Glocal Big Brother

This blog will walk you through different strategies used by media producers to localize a global media format. Let’s focus here on Pinoy’s version of the Big Brother House. 

The style of housing of Big Brother varies according to the audience cultures just like the dorm-style rooms in Big Brother Holland, the open design of the Australian house and the extravagant Hollywood home in the American version of the show. The Pinoy Big Brother house reflected similar customization.  Although the overall design of the house strictly followed the specifications set by Endemol International, local producers were able alter the house to reflect Filipinos’ strong Catholic traditions. For instance, the house features a multi-faith altar in the lobby featuring candles, rosaries, a Bible and a Koran provided to housemates who need some moments to meditate (The house where ‘Big Brother’ lives). The Bible is a representation of the Catholic faith while the Koran represents a small but significant portion of Philippine’s Muslim population. The altar was converted to a prayer room on the later series. It was one of only two Big Brother houses that contain a prayer space, the other one being Big Brother Arabia (Ebrahimi, 2010).  Housemates are also allowed to use a television set in the house for two purposes: one is for the eviction night and another for housemates to watch televised Sunday Catholic masses.

Pinoy Big Brother’s confession room – Photo by Joana Monteverde

Just like the international versions, Pinoy Big Brother also features a diary room provided as a space where housemates can reveal any issues about their housemates, talk to Big Brother and a venue for weekly nominations. However, local producers used the term “confession room” instead of diary room. The use of the term “confession”, being a Catholic faith practice, creates familiarity and thus it is easier for the audience to understand its purpose.

Apart from these Catholic-inspired elements in the house, it is also designed resembling a contemporary two-storey house common in a modern day Filipino village. The common areas have bright and colourful walls, splashes of tangerine, apple green, plum, indigo and salmon colours while the private rooms are painted in gun-metal gray and hot pink, respectively (The house where ‘Big Brother’ lives). These features, however, do not automatically represent Filipino houses, but imply an increasingly modern Filipino taste. In fact, producers of the show claimed that the design of the house was also a mixture of Filipino and Asian materials with the use of Indian fabrics and Thai silk in the sala or living area.

In 2011, Pinoy Big Brother’s “Unlimited Edition” used the most evident representation of Filipino house among its past series. It featured five different types of houses designed to provide a twist and challenge in the show; the slum-inspired house, industrial house, luxury house or the mansion, resort house, and hacienda house (Montealegre, 2011). The five different houses are constructed with a resemblance to various economic statuses of Filipinos. In the beginning of the season, the housemates lived in a slum-inspired house which typifies the life of Filipino informal settlers. It was announced in the beginning of the episode that this house was built to represent 15 million Filipinos who are living in shanties and in very poor conditions. For 22 days, housemates were seen by the public trying to survive in such a meager situation, with insufficient supplies of water and food, clothing and uncomfortable shelter. The industrial house, on the other hand, was made of steel, wooden and brick walls and is commonly used by middle income Filipinos. It was used by a different set of housemates from day 8 to 77. A luxury house or mansion was also built to signify a small portion of elite Filipino families. The housemates lived in a mansion after the slum-inspired house was demolished. The resort type of house, on the other hand, was filled with amenities like a pool and jacuzzi in a beach-themed area and was connected to the mansion. Housemates used this house for special occasions similar to outings and gathering of Filipino families. The term hacienda house was Spanish-inspired and typically used by wealthy land owners in rural Philippines, but in the show, it was modeled after a beautiful rest house made up of a nipa hut. Housemates were given access to the hacienda a month before the series ended. These different types of houses played an important role in customizing the tasks and challenges given to housemates.


Ebrahimi, N. (24 October 2010). Inside out: Big Brother should be evicted from the continent. The Daily Monitor.

Johnson-Woods, T. (2001).  Big Brother: Why did that reality-tv show become such a phenomenon? St. Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press.

Montealegre, L. (30 October 2011). Meet the 14 housemates of Pinoy Big Brother Unlimited. Philippine Entertainment Portal.

The house where ‘Big Brother’ lives (9 May 2013). Philippine Daily Inquirer. G1




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