Traversing through Philippine television

Philippine TV has truly gone far from its cathode-ray tubes and LCDs, far enough to intervene in the world opposite its superficial screens. Unquestionably, this form of media has always been part of determining the what-hot and what-not for the Philippine pop culture. Hence, by exploring its remarkable breakthroughs and impediments, we unveil an essential constituent of our past- sociocultural evolution.



The advent of TV ads started way back 1960s, where Proctor & Gamble (P&G)  made its debut in the wider market. This was also the time where black and white TV’s shifted to the ones we have today. From then on, lots of TV ads sprouted out. One of the remarkable and heart-pinching ads is the classic “Karen po” TV ad of McDonald’s. The ad shows a girl named Karen who at first is annoyed because her lolo, an Alzheimer’s patient, keeps calling her Gina. Her lolo, after slicing the half of his burger, then says “And this is for my favorite granddaughter, Karen”, which makes her feel very touched. The 2002 McDo ad also made use of the jingle “love ko to,” which made Filipinos embrace the Western cuisine even more.  Unbelievably, the recall of the jingle lasted until now and has spawned comical lines in various TV shows and films. This element of TV ads is believed to have influenced the pop culture cultivated in the country.

For most TV subscribers, TV shows are chiefly created “to entertain and inform”, but at the bigger picture, it’s purely a matter of business. Primarily, TV networks create programs that will captivate the interest of the viewers. When they succeed in doing so, TV advertisements get in the way. They buy the time slot where a lot of potential clients would see the commercials.

A 30-sec ad in the primetime spot, for instance, would cost estimably P500,000 pesos. This is perhaps the reason why the grandiose soap operas are placed on the primetime spot, where usually, Filipinos would lay in their couches after a tiring day at work. So in reality, the TV networks rely much on advertising companies, not vice versa.



The 1990s paved the way for primetime soap operas to flourish in the Philippines. What started out as a trend of Mexican soap operas like “Marimar” eventually led the country to produce its own batch. Soap operas aren’t new inventions; we’ve had soaps since the 1960s. The first soap opera was Hiwaga sa Bahay na Bato. From then on, the three networks went to produce such classics like Annaliza (a show revived by ABS-CBN this year), Maria Flordeluna, and Gulong ng Palad. However, the biggest primetime soap opera to hit Philippine television was Mara Clara. The show tells of Mara Del Valle (played by Judy Ann Santos) and Clara David (played by Gladys Reyes), two girls who were switched at birth, and as the truth caught up with them, the drama got so intense that ABS-CBN made the show stay on air for five years. After a very successful run and a movie to boot for Mara Clara, the network gave Claudine Barretto her big break with Mula Sa Puso which tells the story of Via, a heiress and unsurprisingly, the evil aunt who will do nothing but destroy Via to get the family fortune. As the years went by, it was clear that the primetime dramas were airing for shorter periods. Then came Pangako Sa ‘Yo which starred Kristine Hermosa and Jericho Rosales which told the story of Yna and Angelo, lovers who were challenged by fate because of their respective families’ past. The show ran for two years, but the impact it left to Philippine TV was historic because the show was remade in different countries and has a cult following abroad. After the 1990s, the primetime television, though strong, left people exhausted and bored because they believe that the stories were recycled and the drama was too cheesy already.


The Networks

GMA and ABS-CBN started out as radio stations. Both eventually made it into television after years of being in the radio business.

In 1953, ABS-CBN, then named Alto Broadcasting System (ABS), began commercial television operations after three years in the radio biz. After two years of  television glory, Lopez Group of Companies founder Eugenio Lopez, Sr. and then Vice President Fernando Lopez (Yes, THOSE Lopezes) invited ABS’s Judge Antonio Quirino for breakfast. One of that breakfast’s napkins was where the future of ABS was written. The Lopezes bought ABS and wrote the contract on a table napkin hopefully still unused.

Owned by American Bob La Rue “Uncle Bob” Stewart, GMA (then named Republic Broadcasting System) first started to broadcast through the radio in the 1950s. On October 29, 1961, RBS finally ventured into the medium of television as the third television station with the name DZBB-TV Channel 7.

The 70s was a particularly challenging decade for any media outlet because of the declaration of Martial Law. Not only were all media institutions ordered to close down, but soldiers actually resided in television stations’ properties to avoid propaganda. Though broadcast still continued, state-run shows were the only material aired.

After the People Power, though, both stations were able to pick up from where they left off and prospered even more. Since then, they have been television powerhouses in the Philippines, continuing to serve the Filipino people with entertainment and information that defines the essence of Filipino culture and lifestyle.


Truly, Philippine TV, through catering the information, education and entertainment, has quite helped mold and transform the society into the one we live in today. It plays the critical role of being a long-standing witness of the past and everything that is about to happen yet, a rearview mirror and a crystal ball at the same time. By understanding its roots, we become aware of the rudiments that constitute our heritage and culture, the culture that identifies us from the rest of the crowd, the culture that identifies us as Filipinos.

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