Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me.

Argh, Matey!

Today I got a glimpse into the world of piracy. Typically the word ‘piracy’ conjures images of bearded men wearing jewelry, an attached sword, and a bandanna and/or hat who holler obscenities. But today I’m referring to another type of piracy known as media piracy, the unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted DVDs.

Sure, piracy exists back in the United States, but it doesn’t compare to the sheer magnitude that exists in this country. We’re talking about a whole another level here. The pirate movie market is predominant in the Philippines. Seriously.

The reason pirated movies are so rampant in the Philippines is quite simple: it’s super cheap! And let’s face it, most people here can’t afford to pay $20 USD for a new released DVD. After a quick ‘Google search’ to get an idea of how poor the people really are in this beautiful country, I found that, according to AusAID and its website, the Australian government agency responsible for managing Australia’s overseas aid program, that “the proportion of the population living below US$1.25 a day in 2006 was 23 per cent or around 20 million people. At the same time, about 44 per cent or over 40 million Filipinos were living on less than US$2 a day.”

So when you have a Third World country such as Philippines where over 40 percent of the population (the population of the Philippines is roughly 100 million) makes less than $2 USD per day, it’s not surprising that the people would choose the cheaper and more affordable option. And speaking of options, there really isn’t an alternative. The market is saturated with a superfluity of pirated DVD markets throughout the Philippines. You can even find vendors inside the malls! Maybe this is why the government hasn’t been able to eliminate the country’s piracy problem, because it simply doesn’t have the man power to deal with the overabundance of vendors and markets that exist. Or maybe it’s because the government just doesn’t care. I don’t know.

Sheila was shocked when I told her that when we want to watch a movie in the US, we either rent or purchase the movie. It was almost incomprehensible to Sheila that people actually rent movies. And when I told her it costs about $4 USD to rent a movie, she about fell off the bed.

Sheila’s movie collection was looking a little thin, so she took me to the district of Quiapo in metro Manila, the city’s largest pirated DVD market, where Sheila typically buys her DVDs. She said the vendor that she buys from has a reliable, high-quality selection of pirated DVDs. I was game.

To reach Quiapo we took a shuttle and Manila’s MRT.

In the Philippines, as in many other Third World countries, it’s not uncommon to see squatters. Squatters are essentially where the poor of the poorest live. These people do not have a permanent address and have settled on land that they do not own, and are living under the worst conditions that I’ve ever seen. It’s quite harrowing to witness. The worst governmental housing projects or urban ghettos in the US doesn’t even compare to the conditions that these people live under. I’ve been told that many people who inhabit these squatters used to live in the provinces who’d once owned houses, land, and businesses but sold it all to come to Manila in pursuit of a greener pasture. But sadly, what they end up finding once they arrive is a dark, unforgiving jungle.

Welcome to the jungle: the manic streets of Manila.

After a relatively long commute we eventually found our way to Quiapo, the largest pirate market in Manila.

The market was quite extensive with a plethora of DVDs to choose from - a paradise for any movie lover. At my disposal were newly released as well as unreleased Hollywood movies for only 30 pesos/70 US cents. And a DVD with 10 movies on it cost a whopping 70 pesos, equivalent to $1.70 USD.

Giddy up.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!


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