Politics and Showbusiness

Of late, the national dailies and broadcast networks have been reporting news that they apparently believe are of more importance to the Filipino masses than poverty, unemployment, criminality, and the RH Law
I’m referring to the love affair of a senator and his movie star girlfriend and the marital spat of a presidential sister-cum-TV star and her ex-husband.
The usual FaceBook pundits will likely snort at this media fascination with showbiz celebrities. But it is a harsh reality that showbusiness has a considerable influence on the masses. And this is mixed up, unthinkingly, with their fascination with politics, with one having a tremendous impact on the other.
The landslide victory of Erap Estrada when he first ran for president and his impressive second-place finish in the last presidential elections are just one proof of it. But why?
In an article that I wrote some years ago, I tried to provide some useful clues:
“If you want to understand the paradox of the Filipino, try Tagalog movies. Much of what our people are can be better appreciated in the context of life on the movie lot and on the silver screen…
“Pepito Perez, scion of the Sampaguita Pictures and Vera-Perez Productions clan and brother-in-law of former speaker and presidential candidate Jose de Venecia, once asked me why Erap Estrada, also a candidate for president at the time, was so popular with the masses, despite being known as a womanizer and a good-time guy.
“’Think of it in terms of Tagalog movies,’ I suggested. ‘How would you cast Joe de V? As the slick, college-bred son of the haciendero, right? And what about Erap? Wouldn’t you cast him as the canto boy with the good heart, who’s always defending the poor? Guess who will win the hand of the farmer’s daughter.’
“Pepito got my point. De Venecia lost, of course. And Erap won by a landslide. We all know what happened to his presidency. And yet, the masses adore him to this day.”
I wrote Tagalog screenplays back in those days when you could tell a villain from a hero because the latter sported a moustache and the former were all tall-nosed tisoys. The dark-skinned indios were usually extras, bit players and comedians.
But somewhere along the line, there was a major change in the psyche of the Tagalog moviegoers. Joseph Estrada, the classic anti-hero, barged in and tore up the stereotypes. And then came Jess Lapid and Jun Aristorenas, who could pass for cargadores at the pier.
But the ultimate stereotype smashers were Diomedes Maturan and Nora Aunor. What???? They’re stars??? But he’s pangit!!! And she’s pandak, pango, morena!!!
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But they were the biggest boxoffice draws in town! Adored by the movie fans whom film director and national artist Lamberto Avellana, had once patronizingly called the bakya crowd.
With times getting harder and families getting poorer, Filipinos needed to escape from reality. Tagalog movies were the cheapest option.
In Tagalog movies, the Diomeng Maturans and Nora Aunors of Sampaloc, Tondo, Iriga and Cebu had a chance to make it big. They just needed talent and luck. They also needed to be tough, like FPJ and Erap. And they had to have gimmicks like Tony Ferrer, alias Agent X-44, and anting-antings like those of Ramon “Nardong Putik” Revilla.
In Tagalog movies, it was all right to break the law for a good cause. Besides, the cops always arrived too late, anyway – when all the bad guys had been killed, the mystery had been solved and humanity had been saved.
The rewards were worth it. Respect. Wealth. Women. Plenty of beautiful women. And for the girls, millionaire playboys for husbands.
Indeed, to understand the Pinoy, you have to view the world from the perspective of the bakya crowd. It’s a perspective that the princes of the CBCP will not necessarily bless.
It’s not easy to understand Filipino movie fans. How could you fathom how Erap Estrada got elected president? Unless you realize that these fans are the same simple folk who troop to the polls.
Indeed, the values by which the Filipino masses judge their movie idols often have little relevance to the Ten Commandments. This could explain why Dolphy was admired for being a caring and loving husband and father – to his many women and kids.
This could also explain why the late “Master Showman,” Lou Salvador, Sr., was so highly regarded and envied. How else but envy the fact that the mothers of his dozens of children played mahjong on weekends while the kids bonded? Lou, Sr. had over 50 offspring, many them stars and starlets.
But he wasn’t the only one. Bulacan Governor Jose Padilla, Sr. sired dozens of good-looking children who became film stars, like Jose Padilla, Jr., Carlos Padilla and Amado Cortez, who became a diplomat. Their children and grandchildren became big showbusiness names themselves, like Zsa Zsa and Robin.
The rumor is that former Senator Ramon Revilla holds a record of sorts, siring 80-plus children, one of them being Senator Bong Revilla, himself, a TV and film star.
Through the prism of Tagalog movies, these contradictions may be easier to understand. On the screen, the plots are endless and not necessarily logical.
One thing is certain. As hard as it may be to accept, ours is a people in search of heroes. And, so far, these icons can only be found in the movies and, in recent years, on TV. Small wonder then that the breaking news of choice in the dailies and broadcast media is about showbusiness and why movie stars and politicians make a merry mix.
Don’t be shocked if one of these days, the Philippines will have a First Lady named Heart Evangelista or an ex-future First Gentleman named James Yap.
Grin and bear it. Politics and showbusiness are more fun in the Philippines!
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