My (Awesome!) Year Without Filipino Television

There is no doubt ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel has become a major part of the lives of Filipinos around the world. TFC as well as GMA’s Pinoy TV and the newly launched Kapatid TV5, have become ways to connect to and enjoy life back home in the Philippines while also introducing background and culture to younger generations of Filipinos.

My family had only first subscribed to The Filipino Channel in 2005. Before that, we had relied on KTSF, Channel 26 in the Bay Area for the nightly TV Patrol newscasts and the occasional comedy or Maalaala Mo Kaya episode on Saturdays.

Now cable was and is already expensive on its own. Back then, it may have been around $75 for expanded basic cable. And to get TFC, you’d have to add another $10 more a month for a channel you’re not going to leave on 24 hours a day.

For a couple of years, that $10 (later $20 with the addition of GMA Pinoy TV) was well spent. Watching soap operas, enjoying Wowowee, dancing to the Sunday music shows; it was all fun and good.

But after a while, it all became tired. Maybe it was a combination of several factors, but it is now May 2013 and we’ve been more than a year without either The Filipino Channel or GMA Pinoy TV. And it’s been a great television year, in spite of that.

Now I will note that I haven’t been completely Filipino TV-free. I did watch 98% of TV5’s The Amazing Race Philippines, the first week of ABS-CBN’s Ina, Kapatid, Anak, the first few weeks and several random episodes of GMA’s Temptation of Wife, some Tagalized episodes of Smile, Donghae and both the launch and controversial episodes of Wowowillie during the last year. All thanks to the internets (and free!).

But we’ve been without regular Filipino programming.

It was April 2012. We were about to fly to the Philippines for a month-long trip. $20. That’s $20 you could spend on something else instead on two Filipino channels no one would be watching for a month.

So we called Comcast and told them to cancel our TFC/Pinoy TV subscription. It’d be just as easy to flip the switch back on when we returned home.

But once we did settle back home in the Bay Area in June, we were in no hurry to reinstate our subscription. Months passed, the aforementioned random episodes and the struggle to find TARPh episodes aside, we found out we were able to go about our business and live just as happy a life without regular access to either 24-hour Filipino channel.

And now it’s been a year. We’re in the Philippines right now and while we’re here, well, we have nothing but Filipino TV to watch.

But this last year has been awesome without all the tired soap opera plots, the endless and nauseating showbiz tsismis, and the sensationalist and biased news broadcasts. It’s been easy when maybe even a year and a half ago, we couldn’t have imagined life without our subscriptions to TFC and Pinoy TV.

It was a combination of several factors; Being tired of the same old, same old from Philippine entertainment. Being in no rush to spend let go of that extra twenty bucks. And maybe the biggest reason, the plethora of great television elsewhere, especially Korean dramas which in the last year, we’ve discovered is readily available right on our TVs thanks to Hulu Plus and our Xbox.

Unless you’re in the Philippines and maybe have no chance or even a choice to escape, it’s a great feeling being away from some of the garbage that fills Philippine entertainment. Whether it’s the lowest common denominator soap opera storytelling or the trashy tsismis and “media play” publicity stunts, the ability to get away from that and actually enjoy more rewarding entertainment experiences? That’s priceless.

Who knows? Maybe this trip reignites our hunger for Filipino television and we’ll be calling Comcast as soon as we get home.

Or, maybe this trip’ll reinforce the feeling that we’ve realized or been reminded of in the last year; It’s great to live in a country where the entertainment industry isn’t ruled by a duopoly and a half and that having hundreds of channels in addition to the ever growing number of choices on the internets is something to be grateful for.

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