MANILA, Philippines – Although several Hollywood films have been shot in the Philippines, including Oscar winners “Platoon” and “Apocalypse Now,” more often than not, the country was merely subbing for another nation.
The Philippines has been used as a stand-in for Thailand in "Brokedown Palace," Indonesia in "The Year of Living Dangerously" and, of course, Vietnam in Oliver Stone's "Platoon" and "Born on the Fourth of July."
One Hollywood film that was set in the Philippines, 2005’s “The Great Raid,” about a mission to rescue American soldiers in Cabanatuan during World War II and which starred Benjamin Bratt and Filipino actor Cesar Montano, was not even shot in the country but in Australia.
|The Bourne Legacy, Apocalipse Now and Baler
And this is what makes “Bourne Legacy” different.
A key part of the fourth instalment of the spy-thriller franchise is actually set in the Philippines. According to the film’s Philippine producer Jun Juban the scenes shot in Manila will take about 20 to 25 minutes of the film.
Based on the experience of other Asian countries that have hosted Hollywood shoots, expect tourism dollars to follow, especially since “Bourne Legacy” will likely be a huge worldwide hit.
Malacañang acknowledged as much on Tuesday when Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda welcomed the filming of the movie here since "it will be a boost to tourism."
Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino added that the decision to shoot a major Hollywood movie in Manila also shows it is safe to visit the Philippines.
In 1974, the James Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun,” starring Roger Moore, filmed a key sequence in the then-unknown Phang Nga Bay near Phuket in Thailand. Specifically the film chose to film in the island of Ko Tapu or Nail Island.
Today, Ko Tapu is now referred as “James Bond Island” and trips there are included in the popular island-hopping tours in Phang Nga Bay.
Years later, in 1999, another Thai island became world-famous thanks to “The Beach,” starring Leonardo Di Caprio. Maya Bay in Phi Phi (near Krabi) is now visited by thousands of people each day, such that the Krabi tourism office recommends tourists to visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Since parts of “Bourne Legacy” will be filmed in El Nido, Palawan, this postcard-perfect outpost – which was once scouted as an alternate location for “The Beach,” after its production encountered problems with environment activists – will be introduced to a very wide audience.
But one doesn’t have to film in secluded islands to make a mark among tourists. City locations have also gained from added Hollywood exposure.
When “Entrapment,” which starred Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, shot a scene in the Malaysian landmark, the Petronas Tower, this bit of trivia made its way onto every tourist brochure and tourist guide spiel in Kuala Lumpur.
Hong Kong, a favorite among Hollywood filmmakers, has even come up with a tour based on famous film locations in the Wanchai district, which became famous via the 1960 movie, “The World of Suzie Wong.” Hong Kong also compiled these famous locations into a lavish book, “Hong Kong Island: An Odyssey of Film Locations.”
Sometimes you don’t even need Hollywood cameras to show your city to overseas audiences.
South Korea’s popular TV dramas have proven to be a huge tourism boost, with tours offering to take visitors to see where they were filmed. One luxury tour organized by Happymize Travel, for instance, has a five-day, four-night itinerary, which includes lunch at the N Seoul Tower, where the school cafeteria scenes of “Boys Over Flowers” were filmed, and a trip to Namiseom Island, the location of “Winter Sonata.”
Given the Manila locations of “Bourne Legacy,” which include public markets and the Pasay Rotonda, one may wonder if such crowded locales would leave a good impression of the country and entice tourists to come to the Philippines.
That didn’t seem to have hurt Thailand when it became the location for the hit movie, “Hangover 2,” which film critic Roger Ebert said “plays like an anti-travelogue paid for by a rival tourist destination — Singapore, maybe.”
But in a report, the local newspaper Bangkok Post said, “The Thai tourism industry can thank the Hollywood film ‘Hangover 2 ‘for creating a new tourism route for fanatics wishing to follow the movie’s shooting locations in Thailand.”
Moreover, the newspaper said, “‘Hangover 2’ has helped to promote Thailand and after its success, several foreign filmmakers are more confident about shooting their movies here," citing Wansiri Morakul, the director of the Thailand Film Office, a unit of Thailand’s Department of Tourism.
It also noted that 578 foreign productions were filmed in Thailand in 2010, generating 1.87 billion baht in revenue for the country, up from 496 films and about 900 million baht in 2009.
From January to May of 2011, 287 foreign films were shot in Thailand, generating 621.66 million baht in revenue, the newspaper said.
In its editorial last Monday, the local business newspaper, BusinessMirror, urged government to offer incentives to lure more foreign filmmakers to shoot in the Philippines.
"Making films here would definitely result in substantial savings on the part of foreign film companies. Foreign studios are facing a cash-crunch right now because of the economic troubles in the US and Europe. They need to cut down on costs and are more open to making movies in countries where the costs are cheaper, where there are exotic sights and unique landscapes. We have all these," it said.
"When many foreign film crews pick our country as their choice location, this also depicts the Philippines as a favorable destination for tourists," it added.
Of course, the tourism effect can come years after the movie was shown. In 1979, director Francis Ford Coppola included a now-classic surfing sequence in “Apocalypse Now,” which was shot in Baler, Aurora.
Today, Baler has become one of the major destinations for surfers the world over, hoping to ride the waves – just like in the Vietnam War movie.