MANILA, PHILIPPINES – February doesn’t just mean fewer days in a month but with the 14th, the natural sentimentality of Filipinos emerges during Valentine’s. For the past few years, however, February also means a new batch of highly anticipated ads emerge from Jollibee and McCann Worldgroup Philippines.
The 2021 series of Kwentong Jollibee ads have a different aura around them compared to previous installments. With the pandemic continuing to be present, the limitations imposed by physical distancing, and the different levels of quarantine imposed, nobody would have blamed the fastfood giant if they decided not to deliver any Kwentong Jollibee content this year. However, Jollibee remained steadfast in giving Filipinos what they have been expecting, perhaps as a means of signaling that things are eventually going back to normal outside our homes.
In “LDR” directed by 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival Best Director Antoinette Jadaone, it starts off with the female protagonist lamenting the dreaded long-distance relationships. After all, an “LDR” can be difficult to maintain because of the sheer distance between parties and the challenges that arise from trying to stay in touch despite not being physically present with one another. Yet this ad presents another kind of LDR, namely a lockdown relationship.
Kept apart by the pandemic and social distancing, the girl is almost ready to give up on her relationship with her boyfriend because of the space that engulfs them. She then reasons out that if you love someone, you don’t give up and they try to make it work even virtually dancing with one another over some orders from Jollibee while a cover version of the 2003 song “One and Only” by Parokya ni Edgar plays. The story concludes with the words, “Distance means nothing when someone means everything.”
Director Pepe Diokno was tapped to help the second story, “First Date.” Here, a young lady named Mara Salcedo is shown going through some dresses seemingly preparing for a date. In a series of flashbacks, we see that Mara has been living alone and dealing with the realities of the pandemic. She suffers a flat tire, the faucet to her sink gets busted, and she’s feeling insecure about her hair.
Just when we think that her meeting someone who offered to fix her tire is the reason for her new happiness, it is revealed that she has actually been learning to love herself more. It is in the process of being stronger, more independent, and loving herself that Mara goes on a first date with herself courtesy of Jollibee Delivery. The concluding message of this spot states, “The more you love and believe in yourself, the more you can love and care for others.”
The third and final Kwentong Jollibee for Valentine’s Day this year is entitled “Hero” and was directed by the director of previous installments “Vow” and “Choice,” Ianco dela Cruz. Sarah was raised to be strong by her dad whether playing football or painting a large mural, she’s an independent woman with a loving boyfriend. However, when her dad tests positive for the coronavirus, she loses her strength.
With no control over how her dad can recover, Sarah leans on her boyfriend, Mike, for his own support and strength. Mike reassures her that things will get better and even dresses up Sarah’s home when her dad is finally cleared of the virus. The final words from “Hero” state that, “When life needs you to be strong, true love makes you stronger.”
Perhaps it was because of the harsh realities of the pandemic, but there isn’t as much sentimentality or “kilig” in these three Kwentong Jollibee ads compared to those in past years. Aside from the Parokya ni Edgar song from 2003, no OPM classics from the 80s were used to tug at the heartstrings as before. Given that it was no small feat for both Jollibee and McCann to still film and release ads during this difficult period, perhaps it is also because of the pandemic that these focus more on coping with separation forced by lockdown, loving one’s self, and sacrifice to take care of other loved ones.
This past Valentine’s Day was clearly different from those in year’s past as many Filipinos had to celebrate in more intimate settings or in the privacy of their own homes. It is perhaps with this modest celebration in mind as well as the limits still imposed on dining out that each ad shone a light more on Jollibee Delivery and Jollibee Take Out service rather than the dine-in experience. Even in the face of a virus that has gripped the world, Jollibee chooses to believe in love in different forms and that, in the end, when this virus is defeated, love will prevail once more.