Beautiful People, Beautiful Country is a documentary made by the BBC about the Philippines, and the title could not be any more true to life.
The documentary opens with one of Manila’s famous dancing traffic conductors. He brings joy to a job which by any reasonable measure – under the blazing sun and surrounded by pollution – should be sheer hell. “Filipinos live to entertain, and be entertained,” the voiceover concludes.
Moving on to the Intramuros, the documentary follows a tour group led by one of the most enthusiastic and engaging guides imaginable. He discusses the “hybrid” nature of the Filipino people, describing how the mixture of influences on the country has helped produced a unique culture. “Don’t come here if you just want noodles and temples,” he says.
The presenter then moves on to Manila’s Chinatown, the world’s oldest, to meet a local entrepreneur who also runs a voluntary fire truck.
Next follows a jeepney ride, and an introduction to the Filipino love for “the cheesy power ballad”. However, in contrast, he then meets a musician who is helping to keep alive the country’s traditional music. “We like to make other people smile, we are like natural therapists,” he says.
Of course, no visit to Manila can be complete without a visit to the Hobbit House – a bar restaurant staffed and managed by “little people”.
The documentary then focuses on the growing arts scene among the young people of the city, everything from graffiti to hip-hop.
Leaving the city, the next venue is a visit to one of the country’s numerous paradise islands.
In contrast, the documentary then discusses the numerous natural disasters endured by the nation, focusing on a team of volunteers helping to rebuild an earthquake-hit church.
Also featured in the film are the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, and the effect of the quake on the island’s tourism industry.
Overall, the documentary tells the story of how the people of the Philippines are able to remain remarkably optimistic in the face of so much adversity.
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