It may seem a bit contrived that as the national elections near, candidates try to find a showbiz or lifestyle connection in order to gain coverage from soft news. Two out of three politicos whom The T-Zone met this past week injected such spins to their roundtables. But before readers may think I disapprove of such “gimmicks,” let me state for the record that I actually welcome them.
For, as I had said in my two previous outings of “Lights, camera, boto!”—a continuing and factual narrative of how star-power carries a major impact in the Filipino people’s voting tendencies (The Manila Times, Page 1, September 16, 2015; The Sunday Times Magazine, Page 8, November 28, 2015)—it becomes the responsibility of every journalist to help their readers make informed decisions in voting for their next leaders. As such, despite the spin to start a supposedly appropriate discussion for where this column is situated in the paper, we do—as we should—ask the questions that matter.
And so, as The T-Zone deviates from its usual topics of celebrity, style and glamour, it is all in the hopes that at some point through the course of our reporting, the electorate may just be enlightened to differentiate a candidate’s “star-power” from someone who is simply all about the flash.
Bongbong Marcos, the family man and ‘silent winner’
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos, who is running as an independent candidate for vice president, met with Entertainment editors and columnists on January 11, with good looking back-ups. For the first time, he, together with his wife, lawyer Lisa Araneta-Marcos, introduced their eldest son Sandro to the press, and within minutes was joined in the panel by former actress Cristina “Kring-Kring” Gonzales, wife of his cousin and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez.
Effectively, the photo op is appropriate whether for a lifestyle or entertainment spread, with a story that allows the 58-year-old legislator to show his side as a family man, and in a roundabout sort of way, his ties with the “artista” in his clan.
But while it was quite engaging to learn about his relationship with 21-year-old Sandro—a student of International Politics and Economics at the University of London—whom Sen. Bongbong affectionately teases is hiding a girlfriend because he refuses to accept his Facebook friend request; as well as how a legendary and powerful political family such as his made Kring-Kring feel so welcome, the only son and namesake of the late President Ferdinand Marcos was ever ready to answer the more challenging questions that came his way.
The T-Zone asked, “With the official campaign period for national elections beginning on February 9, the same month as the 30th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution [which toppled his father from office], how do you plan to go about your campaign? Won’t it be difficult considering the recollections that would come up on your father’s leadership?”
“On the contrary, what I keep hearing and seeing for myself is quite the opposite when I go out and meet with the Filipinos,” he replied with confidence. “The anti-martial law opposition that my father had has changed its nature, and the people I meet would even say, ‘Ang ganda ng panahon ninyo noon; hindi namin hinaharap ang mga problemang meron ang Pilipino ngayon.
“Of course, I expect that our political detractors will use [the Edsa anniversary]to their advantage, and I acknowledge that there continue to be hard core groups opposed to anything Marcos, but on the whole, sentiments have changed. People don’t want to talk about the past—it’s no longer an issue for them. Ang mga issues ng taong bayan at ang mga tinatanong nila sa akin ay kung paano masusulusyunan ang kakulangan ng trabaho, ang pag taas ng bilihin, o pagandahin ang sektor ng agrikultura. And those are the very issues I address when I go out and campaign—and I will continue to do just that come the Edsa anniversary.”
Among the senator’s declared platforms for his vice presidential bid are good governance, anti-corruption, the resurgence of the “golden” age of agriculture in the country, ensuring the affordability of prices of basic goods, and addressing the lack of jobs, among others.
Asked by another colleague how he feels about being called the “silent winner” of the vice presidential race with his numbers constantly on the rise (SWS survey results from January 8 to 10 pits Sen. Bongbong a close second at 25-percent to Sen. Chiz Escudero’s 28 percent), the 58-year-old legislator recalled his late father’s attitude in every election.
“It’s nice to hear that because it’s an expression of support, so thank you. But like my father always said, in every election, you should never allow yourself to be comfortable. Dapat ang attitude ay lagi kang naghahabol. He said the way to win an election is to put one’s confidence aside and always consider one’s self as the underdog.”
He added that his campaign strategy will never be about “how to beat Chiz” as the frontrunner as others have suggested he does, but plain and simply to listen to the Filipino people’s sentiments, assure them of addressing their problems, and ultimately, keeping his promises for good governance.
Specifically for the lifestyle and entertainment sectors, Sen. Bongbong also gave the assurance that if he wins as vice president, he will reinstate the support that the government—especially through his mother former First Lady and now Rep. Imelda Marcos—has always given arts, culture and the film industry.
“Talagang malaki ang nagging pagbabago sa support ng gobyerno for the arts and the movies. If you will remember, the most significant artist [nurtured during the Marcos era]was [pianist]Cecile Licad who is considered world class. And even my sister Imee fully supported the film industry, which she does up to now.
“Noon pa naman, tapat ang suporta namin sa artista, because without it, I believe there is a weakness in our development as a people because it is through artists—through the different mediums of the arts—that we are able to express our shared culture and ultimately what a Filipino truly is.”
Turning more “showbiz,” Sen. Bongbong gamely talked about the urban legend that he and Sen. Grace Poe are half siblings. But believe it or not, it was only when he became senator in 2010 that he first heard about the rumour that Sen. Grace is her father’s daughter by actress Rosemarie Sonora (Susan Roces’ sister).
“Nung narinig ko yon, sabi ko kay Sen. Grace, ‘Magkapatid pala tayo, eh di karerin na natin ng husto!’ So ‘sister’ ang tawag ko sa kanya; sabi naman niya, ‘Sige, Kuya’!”
He also candidly shared his experience acting in front of the camera, appearing in the 1965 biographical movie of his late father as himself. Produced by Sampaguita Pictures, Iginuhit ng Tadhana had Luis Gonzales as President Marcos and Gloria Romero as Madame Imelda.
“Vilma [Santos] was Imee, tapos si Gina [Alajar] si Irene,” he said, naming the actresses who played his sisters.
He further recalled of the experience, “I was eight years old more or less, and wala akong kamalay-malay isang araw sinundo ako sa skwelahan at imbis na inuwi ako sa bahay, sa set ako dinala! Tapos mi-nake-upan ako at pinaarte; ako naman sunod lang ng sunod. At ang maganda doon may TF [talent fee]din ako!” he added, drawing laughter from the round table.
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Next Wednesday on “Lights, camera, boto!”: Senatorial candidate Toots Ople.