The Philippines Should Host Asia’s Largest Comedy Festival to Counter Ressa’s Narrative

Not only to Filipinos enjoy free speech but they enjoy the entertainment that exists as a result of free speech laws. The music scene, comedy seen and acting scene throughout The Philippines is highly unique by global standards. The combination of unique and manifold indigenous cultures, historic interactions with other Asian cultures ranging from Chinese to pan-Malayan culture, European traditions and exposure to contemporary American culture has given The Philippines a particularly unique set of cultural characteristics, even within the context of the cultural cornucopia that is ASEAN.

Among other things, Filipinos love to laugh and as a result, stand-up comedy remains a large and growing part of the entertainment industry in The Philippines. Of course, stand-up comics tend to rely on free speech in order to get laughs. An environment that strongly proscribes what can and cannot be said is typically not conducive to the kind of free market environment in which stand-up comics can thrive.

Of course, international liberal media is currently engaged in a campaign which states that somehow freedom of speech is under threat in a country that is in many ways the Asian capital of free speech for a variety of reasons. The bogus characterisation of The Philippines as a land without free speech, stems from an unquestioning approach to the publicity campaign surrounding Rappler’s CEO Maria Ressa who has just been arrested due to charges that she defamed the reputation of businessman Wilfredo Keng.

When countering this narrative, it is generally better to show rather than tell and when it comes to promoting The Philippines not only as a top destination for general tourism, there is no reason why a large outdoor comedy festival could not be staged in order to give laugh lovers throughout the wider world a chance to enjoy fun entertainment beside a Filipino audience.

Even during a much different time in Philippine history, Manila once hosted one of the great international boxing matches in history. The October 1, 1975 fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier was the last ever fight between two of the most well known rivals in modern boxing. Ali’s knock out victory in the 14th round continues to be remembered throughout the world as “The Thrilla in Manila“.

A new international comedy festival involving both Filipino and international stand-ups could help to put The Philippines back on the map as an entertainment destination. It cannot be forgotten that when the world renowned American rock band Journey was looking for a new singer to replace the legendary Steve Perry, they settled on the Manila born Arnel Pineda who continues to front Journey to this day.

The Philippines has a great deal of uplifting culture to share with the rest of the world and as comedy perhaps more than any other art form lives and breaths on free speech, an international comedy festival in The Philippines could be the best way to show the world that “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” but that it’s also “funnier in The Philippines”.



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