The Department of Tourism (DOT) recently unveiled their new campaign slogan last June 12, with the tagline “Experience the Philippines”. To set things off, DOT released an advertisement entitled “Sights”, which features a Japanese retiree who visits several spots in the Philippines. The ad later reveals the retiree to be blind, saying, “You don’t have to see to feel you are home.” With regard to the new campaign, DOT Secretary Wanda Teo stated that “[The department is] shifting our focus in our promotional campaigns towards the unique experiences that each destination could offer, Filipino hospitality, and security.”
Concerned Filipinos were quick to react to the slogan and commercial, saying that both materials were copied from South Africa’s tourism campaign in 2014. One even took the time to put both advertisements side by side just to point out their obvious similarities. Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre was quick to retaliate, however, saying that “[It is] not a rip-off, definitely this is experiential,” as he said in an interview with ANC’s Early Edition.
Though the ad was beautifully executed, the similarities between that of South Africa’s and the Philippines were uncanny when compared side by side. The only difference between the two is that the Japanese Retiree featured in the Filipino version is an actual retiree in the Philippines. McCann Worldgroup Philippines, the agency behind the tourism ad, has since then denied the plagiarism accusations. The firm said that the ad “was inspired by the story of a visually-impaired foreigner who has made the Philippines his home, and who has come to experience the Philippines in different ways.”
Execution-wise, the video was convincingly impressive but as touching as the ad’s message was, I could not help but feel dismayed over the apparent similarities. We all know and understand that plagiarism is a big deal, and there lies a huge difference between basing one’s work off of a peg and blatantly copying materials.
But writer Miguel Syjuco begs to differ—in a Rappler article regarding plagiarism, he asked, “In this age of sampling, hyperlinking, and interconnectedness, don’t we all take from each other?” Is the concept plagiarized? No, it isn’t. Even if the concept for “Sights” was allegedly swiped from another country, we need to see how this situation should concern the Filipino audience.
For example, for years, we have been fed with the same melodramatic plots in our telenovelas, each adding some distinct twist, yet we somehow view them as thematically different all due to one small addition.
As a Communication Arts student, I am in an environment that strives to think of, create, and tell stories that matter. And “Sights” is a perfectly good story to tell as it speaks of a humanizing experience, not just for our foreign visitors, but to us Filipinos as well. But the problem here lies in the groundwork—it somehow suggests that the Filipino creative cannot exercise creativity and create something brand new, even if it was for the country. Such concepts have, in one way or another, been done before, and we continuously work around these same old concepts and tropes all for the sake of releasing material. Despite intersecting ideas and similar executions, we need to be able to pull something new out of sheer creativity.
There lies a certain pleasure in the impulse to create. We try to push ourselves to create something out of our time, and then we hope that our creation benefits others and not just ourselves. Still, we don’t derive from the same overused patterns, but we brew ideas simply because we want to create. We should not let that impulse be extinguished as we wrestle with thoughts, absorb the message, and then learn how to rework it. The simple wonder of creativity allows us to draw inspiration from different sources, and at the same time, create while keeping a close eye on ourselves.