After Jackie Chan and Jet Li, are we ready for the F4 boys?
- Wilson Lee Flores () - June 29, 2003 - 12:00am
How do we explain the crazy popularity of the television series Meteor Garden (Liow Sing Hua Yen in Mandarin Chinese)? What is its possible impact on Philippine pop culture and even on the economy? It has been viewed as a showbiz phenomenon, but it is also an example of marketing savvy by publicly-listed ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation. Coming at a time when many of the Lopez empire’s companies are under siege or bleeding red ink, including their crown jewel Meralco which had been compelled to refund consumers, the Meteor Garden fever has bolstered ABS-CBN 2 in terms of ratings and income. ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. chairman Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III said: "We didn’t expect that to hit." This program alone had boosted his station’s advertising revenues by at least P1 million per day.

Sources told The Philippine STAR there are plans to invite F4 or the Flower 4 boy band of Meteor Garden for a Manila concert this year, but the talent fee being asked is over US$1 million. The Manila concert is not yet confirmed and it might be produced by Sony Music, not the Lopez-controlled station.
Why The Popularity Of ‘Meteor Garden?’
ABS-CBN 2 has in recent years met the growing challenge to its traditional leadership from aggressive arch rival GMA 7, but its importing and bold experiment with the Chinese TV series it calls chinovela illustrates the fact that a business leader should never stop innovating and taking new risks. Who would have imagined that in a society over three centuries under Spanish colonial rule in a Catholic convent and half century under American rule with Hollywood culture, a Chinese soap opera Meteor Garden would win over the hearts and minds of the Filipino mass audience?

The June 24 issue of the Philippine Collegian, the weekly student newspaper of the University of the Philippines (UP), published an SMS text survey of students on why Meteor Garden is so popular in the Philippines today. Students sent in their opinions with their UP student number, or name or course.

Here are some opinions:

"Kasi guwapo sila. Guwapo sila, not as cheesy as the dreaded Backstreet Boys. Guwapo sila, very great in porma. Have I said that guwapo sila?!"

02-57480

• "Because Meteor Garden is a break from Hispanic faces. Singkit naman."

Elektra, 98-66737

• "Because the telenovelas are already so nakakasawa. My male classmate always talks about MG."

01-56847, BS Math

• "Because Filipinos love imported stuff. This can be compared to Thalia of Marimar which did not last long before people forgot, but Filipinos will continue to enjoy the chinovelas."

00-1039

• "Personally I don’t like Meteor Garden because the plot is so simple and predictable, but since F4 exudes a manly aura, a lot of people go gaga over them."

02-55249

• "Because of the aggressive promotions of the sarimanok station."

Roel, BA Comparative Literature

"Who will have a crush on Diego of the soap opera Paloma? Di ba? It’s also because it’s fun to sing their songs, even if we don’t know or understand the lyrics!"

Sam, 03-12622

"Because we are fond of Cinderella-like stories and pretend that one day we’ll meet our Dao Ming Shi."

99-7021, MG watcher

"Because the Filipino masses are truly baduy."

02-32323

"Because of the beautiful story, it does not have the traditional contravida. The bida here is a fighter, not the oppressed submissive type."

03-15193

"In the morning, there is F4 on the radio. At lunchtime, there is the rewind. In the afternoon, they are already there in the sidewalks. At night, they are always mentioned by Korina Sanchez. How can they not become so popular?"

01-07579 BABC

"Because of the tri-media marketing of ABS-CBN! In the newspapers, radios and TV, their photos are always splashed all over! Everywhere you turn, you can see F4. Nakakabwiset!

01-16861 UP Visayas
Can ‘Meteor Garden’ Help Promote Rp Economic Progress?
Chinese pop culture is radically different from those of Spanish-influenced Latin American telenovelas, where fatalistic protagonists are hopeless victims of all the world’s worst tragedies, with the magic of romance and the gush of deep emotions overpowering pragmatic considerations of career, family, schooling and business. The moral values are those of the feudal and declining hancienda. In Meteor Garden, viewers are given a simple and uncomplicated story not based on fantasy or unrealistic and overdramatic circumstances.

Can a popular TV series like that be able to transmit certain positive Confucian pragmatic values on work ethic, business, career and education which have made Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and even modern-day China into astonishing "economic miracles"? Economists and scholars have repeatedly argued that the "Confucian ethic" of East Asia and the ethnic Chinese communities is almost equivalent to the "Protestant ethic" which helped propel industrial progress in America, Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway and other Western economic powers.

Can Meteor Garden, other future Chinese or Korean shows help promote efficient cultural values to balance the nefarious cultural influence of the Spanish colonizers which helped condemn formerly wealthy nations Argentina and Venezuela into near-bankrupt debt-ridden economies? Can the Philippines use the world fame of Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan, mainland China kung fu star Jet Li, Taiwanese director Ang Lee, Hong Kong actor Chow Yun Fat and Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh to promote historical and drama films with strong positive Confucian moral lessons beyond movie blockbusters with only mindless martial arts magic?

Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) director Henry Lim Bon Liong told The Philippine STAR: "I recommend that ABS-CBN consider importing the famous Chinese TV drama series on the true-to-life story of Justice Bao, a drama series on how an ancient incorruptible jurist solves crimes, mysteries and dispenses justice. This popular drama series promotes positive moral values on Confucian righteousness, integrity and moral courage in many East Asian societies."

In the June 24 issue of the UP Collegian, student writer Reagan Romero Marquez wrote: "The single, white/Caucasian, middle-class and corporate attributes of masculinity have become the basic principles in creating male pop figures. A glaring example is the Asian boyband F4, who by sheer star power has catapulted the Taiwanese teleseries Meteor Garden to phenomenal popularity. The status and aspirations of four Asian/Taiwanese contemporary males embody the global construction of masculinity. They are rich, influential, popular, physically attractive, liberal and materialistic."

Would F4 and Meteor Garden help move our semi-feudal Philippine society inexorably into the 21st century of globalization, liberate the Filipino nation’s innate natural talents by subliminally promoting positive materialistic, success-oriented values and aspirations, instead of the romantic fatalism and moral corruption of our past Spanish colonizers?
* * *
Thanks for your numerous comments and interesting ideas. Every message will be answered. Send to wilson_lee_flores@yahoo.com or wilson_lee_flores@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 14277, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

ANG LEE ARGENTINA AND VENEZUELA BACKSTREET BOYS BECAUSE FILIPINOS CHINESE GARDEN HONG KONG LOPEZ METEOR METEOR GARDEN
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