Movies & TV

The Best Filipino True Crime Documentaries You Need To Watch Right Now

Get completely lost in these unsolved murders, gruesome massacres, and more.
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Admit it, you have a weird fascination with all things true crime. Whether it's an unsolved murder, a kidnapping, or a heist, there's something about a true crime documentary that gets the adrenaline going. It's not something to be ashamed of, in fact, experts have even picked up on the phenomenon to conduct studies on why everyone is obsessed with them. One reason is that, according to social psychologist Amanda Vicary, people are attracted to true crime stories because it helps them feel more prepared.

If you've managed to watch the most well-known ones, then you'll be pleased to know a lot of documentaries revolve around the most interesting and gruesome crimes in the Philippines. Here are the best Filipino true crime documentaries you need to watch in your lifetime. (Since not many true crime documentaries are Filipino-produced, we've also included international ones in this list.)

Give Up Tomorrow

At 19, Paco Larrañaga was arrested for the double murders of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong who were allegedly kidnapped, raped, and then murdered. With Larrañaga having a strong alibi and after further clarifications, however, many considered the case flawed. The award-winning documentary unpacks the "trial of the century's" inconsistencies 15 years later with interviews with Larrañaga himself, his family, and those involved with the case. It also exposes corrupt public officials, cops on the take, and the legal and media circus the case brought along with it.

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More: Twenty Years Later, the Chiong Sisters' Murder is Still Shrouded in Mystery

Call Her Ganda

The case of Jennifer Laude comes alive with Call Her Ganda. The PJ Raval-directed film investigates the death of Laude, a Filipina sex worker, at the hands of U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton. It starts off detailing the life of Laude and leads to her eventual murder, told with the help of activist attorney Virgie Suarez, transgender journalist Meredith Talusan, and Laude's mother Julita Nanay. The moving and gut-wrenching story brings to light several issues transwomen face while discussing the complexity of the U.S.-Filipino military industry.

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Queen of Sextortion

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Part of Channel News Asia's Dark Web series, Queen of Sextortion details the crimes of Maria Caparas. In the quiet town of North Hills, Bulacan, Caparas founded online sextortion by transforming "making friends online and video chats" into an evil scam that led to a $100 million syndicate which had the Interpol involved after the suicide of U.K. teenager Daniel Perry. The documentary examines how Caparas, who was once penniless, came to have the town under her control by having officials on retainer and employing teenagers to scam thousands of victims in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

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Children of the Sex Trade

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Several documentaries cover the Philippines' child sex trade, and Real Stories' crime documentary is one to start with. The film follows the story of two young sisters, 16-year-old Michelle and 19-year-old Marisol, who were abused by foreign men in Subic's sex bars. Having escaped the world of prostitution, the sisters now offer help to the police in a bid to help rescue as many girls who are in the same situation as they were. The gripping investigation also documents how they work with PREDA, a human rights foundation, to set sting operations against child-abusers.

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A Murder in the Family

A Murder in the Family is about British mother Margaret Davis' bid to prove her son Steven, who moved to the Philippines, was murdered by his Filipina wife, Evelyn. In 2002, when Steven was murdered, his mother's life was forever changed. The case remained unsolved for several years, and Davis exhausted all her resources to find the truth of what happened during that fateful night.

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The Baby-Faced Killer

On July 10, 2001, Filipino Australian Sef Gonzales murdered his father Teddy, his mother Mary Loiva, and his sister Clodine in Sydney, Australia. He then proceeded to claim he discovered the bodies along with racist graffiti hours after committing the murder. The investigation, however, found inconsistencies with Gonzales' stories. The Baby-Faced Killer details the gruesome murders, and how NSW police went above and beyond to find the truth by searching his internet records, recording his phone calls, and even having a policeman go undercover to befriend Gonzales. The case even led to the government making it illegal to "fail to disclose information that could have a substantial impact on the value of a property" after realtors didn't inform prospective buyers of the murders in the North Ryde house.

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Forbidden Memory

Forbidden Memory isn't your typical true crime documentary. For one, it deals with a massacre, the Malisbong Massacre of 1974, to be exact. To paint an accurate picture of the event, the filmmakers collected footage of people who were, one way or another, affected by the massacre which killed at least 1,500 Moro residents in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. The genocide was perpetrated during Ferdinand Marcos' Martial Law regime, and has been virtually unknown to majority of Filipinos. The film premiered during the 2016 Cinema One Originals festival, and subsequently won the award for best documentary.

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Mail Order Bride: Murdered Cathy Bonesa

Mail Order Bride: Murdered Cathy Bonesa tells the story of 25-year-old Filipina Cathy Bonesa who was purchased as a mail-order bride by a 42-year-old farmer in South Korea. With dreams of living a better life, Bonesa married and moved to Korea after just a few dates. There, she was allegedly abused by her husband and her mother-in-law who even forced her to become a prostitute. In 2011, Bonesa's family and friends received news from Gongju City police that she committed suicide due to depression, but conflicting reports say otherwise, with foul play involved.

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Kano: An American and His Harem

Screenwriter, director, and producer Monster Jimenez's documentary on Victor Pearson was recognized at the 2010 Cinemalaya International Film Festival, 2011 Gawad Urian Awards, and the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. His feature on Pearson, Kano: An American and His Harem, paints a picture of the American-Vietnam war hero who relocated to a poor, remote village in Bacolod where he invited hundreds of women to live with him. The documentary features interviews with lawyers, city officials, social workers, and the women of his harem, and how he was charged with over 80 counts of rape.

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Paolo Chua
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