I have The Manila Times Managing Editor Ares Gutierrez to thank for today’s catchy column title. “Lights, camera, boto” was the much-improved headline he gave my page one story on September 17, which traced the beginnings of the close to vanishing line that separates politics and show business today.
I originally used the words “Lights, camera, politics” atop a story that looked to matinee idol Rogelio dela Rosa as the first successful actor to crossover to an elected post in the Senate in 1957; skimming through a glitter-filled history of Philippine elections; and all the way to Senator Grace Poe’s bid for the presidency, whose showbiz connection is no less than the King and Queen of Philippine Movies, the late Fernando Poe, Jr. and Susan Roces.
The article’s main point was that star-power, since then, has had a major impact in the Filipino people’s voting tendencies. Proof is the unrelenting slew of political aspirants from the biz from one election to the next, as well as the given fact that even the most veteran of politicians today spend big money on securing celebrity endorsements to land them a win.
All that said, you will certainly agree that Ares’ minor tweaking to my title gave the play on the famous movie-making phrase quite a major impact. And as such, from the looks of the week that was in showbiz, it seems fitting that I continue to use this co-authored catchphrase as celebrity candidates—or again, candidates with celebrity affiliations—readily become available hereon to make known their plans for the nation.
With permission, of course, from the Managing Editor.
For ultimately, it becomes our responsibility as journalists—even in the realm of soft news—to inform the public what the candidates from this industry have to offer. All in the hopes that at some point through the course of our reporting, the electorate may just be enlightened by a certain candidate’s star-power and see that they are worthy to serve beyond their celebrity; or inversely lead them to make an informed decision if a blindingly famous contender is indeed only about the flash.
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Edu Manzano: Sixty and set for the Senate
Edu Manzano is a brand new senior citizen of the Philippines and he is proud of it.
Sat among long-time friends from the entertainment press at the beginning of the week, the seasoned actor and host, playfully flashed his senior citizen card from his wallet, reminding everyone that he turned 60 years old in September.
“I’m 60 and I’ve decided to give the Senate shot—my last hurrah, if you must,” he declared. “My decision comes from having had the opportunity to experience a great many things in life, and wanting to make something good out of the learning I gained from them, for the good of a greater majority.”
Ever a master of words, Edu backed his little speech by enumerating the opportunities he has had in the run up to his sixth decade of life. “Most people know me as an artista, but I have a wealth of experience in business and public service,” he pointed out. “I was [the first and]former chairman of the Optical Media Board; Makati City Vice Mayor; National President of the Vice Mayors’ League of the Philippines; and I ran as vice president to Gibo Teodoro in 2009.
“I’m the president of [an island resort]Isla Paramijos, [a multi-media production company]Addluck Inc., and Tentra Management Company. I’m a partner of various restaurants like Erwin’s Gastrobar in City of Dreams, Lucky Rainbow Seafood Resto in Makati, and Black Sheep in Fort Bonifacio.
“I was past president of the Actors Guild, and founder of the Adrian Manzano Cancer Wing at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, among other things; and, modesty aside, I have earned numerous awards and citations for all these endeavors. I even served in the military!”
Edu considers himself fortunate to have always been in a position where opportunities were within his reach. And as such, in his bid for the Senate, he has chosen to focus on providing the same “access to opportunities” to as many Filipinos as possible.
As such, Edu believes that the lack of access to education and jobs in the countryside is the root of many problems that plague the Philippines, and looks to urbanization as the multi-pronged solution.
“Who said Metro Manila is the land of milk and honey? We only need to create more opportunities outside the city to better the lives of more Filipinos. That’s why I really want to make countryside development my priority,” he explained.
“If there were more schools, colleges, universities in the countryside offering quality education then people from the provinces won’t have to move to Metro Manila to study; in the same way that they wouldn’t have to go looking for jobs here, if there were more and better paying jobs available to them there. Para hindi na sila nagsisiksikan in big cities; para mabawasan na ang traffic.
“I also want to provide more jobs for our people para hindi na sila mag-OFW. Do you think gusto nila talagang iwan ang families nila and work in a foreign country? We should provide more jobs here para our kababayans no longer need to work abroad. Or even job opportunities for senior citizens who want to feel more useful in society. Sinabi nila yan sa akin. So you see, I have 60 years of experience to offer in the Senate.”
Given his background in public service and his work experience beyond showbiz, The T Zone asked Edu how he feels whenever a candidate like him is pre-judged to be “just an actor” and lumped together with other celebrity aspirants who are simply not cut out for any government position.
“Let’s say a celebrity candidate who messes up a live interview,” The T Zone pushed the issue.
“That’s the very reason why I always tell voters, wherever we go, especially the students who make up a huge part of the voting population for 2016, to demand more of their candidates. Ask them the hard questions, check their qualifications. I just challenged 60 Pol Sci students to do that the other day, and you know what? They gave me their vote,” ended Edu.
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Pasig’s ‘celebrity connections’
Meanwhile, over in Pasig City, celebrity connections have also somewhat shaped the lineup of candidates at least for a couple of posts.
With incumbent Representative Roman Romulo vying for a senate seat in May, his older socialite sister Mons, has stepped up to offer her services in his stead. At a tete-a-tete on Tuesday though, the daughter of highly respected statesman Alberto Romulo (former Senator and Finance and Foreign Secretary, among others) admitted to The T Zone that she was at first hesitant to run for public office, especially since she continues to enjoy her freedom from a highly publicized annulment in 2011.
“I’m a happy single mom,” Mons beamed. “I’ve always been involved in my dad and brother’s projects, but I never felt the need to do those things in an elected position.
“We really wanted Roman’s wife Shalani [Soledad, former councilor and TV host—thus the showbiz connection] to run but her priority is to get pregnant, so I stepped up,” the UP Communication Arts graduate openly related.
“And also, my son advised me, ‘Mom if you can do more for the people if elected, then maybe you should do it’,” she added. “I also realized that this is the only way we can ensure that Roman’s projects will be continued. Siyempre pag new leadership nakakahiya naman to demand them to pursue our projects. I’m especially proud and determined to continue what my brother has done in providing educational and medical assistance for Pasig.”
Besides Shalani’s celebrity draw in Mons and Roman’s ensuing campaigns next year, Mons also shared that a son of seasoned showbiz personalities will also be running with her ticket. Celebrity connection No. 2.
“It’s Vico Sotto, the son of Coney Reyes and Vic Sotto,” she revealed. “He’s a very smart boy, and he’s taking up law. He was chief of staff of Anjo Yllana [who is presently councilor in Quezon City], and then he went on to work at Ateneo’s Law School. The Sottos approached us and we welcomed Vico to run for Pasig City Councilor.”
Oh, and Mons forgot to add, Vico is very much a looker too.
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Last name Moreno; first name Isko
On Thursday, former matinee idol and Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno was directly asked to comment on the controversial “awkward” interview of Karen Davila with Senatorial aspirant and actress Alma Moreno.
“You share the same surname; you’re also running for the Senate; and you were also interviewed by Karen a few days after Alma. Baka akala ng mga tao mag-kamag anak kayo,” taunted a veteran showbiz columnist.
Cool as ever—himself a survivor of many detractors in politics, until he proved himself a worthy public servant of 18 years in various capacities for the City of Manila—the 41-year-old flashed what is still a close-up worthy smile, and proceeded to address the ever-present generalization among actors running for office.
“Nakaklulungkot din naman na hanggang ngayon na-ma-magnify pa din ang ang artistang tumatakbo in terms of faults. Nung nagsimula ako sa pulitka nakatikim din ako ng panunutya dahil may kakulangan ako sa kaalaman pero ginamit ko yon na wakeup call in my favor at nagpursigi akong bumalik sa pag-aaral,” said the actor who eventually graduated with a degree in Public Administration at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, completed short courses in government in Harvard and Oxford, and currently pursuing his third year in Law Proper.
“When you’re running for any position, you really have to come prepared in any interview, in any forum. Hindi inaasanhan ng lahat ng tao na alam mo ang sagot sa lahat ng katanungan pero siguradong inaasahan nila yung opinyon mo sa mga issues,” Moreno added.
[Incidentally, he did very well in his interview with Karen Davila, even if unforgiving critics chose to focus on his unsophisticated accent when speaking English, rather than the valid points he brought to the table].
As he makes the big leap from Vice Mayor to a bid for the Senate, Isko is confident he is more than ready to take on legislation on a national scale.
“Sa pag-sisilbi ko sa Lungsod ng Maynila, imbis na magmadali ako sa pag-akyat, minabuti kong manatili sa bawat posisyong ipinanalo ko, bago ako lumipat sa susunod. Kaya hindi nap o bago sa atin na paggawa ng batas, dahil 18 years ng buhay ko ay nakatutok sa pag-gawa ng mga batas para sa ikabubuti ng Maynila. Pareho din po ang diskurso, pero iba lang ang epekto dahil sa senado, para sa pangkahalatan at hindi lang sa lokal. Napaghandaan ko naman yon.”
The strength he believes he will bring to the Senate if elected, however, are the personal struggles he experienced in his youth because of poverty. The very same difficulties many Filipinos continue to face today as Isko enumerated in his emotion-filled radio ad, “Alam Ko Po.”
“Mula sa kakulangan sa pagkain, kawalan ng pang-matrikula sa eskuwela, pinadaanan ko po yon,” he reminded a roomful of old showbiz friends. “At yon ang dala ko tuwing gumagawa ng batas, dahil alam ko kung ano ang talagang kailangan ng mga kababayan nating naghihirap.”
Asked by The T-Zone who helped with the concept of the “Alam Ko Po” ad, Isko replied, “One night, inisip ko kung paano ako makaka-connect sa buong bansa. Alam ko sa Tondo kilala nila ako, at sa Maynila, pero paano naman yung mga tao sa Jolo, sa Apari. Naisip ko, ang dapat lang, sabihin ko lang kung ano ang alam ko at nasa loob ko. From nowhere, I just kept on writing. Nung natapos ako ng mga 2 a.m., tumawag ako kay Kuya Vehnee [Saturno, the composer], at sabi ko, puwede ba akong mag-record sa studio niya. Nagpakatotoo lang po ako.”