The Philippines Goes Hollywood


By Madeleine Lingad

If one were to describe Filipino culture, one might say that it is defined by having a strong family bond, a hospitable demeanor, or a love for preparing and sharing food with one another. While these customs and values may very well be true, one aspect of the culture that I believe is imperative to include is the spider-sense urge to disclose one’s own or another individual’s “Filipino-ness.” Let me explain…

In my college experience thus far, I have had several instances where I identified—or been identified as—a Filipino in a class. Typically, in the middle of a conversation, I or the person I am talking to, will think to ask the thousand-dollar question, “Wait, are you Filipino?”. An obvious giveaway clue would be picking up a slight Tagalog accent, or hearing them mention eating adobo for dinner the other night. But, most of the time, it’s just that gut feeling and look in the eye that prompts that burning Filipino hunch. And thus, the acknowledgment of “Filipino-ness” is mentioned and revealed in a long, amicable tangent of a conversation.

With this being said, 2022 was a pleasantly surprising year for identifying Filipinos in movies and television. And I can’t lie, I can’t count the number of times that I have made it a point to note an actor’s “Filipino-ness” while at the movies. What can I say, it’s the culture of it all.

Now, onto a handful of notable Filipinos who graced my screen in 2022—and who I hope to be watching perform again very soon.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Brandon Perea in Nope

“You’ll be getting a call from my supervisor asking how my service was.”

Though I did not realize it at the time, Nope would not be my first time watching Filipino-Puerto Rican actor Brandon Perea perform on screen. After taking a look at his filmography, I now remember his role as Alfonso “French” Sosa in the highly acclaimed drama/sci-fi thriller Netflix original, The OA (2016)—an imaginative, mind-boggling show, might I add.

Six years later, Perea would come back with an even bigger breakthrough in Jordan Peele’s third feature film, Nope. Here he takes on the role of Angel Torres, an angsty Fry’s Electronics employee. Though Torres was originally meant to be more of “an upbeat, happy-go-lucky tech geek” according to EW,Links to an external site. director Peele rewrote the script just for Perea because of his standout audition where he interpreted his role with more pessimism and depth as a whole. It’s already an impressive feat to be cast in a Jordan Peele movie, and even more noteworthy to have a part redesigned just for you—truly a phenomenal achievement for Filipinos.

Dave Bautista

“My Heart Is Broken Because Of What I Have To Do Today.”

Wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista has an impressively diverse acting career, starring in some fan favorites like Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Blade Runner 2047 (2017), and Dune (2021). Though it would make sense that his naturally burly stature and physique might lend the actor to being typecast as a musclehead, this is anything but the case for Bautista.

He has shown that he can really do it all, in his roles as Leonard, a second-grade teacher, and kids’ basketball coach, as well as Duke Cody, a YouTube and Twitch streamer, in Knock at the Cabin (2023) and Glass Onion (2022), respectively. In the aforementioned film, Bautista is initially presented as the primary antagonist, but Leonard reveals himself actually as a quite sincere and gentle character, consistently attempting to keep everyone calm and at ease, despite the looming threat of the apocalypse at hand. And in the mystery/crime sequel to Knives Out (2019), the actor is comedically brilliant, always sporting animal-printed button-up shirts (though always worn unbuttoned) and a skimpy speedo worn at the pool. He is bombastic—a loud and proud men’s rights and NRA activist that can’t be stopped, unless, perhaps, pineapples are in the picture.

And coming from Filipino-Greek descent, Bautista proudly showcases his heritage through his Philippines-inspired tattoos. In fact, they were most recently featured emblazoned on his character in Glass Onion. His collection features a waving Philippines flag, the three yellow stars and sun of the Philippine flag, as well as the same sun symbol encircling an Eye of Providence. In the words of the actor himself, “I was always really just taught to be proud of my heritage. [I’m] always very proud of my roots and I display it on my body.”Links to an external site.

Dolly de Leon

“In the yacht, toilet manager. Here, captain.”

Though she is (disappointingly) not nominated for an Oscar this year, I wholeheartedly believe Dolly de Leon deserves the award for Best Supporting Actress. Her role and performance as Abigail in Triangle of Sadness surprised me, in the best way possible. At first, the film presents de Leon as an obvious choice for a background character considering her seemingly insignificant role as just another cleaning lady working onboard the luxury yacht. However, director Ruben Östlund turns the audience’s expectations on its head when she suddenly develops into the leading protagonist of the film’s final act.

Now washed up on a deserted beach, where lives are on the line, a nifty hospitality/service worker takes charge. She builds the fire, forages, and cooks the food. In other words, Abigail is the key to the other’s chances of survival, lending her to become the new focus of the film’s narrative.

Through his film, one of Östlund’s main intentions was to highlight the OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) experience. As de Leon describes herself, “I think [the director] wanted to see the OFWs’ lives from the lens of a person who is a passenger, someone from a place of privilege,…because the focus really was the shifting of power.”Links to an external site. Though Abigail is practically invisible to the characters—as well as the audience—up until the 95-minute mark of the film, from here on out de Leon makes her presence known, assuming the power and title she deserves—” Captain.

To more films and shows that leave you exclaiming, “Did you know that so-and-so is Filipino?!”, and many more to come.


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