Philippine animation has given some amazing animated movies and TV shows that are worth the watch.
With Trese releasing on Netflix very soon, Filipino animation is about to get its biggest project to date. The show will be the first-ever Netflix anime to be based on a Filipino comic book and feature a Filipino voice cast. But Philippine animation actually has a long and storied history. From Adarna: The Mythical Bird (1997) being the first full-length Filipino animated movie to newer animated projects receiving international funding, local animation is on the rise. After all, there are quite a few Filipinos who work on animated movies for Pixar and other big studios. While the local animation industry is not as big as the Japanese or American animation scene, the country has produced its fair share of locally made animated movies and TV shows. Not only are these locally made, but they are also great sources of Filipino representation. We don’t have to wait for movies like Raya and the Last Dragon to hopefully mention Philippine culture. It’s just that the industry is not given that much attention or support to succeed. With that being said, here are 8 underrated Filipino animated movies and TV shows that deserve more attention.
Barangay 143 (2018-2021)
Barangay 143 is a Filipino-Japanese anime TV show. It is a series about basketball and follows Bren Park (Migo Adecer), a promising basketball star of Filipino and Korean descent who travels to Manila to find his biological father and in the process, joins the basketball league of Barangay 143 in Tondo, Manila. Quezon City-based ASI Studios is the production company behind the show while Japan-based TV Asahi is in charge of the show’s direction and character design. Originally announced in 2016, the show’s voice cast is filled with Filipino actors such as Ruru Madrid, Julie Anne San Jose, John Arcilla, Cherie Gil, and many more. The series also has the distinction of being the first Filipino anime series to be aired on Philippine TV when it aired on GMA in 2018. Barangay 143 currently has 2 seasons, both of which are available to stream on Netflix.
Dayo: Sa Mundo ng Elementalia (2008)
Philippine folklore is a great place to find material for movies, books, and TV shows (as seen in Trese). Dayo: Sa Mundo ng Elementalia is a Filipino animated movie that also revolves around Filipino folk creatures. The story follows a young boy named Bubuy (Nash Aguas) who visits his grandparents from the summer. But when his grandparents get kidnapped, Bubuy is brought into the magical land of Elementalia and encounters a whole host of Filipino mythical creatures. Directed by Robert Quilao, Dayo had over 500 animators work on the movie and is the country’s first all-digital feature-length animated film.
Hayop Ka! (2020)
Set in the Philippines where human beings are animals, Hayop Ka centers on, Nimfa Dimaano (Angelica Panganiban), a pussycat who works as a perfume sales kitty at a department store. She’s dating Roger (Robin Padilla), a macho mongrel who is a janitor, but Nimfa feels that she wants more in the relationship, especially when it comes to her social status in life. One day while at work, Nimfa meets Iñigo Villanueva (Sam Milby), a bourgeoisie business dog and soon their chemistry ignites. Now, Nimfa has to decide who her heart truly belongs to. Directed by Avid Liongoren, Hayop Ka made history in 2020 when it became the first-ever locally produced animated movie to be exclusively distributed by Netflix. The project took over 3 years to make, but it paid off as the movie was met with positive reviews and praise for its art style and animation.
Manang Biring (2015)
Animation is mostly known as a medium to create lighthearted content. But it can also be used to tell deeper stories that tug as the heartstrings and that is what Manang Biring does. This animated movie is about Biring (Erlinda Villalobos), an old woman who is informed that she has terminal cancer. At first, she accepts that her passing is imminent, but when she receives a letter from her estranged daughter Nita (Cherry Pie Picache) that she is coming home for Christmas, Manang Birin decides to spend her last days alive by trying to spend Christmas with her daughter and grandson. Directed by Carl Joseph Papa, the movie is noted for its unique visual style of using rotoscope animation. This means that the movie was animated by tracing live film footage of the real actors. Manang Biring also won Best Picture at the 2015 Cinema One Originals Film Festival.
Paglisan is another animated movie that deals with serious issue. In the movie’s case? Mental health. The movie follows Crisanto (Ian Veneracion) and Dolores (Eula Valdez), a middle-aged couple living in Manila. Crisanto is a former musical theater actor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and this diagnosis tests his relationship with Dolores, a former musical theater actor as well who is struggling with depression. The two of them now must try to mend a breaking relationship that is made worse with fading memories. The movie treats their journey and subject matter with maturity and respect while Ian Veneracion and Eula Valdez deliver standout performances. The unique animation 2D style of a mix between watercolor painting and sketchbook and some well-implemented musical scenes make for a gem of an animated movie.
RPG Metanoia (2010)
Video games and animation go so well together like butter on toast so it was only a matter of time before there would be a Filipino animated movie about video games. RPG Metanoia follows Nico (Zaijan Jaranilla) an 11-year-old boy who plays an MMORPG called Metanoia with his friends. Whenever they play together, the movie shifts perspectives to their in-game characters and follows their adventures in the game. But one day, the Metanoia network gets infected by a virus that not only threatens the game but the real world as well. Nico and his friends then have to stop the virus and save the world. Directed by Luis Suarez, the movie was shown during the 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival where it won 3rd Best Picture. The movie also holds the title of being the 1st feature-length 3D animated film in the Philippines.
Saving Sally (2016)
Another project of director Avid Liongoren is on the list with Saving Sally. The film centers on Marty (Enzo Marcos) a teenager, aspiring comic book writer, and budding inventor, and Sally (Rhian Ramos) his best friend and fellow inventor. The two form a close bond with each other and Marty starts to develop feelings for Sally, but keeps it a secret from her. Saving Sally is Avid Liongoren’s feature film debut and was well-received when it was shown during the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival. The movie is most noted for its hybrid mix of live-action scenes and animation. The film is currently available on Netflix.
If Disney were to ever make an animated movie about a Filipino princess, it might look something like Urduja. The movie is based on a local legend in Pangasinan and centers on Princess Urduja of the Tawilisi tribe. The main plot revolves around Urduja falling in love with Limhang, a Chinese pirate who escaped from the evil warlord Wang. The film stars a bevy of notable Filipino actors such as Regine Velasquez-Alcasid who voices the titular character, Cesar Montano who voices Limhang, Eddie Garcia, and Johnny Delgado. The movie was made with an all-Filipino group of animators and uses a traditional (hand-drawn) style of animation. Not only is Urduja entertaining to watch, but it also serves as a great history lesson on Philippine indigenous culture and folklore.