11 Hollywood Films That Were Shot in the Philippines
1. Brokedown Palace
Thailand refused to grant the film permission to shoot, so the production ended up creating, instead, a makeshift set in the Philippines. Shortly after filming, however, lead actress Claire Danes mentioned in a Vogue interview that Manila was a “ghastly and weird city.” Meanwhile, Premiere magazine also quoted her saying that the city “smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over, and that there is no sewage system and the people do not have anything—no arms, no legs, no eyes.” Her controversial statements earned her the ire not just of Filipinos including half-Pinoy co-star Lou Diamond Phillips but of Oprah, Tom Hanks, and Bruce Willis. Her subsequent apology was dismissed as insincere and the city of Manila has since declared her persona non-grata.
The story is set during the Philippine-American War, sometime between 1899 to 1902. Some American soldiers set up shop (so to speak) in a small barrio. This causes conflict among those who treat them as friends and those who see them as just another group of colonizers. Joel Torre plays the barrio chief Rafael Dacanay who is forced to be “friendly” to the Americans.
Director John Sayles loved the location and likewise emphasized that he made the film so that people would know what really happened when the Americans came to the Philippines.
3. Apocalypse Now
This epic is probably one of the best war movies of all time; it was honored by the Cannes Film and received nominations from the Golden Globe and Academy Awards. Instead of discussing the film’s series of unfortunate events (typhoon, tempers, and temperamental actors), we’re going for the fun stuff. Francis Ford Coppola and his family spent so much time in the Philippines that his daughter Sofia, then aged five, managed to memorize the Philippine National Anthem. Martin Sheen also brought along his young son, future controversial star Charlie, on set. Charlie would later return to the Philippines to shoot another war blockbuster.
Shooting experienced a little hiccup-People Power was coming to a boil—but the crew managed to keep everything on schedule. To ease budget woes, the crew also borrowed Philippine military equipment as props. Platoon, with its gorgeous Philippine backdrop, went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and the Golden Globe for Best Picture, among others. TV host Dyan Castillejo’s brother, Chris, snagged a bit role in the film. He was in good company as Johnny Depp was also a bit player in the film.
5. Born on the Fourth of July
The film director initially wanted to shoot his film in Vietnam but due to unsteady relations between the US and Vietnam, he settled for the Philippines. In case you’re wondering where you’ve seen the beach featured in the movie, it’s the same place the Temptation Island remake was shot.
The movie was based on a true story, Ron Kovic is a Vietnam war veteran who discourages war and promotes human rights after becoming paralyzed.
6. Black Mama, White Mama
Two beautiful women (one black, one white) escape from the penitentiary and try to fight their way out of the jungle, all while they’re chained to each other.
This R-rated film is, well, as blatant as any exploitative film can be. Apart from showcasing the local greenery, this film also introduced a few Filipino actors like Eddie Garcia, Vic Diaz, and Bruno Punzalan to the international showbiz scene. Filipina actresses Alona Alegre and Lotis Key also appeared topless in some scenes.This is also Pam Grier’s second film shot in the Philippines; the first being the similarly themed movie, The Big Dollhouse (1971).
7. The Year of Living Dangerously
After being denied permission to shoot in Indonesia, the crew moved production over to its neighboring country, the Philippines. However, production was halted aer Peter Weir and Mel Gibson received a series of death threats from local Muslims alleging that the film was “anti-Islam.” This caused the crew to shoot the rest of the movie in Australia. However, several Filipino references remain: Most of the non-English dialogue was actually spoken in Filipino. Filipino actors Bembol Roco and Kuh Ledesma also had supporting roles as undercover members of the communist party who are tasked to kill Mel Gibson’s character, Guy.
8. Back to Bataan
Although a handful of Hollywood films tackled the famed Battle of Bataan, this was the only film to actually shoot in the Philippines. The film, however, dealt with more than that. As the war had been ongoing at this time, the crew had to constantly rewrite and rework production to keep their facts updated. Accuracy? We think so. We found it a bit strange though that acclaimed Mexican-American actor Anthony Quinn played Andres Bonifacio’s grandson: first, because the revolutionary had none; and second, he just didn’t look Pinoy.