Why Sagada rejected Joyce Bernal team’s SONA shoot

July 6, 2020 - 6:59 PM
Joyce Bernal in file photo
Director Joyce Bernal in this undated photo. (The STAR/Michael Varcas)

The provincial government of Sagada in the Mountain Province on Monday issued a statement explaining why it prohibited film director Joyce Bernal and her production team from shooting in town for the upcoming State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Sagada Mayor James Pooten in a report said that the shoot ban was made in consideration of his constituents’ health and safety amid a public health crisis where the threat of the COVID-19 is still active.

He added that “no amount of permits and authorization can sway the decision of its stakeholders to keep the town sealed from tourists,” according to report.

“We hope to keep Sagada COVID-19 free, hindi nakukuha sa palakasan ito, health kasi ng mga tao ang kailangan [alagaan],” Pooten was quoted as saying.

Reports said  that a coordinator from the Malacañang Presidential Broadcast Staff-RTVM  called the office of the mayor and the Municipal Disaster Risk and Management Office on Sunday to ask permission for the SONA shoot.

The request was denied but by that time, Bernal and her team—which included Kapamilya actor Piolo Pascual—were already on their way to the town on the same day.

Sagada Rural Health Unit said that the local COVID-19 task force was only informed of their arrival when they passed by Sinto.

READ: Graphics in the time of pandemic: Sagada and Capiz’s ‘festive-looking’ Facebook posts on COVID-19 catch attention

A meeting was then initiated by the MDRMO and the Sagada COVID-19 Task Force, where they discovered that Bernal’s team had sent an e-mail to the mayor’s office dated July 3 and was sent around 5 p.m., past government office hours.

The e-mail said that the team was authorized by the Malacañang Presidential Broadcast Staff.

The team was eventually escorted to the ongoing meeting where Bernal was told that their entry to the town was denied.

Sagada Vice Mayor Felicito Dula cited four reasons for refusing their request, which included Municipal Resolution 110 (Series of 2020) that was created in light of the pandemic. It states that:

  • Closure and/or suspension of tourism such as booking of guests by establishments, all tourist sites, and other concerns related to tourism; and 
  • Entry of non-residents coming from red areas is not allowed. 

This contain the sentiments of the people of Sagada.Kasiyana. Let us continue to work together to win the fight against Covid-19 and together, we shall heal as one……

Posted by Sagada Municipality on Sunday, July 5, 2020


Metro Manila, which has high-risk cities in terms of COVID-19 cases, is currently under a general community quarantine while Sagada is on a low-risk modified general community, the lowest level of the community quarantine before the “new normal.”

Dula added that Sagada as a fifth-class municipality “is not ready, specifically our health facilities, to accommodate the presence of a COVID-19 positive case in the locality.”

The town does not have an active case of an infected individual as of July 6.

‘Non-essential’ travel? 

The incident raised certain questions from some Filipinos who asked about the necessity of SONA shoot as the country continuously battles a pandemic.

“This trip isn’t essential. We’re in the middle of a f*cking pandemic, but all you care about is the background views for SONA?! Puro kayo preach not to go out pero kayo ‘tong labas nang labas. Tapos ano? YOU’RE ENDANGERING THE LIVES OF THE LOCALS!” a Twitter user wrote.

“Hmmm… bakit may pa-background views for SONA? Manonood ba tayo ng pelikula? It’s good that Sagada sticks to their quarantine guidelines and they complied,” another online user said.

A Filipino likewise asked whether the upcoming SONA would include a “video presentation” since the agenda included “background shots” of the famed tourist destination.

Bernal, a director best known for her romantic and comedy movies, previously directed Duterte’s SONA in 2018 and 2019.

Last year, Bernal revealed that she directed the chief executive’s SONA for free.

Duterte is expected to deliver his fifth SONA either through a live telecast or physically attending a limited joint session of the 18th Congress.

Meanwhile, the national government’s plan to send Filipinos to different provinces has been accused of causing COVID-19 transmissions to rise in other parts of the country.

This was also previously admitted by Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., the chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.

The program has since been suspended and replaced with the “Hatid Tulong” initiative dedicated to locally stranded individuals in the National Capital Region or LSIs.