Why Pinoy Teleseryes Are *Falling Behind* Compared To K-Dramas, According To Suzette Doctolero

'Sinadya talaga ng Korea ang world domination pagdating sa K-dramas.'
PHOTO: (Left) Courtesy Of Netflix; (Right) My Husband's Lover/GMA Network

The comparison between the production of Pinoy teleseryes and Korean dramas is currently a hot topic online. This comes on the heels of Erik Matti's Twitter post, where he said the "movies and TV are doomed" because of the popularity of K-Dramas.

Erik Matti wrote in his April 16 tweet: "The daily top ten most viewed on #Netflix shows us how our movies and TV are doomed in the future. K-drama galore. Faux cinderella stories with belofied actors whiter than white. And it's all about love in the midst of this pandemic."

A lot of netizens did not agree with his opinion, pointing out the wide variety of genres and good production quality of K-Dramas. These two factors have been cited to be the reasons why Pinoy viewers choose to watch and patronize K-Dramas, which boast engaging storylines and glossy production values.

On April 19, GMA-7 creative writer Suzette Doctolero took to Facebook with a three-part post detailing the limitations being hurdled by Filipino filmmakers and teleserye creators when producing content. She has been writing teleseryes for GMA-7 and VIVA Entertainment since the mid-'90s.

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Some of her projects on television are: Daisy Siete (2003-2010), Encantadia (2005-2006; 2016-2017), Amaya (2011-2012), My Husband's Lover (2013), The Rich Man's Daughter (2015), and Sahaya (2019).

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Mass Appeal Vs. Quality 

In her first Facebook post, Suzette recalled watching Brillante Mendoza's 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival entry, Thy Womb, starring Nora Aunor. She praised the movie, but remembered that when she watched it, there were only seven peopleincluding herinside the cinema.

Suzette then commented that films mirroring society, such as those made by Erik Matti and Jay Altarejos, are not being watched by the viewing public in cinemas.

She made a parallel point about TV shows and asked, "Maraming beses na rin ang soap opera (mula sa GMA at ABS) na nagtangka na itaas ang level ng content pero mga nag-rate ba? Pinanood ba?

"Hindi lang ngayon ito problema. Maski noong panahon nina Ishmael [Bernal] at [Lino] Brocka ay wala namang nanonood sa mga matitinong mga pelikula nila.

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"Para mabuhay, gumagawa sila tuloy ng mga movies na 'bakya' o pang masa, para tumabo sa takilya. Hindi rin naman kumita sa takilya ang marami pang matitinong movies noon na ngayon ay considered the best na sa Philippine cinema.

"Ang daming indie movies na maganda rin ngayon pero pinapanood ba? Patay gutom pa rin ang indie filmmaking, ano ba. Puso na lang talaga ang reason kaya gumagawa pa sila ng movies."

She said viewersespecially the masseschoose to watch feel-good movies or teleseryes that feature campy yet entertaining fight scenes. These are proven by movie ticket sales and TV ratings.

Suzette continued, "Kasi ang totoo, mas papanoorin ang movies ni Vice [Ganda], 'di ba?

"Kasi marami ang gustong maaliw at matawa. Mas papanoorin ang series na may sampalan at kabitan 'di ba kasi ang tataas ng mga ratings. Nag-rate ba ang mga soap na nag-try mag level up? HINDI!

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"Akala ko ba ay gusto ng maganda, bago, at matinong panoorin? Bakit hindi ito pinanoodHanggang dakdak lang kayo."

Limited Audience + Limited Budget 

Suzette also underlined that Pinoy teleseryes are produced on a limited budget, compared to K-dramas, which are "15 times more expensive."

She explained, "Dahil limitado ang audience (masang Pinoy) naming mga Filipino filmmakers and soap opera workers kaya limitado rin ang budget (laban sa pang Hollywood level budget) ng Koreans, na 15x times more expensive, kasi may world market na sila) tapos nagagawa pang ikumpara?

"Paano maa-achieve 'yon kung wala namang nanonood at masa lang?"

On why Filipinos prefer foreign films and TV shows over local productions, she explained, "Aminin na natin. Utak kolonyal tayo. 'Pag gawang imported, gusto natin. 'Pag gawang Pinoy, cheap na agad ang tingin natin. Kaya masa lang talaga ang nanonood. Masa lang ang kakampi namin.

"Yes. Malaki ang dapat i-improve pa sa paggawa ng pelikula at soap opera dito sa Pilipinas (like, government support? Na wala pero [tayo] mayroon sa Korea, malaking budget, censorship) pero mas malaki rin ang dapat baguhin ng Pilipino sa psyche o kaisipan natin."

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My Husband's Lover And Social Media 

In her second Facebook post, Suzette talked about My Husband's Lover (MHL), starring Carla Abellana, Tom Rodriguez, and Dennis Trillo. The 2013 GMA-7 series tells the story of Lally (Carla), a woman who finds out that her husband Vincent (Tom) is a closeted gay who is having an affair with his ex-boyfriend, Eric (Dennis).

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As a show that centered on gay relationships, My Husband's Lover is considered a first on Philippine TV. The series was warmly received by netizens, with episodes and scenes trending on social media.

Some of its episodessuch as when Lally caught Vincent and Ericdid well when it came to ratings.

But Suzette herself wondered why all the buzz it generated did not translate into high ratings. She said, "Pasensya po at magbubuhat na ako ng bangko. Need lang para gawin kong example itong show. Ako na ang magsasabi na nag-try akong gumawa ng matinong kabitan serye sa pamamagitan ng MHL. Maiba lang.

"Noong ipinalabas po ito, wala po kaming commercial load. Maski isa. Hindi rin siya nag-rate. Talo.   

"Maingay lang siya sa social media. Pinag-usapan. Pero olats. Mabuti na lang at pinanindigan ng GMA-7 na ituloy pa rin itong show. 

"Dahil pinag-usapan at naging trending kaya doon po pumasok ang mga commercials (salamat!) pero hindi ang ratings. Talo pa rin po. Pero maingay talaga. Lalo sa social media. 'Di ko tuloy alam kung paanong maingay pero 'di nagre-rate? Kaloka. (Dahil pinanood kami ng mga sosyal kaya watch sila online, hindi sa TV).

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"Though considered success naman ang MHL kasi nga sa ingay. Pero sa numbers? Nope."

Why Pinoy Teleseryes Aren't Going International 

In October 2014, My Husband's Lover was among the four TV shows around the world that received a nomination in the Telenovela category from the International Emmy Awards.

It was an extraordinary feat for the series and a proud moment for the production team behind My Husband's Lover.

Doctolero narrated, "So go kami ni Helen Rose S. Sese, yung Production Manager at ni direk Dominic Zapata sa New York many years ago kasi nominated ang gawa namin e!  Proud kami! Feeling namin, mananalo tayo. Eto na, lumipad kami sa NYC!"

Upon seeing the grand production value of the nominated shows, even the team of the contending My Husband's Lover was impressed.

She mentioned, in particular, a scene from Precious Pearls, the telenovela entry of Brazil that eventually won the award, and lamented My Husband's Lover's small budget compared to those of the other shows.

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She continued, "Lintik. Pagdating namin sa New York, nanliit kami noong ipinalabas na ang mga trailers ng mga kalaban [naming kalahok]. May isang eksena doon sa Brazilian series: yung bida, nakasakay sa kabayo. Pag top shot: ang grand! Libo libong kabayo ang nakasunod sa kanya! At hindi siya effects!

"Wala akong ganoong eksena sa MHLTae ang budget namin compared sa kanila. Isang eksena lang 'yon ha at walang kwenta: establishing shot lang. 'Nyeta. Lahat ng kalaban namin ay ganoon. 15 to 20 times ang budget kaysa sa amin! Malaking factor ang quality ng production sa puntos, 30 percent lang yata ang content? Puro exterior shots ang ipinakita sa mga trailers nila: puro malalaki. Puro glossy na ewan anong klaseng camera ang mga gamit kasi parang totoo tao na yung napapanood sa screen. Alam na namin na 'di kami mananalo kaya ako naglasing sa New York (char! haha)."

Some content buyers expressed interest in obtaining the airing rights of My Husband's Lover. But even if they bought the rights, most buyers decided against airing the Kapuso show upon discovering the show's production budget.

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It was then that Suzette realized that the Philippines has been really falling behind in terms of producing soap operas.

She recalled, "Ang daming nagka-interes doon na bilhin ang rights ng MHL. Ang unang tanong, magkano ang budget ng show? Noong nalaman nila na maliit, uuurong na, alam kasi nila na dahil low cost at wala sa standard ng international budget (LOL) kaya nga bahay bahay lang ang location namin,' di ba? (Though, may mga bumili pa rin kaya naipalabas pa rin ito sa ibang mga bansa.)

"Noong andoon kami, doon ko narealize, na huling-huli na ang Pilipinas. Na para mag-level up, need ng sobrang laking budget para magkaroon ng chance na ma-penetrate ang world market.

"Pero hindi ito kaya ng mga producers at network. Mamumulubi. Babagsak ang mga negosyo. Lalo at sobrang liit ng market natin. Masa lang ang nanonood!

"Kasi snob sa gawang pinoy ang mga maiingay na gusto ng high quality para bigyan ng depensa ang preference nila na manood ng imported kaysa local. Pero 'pag binigyan mo, di naman panonoorin."

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Doctolero said it is unfair for viewers to blame the creators and call them "tanga" and "bobo" because of the quality of shows in the country.

She pointed out: "Para ma-achieve ang high quality at world domination gaya ng mga Korean dramas ay need ng support ng gobyerno (kagaya sa Korea), need rin alisin ang napakalaking tax. At ang sobrang laki ng cost ng mga locations. 'Saka ang censorship. Need sipain (charot!).

"Maraming reasons kung bakit mababa ang level ng mga movies at palabas natin. At hindi iyon dahil mga tanga at bobo kaming mga gumagawa ng movies at soap. Tse!"

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K-Dramas And World Domination 

In the third part of her post, Doctolero narrated her experience when she attended an Asian drama summit in South Korea with one of GMA-7's drama production managers, Redgyn Alba.

As a viewer of K-Dramas and a soap opera creator in the Philippines, this was an exciting opportunity for her.

She said, "Nakita namin doon na sinadya talaga ng Korea ang world domination pagdating sa K-dramas. In-achieve talaga nila 'yon."

The Encantadia creator added that the South Korean government has spearheaded the mission to make the country's pop culture big and known worldwide, believing that it can contribute to South Korea's economic growth.

Because of this, the production of K-Dramas is tax-free, and they can shoot in any location for free.

In fact, an island in Koreacalled the Nami Islandis dedicated as an exclusive taping location for K-Drama series.

Doctolero explained, "Gusto ng gobyerno na itampok sa buong mundo ang kultura, history, pagkain, [at] fashion nila through K-dramas at K-pop. Gobyerno ng South Korea ang mismong nagbigay ng ganyang misyon. Korean invasion.

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"Dahil may foresight sila: na maibebenta iyon sa buong mundo at hindi sila nagkamali. Multi-billion industry na nila ito oy. 'Yan lang ay buhay na ang ekonomiya ng South Korea.

"Dahil involved ang gobyerno kaya tax-free ang K-dramas, libre rin ang lahat ng locations. May ginawa pang isla ang Korea (Nami Island) para lang maging ekslusibong taping location ng mga K-dramas. Ganda doon! Picture perfect! Maganda sa mata ang biswal. May pang-spring, summer, autumn, at winter look. NakakainggitHayuf sila. Kumpleto. Gumawa talaga ng taping island 'di ba?

"At dahil pang world market ang puntirya kaya nagpundar sila ng mamahaling mga camera at kagamitan, ng mga malalaki at state of the art studios, pinag-aral rin nila ang mga artist nila ng filmmaking. Magaganda at malalaki ang mga film school doon, pinondohan rin para lumaki ang mga budget. Dahil ito sa gobyerno!"

The Koreans even told Redgyn Alba and Suzette Doctolero that they can shoot in Korea's locations for free as long as they write to their Ministry of Culture.

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She revealed, "Kung gusto daw namin mag-shoot sa Korea ay puwedeng libre ang location. Basta susulat lang sa Ministry of Culture eklavu nila. Nyeta. May ministry talaga sila na ang trabaho ay maniguro na mamamayagpag ang K-dramas.

"Tapos dahil fan ka na ng K-dramas kaya unang lakbay mo sa international ay sa Korea mo gusto magpunta, 'di ba? Pagdating sa South korea, benta ang mga day tours sa mga K-drama locations and houses na ginamit sa mga pumatok na drama. Oo, naging museum na yung ibang mga bahay na ginamit. Susme. Talagang laking ganansya nila sa Korean invasion."

One thing Doctolero noticed: the Philippinesparticularly its governmentdoes not have the same aggressiveness of the South Korean government in supporting the production of quality content and entertainment. She also pointed out that Pinoy soap opera creators only have the ratings data to know what content will work and sell.

She elaborated, "E dito? Nganga. Walang pake ang gobyerno. Busy sila sa ibang mga bagay. Tila wala rin naman yatang ginagawang mga batas para sa industriya ang mga artista na mga pulitiko na now? 

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"Tapos kasalanan naming mga taga industriya? Na ang market lang namin ay ang super loyal na masa? Kaya syempre, through ratings, nakikita kung ano ang gusto nilang panoorin?

"So dahil nainggit kami sa Korea kaya gabi-gabi ay nag iinuman kami ni Redgyn knowing na kawawa ang entertainment industry ng 'Pinas. Haha char."

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K-dramas are very popular in the Philippines. For one thing, both ABS-CBN and GMA-7 have been airing dubbed versions of K-Dramas, also known as Koreanovelas in the country, since 2004.

The top ten shows in the streaming service Netflix also mostly consist of K-Dramas.

As of April 20, five Korean dramas are in the Top 10 streamed shows of Netflix Philippines. Placing first is Lee Min Ho's comeback series, The King: Eternal Monarch, which premiered on April 17. The other four K-Dramas in the Top 10 are: Hi Bye, Mama! (#2), Crash Landing On You (#5), Itaewon Class (#6), and Fight For My Way (#10).

American series Prison Break places third, while Netflix original shows Too Hot To Handle and Money Heist place fourth and eighth, respectively.

For The Broken Hearted (Para Sa Broken Hearted), the only Pinoy movie on the list, ranks seventh, while American movie Fast & Furious 7 places ninth.

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In an earlier blog post, director Joey Reyes discussed some of the reasons Pinoys are obsessed with K-Dramas. These include the following: (1) genres are varied (2) scripts are well-written (3) these K-Dramas are more story-based than actor-based.

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