, January 15, 2005  (STAR) BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET By Wilson Lee Flores  -  If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work. – IBM founder Thomas J. Watson (1874-1956)

Like a sick person on his or her death throes and not yet willing to be confined to the ICU for major surgery or chemotherapy, what remains of the Philippine film industry, which recently staged the 2003 Metro Manila Film Festival with only a handful of entries reportedly turning a decent profit? Who are they going to blame again?

Self-Inflicted Blunders Of Filmmakers

The state imposes high taxes on this dying industry without the commensurate government support. The bureaucrats in charge of the anti-piracy drive have mostly been inutile and impotent. The economic travails and the unabated mass addiction on text messaging have also severely hit hard movie box office sales.

After staging the 2003 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), did any of our movie producers and filmmakers humbly, objectively and critically assess the near idiotic quality of those supposedly "best films" they have forced down our throat? Many local films have been trashy in terms of flawed logic, deficient common sense, putrid moral values and even awful entertainment values.

Several friends complained that they had migraines watching the top-grossing comedy film of the MMFF, that even a Visayan film with the loftiest goals had fallen short of high expectations. When I watched Mano Po 3, I believe it was better, more coherent and had fewer crude stereotypes of our local Chinese community than Mano Po 1 and 2, but still it wasn’t a masterpiece. Joel Lamangan’s direction and Roy Iglesias’ story were well done, Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon’s acting was superb, the beautiful Karylle’s singing was sublime, Mulawin star Angel Locsin’s looks was truly angelic, but that film would have only merited Second Best Picture Award from me and I wouldn’t have given away the Best Picture this year to any film.

Why is Mano Po 3 better? Mano Po 1 became a box office hit due partly to its novelty, but that film actually disgusted a lot in our community for having a story that seemed to glorify the controversial mestiza Mary "Rosebud" Ong who actually failed to win our community’s trust even with her theatrical cheongsam antics. Rosebud, in real life, even figured in an ugly verbal spat with activist Teresita Ang See, who has more credibility in our community for reflecting our traditional values and whose incorruptible career seemed to have inspired the Mano Po 3 story. Mano Po 2 was disturbing. The highlights of the story included a bizarre juvenile suicide caused by a son’s rebellion against his mother and the murder of the tycoon which caused his three wives’ own juvenile squabble similar to TV soap operas.

Invest More In World-Class Excellence

The state of our Philippine movie industry reflects a disturbing malaise, which is also threatening to wipe out our different manufacturing and other industries. Many entrepreneurs, leaders and stalwarts are simply intellectually lazy to be more daring in creativity, innovation and excellence standards. Whether film companies, garment factories, steel mills, shoe factories or other industries, a lot of our businesses are simply not market-oriented. Many of our entrepreneurs are not investing in new technologies, new ideas, new talents and new marketing strategies.

Even with so many politicians mouthing rhetoric about the Philippines possibly benefiting from the tragic tsunami disaster in South Asia, how many of our resorts, hotels and tourism entrepreneurs are upgrading facilities, adding rooms and gearing for world-class competition? Have we fixed the dirty and broken toilet facilities in our airport? Have our bureaucrats reeducated our taxi drivers on the importance of courteous, honest service to all tourists? If our tourism industry stalwarts make like the proverbial Juan Tamad, hoping for tourist arrivals to fall from the heavens, it will not be long when the market-oriented, globally-competitive and efficient Thai/Maldives/South Asia tourism industries to stage dramatic recoveries.

Starting this year, quotas for garment exports to the US – the world’s biggest market – are already past history, and international economic experts predict that a lot of inefficient garment manufacturers in countries like the Philippines will lose out to aggressive export powerhouses like China, Vietnam or even India.

Many of our Philippine factories grew fat and rich during past protectionist eras, when the world’s cheaper and better-quality imports were restricted with high import duties and taxes.

It is idiotic hogwash for film industry stalwarts to claim that people no longer watch movies in the Philippines nowadays. The public is no longer as gullible. Even film companies trying to make a fast buck with idiotic sex flicks are losing money and no longer drawing crowds.

We have to propagate a national culture of excellence in all industries throughout the Philippine economy. Our moviemakers have mostly not kept up with the dizzying pace of rapid globalization. Slapstick comedy, toilet humor, tawdry sex flicks with idiotic stories, tired old soap opera dramas, cowboy action movies and wacky fantasies – is there nothing else they can offer us? How to salvage the Philippine movie industry and our factories? They must shape up... or perish!

* * *

Thanks for all your interesting messages sent to or or P.O. Box 14277, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved