagine Filipino ethnic groups separately from one another as distinct nations (Tagalog nation, Kapampangan nation, Cebuano nation, Ilocano nation, Bikol nation, etc.), we will see one region—the Tagalog-dominated Manila—as a powerful exporter of entertainment to non-Tagalog regions, making these non-Tagalog areas reliant on what they may now call “imported entertainment.”
Let’s consider two setups based on the concept of nation as “imagined community.”
First setup: a person who imagines the whole Philippines as his immediate community, despite being, for example, a Kapampangan residing in Central Luzon will not perceive a musical record manufactured and brought to his place by Manila as imported entertainment because he sees not Tagalogs nor Kapampangans, but racially similar Pinoys. What would count then as imported entertainment for him would be products from outside the Philippines like “American Idol,” “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Maria La Del Barrio,” “Jewel In The Palace,” “Britney Spears,” “Ironman,” “Eminem,” “Pokemon,” and “Meteor Garden.”
Second setup: on the other hand, if a Kapampangan sees himself unique from other ethnic groups, say, for example, the Tagalogs, he will consider entertainment made in and distributed by Manila (e.g. “Wowowee,” “Rivermaya,” “Eat Bulaga,” “Mano Po,” and “Sexbomb Dancers”) as entertainment imported by the Kapampangan nation and entertainment exported by Imperial Manila.
The first setup is often experienced by Filipino nationalists who believe share common experiences with fellow Pinoys from whatever region of the archipelago. Such mentality is hazardous for the provinces, as province dwellers are made to believe that the experiences—including the production of entertainment—of the National Capital Region are also their experiences. Hence, people from the provinces are subtly discouraged to establish their own entertainment industries. They are disheartened to compete with Manila-made entertainment because they feel they also own the entertainment industry of the capital of the country. The provinces don’t see the imperialism of Tagalog entertainment, because, as mentioned, they feel that Tagalog entertainment, which is promoted as “Pinoy entertainment” for further confusion, is also their entertainment. Thus, the provinces also don’t sense local brain drain; they don’t mind if the talent of their people—local human resources—are wielded and exploited by the capital.
The second setup is experienced by what are demonized today as regionalists or fools suffering from crab mentality, but considered by an intellectual cult as the enlightened protesters of Manila/Tagalog centrism. These people are theoretically the hope of provincial development just because of the fact that they don’t automatically consider the success of the capital as likewise the success of their province. They may consider themselves and other ethnic groups as both Filipinos, but only because they belong to the same state called the Republic of the Philippines, but not belonging to the same nation or race. They don’t perceive the entertainment industry of the Tagalogs as theirs, motivating them to establish their own entertainment industry—their own showbiz, celebrities, superstars, hits, and blockbusters—and hopefully, to stop or just even lessen the importation of Tagalog entertainment in the long run.
In the province of Pampanga, entertainment is still highly imported. Pampanga-based FM radio stations such as GVFM 99.1 and RW 95.1, despite being run in general by Kapampangans, are still dominated by songs imported from Manila and other countries. The radio announcers may be locals, but they are discouraged to speak their native language due to the imperial influence of Tagalog. Kapampangan entertainment through television is also highly imported. While TV stations and cable networks that produce their own shows (some in Kapampangan and some in Tagalog) are beginning to sprout, many Kapampangans still patronize imported productions such as shows from GMA-7, Studio 23, QTV 11, ABS-CBN, and MYX for several reasons, one of which probably is the large quality difference between locally made and imported shows.
The challenge then to every competitive province is, first, to aggressively and passionately propagate among local media practitioners, especially the station owners and managers, the ambition of establishing their own competent entertainment industries that can give Manila-made productions a run for their money on their respective territories, and also the ambition of exporting their productions someday; second, of course, to work on those ambitions.
As for Kapampangans, the power players in their local mass media play a great role in preventing Manila or other non-Kapampangan regions from exploiting Kapampangan human resources, like actors and writers. How? By showing to Kapampangans that they don’t need to go outside the province to pursue a media- or entertainment-related career; they can do it in their Indung Tibuan.
Please view this news item featuring our project that aims to make the first step for Kapampangans to reach the abovementioned ambitions: