You won’t need to go far to visit the set of these K-dramas and movies.
It’s no secret that Filipinos love Korean dramas and movies. They’re on TV, streaming services, and someone’s phone while they’re on the way home from work or school. But as much as people love them, there have also been moments where K-dramas and movies have shown that love back. Recent hit K-dramas such as Squid Games and The Glory have mentioned the Philippines in their storylines. And not only that, some are even set in the country.
If the recent news of Korean star Choi Woo-shik filming a project in Navotas is any indication, the country is slowly becoming a top shooting destination for K-dramas and movies. Here are some of those titles whose characters found themselves exploring the wonders of the Philippines.
While most of the titles on this list are partially set in the Philippines, Big Bet stands out because most of its plot happens in the country. The recently-released series revolves around the comeback of an ill-fated casino mogul who returns to the gambling scene in the country, aiming to be the legendary figure in Philippine gambling that he once was, risking everything he has, including his own life.
This Disney+ series stars big names including Choi Min-sik (Oldboy) as the protagonist with Seon Seok-koo (My Liberation Notes), Lee Dong-hwi (Reply 1988), and Heo Sung-tae (Squid Game). Also included in the cast are Filipino actors, with the standout being theater actor Nico Antonio, who plays a Criminal Investigation and Detection Group officer helping the Korean police. Big Bet, which already has two seasons under its belt, is mainly set in Manila, as well as the surrounding provinces.
For Filipino viewers of this 2020 K-drama, a few of the locations featured on the show proved to be a familiar sight. The series centers on two people who are drawn toward a mystical forest. And while most of the series is set in the Gangwon Province of Korea, episodes 19 and 20 see the lead stars travel to the Philippines for work commitments. It is during this time that they also squeeze in a bit of sightseeing with locations featured including Okada Manila, Intramuros, and the Manila Cathedral.
Lee Jong Suk and Seo In Guk in a sport film set in Davao? That isn’t fan fiction, but the plot of this 2013 movie. It centers on two competitive swimmers whose desire to succeed in the sport clash while they are in Davao. The movie features multiple settings around Mindanao, including Davao del Norte and a particularly touching scene on Samal Island.
When the Won Network is caught participating in a fraud deal, a series of events leads the main characters to the Philippines. In particular, this 2016 action film has scenes set in the historic districts of Manila, with action set pieces around Tondo and Binondo. Fun fact: the production had to close Jones Bridge to shoot scenes there, making it the first time a Korean production shut down the historic bridge.
This 2011 film starring Song Kang-ho follows a retired gangster and assassin who fall in love. And while Busan serves as the main setting of this action-romance, a part of it sees its lead characters travel to the Philippines. By the film’s conclusion, the couple retires to Mactan, Cebu, specifically the Hadsan Cove Resort, to live out the rest of their lives in peace. Cebu is often hailed as a top tourist destination among Koreans. So, it’s no wonder the lead stars decided to settle down on the island.
What do couples do when they want to find that spark? Take a trip to Boracay, of course. That’s the set-up of Romantic Island, a 2008 movie about three couples of different relationship statuses who take a trip to Boracay. As the movie progresses, the couples’ relationship evolves and changes as they take in the sights and sounds of one of the world’s most famous islands.
Another Korean film, another project that highlights Philippine beaches. The premise of this 2009 film centers on a Taoist wizard who catches escaped goblins in the modern world. The Philippine setting happens when the lead character’s love interest tells him that she wants to be on a beach. So, he teleports her to a beach in Boracay.
THE FUGITIVE: PLAN B
Believe it or not, we live in a world where a shirtless Rain walks along Grecian pillars located in Batangas. In the first episode of this 2010 series starring Rain, the main character is sent to the Philippines for a mission and is seen walking by an acropolis with Grecian pillars. While you may think that was Greece, it was actually the Fortune Island Acropolis in Nasugbu, Batangas. That’s TV magic for you.