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Philippine Television Dramas Are Making It Big in Latin America

In the ’90s and early 2000s, Latin American telenovelas hit the Philippine airwaves. Now, it’s the other way ’round.

The Filipino teleserye wave in Latin America has begun to gain ground at the same time as telenovelas made a comeback on Philippine free television. GMA Network, under its subsidiary GMA Worldwide, Inc., started exporting its teleseryes in Latin America circa 2017 through its partnership with Latin Media Corporation. ABS-CBN, the biggest television network in the country, followed suit in 2020 through its business unit ABS-CBN International Distribution. The local success of Filipino-language television dramas of the said giant networks has spurred the production of Spanish-dubbed Filipino teleseryes in South America and the Caribbean.

Ecuavisa, a free-to-air television network in Ecuador, is adapting a new GMA teleserye titled “Hermanas” or locally known as “The Half Sisters.” “Ecuador llega otro exito novela filipina que cautivara sus corazones #Hermanas ¡Muy pronto!” announced Feb. 14 via Facebook by Telenovelas Filipinas, a page promoting teleseryes from the Philippines.

The said Ecuadorian network has been importing Philippine teleseryes since 2019, and one of its recent offerings is “Un don verdadero” or “The Gift” starring Alden Richards.

Ecuavisa is not the only Ecuadorian television channel that ventured into the teleserye business. Stated-owned TC Televisión also adapted several of GMA’s and ABS-CBN’s hit teleseryes: “Quédate a mi lado” or “Hindi Ko Kayang Iwan Ka” starring Yasmien Kurdi, “La promesa” or “Pangako Sa ’Yo” starring Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo, “Corazones cruzados” or “Dahil May Isang Ikaw” starring  Kristine Hermosa and Jericho Rosales, “Un corazón especial” or “My Special Tatay” starring Ken Chan, “Un amor más grande” or “Onanay” starring Jo Berry and Mikee Quintos, “Puentes de amor” or “Bridges of Love” starring Maja Salvador and Jericho Rosales and “Dulce vengaza” or “Ika-6 na Utos” starring Ryza Cenon and Sunshine Dizon. “Dulce vengaza” was a success — just like the original version — that Ecuavisa also aired it.

Another Ecuadorian television network, Oromar Televisión, also rode the teleserye wave. In fact, the network adapted “Legalmente ciega” aka “Legally Blind” starring Janine Gutierrez.

In Colombia, ABS-CBN’s “Dahil May Isang Ikaw” also premiered via Caracol Televisión.

“Cautiva” or “Hanggang Makita Kang Muli” starring Bea Binene and Derrick Monasterio and “Una nueva oportunidad” or “Second Chances” starring Raymart Santiago and Jennylyn Mercado also aired in Peru via Panamericana Televisión. “Una nueva oportunidad” was also shown in Ecuador’s Oromar Televisión.

Some teleseryes were massive hits that they also reached the shores of the Caribbean. “Quédate a mi lado” and “Un amor más grande” also aired in Dominican Republic via Color Visión. “No me olvides” or “Someone to Watch Over Me” starring Lovi Poe and Tom Rodriguez also made a splash.

Likewise, Spanish-dubbed GMA teleseryes such as “Impostora,” “Legally Blind,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Hanggang Makita Kang Muli” and “Ika-6 na Utos” also aired in Uruguay and Peru.

In the entertainment industry, one might attribute the success of Filipino teleseryes in Latin America to the market. After all, Spanish soap operas and telenovelas have mass appeal, just as teleseryes are “earning support from among a great majority of the masses.”

Teleseryes, which share the same elements with telenovelas, are known for their dramatic scenes and time-tested storytelling. They are well-loved by Filipinos, so it’s not surprising that they resonate with Latinos as well.

“Our dramas rate well in the countries where they are shown because while retaining common elements like family, romance and relationships, our content features unusual themes that keep viewers engaged and boost ratings for the broadcasters,” said Roxanne Barcelona, Vice President of GMA Worldwide, Inc., in a press release in 2019.

Latin Media Corporation’s CEO and founder Jose Escalante also shared how the GMA teleseryes are faring well in Latin America during his visit in the network’s office in 2019. “When I started thinking of bringing [programs from] a country from Asia, I thought of bringing the Filipino dramas because we look the same, our families, our values are very similar in terms of culture and [in] the way we educate ourselves,” he said.

For a businessman, Escalante knows what he’s doing — he has hit the nail on the head.

The “why” and “how” of teleseryes’ success in Latin America is not a rocket science: The Philippines and the Latin American countries have a shared history and culture being former colonies of the Spanish Empire. They are two sides of the same coin, and it’s a shame that the former hasn’t preserved the language well.

In an interview with GMA News during the launch of “Cautiva” in Latin America, Filipina actress Bea Binene shared that her fans send her personal messages written in Spanish through social media and that she uses Google Translate to be able to understand them. She also added that she replies to them by writing in English first and then translating into Spanish using the said translation tool.

“Nag-d-dm talaga sila tapos ’yung mga sinasabi nila Español pa kasi feeling ko baka hindi marunong mag-English.

“Gino-google translate ko pa tapos sasagot ako, English tapos i-go-google translate ko pa gagawin kong Spanish,” she revealed.

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Arvyn Cerézo
Arvyn Cerézo is the editor of La Jornada Filipina, the first and largest Spanish-language news magazine in the Philippines. His work has appeared in South China Morning Post, Publishers Weekly, AudioFile Magazine, Asian Review of Books and Book Riot. You can find him on arvyncerezo.com.

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