They say Christmas season in the Philippines starts in September. But I argue that we actually have another marker that tells us that the holidays are coming: when the country’s three largest television networks have launched their Christmas station IDs.
A quick explanation: Station IDs are basically video idents used by networks to identify themselves on-air. They usually air in-between shows, meant to tell viewers during the time of analog and cable television what TV network they are watching.
Perhaps a demonstration of how unique media culture is in the Philippines, local TV went full throttle with these station IDs, turning them into full-blown productions with accompanying videos and original songs featuring their artists. ABS-CBN and GMA-7 also release Summer station IDS. However, it’s the Christmas station ID that fans look forward to.
The Christmas station IDs, notes Jimpy Anarcon, showbiz journalist and host of ReWined: A Throwback Podcast, became a “big deal” after ABS-CBN released their 2009 station ID Bro, Ikaw ang Star ng Pasko.
With a title that references May Bukas Pa, the network’s most popular show at the time, it became a hit with viewers. In fact, many still considered it one of the most iconic Philippine network station IDs. Bro, Ikaw ang Star ng Pasko was released a few months after the country was hit by two tragedies: Tropical Storm Ondoy and the 2009 Ampatuan massacre. The station ID’s uplifting visual and lyrics became a welcome respite from the dire headlines of the time, when everyone was still watching television as their main source of news and entertainment.
“After that, we would want to see how each network would relate their Christmas station IDs sa mga pinagdadaanan natin and how they uplift our spirit ngayong Pasko,” said Anarcon.
Bro, Ikaw ang Star ng Pasko became the Christmas station ID template. It’s an exercise of branding and marketing. But it is also a media product “that attempts to communicate their corporate social message,” said Louie Jon Sanchez, Philippine TV scholar and author of Abangan: Mga Pambungad na Resipsisyon sa Kultura ng Teleserye. TV networks use station IDs to address social contexts, he added. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic figures heavily in the ABS-CBN and GMA-7’s 2020 Christmas station IDs.
Is it still relevant?
“It’s been a TV tradition. A station ID has always been an important fixture, in general, providing televisual identity to the networks," Sanchez added.
Yet, are they still relevant? The television landscape, after all, has changed dramatically in the past two years—thanks to the pandemic, the rise of streaming, and the non-renewal of ABS-CBN Broadcasting’s franchise. Yet we’ve seen this year that television is still fighting the good fight, with GMA-7 airing marquee shows such as the Philippine adaptation of the Korean soap opera Start-Up and Maria Clara at Ibarra, a fantasy series inspired by Jose Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo and ABS-CBN collaborating with other networks and media companies to make their shows (notably Darna and 2 Good 2 Be True) available in as many outlets as possible.
Perhaps a demonstration of how unique media culture is in the Philippines, local TV went full throttle with these station IDs, turning them into full-blown productions with accompanying videos and original songs featuring their artists.
GMA-7’s 2022 Christmas station ID Love is Us, which premiered on Nov. 6, has gotten a little over 650,00 views on the GMA Network YouTube channel as of this writing. Meanwhile, the lyric video for ABS-CBN’s 2022 Christmas station ID Tayo Ang Ligaya Ng Isa’t Isa, uploaded Nov. 11, has 2.3 million views on its ABS-CBN Entertainment YouTube channel (the actual station ID, which was launched Nov. 19, has gotten 450,000 views in 24 hours).
TV5, which also released its Christmas station ID Sama-Samang Ihatid ang Ibang Saya ng Pasko, has 56,000 views on its TV5 Philippines YouTube channel.
If these numbers seem a bit anemic to you, it’s worth noting that many viewers are probably watching these videos elsewhere. It’s now possible to encounter these network station IDs without actively seeking them out. Kapuso and Kapamilya viewers are no longer just talking about these station IDs on the YouTube video comments section or on Twitter. They’re now splicing and editing the videos, posting them on their socials (particularly TikTok, which local networks have started to fully utilize in its marketing this year) with their personal hot takes on which one is the best.
So which one takes the crown of best Christmas station ID this year? Let’s discuss.
We are joy
If we are to compare the station IDs of Christmas past, ABS-CBN’s would emerge as the most iconic (Apart from Bro, Ikaw ang Star ng Pasko, their 2015 Thank You For The Love also stands out as among the most memorable). So their 2022 production has a lot to live up to.
And if you’re a fan of their previous station IDs, Tayo Ang Ligaya Ng Isa’t Isa does not disappoint.
It starts with former ABS-CBN president and drama anthology Maalala Mo Kaya host Charo Santos-Concio summarizing the theme of the more than 16 minute video. “Ngayong Kapaskuhan, hindi mauubos ang ating dahilan para magpasalamat sa Diyos at sa isa’t isa,” she said.
The video proceeds to show snippets of Filipinos celebrating Christmas, interspersed with the network’s stars performing the Tayo Ang Ligaya ng Isa’t Isa song. We first see Darna stars Jane De Leon, Janella Salvador, and Joshua Garcia; KD Estrada and Alexa Ilacad; He’s Into Her stars Donny Pangilinan and Belle Mariano; and 2 Good 2 Be True stars Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo. ABS-CBN has always used their station IDs to push their young, promising stars, and this year is no different. But it highlights Philippine showbiz’s need to cultivate new TV and movie artists (Donny and Belle are coming out with a movie this month, the first Star Cinema film to premiere in theaters this year), given how social media personalities are giving mainstream names a run for their money in terms of popularity and relevance.
Then we see the now-standard Christmas station ID elements: stars and cast of various ABS-CBN shows doing standard Christmas activities (mainly giving gifts to fans and viewers) and greeting viewers a Merry Christmas, clips of ABS-CBN veteran and well-known singers performing the station ID song, and mini-features on “real-life heroes,” highlighting how we give joy by giving service to other people.
To me, the most interesting part of the station ID is the feature on Joana De Chavez Maring, a viewer who saved her grandfather’s life after using the FAST method to determine whether he is suffering from a stroke. She learned this from watching the ABS-CBN show 2 Good 2 Be True.
This is the in-your-face message of ABS-CBN’s 2022 Christmas station ID. Despite a reduced viewership, Filipinos still need ABS-CBN, not just for entertainment.
Tayo Ang Ligaya Ng Isa’t Isa works, because it is reminiscent of previous successful station IDs. However, it’s been over a decade since Bro, Ikaw ang Star ng Pasko. Maybe there’s an opportunity here to innovate the station ID format. If anyone could do it, it’s ABS-CBN.
We are love
Media releases about the GMA-7 2022 Christmas station ID Love is Us describe it as “simple and powerful.” And this is true. The Kapuso’s Christmas IDs, especially during the past two years, are simpler affairs compared to its rival’s.
This year, GMA-7 got a lot of things right.
The theme of the video is simple: With the loosening pandemic protocols, we can finally celebrate Christmas together. This is explained by GMA-7’s biggest personalities: Jessica Soho, Dingdong Dantes, Heart Evangelista, Dennis Trillo, Alden Richards, Bea Alonzo, and Marian Rivera. It seems the network, based on its station ID, is more interested in reminding viewers head-on of their biggest stars instead of pushing their young artists (which we do see a lot of in the video).
Throughout the six-minute video, we see GMA-7 stars spending time together, setting up a Christmas party, giving gifts to each other, and spending time with their viewers and fans—essentially things we were not able to do during the height of the pandemic. According to the official press release, the station ID “encapsulates the network’s message of gratitude to the Kapuso viewers’ for making GMA the Philippines’ leading broadcast network.”
In short: It's status quo for the country’s default largest television network. No need to rock the boat.
Between these two networks, GMA has been less inclined, throughout the years, to place heavier social contexts in the presentation of their station IDs; focusing instead on blue-sky concepts such as love, hope, and the spirit of Christmas. It's wise not to expect full-throttle social commentary from their station IDs, but instead prepare to be awash in (equally important) seasonal good vibes.
In that context, the Love is Us station ID works. It is simple, the video is vibrant, the song is catchy. (In contrast, the ABS-CBN 2022 song sounds like a mishmash of many different songs). It's what you watch when you want to soak up some much-needed holiday cheer—something that's otherwise in sparse supply for many of us given the current economic realities (the prices!).
TV5 station IDs are usually modest. Admittedly, the quality of their Christmas videos has been improving in the past couple of years (this year is perhaps their best).
More interesting is how this year’s TV5 Christmas station ID reflects what the landscape of Philippine TV looks like now.
What their five-minute Sama-Samang Ihatid ang Ibang Saya ng Pasko video tells us is that television will be full of opportunities for collaboration in 2023. Their station ID, besides featuring the usual Christmas-themed activities, features home-grown TV shows and artists (mostly from their news department) as well as those produced by ABS-CBN that also air on their network. Thanks to a landmark deal, ABS-CBN shows have been airing on TV5 since 2021; plans for ABS-CBN to acquire stocks in TV5 were announced this year but were eventually halted.
Maybe this is cheating, since a 2023 ABS-CBN and GMA-7 partnership for the Jodi Sta. Maria and Richard Yap reunion project was earlier reported. Still, given how entertainment works these days, it’s likely we’ll see similar deals and collaborations. We already saw it with ABS-CBN’s Daniel Padilla-Kathryn Bernardo’s 2 Good 2 Be True streaming on Netflix simultaneous with its TV5 free TV airing.
It is interesting to see what Philippine TV would look like when media entities work together.