Blockbuster ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ eye PH as next location site

WTTC TOURISM SUMMIT. World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) president Julia Simpson (left), Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (middle), and WTTC Chairman Arnold Donald (right), during the kick off of the 21st WTTC annual Global Summit held at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay City on Wednesday (April 20, 2022). The most influential travel and tourism event gathered industry leaders and government representatives aimed to continue aligning efforts to support the sector’s recovery from the pandemic. (PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)

Interestingly, the Philippines may just be the next location for the Hollywood blockbuster “Crazy Rich Asians”.

At the recent World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit, Singapore-born American novelist Kevin Kwan, who authored Crazy Rich Asians,  said he wanted his next film set in the Philippines. Kwan also authored China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems.

“The Philippins is a country with so many amazing locations, cultures, flavors, and of course, people. This is my fourth trip [here] and it’s always a pleasure to be back. It’s always surprising—I never know what will happen, but it’s always a grand adventure,” he said.

In Kwan’s trilogy, a popular sun and beach destination in the Philippines would become a significant element in Astrid’s story. Astrid is one of the main characters.

Award-winning film producer Lawrence Bender, who joined Kwan on the panel, confirmed that one of the reasons why Kwan and he traveled to Manila was to “make a movie here.”

“[Kevin] wrote a script, and it’s like a love letter to the Philippines,” he said.

Both Kwan and Bender visited Manila upon the invitation of the Department of Tourism (DOT) to become panel speakers for the WTTC Summit session on the impact of novels and film in boosting tourism.

“In case of (bringing the spotlight to) the Philippines, absolutely… For me, it’s about showcasing cultures… telling stories that are authentic to the place, to really celebrate that place,” Kwan said.

“You know, we did that with Crazy Rich Asians quite effectively. It boosted tourism [in Singapore],” he added, noting that many of the film cast was “discovering” the country like tourists as it was their first time visiting.

Bender also said when film crews come to certain destinations to create their movies, the local economy also benefits from it.

“Of course, what we do is we come into an area to shoot. We hire local people, we bring in people, we rent hotels. People who are employed, they pay taxes. It’s a net positive for the economy,” he said.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she looks forward to hosting more film producers and expressed optimism about the prospects of film tourism in the country.

“Film and literary works hold great potential to reach more people and show them how rich the Philippines is in terms of breathtaking destinations and diverse cultures. We hope these will in turn encourage more travelers around the world to visit and experience our country,” she said.

“Given our expansive tourism portfolio, we look forward to having more film and TV projects shot here in the Philippines. Rest assured we have the guidelines in place to ensure their health and safety while filming in our destinations,” she added.

A number of Hollywood blockbuster films had been shot in the Philippines, including The Bourne Legacy and Avengers: Infinity War, which featured the Banaue Rice Terraces in the final scene.

Apart from films, international TV shows like Survivor were shot in some parts of the country, including Caramoan Island in Camarines Sur, and Palawan.