Mocha Uson, fan and supporter of Duterte

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GEORGE VAIL KABRISTANTE

GEORGE VAIL KABRISTANTE

Into the clear victory of presumptive president Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, I rang up Mocha Uson, the sing-and-dance queen who gives an extraordinary face to the Mocha Girls who had campaigned for the Davao mayor.

I must confess having nurtured through the years some special connection, if not a friendship with Mocha in particular, including her manager, and bestowed on their group music awards from an affiliation of entertainment writers.

In recent history the Mocha Girls has no parallels in their metier as the country’s top, no-nonsense sing-and-dance troupe with the most number of performances and invitations to perform in high-end spaces and places both here and abroad.

They are known for the totality of their amazing, pumped-up repertoire of contemporary dances and naughty stand-up jokes, and acts wholesome enough to titillate both high and low-brow audiences with effortless spiels laced up with double meanings.  They do all these in English, the language they are most at home with like girls fresh from exclusive private schools.


Mocha for one had taken up a medical course for a couple of years prior to leading the group managed by Byron Cristobal, a wizard of lighting and sound staging for the art of techno dancing.

The controversial lady maintains a blog for frazzled hearts seeking enlightenment and freedom of expression, and the recent one solely devoted to the group’s self-imposed (read: unpaid) campaign initiatives for Duterte’s party to which she said in hindsight, “Thank God, all our efforts both on our blogs and in our campaign sorties have paid off getting more supporters including  bashers to rally behind our advocacy for change.”

What will it be like for the Mocha Girls when Duterte eventually makes Malacañang his home?

Mocha Uson with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte

Mocha Uson with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte

Mocha rattled off, “We were not that close to President Digong when our group took it upon ourselves to campaign for him. Getting back some favors in exchange of our efforts is farthest from our intentions, but more than ever we now we support and go by his famous mantra in the governance of this country desperately seeking for real change from the previous administration that reeked of corruption and incompetence. For me, the notion of healing should come with atonement, which means those who have been part of the country’s mismanagement from top to bottom should be made accountable for it. The culprits big and small should go straight to the slammer. Healing ought to come with reparations to the victims of social injustices.”

We asked another question: “In your blogs and personal sorties you took quite a swipe in particular at ABS-CBN, why?”

“Well it’s an open book now through my pronouncements how they have negatively pictured us in their broadcasts during our campaign sorties for Mayor Duterte that’s why I’m justifiably mad at them.”

Are you not afraid of repercussions? “When your life or livelihood does not depend on them, you are free as an artist or as ordinary human being to speak out your thoughts because you are not gagged from doing so. We are happy and feeling free that even if we are in entertainment, we do not depend on them for a living.  So what is there to be afraid of?” Mocha ends her tirade.

From the looks of it the dancing and singing tigress who leads the famous Mocha Girls is out on the warpath. As the song says, “There’s no business like show business.”

* * *

Shakespeare, Nick Lozaso and Italy on my mind
The Manila culturati was not sleeping on Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary celebration. Shakespeare was everywhere: in local theater, on You Tube memorials, even in the “AlDub” craze.

Oh, what honor and shame have not been accorded the bard for his size as playwright? Like Rizal, his gender identity had its share of re-imagining from Freudian-orientated shrinks to post-modernists of the hermeneutics sort.
I got flat one on him in college, but he has not stayed in my bones, save for notorious character like Shylock, etc. or in what has become stock types of Romeo and Juliettransposed on films many times over.

I joined a Shakespeare workshop once facilitated by English imports courtesy of the British Council and got myself hilariously improvising twisting my tongue to sound like my co-actors Bart Guingona and Marcelino “Mars” Cavestany (Araw Ng Maynila Awardee for Theater Arts in Mayor Lim’s term)  famously known for his phony accent in the inner theater circle of the beloved National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio before he assimilated himself totally as a self-styled, middling casino-player and  licensed legal interpreter for Filipino OFWs in conflict with the laws of  the land of Kangaroos from Down Under.

“Con artist” could not have taken on another level of meaning. As we know, Shakespeare and his kind had sown theater in the womb of their disciples giving birth to the artifice or art of TV and films in the succeeding generations, one of whom is iconic stage/TV/movie director/actor Nick Lizaso who forwarded me a homage of sort by an English stage actor who reprised, “Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears…” piece on You Tube.

Director Nick Lizaso who wears artistic hats in his past like having studied acting course from Lee Strasberg himself played Coriolanus with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Aldwych Theater in London and at Straford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, honestly would have blown me away if he did the same piece himself instead than that “memes” of sort.  He had directed and acted in plays for Zeneida Amador’s Repertory; played Prof.
Higgins in My Fair Lady directed by the iconic Father James Reuter, and as a pioneering force/ resident actor of PETA (Phil. Educational Theater Assoc.) founded by Cecile Guidote-Alvarez.

Director Nick Lizaso with wife

Director Nick
Lizaso with wife

Nick’s present foray is in the upcoming Juan Happy Love Story teleserye as Gloria Romero’s husband with Dennis Trillo and Heart Evangelista on GMA Network.   telebabad by Director L. A. Madridejos.

I do look forward however, to Nick’s rousing reading  of the done to death piece over some “churros con tsokolate” in his “second home” at Club Filipino. In exchange, I promise to get him on video for posterity and, yes for You Tube–an added toast to himfor his newly-elect President Digong Duterte.

The itch to do theater itself with or without Shakespeare in mind had caught on me going overseas when the life story of the first Filipino saint was hot among the diasporic Filipino communities in Italy, courtesy of UNESCO-Phil. Center for ITI (International Theater Institute) headed up to now by Cecile Guidote- Alvarez.

Doing the play in musical form (staged at the Augustinian auditorium, St. Peter’s Square)in the time of Ambassador De Villa, in Rome itself and Milan however, was no walk in the park—putting up with endemic regional differences and filching their free Sundays for rehearsals.

The human perks that went  with it,  “art” or “fart”  in hindsight far outweighed the downsides like being literally thrown out of the house in freezing cold winter:  the agreeable Filipino family who played host/volunteer to me had reached the end of their hospitality quotient thinking I was becoming a free-loading asshole living in style in a condo that they have kept much through their hard-earned “lira” scraping the bottom of toilet bowls and bidets to squeaky clean sparkle; or being coaxed, if forced  into giving a  good head right inside the speeding car of a friendly kinky Italian or Parisian on a cold journey into the night mischievously  flagged down for a free ride home from our late night rehearsals by the   “enterprising” transgender actors in my cast: ho-hum imagine  San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila in our  narratives!

Superfluous to say unlike tourists on a tight schedule, the plusses had me luxuriating, meditating upon the historical landmarks of Dante, Pigafetta, Da Vinci’s Last Supper in Milan, Julius Caesar, and jostling among hundreds of tourists queueing daily trying to gamely reach up to Juliet’s famous diminutive balcony tucked in front of what looked like an unpretentious villa, but made to appear much bigger and lavishly designed in all movie versions than it really was in Verona in Shakespeare’s time.

Selfie was then Greek, but I had one beside the bust of the playwright wearing a thin goatee displayed in the sala of Romeo’s star-crossed lover. What human folly grinning to the ears sidling up next to an immortal dramaturge who had far outlived his past and maybe even the current and future selfie-taking generations of our time. This to me is Shakespeare 101.

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