Filipinos take the station IDs of their favorite television network very, very seriously.
That’s evident with the numbers both GMA-7 and ABS-CBN have pulled with the respective releases of their Christmas station IDs this year.
The Kapuso Network managed to get collective views of over three million across YouTube and Facebook with their Christmas station ID titled “Isang Puso Ngayong Pasko,” launched on Nov 17.
The Kapamilya Network’s station ID, dubbed “Ikaw Ang Liwanag at Ligaya,” is even more impressive. Its lyric video for the song, performed by various ABS-CBN artists, garnered over 15 millions views collectively on Facebook and YouTube.
It seems ridiculous to compare and analyze what could be considered as glamorized music videos, although a star-studded one, while the country grapples with the effects of COVID-19 and recent typhoon Ulysses.
But it can also be argued that it is precisely because of these circumstances that make these Christmas station IDs a bit more resonant and poignant than usual. This year has been a weird one for Philippine media. These Christmas-themed stations IDs reflect the challenges and changes the country’s TV faced in 2020.
Prayer as light
Without a doubt, the ABS-CBN Christmas station ID is the most awaited one among the three released over the past few weeks.
When the network released their 2019 Christmas station ID—dubbed “Family is Forever”—many thought it felt eerily like a farewell than a celebration. It incorporated iconic lyrics and imagery from its past station IDs, an homage to the network’s 65 years of history. At the time of their 2019 station ID release, the fate of ABS-CBN's franchise renewal was still up in the air. Some thought it could be their last.
Of course, we know how events unfolded. ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal was denied in July, and the network had to halt their free TV operations earlier this year. The network eventually returned to free TV as a blocktimer on the Zoe Broadcasting Network (rebranded as A2Z).
This is why ABS-CBN’s “Ikaw Ang Liwanag at Ligaya” can be seen as a triumphant return, the network’s light after a moment of darkness.
Yet, the station ID feels bereft of any obvious political statement—something one might expect from ABS-CBN, after being denied of its franchise. Of course, the existence of this particular Christmas station ID is also a statement in itself.
Instead, it focuses on “the importance of prayer which brings light and joy to our lives during the darkest times in our journey this year,” as the network’s release puts it.
As in previous station IDs, this year’s iteration shows many of the network’s artists giving back to communities and individuals affected by the pandemic.
We see Iza Calzado and Jodi Sta. Maria and the cast of her soap opera “Ang Iyo Ay Akin” giving gifts to the staff of the hotel they stayed at while filming for their show. We see Luis Manzano and the mainstays of his game show “I Can See Your Face” doing the same for entertainers who found themselves jobless during the holiday season. We see Coco Martin and the cast of “Ang Probinsyano” hearing mass in a church, praying.
I think as 2020 draws to a close, everyone needs that warm, fuzzy feeling. In a way, that's a virtual hug in a song.
Near the end of the video, we see other ABS-CBN artists and executives (including network CEO Carlo Katigbak) lighting a huge Christmas tree in what seems like a studio. We see more ABS-CBN celebrities—Vice Ganda, Joshua Garcia, Kathryn Bernardo, Daniel Padilla, Nadine Lustre, James Reid, Robi Domingo, Regine Velasquez-Alcasid—dancing (while social distancing, of course).
And you can sense the station ID trying to evoke that feeling of joy and hope. The station ID is still a Christmas station ID after all, meant to celebrate what is supposedly the happiest time of the year.
“Ikaw Ang Liwanag At Ligaya” is a joyous, glossy production.
Yet, you can sense that something isn’t the same anymore.
Maybe it’s because instead of ending the station ID with a wide shot of ABS-CBN stars and employees in the network compound in Quezon City, we see a scattering of stars inside a well-lit studio?
It could remind you of the pandemic. Or it could remind you of the obstacles ABS-CBN had to face this year. It makes you wonder about ABS-CBN's fate in 2021.
Nonetheless, “Ikaw ang Liwanag at Ligaya” is an invitation to celebrate, despite the odds and the challenges.
As Thyro Alfaro, the hit singer-songwriter who composed the music for the station ID song, describes it, “Ikaw Ang Liwanag at Ligaya” is meant to feel warm. It’s also meant to be easy to sing; their station ID is a prayer and a celebration that involves everyone.
“I think as 2020 draws to a close, everyone needs that warm, fuzzy feeling. In a way, that's a virtual hug in a song,” Thyro said.
The nation as one heart
Compared to ABS-CBN’s more than 15-minute production, GMA-7’s “Isang Puso Ngayong Pasko” seems more modest in terms of scope and production.
"The Isang Puso Ngayong Pasko” is performed by several GMA-7 artists, including Julie Ann San Jose, Christian Bautista, and Mark Bautista, among others.
It runs for a little more than seven minutes, though it presents pretty much the same images the ABS-CBN production did.
It intersperses news clips of the devastation of typhoon Ulysses and people dealing with COVID-19 along with footage of Kapuso celebrities either performing the station ID theme song in a studio or sending their holiday well-wishes at home.
There isalso footage of GMA-7 artists helping those affected by the pandemic and typhoon Ulysses in the video.
The message of the GMA-7 song is simple: we are one as we face the hardships of this year, and we are one as it heals.
It feels like a declaration that TV5 is back to play the entertainment media game.
Many celebrities who appeared in the station ID seem to have recorded their spot on the video from home. This could be seen as a way to comply with physical distancing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Couples Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes, Jennylyn Mercado and Deniis Trillo, and Carla Abellana and Tom Rodriguez were seen together in the video, presumably at home.
A curious note is Derek Ramsay and Andrea Torres, who appeared together in the video (the station ID was shot before they announced their breakup last month).
Perhaps it’s overreading, but the Kapuso Network’s decision to rely heavily on footage of celebrities from home seems indicative of their entertainment programming during the earlier parts of the community quarantine.
GMA-7 chose not to rush into filming fresh episodes of their TV shows, particularly their soap operas. The network, up until recently, filled their time slots with replays of their daily dramas (the network currently airs new episodes of shows “Descendants of the Sun” and “Prima Donnas").
You can get a sense that GMA-7 isn’t trying to shake up the status quo. Their Christmas station ID is glossy, cheerful, and colorful, but it also doesn’t seem to have that sense of grandeur you’d expect from such a production. GMA-7 is, by default, the country’s biggest free TV operation. And it seems to know it—it doesn’t have to do anything out of the ordinary to maintain its position.
Just the same, it does what it’s supposed to do. It’s fun and cheerful and star-studded. In the time of a pandemic, maybe that’s more than we can ask for from a station ID?
Change is in the air
TV5’s Christmas station ID is perhaps the most surprising of the bunch. This is the first time in years the network has a celebrity-studded station ID, owing to the fact that it scrapped its entertainment division a few years ago to focus on its news and sports programming
Titled “Tuloy Pa Rin Ang Pasko, Kapatid!,” the station ID clocks in at less than four minutes. The song is performed by Billy Crawford, Daryl Ong, Katrina Velarde, and Lyca Gairanod. Three of these four artists were previously affiliated with ABS-CBN.
Let’s ignore the video’s imagery and message for a minute, though they contain what seems to be this year’s motif across these three station IDs: footage of the common Filipino people dealing with the pandemic and a song with the message of hope amid this year’s challenges.
The Kapatid Network’s station ID signals two things: the return of its entertainment programming (care of blocktimers) and its welcome of celebrities associated with the two other networks (particularly ABS-CBN, which has scaled back its production of scripted shows and movies this year).
The list of celebrities present in the TV5 station ID naturally is also a list of celebrities who are no longer with ABS-CBN—Jake Cuenca, Maris Racal, Pokwang, Jessy Mendiola, Ria Atayde, Ted Failon, Alex Gonzaga, among others. (Personalities who are part of the network’s Sunday variety program Sunday Noontime Live—which includes some of ABS-CBN’s top talents such as Piolo Pascual and Maja Salvador—were not included in the video)
Players from the Philippine Basketball Association and news personalities of TV5 also make an appearance.
TV5’s 2020 Christmas station ID isn’t the most ambitious. It’s the simplest of the three, mostly composed of clips from their artists either at home or on the set of their respective TV shows (in the case of “Masked Singer Pilipinas,” actual footage from the show was used).
But the existence of this Christmas station ID feels promising. It feels like a declaration that TV5 is back to play the entertainment media game. It could be a welcome change the media landscape needs, given everything that has happened to the industry in 2020.