14 Sep The Plight of the REAL Artists in the Philippines: Gab Valenciano nails it
JUAN SAYS: Gab Valenciano finally talks about his sentiments about the Philippine entertainment industry. As we read through his facebook post, we couldn’t help but echo his sentiments that this is not just exclusive to show business, but in many of the industries in the Philippines today. It is no longer about talent, nor the knowledge of how to do the job, but it is (and has always been) about who you know. It is no longer what you bring to the table but what you superficially show when you are on the table. We are all in agreement that the Philippines is a treasure trove of talents and ideas, but the very ones who run the industries are the same ones who “kill the vibe.”
Moreover Gab when in the Philippines was showing a façade that he has it all going for him, after all he is the son of one of the biggest acts in Philippine show business – THE Gary Valenciano, and yet for many years Gab has been silenced to depression. Did any of us see that? Not really, because all we see are the beautiful things that this industry has forced him to project.
Gab is amongst the lucky few who was able to gather his bearings and fly on his own, in a different country sadly. Today, Gab is who he is. Free from clutches of big networks, free from being boxed to what “he should be doing.”
Now we ask the question that is begged to be asked: where do we all go from here?
Earlier today, I had a very interesting and insightful chat with a Filipino Uber driver and he said something that stuck with me. After sharing my life story and future plans, he gently said “Don’t forget the Philippines by giving back to them.”
This made me think. A lot.
Here’s the thing. Before I left for the States, I was secretly hiding under an umbrella of depression for a good 4 years, drowning in an industry I was never really accepted in and masking it by going out almost every night and making the worst decisions in life. Typical young, wild and free synopsis for a teen movie. The one thing I never compromised was my work ethic. Hard work meant a roof over my head and food on my table. Even if it meant going straight to work from a wild night out with the crew. I can easily connect myself to the saying, money can’t buy happiness; well, long-term happiness that is. I sure seemed happy when I was dancing on tables. My wife can agree to this statement as she witnessed it a few times. During my entire life in Manila as an artist (I used to hate being called a celebrity or “artista”), I was judged, ridiculed and hated for some of the dumbest reasons, ever. Was it all bad? No. I mean, I did deserve some of it, right? Or I would like to think so at least. Being treated that way for no reason at all can mess you up. My life back then was not 100% bad. I had my family, my friends and my craft. But it wasn’t all great. At all.
Before I continue, let me just quickly point out the difference between the words, celebrity and artist.
CELEBRITY 1. A famous or well known person. 2. Fame
ARTIST 1. A person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria. 2. A person who practices one of the fine arts, especially a painter or sculptor. 3. A person whose trade or profession requires knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc. 4. A person who works in one of the performing arts, as an actor, musician, or singer; a public performer: a mime artist; an artist of the dance. 5. (My personal favorite) A person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.
Okay let’s continue.
So I left. And it was the most monumental decision I have ever made in my life. Disclaimer. Babe, I used monumental instead of greatest because we all know marrying you was the GREATEST decision ever like omg. *wink wink smiley face with all the cute emojis (she’s probably cringing reading this part. Yes! Gab wins!). Anyway back to my story. What people don’t know is the fact that I was suicidal for the first few months. I have just gotten out of a relationship. I was alone and had close to nothing to my name. I felt like nothing made sense anymore. But I stuck with it. I persevered and pushed on. And 3 years later, I don’t need to point out details on why I am the happiest I have ever been, but that is definitely where I am at the moment. I don’t need social media and the approval of people to define my success, why? Because I believe in a much bigger picture. When I left, I decided to maximize myself by getting out of a system that mocks the very core of what it means to be an artist. A system that sincerely believes that being light-skinned is a privilege. That talent is nothing but a bonus accessory. That looking good is a much greater necessity than actually being good. That hard work doesn’t get you anywhere, it’s who you know and how far you’re willing to go to live the dream. That the destination is much more relevant than the journey. That your self-worth is based on the number of followers you have. That your every asset is fixated on branding and advertising. That being amazing gets you hits, but doesn’t provide you with a life you deserve. That it is okay for corporations to believe in a quantity over quality business model over excellence. That desiring to actually love what you do comes with a hefty price tag.
So what am I trying to say? Simple. I will never forget my roots and where I came from, but I don’t owe it a thing. The entertainment industry in the Philippines made me feel like one of the most worthless artists in the history of artists, and I’m sure many more can empathize but can’t speak out. I needed to spend 3 years abroad and work with the biggest “stars” just to gain the respect every artist deserves. Not like I was out to prove anything, I was just doing what I loved to do the best way I knew how. What is it with the obsession of international success? Why do we have to succeed elsewhere to be recognized? Is it some kind of winning formula? Charice, Arnel etc. And this doesn’t apply to show business alone, it’s every industry you can think of. Ellen is a great example of someone who reverses this concept. She sees talent, recognizes it, and gives them a chance to showcase their abilities. And so if you ask me why I love where I am with everything I’ve got, it’s probably because despite my obsession with rainbow colored spandex, afros, rad 80’s music and dancing like a complete idiot, I was accepted and appreciated beyond what I could have ever imagined, ultimately propelling me to my dream career and profession, professional filmmaking. I have recently been given the opportunity to open my own production company and finally do the thing I have always dreamed of. A dream I was always told not to pursue because I needed to “stick to what I was good at.” The moment you understand your true value, that not everything is based on fame or fortune, will be the very same moment you understand what it means to be truly happy. Don’t ever think, for one second, that just because I am grinding it out here that it makes me “big time” or better than anyone else. I was just like some of you once upon a time, frustrated, hurt and struggling to find my place. If I can do it, you most certainly can as well. I am happy now yes, but I still have a very VERY long way to go. I have given myself a 10 to 15-year life blueprint filled with dreams, goals, plans and ambitions. One of the many things being abroad has brutally taught me is to live and dream long-term. No shortcuts. No cutting corners. Success is objective and the world tends to dictate what success is. To me, success is happiness. The most iconic example I can think of was the day I married my wife. That is a success story in itself.
A few weeks ago, a Filipino who was born and raised here in LA, asked me a very embarrassing question. He asked, “Are Filipino celebrities really that egotistical? Like, they sincerely believe that the world revolves around them?” I was stunned. I may have laughed it off, but it did make sense. So I asked why the question was asked. *I will not disclose his name and the celebrities he/she mentioned. He mentioned that every time he deals with celebrities from the Philippines, they show a very strong sense of rudeness when he fails to recognize or know who they are, and walk around the streets of LA feeling like the kings and queens of life. Mind you, one of his clients is Kendall Jenner. Who apparently drives herself to work, shops and dines by herself at times and does all her errands on her own. She walked into his tiny office, alone with no entourage whatsoever, and asked if they could work together. This says it all. The Philippines has lost its character. Gone are the days when people would praise our country and be able to enumerate 100 reasons why they love and are proud of their homeland. The only thing you hear out of the country nowadays are traffic, corrupt politicians, unprofessionalism, and show business. Is this really the legacy we want the young people of the world to see? Is this what it’s come down to?
People are so afraid to take their craft to the next level by thinking global. We are Filipinos. One of the most creative, hard-working, intelligent and talented races in the world. Don’t think, do. I am writing this specifically for those people who feel like they are being taken for granted. The underdogs. You feel like the fire burning in you is dying because your passion isn’t fueled up or supported by your very own country and countrymen. You deserve so much more and the only way to heal yourself is by making life-changing decisions. Step out of your comfort zone. Travel. Explore. Be brave. Meet new people. Jump out of a plane. Learn different cultures. Don’t be so freaking close minded. Traffic and corruption sucks? Stop complaining. Do something about it. Be willing to risk it all. Because when it’s all said and done, a life worth dying for is a life worth living. And sadly, my very own country deprived me of one of the most basic rights in life, to simply live. Don’t be the one in a million, be the one in 7 billion by being you.
This isn’t for everyone. I know people who are absolutely content and happy with their lives in the Philippines. And I have much respect for them. This is for a very specific group of people who have gone or are going through what I went through. Also, if you are wondering why I didn’t include any faith-based concepts, it’s because I am speaking from a very realistic point-of-view.
If any of you are planning to respond negatively or counter the point I am trying to make, take it somewhere else.