A big knock against the Filipino film industry is that the most talented Filipino actors don’t necessarily get the biggest paychecks or exposure. Sure, we have our own set of award-giving bodies in media: The Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), Gawad Urian, FAMAS, and so on. But local fame and fortune are usually reserved for comedians and love teams, unlike in Hollywood, where an Oscar nomination is enough to command top billing in a major movie.
Suppose a multi-awarded Filipino actor does enjoy mainstream popularity and profitability, similar to Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor. In that case, they have to ingrain themselves in other media like release albums, jingles, or star in lighthearted romps and feature films.
We’re not saying that one genre is superior to another. Fans of Praybeyt Benjamin don’t deserve crap from On The Job purveyors. But the point still stands: Vice Ganda will rake in box-office receipts every Christmas while Gawad Urian Best Actor Joel Torre is Side Character #12 in whatever movie he’s in next.
Multi-awarded Filipino actors do not get the love they deserve from their own, not in the same way the likes of Merryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis do in the US.
That is why it is such a big deal when the international scene does recognize industry veterans. For example, Dolly de Leon made history again when she became the first Filipino to receive a BAFTA nomination for her role in Triangle of Sadness. Her nom comes in the Best Supporting Actress Category. Earlier, she made the same milestone at the Golden Globes.
Suddenly, she’s the headline in every mainstream media write-up and the trending topic in everyone’s news feed. She even has her own Esquire Philippines cover, a rarity for the men’s magazine. But before her historic noms, when was the last time a 20-something-year-old tweeted about the 2020 FAMAS winner? Did anyone?
It’s the reality for prestigious Filipino actors, and it’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Until a major shift happens, de Leon will receive her biggest flowers on the international stage, like her contemporaries below.
Most prestigious award: Volpi Cup for Best Actor (78th Venice Film Festival)
John Arcilla is relatively visible in the local scene thanks to his antagonistic roles in high-profile seryes such as Ang Probinsyano and Encantadia.
But the MMFF Best Supporting Actor added another piece of hardware to his trophy case when he won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 78th Venice Film Festival in 2021. He earned the nod for On The Job: The Missing 8, making him the first Filipino and Southeast Asian winner.
“I know for a fact that we came from different countries, different continents with different cultures, colors, creeds, and languages, but yet I can feel the oneness, this tremendous oneness. And understanding that we understand each other despite our differences and it’s because of the art—the art of cinema,” said Arcilla in his acceptance speech.
Most prestigious award: Best Actress – Cannes Film Festival
Jacklyn Jose has FAMAS, Gawad Urian, and MMFF awards under her belt, but her most prestigious one came in 2016 when she won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her role as a drug-dealing matriarch in Ma’Rosa.
The win challenged the veteran actor, who was used to playing loud and campy characters in local media, saying she had to “tone everything down to zero” for her gritty portrayal of Manila’s slums.
Most prestigious award: Best Actress – 2013 Tokyo International Film Festival
A long-time comedian, Domingo struck gold with 2011’s Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, which became the highest-grossing independent movie at the time of release, and also won her Best Actress nods locally.
But her biggest achievement came when she won the same award at the 26th Tokyo International Film Festival—one of Asia’s most prestigious—for her dramatic role in Kwentong Barbero (Barber’s Tales) in 2013.
The Filipino film industry has a surplus of talent beyond what is enjoyed by the majority. While it’s great that the likes of Dolly de Leon are finding recognition beyond our shores, it would be so much sweeter if they didn’t have to search far for the love they deserve.