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10 times Filipinos entertained the world in 2019: from P-pop to 'Hamilton' and 'Superstore'

'Hello, Love, Goodbye' went global, Filipinos dominated talent shows and a musical legend was honoured internationally

In 2019, 12-year-old Angelica Hale wowed America's Got Talent judges, 'Hello, Love, Goodbye' smashed records, Nico Santos charmed US audiences and Rachelle Ann Go bagged a role in 'Hamilton' 
In 2019, 12-year-old Angelica Hale wowed America's Got Talent judges, 'Hello, Love, Goodbye' smashed records, Nico Santos charmed US audiences and Rachelle Ann Go bagged a role in 'Hamilton' 

Record-breaking, wave-making, jaw-­dropping – that is how we’d describe the past year in entertainment in the Philippines, and among the Filipino diaspora.

Here are this year’s 10 highlights from the country’s film, TV, music, art and theatre worlds.

1. 'Hello, Love, Goodbye' breaks records

The romantic drama Hello, Love, Goodbye, directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina, became the highest-grossing Filipino film, earning about 880 million Philippine pesos (Dh63.8m) since its summer release. The record was held by 2018’s The Hows of Us, a romantic drama also directed by Garcia-Molina. Hello, Love, Goodbye stars Kathryn Bernardo and Alden Richards and focuses on the stories of two Filipino workers in Hong Kong. Bernardo and Richards attended six screenings across Abu Dhabi and Dubai during the promotional tour and it was also the first Filipino movie to be shown in a cinema in Jeddah.

2. The first K-pop-style band from the Philippines takes off

The year’s biggest breakout stars in the Filipino music world were the five members of SB19 – Josh Santos, Justin De Dios, Ken Suson, Sejun Nase and Stell Ajero. They lived in South Korea for three years to train under entertainment company ShowBT, with the hope of emulating the international success of K-pop superstars. It seemed to work in late November their first single, Go Up, entered Billboard’s Next Big Sound chart at No 6, which tracks the fastest-growing artists from across the world based on online traction.

Read more: 25 best dressed at the ABS-CBN ball: the Filipiniana theme's major fashion moments

SB19 say that while they may be heavily influenced by K-pop’s sound and style, they prefer to be identified as a ­“P-pop” boy band.

3. Pixar introduces first Filipino characters

Pixar’s short film Float was released on streaming platform Disney+ last month. It is the first film from Pixar Animation Studios to feature characters with Filipino roots.

Written and directed by Filipino-­American Bobby Rubio, the film tells the story of a father who discovers his son can float. It was inspired by Rubio’s son, Alex, who was diagnosed with autism. “I wanted Alex to know that his dad loved him and he was worth it,” the filmmaker says. “I wanted to empower him and empower children of colour.”

Rubio has worked as a storyboard artist on renowned animated movies such as Up (2009), Inside Out (2015) and Incredibles 2 (2018).

4. Netflix premieres first Filipino film

Dead Kids. Courtesy Netflix
Dead Kids. Courtesy Netflix

This year, streaming service Netflix commissioned and produced a Filipino movie for the first time, with Dead Kids launching this month. The thriller is directed by Mikhail Red, a rising star of the Filipino independent movie scene. Following the story of a group of teenagers as they plot to kidnap one of their classmates, the film stars Sue Ramirez, Gabby Padilla, Khalil Ramos, Markus Paterson, Vance Larena and Kelvin Miranda.

“This is a testament to the world-class talent here in the Philippines,” Red, 27, says of the cast and crew. “I hope this helps open doors for more Filipino filmmakers.”

Red’s 2016 film, Birdshot, was the first Filipino film to stream on Netflix.

5. Philippines Pavilion impresses at Venice Biennale

Philippine Pavilion at Venice Biennale. Courtesy Venice Biennale
Philippines Pavilion at Venice Biennale. Courtesy Venice Biennale

Filipino artist Mark Justiniani’s immersive installation drew crowds at this year’s Venice Biennale, which ran from May until November. Curator Tessa Maria Guanzon commissioned Justiniani to create this year’s Philippines Pavilion, resulting in a work titled Arkipelago, a reflective media installation that represented the main islands groups of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Visitors looked down on massive glass-covered installations that represented each group, as if gazing towards the bottom of the sea. The Philippines Pavilion was also a hit with many critics.

6. Filipinos dominating reality singing shows

In the past year, several Filipino contestants showcased their talents on TV shows across the world. Child trio the TNT Boys – Francis Concepcion, Mackie Empuerto and Kiefer Sanchez – reached the champion rounds of US talent competition The World’s Best, which featured hand-picked talents from all over the globe, while this year Jej Vinson turned all of the coaches’ chairs on the American version of The Voice on his way to the Top 13 stage of the competition. Videos of Vinson’s performances also broke viewer records on the show’s YouTube channel.

Then there was the moment Angelica Hale, who was 11 at the time, competed on America’s Got Talent: The Champions and made it to the final round.

Speaking of the all-star version of the Got Talent franchise, singer Marcelito Pomoy is to appear on the second season of America’s Got Talent: The Champions, which is scheduled to have its premiere on Monday, January 6. Pomoy was the winner of the second season of Pilipinas Got Talent, which was broadcast in 2011. Pompoy performed Josh Groban and Celine Dion song The Prayer in the final.

7. Filipino actresses headline Broadway and West End

Three Filipino actresses are starring in the biggest musicals on New York’s Broadway and London’s West End. Rachelle Ann Go is currently playing the role of Eliza Hamilton in the West End production of Hamilton, which is perhaps the most celebrated musical of the decade. Meanwhile, Eva Noblezada plays the lead role of Eurydice in Hadestown, which won the Best Musical prize at the Tony Awards in June.

Rachelle Ann Go in Hamilton. Courtesy Hamilton West End
Rachelle Ann Go in Hamilton. Courtesy Hamilton West End

Christine Allado has also been cast to star as Tzipporah in the West End adaptation of 1998 animated musical The Prince of Egypt, which is scheduled to open in February.

The three actresses all have stage connections, with Go and Noblezada working together in the West End run of Miss Saigon, while Allado and Go met through Hamilton, on which Allado played the dual role of Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds.

8. Filipino film about Muslim mother triumphs in Cairo

Judy Ann Santos in Mindanao. Courtesy Busan Film Festival
Judy Ann Santos in Mindanao. Courtesy Busan Film Festival

Judy Ann Santos, one of the most popular celebrities in the Philippines, bagged the Best Actress Award at the Cairo International Film Festival last month. Santos won the prize for her performance in Filipino director Brilliante Mendoza’s latest film, Mindanao, which tells the story of a Muslim mother dealing with a severely ill child and a husband serving in the military. Santos is only the second Filipino to take home the Best Actress Award at the Cairo festival, after Nora Aunor won in 1995 for her portrayal of a domestic worker in The Flor Contemplacion Story.

Another Filipino filmmaker who was celebrated this year was Breech Asher Harani, who won an International Young Creatives Award at the International Emmys. Harani was recognised for his short film, Next to Me, a story about a Muslim student adjusting to life at a new school after her family was evacuated from their war-torn home in the southern Philippine city of Marawi.

9. 'Superstore' Filipino character makes waves

Nico Santos in Superstore. Courtesy NBC
Nico Santos in Superstore. Courtesy NBC

It has been a remarkable year for Filipino actor Nico Santos. After the box-office success of last year’s Crazy Rich Asians, in which he played Oliver T’sien, Santos has received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Filipino employee Mateo Liwanag in the US TV series Superstore, which follows a group of people working at a large retail store in St Louis, Missouri.

Earlier this year, Santos’s character Mateo revealed he is an undocumented immigrant and went on to protest against Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to qualify for political asylum in the US – a compellingly political plot point for a sitcom. Santos’s performance was discussed online and stirred conversation about migrant identities and overseas Filipino workers.

Born and raised in Manila, Santos moved to the US at the age of 16.

10. Music icon wins Asia’s Nobel Prize

Last, but certainly not least, Filipino composer and musician Ryan Cayabyab received a Ramon Magsaysay Award this year, a prize that is recognised as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize. Cayabyab, 65, was lauded as a “moving force” in the Filipino music industry.

Ryan Cayabyab. Courtesy ABS-CBN Entertainment
Ryan Cayabyab. Courtesy ABS-CBN Entertainment

One of the most recognisable names in Asian arts and culture, Cayabyab is executive director of the Popular Music Festival. This year, Ramon Magsaysay Awards were also given to South Korean anti-­bullying campaigner Kim Jong-ki, Myanmar journalist Ko Swe Win, Indian TV presenter Ravish Kumar and Thai human rights activist Angkhana Neelapaijit.

At an awards ceremony held in Manila in September, Cayabyab said: “My goal is to make the Filipino public aware that our Filipino music is not just a form of entertainment but a living tradition.”

Updated: December 18, 2019 07:14 PM

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