Democracy tells us that
the press is the Fourth Estate, the watchdog of government. But as we go
through the current age of entertainment celebrities and tabloids, the
entertainment press has emerged as an institution all its own -- with its
own culture, laws and rules.
Three decades ago when
paper was cheap, the country lived on merely six newspapers, all
broadsheets. The Manila Times, the Manila Daily Bulletin, the
Philippines Herald and The Manila Chronicle carried our news
in the morning while The Daily Mirror (of the Times family) and
Evening News were afternoon papers. Whatever tabloids there were were
but community papers in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Magazines were even
fewer. The Philippines Free Press then was the Bible of the
country, a news-magazine with interesting commentaries and features to
balance the weekly news round-up. Kislap-Graphic was a weekly
blend of news and entertainment celebrities. Plus two more on the local
entertainment scene: the monthly Literary Song Movie which was a pioneer and
the bi-monthly Movie Confidential, edited earlier by film director-writer
Susana de Guzman and later by Estrella Alfon. The well-patronized, widely
circulated Liwayway was the Tagalog's version of a family magazine
which catered then to housewives and students, and with its movie corner,
also to movie fans.
There were only a few
writers who pursued the entertainment beat and entertainment news which came
in the form of press releases or features written by company press relations
If there were less than a
score of honest-to-goodness entertainment writers then in the days of
Estrella Alfon, Rita Gerona and Ernie Evora, now the practicing and active
movie writers are more than 15 times more.
Their number alone --
some 300 -- makes the entertainment press a significant cog in the local
journalism chain in this country.
What they write --
columns, features, articles and film reviews -- finds space in more than a
dozen broadsheet dailies, 20 tabloids and 30 entertainment magazines in the
The amount of column
space daily and weekly devoted to entertainment celebrities is quite
formidable thus resulting in a more democratic approach to the entertainment
writing profession. Anyone who wants to write and can write is welcome:
there's always room for a lot more.
Statistics may not speak
well of the entertainment press of some 300 practicing ones, less than 20
percent are college graduates and 5 percent, of journalism schools.
Most belong to the
category of movie fans and "alalays" (go-for girls and errand boys of movie
stars) who after realizing their proximity to news sources suddenly got the
urge to write.
The rise of tabloids
increase the number of the entertainment press. There is a great demand for
entertainment news and celebrity stories in our dailies.
The major paper --
Bulletin, Inquirer, Philippine Star, Journal and Malaya -- devote at least 4
pages to Entertainment daily. This is a boon to entertainment writers and
even film company PROs.
However, the demand for
entertainment writing in tabloids is a lot more, with local tabloids being
more celebrity-oriented and gossip - conscious, running four or more
columnists daily to attract their own kind of readers.
The kind of exploitative
journalism entertainment writers dish out satisfy the demands of their own
kind of readers. The tabloids rely on the celebrity as its basic commodity
and of course, we have a lot of celebrities in the entertainment scene --
more than celebrities in politics, sports and business put together.
Basically, we are not interested in our celebrities but in what happens to
them -- sickness, new hairdo, pregnancy, courtship, etc.
This cult of the
celebrity -- more specifically, celebrity coverage -- makes tabloids sell.
The sex ingredient of this thrust is obvious. So we get tabloids which
carry entertainment news and gossip in more than half of their entire issue
with sexy photos.
And these make tabloids
like Abante, Abante Tonite, People's Journal, People's Tonight, Tempo,
Remate and Bulgar sell more than most of the daily
broadsheets. Probably a total of 600,000 copies daily is a conservative
estimate. Yes, they're cheaper.
What kind of writing do
our entertainment journalists dish out.
Since writing a column connotes that the writer has finally arrived,
everyone wishes to write a column. Since most journalists in show business
believe that a column is just a collection of news items or summarized news
reports, this is the kind we get -- news round-up as columns.
Features and articles are
harder to write. And more so, film reports and reviews,, which dailies
seldom carry anymore for fear of losing advertisers. Movie producers are
advertisers, too, and bad reviews may earn the ire of film producers or
powerful movie stars.
Add to this the fact that
good film reviewers are dwindling in number in this country. It too has
become a lost art, with film reviewers merely paid as much as a third-rate
About 3/4 of
entertainment writers do jobs for the Filipino publications. One-fourth
consists of writers for English publications or those who can write for both
Filipino and English publications. And since the Entertainment pages of
dailies now allocate more pages than the pages devoted to sports and
business, the entertainment editor has attained its own importance in the
As it is, few writers
take the adversarial position in their writings as far as the local movie
industry is concerned. Rather than being a watchdog of society, most
indulge in "sunshiny" journalism, believing perhaps that their role is to be
"a partner in progress" to the producer and movie stars.
however, don't augur well for entertainment journalism in this country.
Most respected names in the field are also practicing publicists and
public relations officers of big stars and big companies.
Some writers also manage
talents, making their credibility and fairness as journalists suspect. Some
are even entertainment editors. Still they manage stars, dance groups and
singers. So one realizes that in the new organization of talent managers, a
good number of them are active entertainment writers too. This is one
reason entertainment journalists cannot organize themselves to be a part of
the Film academy of the Philippines like producers, performers,
scriptwriters, directors and other technical people of the movie industry.
The story of Philippine
entertainment journalism is not complete without discussing two
organizations which exist in the show business landscape.
First, the Philippine
Movie Press Club which was organized by the movie writing pioneers in 1996.
Its organizers included Danny Villanueva, Andy Salao, Franklin Cabaluna,
Ethel Ramos and Tony Mortel who became its earlier presidents. Starting more
as a social club in the '60's and '70's, the PMPC has own transformed itself
to a non-stock, non-profit corporation registered with the Securities and
Exchange Commission. It used to sponsor a writing contest and a photo
contest among its members but current leadership junked this annual
Moreover, the current PMPC chooses to
be a "closed" club. So don't be misled by its tag since the PMPC has
currently only about 50 members, and about 20 percent are not of "good
standing as to enjoy voting privileges."
Past presidents include: Tony Mortel
(two years), Franklin Cabaluna (two years), Ethel Ramos (two separate terms
of two years each), Ronald Constantino (two years), Boy C. de Guia (two
years), Billy Balbastro (two years), Hermie Francisco (one year), Ernie
Pecho (two years), Veronica Samio (two years), Letty Celi (two years).
Since 1992, the presidency has been
alternated in the hands of Jun Nardo and Ricky Calderon so as to go about
the tradition of the club that no president must serve more than two
consecutive annual term. Many of its members are aware of this kind of
"martial law" in the PMPC and are not doing anything.
It was in 1984, during the term of
Billy Balbastro that the FAMAS awarded him the "Dr. Jose Perez Memorial
Award for Journalism" for his stand of bringing the club closer to the
industry and government. The annual "Paistaran" -- giving awards to stars
-- became a big event.
During the term of Hermie Francisco
(1984 - 85), the Star Awards For Movies was initiated, with Ernie Pecho
designing the first Star Awards trophy. The Star Awards for Television was
only established in 1988.
The Manunuri ng Pelikulang Filipino,
on the other hand, is an organization of practicing film critics established
in 1976. Most came from the Academe then with Nestor U. Torre becoming its
first president. The Manunuri had its Gawad Urian in simple one hour-long
rites at the CCP then. Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera Jr. became its second
president. Other presidents include: Mario Hernando, Butch Francisco,
Agustin "Hammy" Sotto, Gigi Javier Alfonso of UP. Each critic-member is
expected to write regularly film reviews or film criticism which must be
published in national publications. Each year too they give out awards for
achievements in the movie industry, thus joining the FAMAS, the Film academy
of the Philippines and the Philippine Movie Press Club's Star Awards in this
aspect of endeavor. During their first decade (1976 to 1985), they also
came up with their Stars of the Decade: Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Vic
Silayan and Phillip Salvador.
The members of the Manunuri are: Mario
Hernando (editor of Sunday Malaya), Bienvenido Lumbera Jr.(1993 Ramon
Magsaysay awardee for journalism, literature and creative
communication), Nicanor Tiongson (former artistic director of the Cultural
Center of the Philippines, and former MTRCB chair), Butch Francisco (TV
personality), Agustin "Hammy" Sotto (founding president of the Society of
Film Archivists), Paul Daza (columnist), Gigi Javier Alfonso (dean of the
UP-Diliman Open University and professor at the UP College of Mass
Communication --UP-CMC), Ellen Paglinauan (dean of UP-CMC), Bro. Miguel
Rapatan (DLSU), and Lito Zulueta
(Inquirer sub-editor and faculty member of the UST Faculty of Arts and