FOR years now, our homegrown entertainers have been complaining about the unfair competition they’ve been getting from stellar imports on the concert and musical theater scene. This season, however, the problem has gotten from bad to worse, with the “invasion” of even bigger names like JLo, Elton John, the Jonas Brothers, Sting as well as the blockbuster musical, “Phantom of the Opera,” at the CCP.
Adding insult to injury, the production hasn’t paid full Equity because it regards its cast members as actors, not musicians, an opinion that local performing groups hotly dispute.
The situation becomes even more daunting when you factor in the many local versions of Broadway and West End musicals, which may feature homegrown performers, but use foreign scripts and songs, and thus don’t develop Filipino material.
The bottom line is that some 70 or 80 percent of Filipino patrons’ entertainment peso is going to the support and development of foreign works and players, while our own creative artists have to make-do with the spare change.
In other musical climes, this wouldn’t be allowed to happen, because they are more protective of their own talents—but, it’s happening here, because the local audience has been “carefully taught” by our past colonizers to prefer and value “imported” over “local.”
Fact is, this doesn’t have to be the case. Decades ago, when too many foreign movie productions were shown here, to the disadvantage of our homegrown films, a cap was imposed on the number of foreign productions that could be screened locally. Another move along this line was the institution of the Manila (later Metro Manila) Film Festival, a 10-day period during which only Filipino films could be screened in the metro’s moviehouses. In only a few years, the MFF succeeded in reviving the failing fortunes of the Filipino film industry, resulting in the third Golden Age of local movies.
So, if precedents are needed, there are enough to persuade our musical artists to ask the government for protection or preferred treatment, to blunt or neutralize the worst effects of the ongoing foreign “invasion” on the local entertainment and performing arts scene.
Doesn’t this run counter to the thrust toward globalization? Doesn’t it coddle or spoil local artists and make them too lazy to compete in terms of talent against their foreign counterparts?
In our view, it’s needed to counteract the still prevalent effects of our “deathless” colonial mentality, which has even gone from worse to worst.
Our most urgent responsibility is to provide local artists with at least a level playing field—and, given the many factors working against them, this is precisely what they don’t enjoy.
If 80 percent of the money people pay to buy tickets doesn’t go to our homegrown artists, local creativity can’t flourish, and our sense of priorities and self-worth are definitely askew.
This is why we urge viewers and listeners to consciously reserve at least 50 percent of their entertainment peso to the support of local material and artists. Let’s give ourselves a break—for once!