HISTORIC FILIPINOTOWN, Los Angeles, CA – To celebrate its 10th anniversary, FilAm Creative hosted “Filming in the Philippines,” with directors and producers whose hands-on knowledge of working there proves that the ingenuity, experience, and industriousness of Pilipino workers, combo’d with location, location, location, and the exchange of the dollar to the peso, makes the republic a prime place to shoot.
So much ground was covered Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Pilipino Workers Center in Historic Filipinotown that a “listicle” will serve best, with Overview writer, Lydia V. Solis, who just returned from the Philippines late February, giving the latest on traffic conditions and weather in and around Manila, while busy unpacking pasalubongs.
“Your sister and I didn’t even turn on the AC at night while at ‘Casa Carandang’ in Taal (Batangas),” she asserted; “two electric fans were enough for us. I did use the AC while in Marcelo Green Village (Parañaque), but Mitos ‘preferred the fresh air,’ and just opened the windows at night. She even insisted on shopping for souvenirs in Quiapo. Traffic? Our cousin Diding is a good driver and we had smooth rides in her brand-new pickup truck. We had good experience, too with Grab drivers.” (Uber has sold its Southeast Asian business to rival Grab in March 2018.)
Speaking on the panel: Producer Margie Templo Parks, owner of Philippine production company Arkeofilms, who’s been based in Los Angeles since 2012; Director Marie Jamora, with a film master’s from Columbia University, N.Y., now based in L.A.; Director Dale Fabrigar, native Angeleno, who co-directed “100 Yards,” with Director Ross Campbell, who splits his time between the U.S. and Asia, along with “100 Yards” film company, RLJ Entertainment. The panel’s moderator, Producer-Director Tim Cruz, now working with Loves You, a story development company, also pitched in with his experiences filming in the Philippines.
MAJOR FILMS shot in the Philippines
“Bourne Legacy” (2012) off-road motorcycle chase scenes filmed in Manila, and final escape scenes in the waters of El Nido, Palawan. The film portrayed the Philippines as the Philippines, contrasted with “Thirteen Days,” (2000) where the Philippines was a filming location that served as Cuba.
–Hardworking Pilipino movie production crew and stunt members, who put in 12-16 hours on one film shoot before heading out to work another 10-12 hours on another, stated Marie Jamora.
“The teams don’t talk, they just do,” Tim Cruz claimed. “They can be pretty fast and pretty efficient and we sometimes shot 7-10 pages of script a day.”
“And every piece of equipment comes with a guy!” exclaimed Jamora.
“Everyone’s so film friendly,” added Dale Fabrigar. “I love the energy, the exhaust fumes. For ‘100 Yards,’ lots of locals were hired.” The film was shot mostly in Cebu.
“Pilipinos love seeing a film crew and they love knowing filming is going on,” added Margie Parks.
–Locations, locations, locations — From beaches, waterfalls, 19th-century historical Spanish colonial architecture, mountains and even a desert.
“Batanes, Cagayan, looks like New Zealand,” Marie Jamora said.
“In Ilocos, there’s a desert if you need a post-apocalyptic look,” Parks added. Meantime, Reality TV show, “Survivor,” shot in Caramoan, Bicol, in 2012.
“Mt. Pinatubo buried areas under ash, if you need that look,” said Jamora. “Palawan has pristine beaches and is beautiful,” she added. “Baguio with the rice terraces and cool weather mountains is beautiful.”
–Car service where every car rented comes with a knowledgeable driver.
–Exchange rate. At deadline, the exchange rate was 1 U.S. dollar to 52 Pesos.
-Traffic in urban areas, especially Manila, Quezon City
“It noticeably has gotten worse in the past three years,” Jamora said. “There’s Uber now, there’s the coding system, which, instead of cutting down on traffic, had locals buying more cars. Big companies have their employees do Uber driving for part of their work shifts.”
“Imagine the 405 (freeway) with all the exits cut off,” quipped Tim Cruz.
-Acclamation to local food, water and climate. “Plan on at least two days for everyone to get used to the time change,” Tim Cruz calculated. “You need pro-biotics and lots and lots of bottled water.”
-Drugs. Marie Jamora reminded about 50 audience members of the easy availability of “Sugarcane rum and Shabu, crystal meth.”
Locally, the Los Angeles Times newspaper, in February, featured an All-Asia Travel Issue and the Philippines was not a top destination after Seoul, South Korea, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) Xian, China, home of the terracotta warriors, and destinations in Vietnam and Cambodia, but not the Philippines. The panelists pointed to lack of infrastructure as one reason.
“It’s always nicer to shoot in more populated areas with restaurants and hotels and more infrastructures vs. a more remote location,” Jamora noted, pointing to the enchanting 100 Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan, where her crew got around on boats and slept in tents.
BuzzFeed News online magazine published this description of a poor urban area in a Feb. 5, 2019, story about the murder of an American woman allegedly by her boyfriend and his friend. “So many strange things float in the Pasig River. The 15-mile-long waterway, which bisects Manila, is so polluted ecologists in the 1990s declared it ‘biologically dead’ – unable to support marine life. At times and in places, blankets of waste thick enough to stand on, cover the river and its slumside estuaries.”
High/Low Tides – Fabrigar, Jamora and Cruz emphasized the importance of using sunrise-sunset apps, along with tide apps when scouting locations. All three had stories of lost shoot days that couldn’t be rescheduled.
“We hid in a bat cave during high tide and rain, since the other side of the island got cut off during the storm,” Jamora cited. She proposed this shoot calendar:
January-February – Ideal for shoots
March-May – Heat & Humidity
June-October – Typhoon Season
November – Ideal for shoots
December – Christmas Traffic & Tourism