‘Lights, Camera, Boto!’

The stars come out for the grand finale

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TESSA MAURICIO-ARRIOLA

TESSA MAURICIO-ARRIOLA

Today will mark the final outing of what turned out to be an intermittent series I began way back in September 2015, when I wrote a Page 1 story, which posed the question whether star power would still play a major role in winning the Filipino people’s votes on Monday’s elections.

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“Star power” in this case is always a two-pronged concept—the first emanating from artista candidates themselves (i.e. will fame make them win), and the second, from celebrity endorsers expressing support for particular candidates (i.e. will their fame make them win).

In total, “Lights, Camera, Boto!” spawned some seven to 10 outings in the last seven months, featuring candidates for president, vice president, senators and congressman, all of whom tapped soft news journalists like myself to introduce themselves—and their glittering supporters—to a wider audience and make known their platforms of government.

 Since the election fever began, The T-Zone has sought to present to readers of the soft news their choices for president, vice president, senators and congressmen, distinguishing ‘flashy’ candidates from those with true “star power” for public service

Since the election fever began, The T-Zone has sought to present to readers of the soft news their choices for president, vice president, senators and congressmen, distinguishing ‘flashy’ candidates from those with true “star power” for public service

Now while it may be true that some of the showbiz or lifestyle angles they presented were a bit contrived to deserve a space in these pages, The T-Zone welcomed their efforts as they allowed me as a journalist to fulfil a common responsibility to help readers—even of the soft news—to make informed decisions in voting for their next leaders.

It is my hope that with this final instalment of “Lights, Camera, Boto!” the electorate—many of whom may still be undecided two days before the elections—may be enlightened in differentiating a candidate’s “star-power” from the flash that the campaign season always brings.

And so in no particular order, here’s what transpired this week right smack in the middle of the fine line that (hardly) divides showbiz and politics today.

Gary V. and the ‘Artists for Mar’
A veritable constellation of showbiz stars descended upon a restaurant in Quezon City, all proclaiming their support for Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas.

Spearheading the show of force were talent managers Arnold Vegafria, Girlie Rodis, Carlo Orosa, Angeli Pangilinan-Valenciano, along with their prized wards headed by OPM legends Gary Valenciano, Celeste Legaspi, Noel Cabangon, Jessa and Dingdong Avanzado with daughter Jayda; Jay-R, Karylle, Kris Lawrence, Karla Estrada, Isabelle de Leon, Martin del Rosario, Bernadette Allyson, Samantha Lopez, comedians Chokoleit and Donita Nose; and Quezon City Councilor Alfred Vargas, Jason Francisco, and ex-APO Hiking Society member/actor Boboy Garovillo. All eyes of course were on “Teen King and Queen” Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo, who arrived shortly before Roxas’ broadcaster wife Korina Sanchez sat among her husband’s famous supporters, many of whom gave their testimonies on why they are voting for Mar Roxas as well as Leni Robredo come Monday.

 Gary Valenciano wears the color yellow for the future of his first grandchild

Gary Valenciano wears the color yellow for the future of his first grandchild

The T-Zone, however, had the chance to sit down with the ever-compelling Gary V.—whether in song or the spoken word—to plainly ask him why he has decided to prominently stake his name this time behind the Roxas campaign.

First off, the OPM superstar shared, “You know Paolo [his son]and his wife [Samantha Godinez] are expecting a baby, and I told him, ‘You really have to give the elections a lot of thought.’ I’m doing this for the future of my first grandchild.”

Going deeper into explaining his choice for president, Gary related, “In the 32 years that I’ve been performing, I’ve heard the best feed back about the Philippines in the last six years, especially when I go abroad for my concerts, from the international community.

“Now while I know that a lot of people say, it’s a different story here in the Philippines, I always go back to what my brother-in-law [senatorial candidate Francis "Kiko” Pangilinan said to me that it’s not going to take just one administration to solve every problem, but several administrations.

"So I agree that if Mar continues what he has done, the economy is going to be great but if you stop that…” he trailed off, shrugging his shoulders.

Pointing out to him that not everyone believes President Aquino’s "Daang Matuwid” is successful enough, Gary continued, "Let me liken any administration to the team I have in my putting together a concert. There’s a process that we go through—we begin at the drawing board and then go to Square 1, gather the people we need in production; then we go to Square 2, figure out the repertoire, and so on and so forth. The Philippines has already reached Square 1, and we’re not on the drawing board, but yes, there are other things we need fix to bring us to Square 2. If who ever wins does not go along with that continuity in whoever wins, it affects everything. If the fact that the Philippines is now No. 2 among the fastest economies rising in the world, and that continuity stops, it could mean that the proliferation of jobs can also go down, and we’re back to the same thing. It’s a vicious cycle.”

 ‘Artists for Mar’ show their support for their choice for president at a tribute gathering

‘Artists for Mar’ show their support for their choice for president at a tribute gathering

For Gary, it makes no sense to disrupt the momentum that the Philippines has gained in the last six years. But asked if "continuity” is all that Roxas has going for him, he quickly replied, "I also believe he will be a more dynamic leader.”

Having said his case, Mr. Pure Energy said what rarely anyone these days say about the post May 9 scenario. "I’ve been bashed online because I’ve chosen to go with the yellow and black [Roxas’ campaign colors], but all I say to them in return is that I respect their positions. And more importantly, if Mar doesn’t win, because I’m a Filipino I’m still going to support whoever the next president will be. It has to be that way for the sake of our country.”

Chiz’ state of heart
On Wednesday night, the T-Zone was one of the selected invitees to a thanksgiving dinner Sen. Chiz Escudero and his wife, actress Heart Evangelista hosted in Quezon City. The couple, who have been married for just a little over a year, looked tired from the past “87 days of campaigning,” as the senator so precisely counted, but clearly happy to be together.

Heart, who carried on with her showbiz commitments for most of the campaign on her husband’s insistence, said she was looking forward to pick up where they left off in their “honeymoon stage” when the Grace Poe-Chiz Escudero “Partido Galing at Puso” set off across the country.

 Vice presidential candidate and senator Chiz Escudero with wife Heart Evangelista

Vice presidential candidate and senator Chiz Escudero with wife Heart Evangelista

“Hindi pa ba tayo tapos sa honeymoon?” Escudero teased his wife who feigned a pout. Without prodding though, the couple went on to reveal that whether or not the senator wins the vice presidency, they have decided to have a baby by 2017.

With the topic of winning or losing finally on the table, The T-Zone, noting Escudero’s surprising dip in the recent surveys from frontrunner to third place, ventured to ask the senator if—the winner he has always been in every election since 1998—he has prepared himself for the possibility of losing.

“Ang tanong mo ay kung handa na ang kalooban ko sa posibilidad na matalo—at tama na yung salitang ‘kalooban’ ang gamitin natin dito,” the 46-year-old le­gislator who is known for his kilometric answers began. “Mula nung 1998, limang eleksyon na ang pinagdaanan ko pero ni minsan, hindi ko pinagdasal sa Diyos na manalo ako. Ang pinagdadasal ko lagi ay ibigay Niya ang kalooban Niya, kung dapat ba akong manalo o matalo. Kasi meron diyan, baka ipinagdasal na manalo siya ng manalo, pero pagkatapos naman ng eleksyong ito, lahat ng tao sa pamilya niya ay shoot sa balde at makukulong… “ he trailed off, obviously pertaining to another presidential candidate.

“Kaya ang pinaniniwalaan ko, ang dapat mong hilingin ay kung ano ang para sa iyo,” he summed up.

Escudero shared he also talked to his running mate Sen. Grace Poe about preparing herself for the only two outcomes in election.

“Dalawa lang possibleng mangyari—manalo ka o matalo,” he enumerated.“Yung sinasabi nilang pangatlo sa Phili­ppine elections na ‘nadaya ako,’ hindi ko tinatanggap yon dahil ang ibig sabihin lang noon ay nagkulang ka sa pag-babantay ng boto mo. So ang tanong ko, ‘Kaya mo bang tanggapin ang posibilidad na matalo?’ At kung ang sagot mo ay ‘ma-de-depress ako, ma-loloko ako,’ o kahit na isa mang negative na kasagutan, ang payo ko sa iyo, wag ka nang tumakbo.”

Escudero maintained, however, that he continues to be positive despite his dive in surveys, adding that a candidate should always use such results as a signal to “make adjustments” in his or her campaign.

With the conversation freewheeling, the senator also addressed the persistent rumor that he and Poe’s husband Neil Llamanzarez got into a fistfight over campaign finances, quipping, “Wala po akong black eye.”

“Kami ni Grace ang pinaka malapit sa mga [tandem]na tum[tandem]a dami na nang aming pinag-daanan at nalampasan,” he added. “Ang pamilya namin pinaka close so ewan ko talaga kung saan nanggaling yung isyu na ‘yon na walang basehan o katotohanan.”

Acknowledging how difficult and exhausting this particular campaign has been for everyone—especially with social media exacerbating the five-way contest for president and vice president—Escudero said he is looking forward to continue serving the Filipino people no matter who wins the elections.

“Kung palarin po tayo, maninilbihan po ako sa mas mataas ng puwesto; kung hindi palarin, maninilbihan pa rin po tayo pag-balik sa senado,” he explained.

What Sen. Chiz Escudero is certain he has no matter what happens, is a beautiful wife to come home to at the end of this chapter in his life as a public servant.

“Sorry nalang po doon sa ibang walang ganyang uuwian,” he ended as he proudly took his Heart’s hand in his.

 Isko Moreno, ever an action man in the city of Manila, vows to do the same if elected to the Senate

Isko Moreno, ever an action man in the city of Manila, vows to do the same if elected to the Senate

Isko’s greatest challenge
In campaigning across the country for his bid to the Senate, Manila Vice Mayor Domogoso Isko Moreno is all the more grateful that he was once part of the iconic youth-oriented TV show, That’s Entertainment, in the 1990s.

“Kahit papano, nakakatulong pa rin siya hanggang ngayon sa pagkakilala sa akin ng tao,” the former actor shared over lunch on Tuesday. Sat among long-time friends from the industry, the 41-year-old “dating basurero at dating sidecar boy” whose rags-to-riches story saw him all the way to studying at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Oxford University’s Business School always brings a certain pride among showbiz folks.

“When I meet people my age, sabihin na natin from 30 to 50, sasabihin nila, ‘Monday group yan!’,” he related laughing. “Pag mga anak na nila, mga tipong 18 years old, yan, hindi na nila alam yung That’s!”

As he spoke of the show that propelled the careers of many other big stars today, Moreno could not help but remember its brainchild, his mentor and adoptive father in show business, German “Kuya Germs” Moreno, who passed away in January this year.

“I’ll forever be grateful to Kuya Germs for everything he did for me,” the vice mayor said sadly. “His untimely death is one of the challenges of my campaign dahil kung buhay siya, siya ang magpapatotoo kung ano ang pagkatao ko doon sa mga hindi nakakakilala sa akin. Na tulad nga ng sabi ko sa kampanya ko, mapagsisilbihan ko ng mabuti ang mahihihirap na Pilipino dahil ‘alam ko po ‘yon’—alam ko po ang pinagdaanan nila.”

Based on his track record, Moreno would have been a sure winner if he had ran for mayor of Manila instead of giving way to former President Joseph Estrada in 2013, and this year anew. Instead, the 2012 Most Outstanding Filipino in Public Service awardee of Gawad America, finds himself battling the negative notion of actors running for government all over again in his bid for the Senate.

“Doon sa mga taong nag-sa­sabing magiging That’s Entertainment lang ang senado, I thank them for reminding people about the show,” Moreno said. “Dahil ang That’s, nagbigay ng pagkakataon sa mga bata na mapakita ang talento nila sa publiko kaya never na naging masama ang maging miyembro ng show. At kung ikukumpara mo ang That’s sa mga nakaraang Senado, ang That’s walang nagawang perwisyo sa tao, ang Senado napa­ka­raming nagawang perwisyo.”

Moreno went on to say that whatever others believe to be the deficiency of actors in competence for government, he had already addressed and achieved.

“Pinunan ko po ng edukasyon ang mga maari kong maging kahinanan sa gobyerno, at sana mapatunayan ko sa kanila kung ano ang kaya kong gawin para sa mga Pilipino,” he expressed.

Asked to elaborate on his plans either way on how his greatest challenge turns out, the ever candid Isko Moreno replied, “Pag nanalo ako, sabi ko nga, laway ko lang puhunan ko, pero ang laway ko nasasanla. So from my very first day in the Senate, lahat ng pinangako ko at naranansan ko nang ipatupad sa Maynila ay tratrabahuhin ko—mga batas sa edukasyon, health care, and housing. Hindi ko na sila pag-aaralan kasi naisulong ko na ang mga yan sa Maynila.

“Pag hindi ako pinalad, magpapasalamat muna ako sa mga mamamayan ng Maynila na pinagkatiwalaan ang isang basurero at side car boy na mamuno sa kanila. Lagi kong tatanawin na utang na loob ang nagi kong buhay sa kanila. Pagkatapos ‘nun, showbiz is a possibility. I’ll host a show na base sa karanasan ko sa pamahalaan, para maituloy ko ang public service through this type of medium. I plan to also produce movies independently; and finally, I plan to teach in an academic environment, because I have so much to impart to the young from my experiences in life.”

***

TG Guingona

TG Guingona

A few words from TG Guingona
Re-electionist senator TG Guingona also invited a group of Entertainment editors to lunch in this final stretch of the campaign season—the likes of Philippine Star’s Ricky Lo, The Standard’s Isah Red, The Manila Bulletin’s Jojo Panaligan, People’s Tonight’s Ian Fariñas, People’s Journal’s Eugene Asis, Abante’s Dondon Sermino, and yours truly—who, when they get together are sure to whip up a storm—and rainbow—of questions.

Clearly unused to such a casual—and slightly cheeky—sort of interview Guingona came across as a man of very few words in his tete-a-tete with the group. Much unlike the verbose senator that he is as chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee. Asked whether he had any “showbiz connections,” which is usually the way other politicos break the ice with Entertainment scribes, he simply said, “No.”

Then again, when asked if he was related to noted thespian Bart Guingona, he said, “Oh yes, he’s my first cousin.”

Not to be faulted for being un-chatty, Guingona, who is the son and namesake of the former Vice President simply echoed his TVC’s message that he is against “crocodiles in government,” pertaining to the corrupt “bwayas” in the upper and lower chambers of Congress.

He simply said again that when elected, he will continue to fight for “transparency and integrity in public office” and live up to his father and grandfather’s legacy. As Teofisto Guingona 3rd, Sen. TG has the names of Vice President Teofisto “Tito” Guigona, Jr., and former Mindanao governor Teofisto Guingona Sr. to live up to.

“Is it hard to follow in their footsteps?” The T Zone asked.

Again, the senator’s brief reply, “If you’re insecure it’s hard; if you’re self-confident it’s easy.”

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