Marissa Benavides a 65-year-old mother of three living in Dededo Guam gets all excited when she recalls watching The Hunks perform a few years ago on the island.
Benavides an outlet manager in one of the island’s biggest department stores saidshe didn’t think twice about paying $25 to watch the concert. “Ang gwapo nila! (They’re very handsome!) ” she says of the Filipino male actors and singers who comprise the group. She add she was surrounded by gays who screamed throughout the show especially when the men took of their shirts and showed off their rippling muscles and six-pack abs.
Her daughter Alice has more subtle tastes. She was a die-hard fan of Rico Yan a young matinee idol who passed away suddenly at the peak of his career in 2002. He too performed on Guam and was so popular that Alice recalled being glued to The Filipino Channel a cable TV station when it beamed his funeral procession.
Such is the lure of Filipino artists to their countrymen who have had to leave the homeland and work for a better life on Guam the United States and elsewhere. Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency as of December 2004 show that of the 8.1 million Filipinos abroad there were 48 268 on Guam and 19 291 in the Northern Mariana Islands.
Of the Guam Filipinos almost 46 000 are permanent residents accounting for more than 27% of Guam’s total population of about 169 000. There were 1 800 temporary workers as of December 2004 and 500 were considered irregulars having no work permits or overstaying. In the Northern Marianas only 1 288 are permanent residents while 16 753 are temporary workers and 1 250 have no work permits. Filipinos in the Northern Marianas account for some 26% of the commonwealth’s population of 18 141 — as of the U.S. Census Bureau’s count in 2000.
And with the Philippine economy continuing its downward spiral one can expect more Filipinos to flee the country for overseas work. With it comes the longing for the sights and sounds of the homeland such that many of them are eager to watch the news about the Philippines and anticipate films and concerts featuring homegrown talents. It’s no wonder that Filipino broadcasting giant ABS-CBN 2 has been generating most of its revenues from its cable unit TFC. Only recently its rival GMA 7 also launched its own cable TV catering to overseas Filipinos.
Angeli Pangelinan Valenciano wife and manager of Gary V whose concerts are always sold out on Guam and the U.S. mainland told the Journal: “The Philippine economy is clearly suffering. The Filipino Channel also opened up the market to hungry Filipinos or OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] all over the world who miss home and OPM [Original Pilipino Music] makes them feel like they are at home.”
Emelio Uy one of Guam’s tireless concert producers and who has been instrumental in bringing Gary V to Guam said that so far the superstar with his dance moves a la Michael Jackson and powerful voice has been one of the more popular acts to grace Guam. Gary V has performed in three major concerts at the University of Guam Field House and one at the Expo Hall at the Micronesia Mall for the relaunching of Philippine Airlines’ Manila-Guam route in 2002.
The line of Filipinos snaked from the Expo Hall’s entrance out of sight around the corner. Those in the line could hardly contain their excitement for the pop singer’s concert. It was one of the more memorable performances of Gary V.
Valenciano said: “There is not much difference in performing [in Manila or on Guam] except that sometimes in the mainland or on Guam people get hysterical. Filipinos are generous. They send flowers teddy bears cards and souvenirs abroad. Abroad fans cry a lot especially in the inspirational numbers.”
Uy owner of the National Office Supply has been bringing Filipino talents to Guam as early as 1987. His first show was to raise funds to keep Sanctuary open. The talents who performed then at the Pacific Star Hotel included singers Raymond Lauchengco and Dingdong Avanzado and actors Dawn Zulueta and Jeffrey Coronel. “The tables of 10 seats cost $500 per table. It was a big success and we were able to get the matching funds from the Guam legislature. The Sanctuary continues to operate to this day ” he told the Journal.
Since then he has brought to the island a number of recording artists and actors mostly for different associations and organizations for their “fund-raising activities ” Uy said and added that he personally does not ask any percentages or commissions for his work. “It is really a volunteer service.” Aside from Gary V and those mentioned above other popular Filipino performers he has invited are: Kris Aquino (the actress-TV host daughter of former Philippine president Corazon Aquino); stand-up comics/singers Giselle Sanchez Marissa Sanchez Arnel Ignacio; singers Jessa Zaragosa Richard Merck Ana Fegi the Apo Hiking Society Rannie Raymundo; actors Gretchen Barreto Robin Padilla Judy Ann Santos Marvin Agustin Jericho Rosales Diether Ocampo and Camille Pratts just to name a few.
Indeed even UOG’s philanthropic arm the UOG Endowment Foundation recruits Filipino talents to raise funds for its myriad activities.
Flora Baza Quan executive director of the UOG foundation told the Journal that the institution “started actively inviting Filipino artists at the end of 2002 but that was not formalized until last year 2004. The chairperson of the special events of our board of directors Mr. Jerry Calvo is himself an avid fan of many Filipino artists and initiated the idea with the support of the rest of the foundation board and university officials to utilize this idea for fund-raising purposes.”
In the past years the UOG foundation has brought Regine Velasquez dubbed Asia’s songbird; “concert queen” Pops Fernandez; TV host/actor Bayani Agbyani who popularized the dance ditty “Ocho-Ocho”; and the Sex Bomb Dancers who bumped and grinded the infamous “Spageti Song.”
Quan declined to say whether bringing in the artists has been profitable for the foundation. “The profitability scale is based on who the talent is. Tickets vary from $25 to $35 for general admission depending on the initial costs and the type or level of performance. Key to the financial success of the shows are mounted “with the assistance of corporate and individual sponsors ” she said.
Uy said getting outside sponsors is the only surefire way for Guam producers to make a profit. “Most major concerts cannot expect to make a profit on ticket sales only. They have to be sure there are enough sponsors first before they can proceed with their fund-raising or their productions.
Considering the limited seating capacity of concert venues on Guam one cannot just depend on ticket sales to pay for the expenses. They have to solicit enough sponsors and most of the time those contributions are their net profit. The sales from the tickets are mostly used for expenses like talent fees production costs advertisements sounds and lights technicians and helpers rental of the venue etc.”
The cost of production goes down if the producer/promoter is able to get the artist to lower his talent fee. Standard commission of the booking agent is usually 20% to 30% of the agreed talent fees Uy said. “So it is a big savings if one can deal with the talent or his manager directly rather than through a lot of middlemen.” The talent fees usually vary depending on the size of the venue.
General admission tickets for concerts at hotels are usually priced at $20 to $25.
Another institution which will soon be jumping into the apparently profitable Filipino concert industry on Guam is Micronesia Mall Theaters.
Shelly Gibson director of Tango Inc.’s group sales marketing special events and promotions for the theaters said: “We may be hosting a concert aside from showing Filipino movies before the end of the year. If there is a movie release and a star is singing there is always a good tie-in.”
Micronesia Mall Theaters has been showing Filipino films since 1998 but Gibson says it was only recently that the activity has been aggressively pursued.
“Our location in Dededo lends to a concentrated ethnicity of Filipino families. It also enables us to offer entertainment from the homeland in a timely manner. Filipinos are known for their keen national pride. They subscribe to the Filipino TV channels and see the ‘coming soon’ features and talk-show reviews. They check out Web sites like www.showbizpinoy.com www.abs-cbn.com www.regalfilms.com and www.viva.com. They read their Starstudio and Inside ShowBiz magazines. Having Filipino movies shown on Guam enables them to see them before they are released on DVD. It also allows us to showcase film products that the younger Filipinos might not watch. The younger audiences are more attracted to Western/American films and might not make the effort to see a Filipino film. It gives all audiences a broader choice!”
The more recent films that Micronesia Mall has screened are Feng Shui a horror flick starring Kris Aquino; Lastikman a serious takeoff from the old U.S. cartoon Plasticman; romance stories like Now That I Have You and Dreamboy featuring the hottest young Filipino actors John Lloyd Cruz Bea Alonzo and Piolo Pascual; Naglalayag (Roving) starring the Nora Aunor dubbed the Superstar of Philippine cinema; and “Mano Po 3 ” the third installment in the continuing story of a semi-biographical Filipino-Chinese family.
Four factors are considered before Micronesia Mall Theaters decides to bring in a film from Manila said Gibson: “Availability of print interest word of mouth and popularity of the stars. Popularity can be measured in star power or storyline. My observation is that the Filipino audience has already established stars and love couples that translate to and from TV [Talk shows like one hosted by Kris Aquino led to her success in Feng Shui.]. Love couples such as the much touted and beloved John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo are huge draws to the movies because Filipinos want them to be together and expand their on-screen chemistry into real life. We saw this in their First Romance and Now That I Have You and continues through their popular teleseryes teleseries.”
Gibson said it has been “a worthwhile effort to screen Filipino movies.” But more than that she added “aside from the commercial aspect there is also a cultural investment and our experience has been good so far.”
The cost of bringing a movie to Guam is about $300 “plus or minus” because it is air-freighted and tickets are sold at standard prices of $7. “Showing of Filipino films is funded purely by our ability to acquire a print from the studios and screen space. But we seek outside sponsors if we are bringing in film talents/stars ” she said.
No doubt the trend of Filipino stars performing on Guam and in the U.S. will continue. The growing number of OFWs will ensure that as well as the growing availability of media sources that bring news and shows of these talents into the living rooms of the Filipinos abroad.
“The trend of having Filipino performers on Guam will continue considering that there are a lot of Filipino TV shows now on cable TV and both ABS-CBN and GMA 7 are on the air now [via their cable TV affiliates]. More younger Filipinos will know the artists ” Gibson said.
As for Marissa Benavides she looks forward to the next show of her favorite singers and actresses from the homeland. In the meantime she is more than happy to rush home from work everyday just to watch the latest news and programs featuring her favorite Filipino TV stars. She says she makes sure her husband pays the additional $25 cable TV charge just to get ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel. “I can’t live without my TFC!” she exclaimed. MBJ