ABS-CBN Corp's station IDs that usher in summer and the Christmas holidays could be one of the casualties of its shutdown, one of its long-time producers said. More than promotional vehicles for its stars of the moment, the music videos along with popular programs, have become cultural touchstones.
The station IDs and the fate of TV's highest rated good cop, Cardo Dlisay, are the biggest cliffhangers brought about by ABS-CBN's shutdown. While it continues to broadcast on the internet and on cable, Channel 2 has gone black for those who watch it on free TV. Congress on July 10 denied its application for a new franchise, taking it off the air for good.
The shutdown fallout is feared in industries that do business with the Lopez-owned media company. In broadcasting, it leaves GMA Network alone at the top. Earlier this week, ABS-CBN said it would shut down its theme park business, a franchise of KidZania. A production manager who suffered a heart attack because of the shutdown died this week.
"Naapektuhan din kami ng retrenchment, for us na gumagawa noon taon-taon (We were also affected by the retrenchment, those who do it every year," said ABS-CBN Creative Account Head Sheryl Ramos. ABS-CBN earlier said it would lay off employees at the end of August because of the shutdown, which cost P35 million in daily ad revenue losses.
On the fate of the station IDs, Ramos said: "Sa nangyayari ngayon, hindi na namin alam (With what's happening now, we don't know)." The station IDs that started during the summer of 2002 aimed to "inspire and champion the Filipino spirit," she said.
One of the most iconic, "Star ng Pasko," was released for Christmas 2009, months after Typhoon Ondoy unleashed unprecedented flooding in Metro Manila. It was inspired by the then top-rated "May Bukas Pa," about a visionary boy who called Jesus Christ "Bro." Christmas party videos that year and next had office mates lipsyncing to the song.
“Ang Probinsyano” starring Coco Martin punched its way through crime lords since it first aired in 2015, only to be stopped by the expiry of ABS-CBN's franchise last May 4. Barred from using broadcast frequencies, it now airs on pay TV.
The small screen reboot of one of the late movie icon Fernando Poe Jr’s most popular works had come under fire from officials in the past. In 2018, the then chief of Metro Manila’s police force, Oscar Alabayalde, rued what he described as negative portrayal of policemen in the series.
Such is the appeal of ABS-CBN shows and characters that it inspires both fandom and protests. During the marathon franchise hearings, COO for broadcast Cory Vidanes defended the network’s depiction of government on TV, adding the aim of drama shows is to impart lessons.
“Media is a reflection of what is happening in society. Like ‘Ang Probinsyano,’ it’s a reflection of what’s happening in everyday life,” said Nestor Castro a cultural anthropologist from the University of the Philippines-Diliman.
Portraying even society’s ills allows audiences to identify with a TV show, regardless of network, he said. “Why do many identify with this teleserye? It’s because they feel like they’re looking at the mirror... It’s a form of relief.”
After the shutdown, fan art of cartoons aired by ABS-CBN with Tagalog dubbing in the 1990s was shared 15,000 times and got 152,000 reactions on the company’s news Facebook over two days. It’s a testament to the enduring popularity of characters like Sarah and Cedie, which both got film versions.
ABS-CBN, however, does not have a monopoly of ratings or pop culture appeal. In the late 1990s, it shortened its flagship newscast TV Patrol after government station RPN 9 found an unlikely hit in Mexican telenovela “Marimar.” ABS-CBN would later dub in Tagalog other shows by “Marimar” star, Thalia.
In the mid-2000s, ABS-CBN lagged in the TV fantasy genre after rival GMA churned out hit after hit with the Lord of the Rings-inspired “Encantadia” and “Darna.” ABS-CBN had its own fantasy shows and would later acquire the rights to the Mars Ravelo stable of super heroes, including “Darna.”
Until “It’s Showtime,” ABS-CBN struggled with the now 40-year-old noontime show “Eat Bulaga,” which for a few years bought airtime on Channel 2.
While GMA is more popular with news viewers, ABS-CBN appears to appeal more to the entertainment audience, especially women, said Castro, the anthropologist.
“Because of what people see on TV, they become more aware. They can relate to what is happening. There’s public conversation. For some, its simple entertainment value, idolizing movie stars,” he said.
One concern with the ABS-CBN shutdown is fewer choices for the public, he said.
“People should have varied sources of information. I don’t want the Philippines to become like China where there’s only one source of ideas and beliefs,” he said.
“Viewers have the right to choose. This is one way for them to challenge situations,” he said.