LONG BEFORE the surreal and baffling RC Cola commercial, a public service advertisement that forever etched the minds of childhood said that after a tumultuous year, the country needs a “different Christmas.” In that ad, the drawing of Santa Claus at the start was erased and replaced with significant details to become Jesus Christ.
That concept was made somewhere in December 1997 — at the height of the Asian financial crisis but the message remains applicable now with the global pandemic.
To our dear readers, this is the first Christmas of the new decade and yet, this is also the first under a new violent shift in Philippine television.
The events you always looked forward to during the Yuletide season might not happen this year. Despite that, the Turf’s tradition continues to chronicle the insights for the outlier.
This year, we will classify them into categories that will transpire from today (December 11) until January 3, 2021.
The Programming Situation Right Now
After a few years’ hiatus, the Christmas Cartoon Festival Presents on GMA is back, serving as a comfort show for kids and kids at heart akin to the Yule Log and classic holiday specials in the United States. On weeknights, Paano Ang Pasko becomes TV5’s first Christmaserye, as part of Primetime Todo (the third wave of the network’s local entertainment renaissance this 2020).
12.12 Sale Super Show
The two super shows from two leading e-commerce platforms (Lazada and Shopee) are in one national TV network — GMA. (Duh, do we even have a choice?) Tonight, Lazada — despite Kathryn Bernardo (a local brand ambassador but a Kapamilya) and Lee Min Ho (the regional ambassador) — will have a star-studded special counting down to the big day (in place of Bubble Gang?) while Shopee will go all out in the late morning on that big day before Eat Bulaga!
Two days ago, Kris Aquino — the other ambassador for Shopee — appeared on TV5’s Lunch Out Loud to win prizes for solid Kapatids. (Is that a hint for next Christmas that TV5 will take Shopee while GMA gets Lazada?)
One local show will end at the two-week holiday period wherein they are generally not concluded. The local adaptation of the Korean drama Descendants of the Sun on GMA — whose production was stalled but resumed last November — will wrap up on the night of Christmas Day.
Categories in Concern
Due to the community quarantine regulations under the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), mass gathering events during the holidays — from network Christmas specials to New Year’s revelry — are forced to be canceled, downscaled or go fully virtual.
At this usual time, the annual Kapamilya Christmas special in Smart Araneta Coliseum would’ve drawn a spectacular audience with enthusiastic screams from fangirls holding up their fan signs as their favorite love teams performed. Now, the media conglomerate fell down and the Big Dome is dead silent. It continues in their Broadcast Center and will be aired online and cable on December 20 but not in A2Z. (Had it not for COVID-19, GMA could’ve done that in their own backyard while TV5 is still on revival mode.)
This year’s Giant Lantern Festival, which is the only live non-news telecast of CLTV, is scaled down digitally with seven barangays participating this December 16 (the first day of Simbang Gabi).
Meanwhile, traditional and the grandest star-studded New Year’s countdown on GMA, held usually on the grounds of SM Mall of Asia, may be forced to lock into their headquarters in Kamuning.
The 46th Metro Manila Film Festival
For the first time in 45 years, the country’s Yuletide film festival goes online through Upstream PH.
This year, they, three stars — Vic Sotto, Coco Martin and Vice Ganda — of opportunists are NOT coming to the very first fully digital iteration. The first one is a senior citizen, the second doesn’t have enough time to do so due to taping protocols and the last one didn’t finish the film on time despite the organizing committee’s approval. All of them impliedly realized that running movie houses below full capacity meant less revenue in their pockets as loyal fans can’t go out due to the fears of the virus. Not to mention, the last two lost their means to promote their wares had the contagion not happened.
Therefore, the lineup of 10 films (including four originally slated for what would have been their inaugural Summer edition) would be deemed the next best since the 2016 edition.
The two major events of the festival: the Parade of Stars and the Gabi ng Parangal (Awards Night) will go virtual. The Awards Night usually comes on the third day of the festival (i.e. December 27) is, fortunately, falling on a Sunday; it would mean TV5 has some free time on primetime (they can substitute Onstage).
Even though the whole country is mostly under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) — Metro Manila is at a higher level (GCQ) — religious authorities still take no chance when it comes to dealing with the pandemic and religious gatherings including the unique tradition of Simbang Gabi.
In pre-COVID and the old Philippine TV network rivalry, ABS-CBN was the leading network when it comes to airing the novena Masses for those who can’t come physically to their local churches (in addition to the Christmas Midnight Mass and New Year’s). Now, under a limited reach and in fading memory, they cannot be aired on A2Z due to religious stipulations with Zoe Broadcasting Network Inc. but it can be done on their Kapamilya Channel on cable and satellite, it may be aired on Kapamilya Online Live.
For those who don’t have cable or satellite or the luxury of livestreaming but you own at least a digital TV receiver, TV Maria, under RJ DigiTV, is there to cover but often, their digital coverage (the signal and quality) is not satisfied. Therefore, TV5 must take the initiative but they have to go before the daily Word of God Network program or in substitution thereof, which in turn comes before Ted Failon and DJ Chacha sa Radyo simulcast (on weekdays) and cartoons (one Saturday). One can be determined through a hint in their movement music video, which is deemed sufficient as a Christmas station ID for the network.
In the Vatican this year, due to the severe second wave, you will neither see a jam-packed public audience inside St. Peter’s Basilica nor outside at St. Peter’s Square to see Pope Francis saying the Mass (early morning, Christmas Day, our time) and receive the Apostolic blessing later in the noon (7:00 p.m. local), respectively. Normally, CNN Philippines covers these two events live and GMA does it combined and taped-delayed before they sign off for their broadcast day. Will both networks continue the tradition?
PBA has just finished its 45th season with one conference — the Philippine Cup — where Barangay Ginebra San Miguel defeated TNT Tropang Giga in 5 at the AUF Sports Arena & Cultural Center in Angeles City (serving as the league’s bubble).
Meanwhile, NBA’s slightly reduced regular season (72 from the usual 82) will kick off on December 23 (our time) for the first time on the Kapatid network. The traditional Christmas Day games will continue with, fittingly, one game on the main channel as it falls on Saturday and another on One Sports.
Commemorations and Situations Re: the Country
Commemorations involving the country like Armed Forces Day (December 21) and Rizal Day (December 30) would be downscaled or be canceled. Generally, PTV is responsible for coverage as long as the main star — President Rodrigo Duterte — is present at the ceremony wherever he may be.
However, his focus will be the declaration of community quarantine status throughout the country for the first month of the New Year. This will likely be announced on the last Monday of the year (December 28) — during the weekly late-night session.
In the old normal, the primetime Lotto draws on the eve of Christmas and the New Year comes early so that PCSO employees and lottery agents can come home to prepare and to spend with families as no sales and draw are conducted the following day. Will this arrangement happen even in the new normal?
Year in Retrospect?
From December 26 to 31, a retrospect of this year would normally be made in certain programs as having a network’s year-in-review special on a Sunday night is a thing of the past. Given the heavily-defined circumstances that transpired this 2020, some programs (and some bloggers and other outlets) will be skipped but others (including us) will strive to continue.
For one, Atom Araullo Specials on GMA will present Dos Mil Bente this Sunday (December 13) afternoon but the saying “Expect the unexpected” will resonate with the two and a half weeks remaining of the year.
What We Can All Agree? What’s Next?
Despite our differences, we can all agree that this Christmas is not the same as it was before with our old habits and scenes we are used to like traffic rush, crowded malls and packed hangouts. Moreso, our TV landscape has the same atmosphere.
Can the next year’s holiday programming insights be better under the post-new normal arrangement? We’ll all see.
Featured image courtesy of Gerd Altmann / Pixabay
Other photos are courtesy of GMA