Since March is Women’s Month, I decided to write about one of the women I truly admire, our chair at the Movie Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), Grace Poe Llamanzares.
Under her stewardship, MTRCB has been able to institute new guidelines for the television industry that will hopefully foster a safer environment for children.
The Strong Parental Guidance (SPG) rating, launched in February, advocates a stronger and more vigilant parental guidance for programs that are classified as SPG.
Programs with an SPG rating contain serious topics or themes, which may not be for children except under the vigilant guidance and supervision of a parent or responsible adult.
Grace says that for years, the tug of war was between those who pushed the limits of artistic freedom, and those who were considered conservatives for supposedly upholding good moral standards.
“The efforts of both camps are not without merit. However, what was taken for granted in the process were the most defenseless members of our society—our children.”
She cites the fact that a third of our population or 34 percent are 14 years of age and below, and since television is the most prevalent form of media, the MTRCB needs to be extra cautious when considering policies and regulations.
Grace adds: “The average Filipino child watches 21 hours of TV programming per week. The MTRCB cannot be physically monitoring every household. With the classification advisory, we are able to develop a sense of responsibility among the parents to take an active role in monitoring the viewing habits of their children.”
The new classification rating, she says, encourages communicators and program producers to regulate themselves and apply their stringent standards for censurable material, taking into consideration the children audience.
“We also ask that parents and adult caregivers assert their inherent authority in guiding, supervising and educating their children in the selection of TV programs allowed for public viewing. This is really also our chance to show that we are working hand-in-hand to prove that the television industry is serious in its pursuit of responsible self-regulation.”
Walking her talk
One afternoon, she and I sat down to talk about her parenting style, her approach toward “screening” her children’s TV viewing habits. Grace and Neil Llamanzares are parents to Brian, 19; Hanna, 13; and Nika, who is 7.
Brian, she says, is basically free to choose what he wants to watch. “I make sure that I only let Nika watch certain shows on TV. The Disney Channel is pretty safe, even if she watches early in the morning on weekends. Now that there is an SPG rating, I am very clear to caution my daughter’s yaya who’s been with us since my daughter was born and whom I trust, to make sure that she does not watch any show with an SPG rating when I’m not around.”
With Hanna, she says, it gets trickier. “Although she understands that we do not allow her to watch programs we feel are too mature for her age, and for the most part there’s not been an argument about it, I still am weary about what is available for her to watch on the Internet.”
Grace said Hanna once showed her a link to footage about the consequences of drunk driving. “The message was good, but the scenes were so tragic and bloody, even I was horrified watching it. In as much as you want to protect your children, admittedly, quite often, you are not able to physically watch them. I usually have a serious talk with each of them about varied topics. I find that the most effective way to know what’s going on with your child is to make sure you listen to them.”
She says that when the kids were younger, she would make it a point to sit and watch TV with them. “My husband, especially, who still enjoys watching cartoons, curls up with the kids in bed on weekend mornings to watch with them. Certain cartoons that are for adults are obviously an exception like ‘Family Guy,’ ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog,’ and certain episodes of the ‘Simpsons.’”
I was quite impressed with how easily Grace could rattle off the cartoons Nika would watch—a clear indication of how hands-on she is.
“At the moment, my youngest loves watching ‘Phineas and Ferb,’ ‘High Five’ and ‘Art Attack.’ Sometimes she watches ‘The Suite Life Of Zach and Cody’ and ‘iCarly.’ The switch to the last two shows I mentioned is a signal that slowly her preference is graduating towards preteen programming. I sometimes have to tell her to switch the channel especially when they feature reality shows that promote the wrong kinds of values. ‘90210’ can get a bit worrisome, too.”
Memories of the King
As a child growing up in the home of the King and Queen of Philippine movies, I asked her what that was like.
“Honestly, my dad was very liberal. He made me watch so many movies. From the Hitchcock collection, Audrey Hepburn movies, and many classics such as: ‘Gone with the Wind,’ ‘Casablanca,’ to commercial and violent action movies of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, etc. We also laughed so hard together watching ‘There’s Something About Mary.’
“I guess my dad was more the type who would allow me to watch any movie, as long as it was not racy. Actually, violence seems to be more rampant in movies or TV than sexually charged scenes.
“Perhaps my dad was from the old school that worried more about sheltering children from watching sexual scenes, but tended to be liberal with violent materials.”
Being a parent to children who belong to the age group the MTRCB wishes to protect has helped her better understand and implement the classification ratings and guidelines.
“When all is said and done, it is still us parents who are primarily responsible for our children. Laws and regulations reinforce order. But what’s paramount to the growth of a child is the strength of his foundation, which will determine character, and which parents are in the best position to support. This is my reason for promoting the classification system. We have to empower parents.”
She said that when she was appointed to MTRCB, her mom said, “Kayanin mo yan!” Grace added she also remembered what her dad told her just before he died: “Help the industry. Do what is right. Be fair. Be kind. Be humble.”