Mocha

MOCHA USON IS A CREATION OF MAINSTREAM MEDIA.

During the campaign, she was just another ordinary “blogger”, although her name recall as a “sexy entertainer” attracted some followers. Before long, however, she became the self-described “Media ni Duterte”. Mainly because mainstream media would not publish still pictures and show live videos of the huge crowds lining the streets where Candidate Duterte’s motorcades would pass and the throngs of people who would attend his rallies all over the archipelago. Which were spontaneous at hindi po hakot.

Mocha’s blog was the go-to site for Duterte followers who were ‘hungry’ for news on what’s happening in the Duterte campaign. Kasi po, mainstream media, your embedded reporters focused more on Duterte’s expletives rather than the message of ‘country first’ that he was trying to convey. Those were the things that she shared in her Facebook page – videos on Duterte’s campaign speeches in all the places that he visited which were all cramped with people. And those were “lies” and “fabrications”?

Her followers grew in large numbers until the apologists of the previous regime found out, a bit too late, that her “believers” have reached over four million. For one, the apologists were hard to justify the pathetic scene in Hong Kong where Mocha and her group were performing before a large crowd of overseas Filipinos while a stone’s throw away, a sprinkling of Roxas supporters were seen trying to comfort their standard bearer while he sat slumped on a concrete bench perhaps trying to figure out what the hell was happening. And DU30 was not even there. Did a single media outlet show that “picture”?

And by the way, the holier-than-thou had been dismissing the Mocha Girls in the meanest terms possible when in truth, they were just a group of hard-working girls volunteering their services for free in favor of a candidate that they believed in. Masyado tayong mapang-husga pero ang totoo, mas makatao pa sila kaysa sa atin.

Mocha might have ‘shared’ a few links which were of dubious origins but, what the heck, who hasn’t done so in an era of pretense and deceit when it is easy to fall for crap without giving it a moment’s thought? The lady is admittedly not a journalist, but even journalists do not always report the truth. So?

So Mocha is now a multi-media phenom. Blame yourselves, media oligarchs. You have created your own monster.

THE TARAY CHRONICLES

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Some members of mainstream media have been frothing in the mouth at this lady for scoring an exclusive interview with the Incoming President. What, a “sexy entertainer” out scooping ‘legitimate journalists’ for a full, albeit edited, 15-minute audience with The Digong? A ‘TH’-blogger with 20 million hits outsmarting the big names in news and broadcast media? I say, eat your hearts out.

What you sow, so shall you reap. If you planted ill will, do you expect to gather good seed? Nope, it is not retribution (vis-à-vis Duterte’s ‘justification’ as to death penalty for heinous crimes) or vengefulness (the favorite word to use against the Outgoing President). It is about putting people in their right places. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. Media has become too powerful even for their own good, the kaakibat (paboritong bigkasin ng mga TV news reader these days) responsibility is now…

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Mocha

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Some members of mainstream media have been frothing in the mouth at this lady for scoring an exclusive interview with the Incoming President. What, a “sexy entertainer” out scooping ‘legitimate journalists’ for a full, albeit edited, 15-minute audience with The Digong? A ‘TH’-blogger with 20 million hits outsmarting the big names in news and broadcast media? I say, eat your hearts out.

What you sow, so shall you reap. If you planted ill will, do you expect to gather good seed? Nope, it is not retribution (vis-à-vis Duterte’s ‘justification’ as to death penalty for heinous crimes) or vengefulness (the favorite word to use against the Outgoing President). It is about putting people in their right places. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. Media has become too powerful even for their own good, the kaakibat (paboritong bigkasin ng mga TV news reader these days) responsibility is now just an afterthought.

So, Mocha Uson (yes, the lady has a full name) delivered to the Incoming President a list of concerns aired by some of her 3.7 million followers on Facebook (who among you, media high horses and casual critics have at least 1,000 ‘likers’, fans, or whatchamacallit on your numerous accounts in social network sites?) and the latter gave more than a perfunctory look at the papers given to him – he granted Mocha an impromptu exclusive interview. What more can a much-maligned, routinely looked down upon (because of her livelihood? Or lack of high society DNA?) “sexy entertainer” dressed in decent clothes and speaking respectfully to a person in authority ask for?

A legitimate SCOOP. Because the new President. Does not want to speak directly. To mainstream media anymore. For reasons. Everybody now knows. And which unbelievers. Continue to twist and turn. To suit their own purposes. Who cares? But their own kind. And the rest of us. Who voted for change. Don’t give a hoot.

The ‘scoop’? President Duterte said the owner of ABS CBN (he actually mentioned the Lopez scion’s name) attempted to bribe him to grant Sky Cable a permit to operate in Davao City, saying that they were apprehensive because the existing cable operator was a friend of the mayor. Pissed off, the mayor asked for a blank application form, signed it and waved them off. He told the interviewer to put it on record that Lopez said Davao was the only place in the country where they did not have to do a payoff.

(Not that we have not known long before where local executives get their ‘extra’ income, but now that President Duterte has confirmed it, should we look at our mayors, governors, congressmen and senators – even barangay captains – in a whole new different light or do we say, what else is new?)

Going back to Mocha Uson. Those who have been judging her based on an intermittent and cursory browsing of her blog entries presumably don’t know her back story and why she supported the erstwhile Davao City mayor during the past campaign, volunteering her and her group’s services in sorties all over the country. It might not be worth anything to people comfortably ensconced in their ivory towers but where she’s coming from, many in the peripheries can relate.

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Her father was assassinated by four men riding in tandem. A brave and makabayan (Mocha’s own words) regional trial court judge who took a case no one would touch by a ten-foot pole because it involved a notorious gang backed up by politicians in their province. The gang leader was sent to jail and in the ‘normal’ course of things in this unfortunate republic of ours, good men die when evil men decide that good must not triumph over evil.

So, yes, Mocha Uson saw her father in Mayor Duterte. But malicious minds imply something more degenerate. That is their lookout, though. Harboring resentment towards a stranger is not good for the wrinkles.

And by the way, the Incoming President addressed her as “Ma’am”.

(For more insights on Mocha Uson, go to -http://www.philstar.com/supreme/2016/06/11/1591614/night-mocha-uson)

Manny Pacquiao and the great backlash

I feel compelled to write about the big hullabaloo surrounding Manny Pacquiao at the moment, not because I am pro- or anti- anything, but because in my opinion, it was caused by a communication problem rather than a mindful intent to denigrate the LGBT community. He was asked about his stand on same-sex marriage – apparently off-the-cuff – and he gave a candid, if somewhat condescending, answer based on his religious beliefs, now strongly fundamental as it were. It was not as if he went to the town square and spoke without provocation.

But first, the usual disclaimer. I have always had gay friends – I even lived with them as a “bedspacer” in the salt mines of Sampaloc, Manila back when I was a college freshman. They were adorable free spirits, each of them talented in their own inconspicuous way. I would watch them put on their fake eyelashes while doing my homework and then gawk at their beautiful transformation. They gave me free haircuts, of course, and engaged me in giggly conversations about, what else, boys. Many years later, to my surprise, one of them got married to a woman and they had a child who became my goddaughter. Thus, I will never be anti-gay because of the pleasant experience I had with them in my teenage years. But, I won’t be pro-gay, either, just because it is the fashionable thing to do. Respect is the operative word.

With that said, Manny Pacquiao is in a sticky situation because of his lack of communication skills, to put it mildly. He may be a preacher now but preaching is different from getting one’s message across to a more diverse audience. I may be wrong – preaching or pontificating becomes mechanical at times due to constant repetitions of the same message not unlike a teacher dishing out the same lessons to a different set of students year in and year out. So when the medium is changed, the message takes on a whole new meaning.

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Just because one gets to speak English with a bit of twang does not necessarily make them a good communicator. Content is still king in the world of communication and communication is the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe, in a manner of speaking. Pacquiao may be a different person now in more ways than when he was not yet a multi-billionaire, but there are also things that did not change without stating the obvious. Nevertheless, if one has single-handedly brought honor to the country for more than a decade, one can accept his warts and all.

But can we? Do we? One colossal mistake and he gets thrown the kitchen sink clogged with all sorts of grease and scum. The boxer fondly called Pambansang Kamao is branded a bigot for expressing an opinion and those calling him such don’t realize that they are bigots as well. Look up the true meaning of bigotry and know that it cuts both ways. I strongly dislike your way of life, you strongly dislike mine and we loudly proclaim our mutual dislike – we are both bigots, right?

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I am not going to cite the relevant Bible verses from which Pacquiao based his statements since they are all over the Internet anyway, and I am not about to get into arguments about religion with anyone. Suffice it to say that Pacquiao knew the message by heart, he just did not deliver it very well. And since the interview appeared to be freewheeling, he did not have the judiciousness to pause and think and choose his words carefully considering the sensitivity of the subject matter.

As a result, the words he uttered were “abhorrent”, “despicable”, “reprehensible” to people who felt directly or indirectly alluded to. Perhaps, they are but it’s not like we have not heard them spoken that way before. The difference being that it was the Manny Pacquiao speaking, thus it instantly reverberated across the globe. If it were just any Tom, Dick and Harry, would anyone have even given a damn to the whole ball of wax?

Nope. I am not joining the bandwagon going around town reproving Pacquiao and ridiculing his person. I am not condoning, either, his unfortunate choice of words. The man has already apologized, “humbling” himself in front of those he has offended. He was condemning the sin, not the sinner, he said – if that means anything at all to those who refuse to listen. But the hypocrites in our society are more pretentious than Judas. They want him to suffer like Job for calling them “worse than animals”.

Remember what our national hero Jose Rizal said about those who don’t love our “sariling wika”? Mas masahol pa sa hayop at malansang isda. Pacquiao may not be as intellectually gifted as Rizal but the comparison ends there. The former was erudite, the latter is rough along the edges – nonetheless the words are equally hurtful. And as one wise bishop asked from above the cacophony: Were Pacquiao’s words true or not?

Manny Pacquiao, for all his earlier faults (he claims to be a thoroughly changed man), has done more for this country than all the angry and self-righteous voices could ever do in their  entire lifetimes combined. Tell us, Vice, what kind of lessons you are imparting to the young in your TV show. Tell us, Boy, what you see when you look at yourself in your invisible mirror. Tell us, Aiza, why we should allow our daughters and nieces to emulate you.

Of course, Floyd, we should let other people lead their own lives. No quarrel with that. In the same way, we should not prevent other people from expressing their own opinion even if it is contrary to ours. Tolerance as a word still exists in the dictionary.

 

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(From Pacquiao’s Facebook, Feb. 13, 2016: I’m so happy giving this houses free to my constituents in Sarangani Province from my own pocket more than thousand families are the beneficiaries. and i’m still building more because i always believe what the bible says; 1 Peter 4:8-10 NIV [8] Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. [9] Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. [10] Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. Thank you Lord for everything even some people are criticizing me but I’m still happy because you live in me. @johnnybantilan @davidsisson @jinkeepacquiao)

 

The curious case of Grace Poe’s son’s shoe

The beauty of social media, in spite of all the boasting, bragging and self-glorification in shameless abundance, is that we – ordinary citizens (or netizens as we decorously call ourselves) – get to see and know of things that mainstream media would otherwise not let us see and know. In fact, the digital age allows us to get wind of certain information that, before the advent of the Internet, we would only hear in the evening news broadcast or read in tomorrow’s newspapers. The irony being that mainstream media now absorbs what social media dispenses – i.e. newscasts giving airtime to ‘viral’ videos, mostly inane ones really, just because a million people have viewed them on YouTube.

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Thus it is with the saga of Brian Poe Llamanzares’ pair of expensive sneakers eliciting a storm of mindless chatter among Filipino habitués of cyberspace who apparently have nothing better to do than watch for the next ‘viral star’ to praise or bash. If the posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are to be believed, who would have known that there is such a (rubber) shoe in existence that carries the staggering price tag of US$19,999.00 except for the so-called sneaker-heads who can tell an authentic pair from a knock-off just by looking at photographs?

And so, courtesy of Google, we looked up the now-famous footwear (famous at least to those who don’t give a crap, myself included, which pair of athletic shoes are named after which famous athlete) and our search yielded information that added even more confusion to my already addled brain.

The pair of kicks actually has a name and it is called Nike MAG fashioned after those worn by Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox in the movie Back to the Future II, c. 1989. McFly travels into the future to the hypothetical date October 21, 2015 where he discovers hover boards (yes, hover boards!) and self-lacing sneakers, among other things.

Nike being Nike, they created a limited-edition replica of the popular shoe (without the self-tying laces) and released 1,500 pairs in September 2011 on e-Bay, the proceeds of which were to go directly to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. A total of US$4.7 million was raised during the ten-day auction where each pair ranged in price from $2,300 to $9,959.

“You are looking at the rarest of Nike Footwear,” the item’s description read at the time. “For 22 years they have existed only in the year 2015 on Marty McFly’s feet. Today they are finally a reality.” The shoes feature an electroluminescent outsole, a rechargeable internal battery good for 3,000 hours and glowing LED “Nike” logo and lights in the heel of the shoe.

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Then again, thirty years after the first of the Back to the Future trilogy (which made Michael J. Fox a huge star) was shown, Nike comes up with the power lace incarnation. On October 21, 2015, the actor received the first pair of the 2015 Nike MAG being its “first, most celebrated wearer”. The self-tying shoe is also limited-edition due for release in Spring 2016 and will only be available via auction. All proceeds will be dedicated to Fox’s foundation as well.

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Which brings me back to Grace Poe’s son’s shoe. The boy says by way of an explanation and apology that he bought the pair online for “only” P10,000 out of his savings from his work as “neophyte reporter” at a TV channel and “not stolen” from the government or something. The mother says she is not for it (the extravagance), but if wearing the shoes makes her son happy, then leave him be.  So let us – the Filipino voting public – not be judgmental and quit throwing mud at this (American) family aspiring for power and supremacy. Kawawa naman sila, binabato ng tinapay.

Thus, based on the Googled info, it is true that Brian Llamanzares bought the pair online since there are no physical versions of it available in stores anywhere in the world. The boy posted his “new” pair on Instagram – for no other purpose than what people on Instagram usually do. To show off? Nope. His supporters (who most probably know him personally) claim he is not one to flaunt whatever he is or has. Perhaps it was just one spur-of-the-moment thing that went askew. So, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

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As for the P10,000 price – there’s a bit of a poser there. Presumably, the pair is one of the 1,500 Nike MAGs sold in 2011. By now the shoe could be considered collector’s item so anyone re-selling the same on e-Bay should be getting a tidy profit. Who would trade it at the giveaway price of $212 (the equivalent of P10K @47 to the dollar) unless the person who originally bought it at say, $2,300, had suddenly ran into bad times and needed to dispose of old, albeit very rare, shoes to earn a little cash? If that is unlikely, then the pair must be a knock-off. You know, the sort that one can buy in Greenhills? However, it is more unlikely that well-to-do boys will wear fakes then post them on Instagram for all the world to see.

And that is where the beef goes. By trying to do damage control, an implausible story gets spun. Does he deserve all the flak that he continues to get? Not if he is keeping a low profile while going around the country campaigning for his mother. He is just a kid and has nothing to do with the political mudslinging going on? He has already entered the work force, therefore he is supposed to be matured enough to be responsible for his actions.

So. Children are taught early on by their parents that honesty is the best policy. Which is which then: You bought it at a bargain (show us the receipt, please) or is it a knock-off? If you are aiming to be a member of the next First Family, God forbid, convince us that your mother is worth voting for by coming clean even if your mother won’t.

 

The World According to ‘Kuya Germs’

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There is no true-blue Filipino movie fan who does not know German Moreno, 82. Even the most casual showbiz watcher recognizes him as the guy who eternally wears those glittery suits on TV chanting “Walang tulugan!” at past midnight on Saturdays when most of Metro Manila are either fast asleep or out on the town – the entertainment industry icon rather reverently called Master Showman surrounded by a coterie of young aspirants eager to earn a slice of the showbiz pie.

One either loved him or considered him obsolete. The latter includes those who think they know better than a veteran who had seen and done it all. To them, ‘Kuya Germs’ was a relic of an era long past whose ideas about how to entertain an audience were best consigned to steel filing cabinets for moths to devour. An era which actually spelled entertainment with a capital E, sorely lacking in this age of rehashed soap operas and auto tuned singing stars.

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Those who loved him, on the other hand, count many of the “bigatin” stars who command big bucks today and the newbies that he tirelessly took under his wing through the years. The Philippine entertainment industry as a whole look up to him, as well they should being that he seemed to be the only person among the ranks (of actors, producers, directors, etc.) who actually walked the talk – taking to heart and deed his love for the industry that made him the person he came to be. The stuff that truly breeds legends.

From this movie fan’s point of view, there was more to the man than the praises being showered on him now that he is dead. True, he had a propensity for long speeches, he tended to ramble on and on when given the opportunity – mostly repetitive statements about his history as an entertainer and the values he wanted to inculcate in the young – which ate considerably into his airtime and made his audience cringe in awkward anticipation. No one would dare cut him off, lest they be accused of disrespect. But he knew when to stop. That is, when his eyes would start to get cloudy and his voice would crack.

Now that every showbiz denizen is talking about it, he seemed to have touched the lives of almost everyone residing in that rarefied field one way or another, but mostly about opening the door for them to enter show business. “Thank you for everything that you’ve done for me and for the industry”, they declare almost to a man at his wake. But when he was healthy and into one of his occasional monologues, many of them would roll their eyes and snicker. “Ay, maglilitanya na naman si Kuya Germs…”

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He apparently took it upon himself as his life’s mission to help others, not just showbiz aspirants. While he would dole out gasoline money to upstarts, buy them clothes and shoes out of pocket, he would distribute gifts to his neighbors in Barangay Valencia and give away red envelopes (angpao) to his fellow workers at GMA Network without fail every Christmas. One of his contemporaries and good friends, the 50s movie queen Gloria Romero, revealed that he never carried a wallet but would put wads of bills in his breast pocket so it would be easy for him to give money to whoever needed it at the moment.

His generosity extended to artistas being surprised with an air conditioning unit sent to their home as replacement for one that conked out and a couch that disappeared from the set because he gave it away to someone who took a liking for it. The irony being that he drove a simple car and lived in a simple house in the less fashionable part of New Manila adorned by his extensive collection of clowns and toys. The trademark huge rings on his fingers were mostly gifts from appreciative stars, he told a program host, and the sparkly suits were his sort of homage to the Las Vegas-cum-vaudeville type of entertainment which he wanted to introduce to younger audiences.

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He seemed to have had the uncanny ability to spot talent where talent scouts would dismiss as “trying hard”, “assuming” or “walang k”. He endured criticisms for taking in non-showbiz-looking hopefuls believing that everyone who has a dream deserves a chance to work for it. (“Piolo Pascual was patpatin when he started at ‘That’s Entertainment’”, he shrugs in one of the interviews being re-aired following his demise.) And in many instances, he had been proven right – thus continuing with his labor of love even after he suffered a stroke one year ago. A number of his more recent wards are now essaying substantial roles on film and TV.

He made it his life’s mission to pave the way for youngsters to at least get one foot inside showbiz. One of his charges went on air to say that ‘Tatay’ never charged commission from being his manager. When his mother was suffering from cancer, ‘Kuya Germs’ shouldered her medical bills until she passed away. No one else in show business does that without fanfare – not get paid for ‘managing’ talents. Every ‘talent’ and ‘talent manager’ seem to be in it for the big remuneration, or to help their families, so they say – and the money can really get overwhelming depending on the stature one attains. Talent managers share a substantial portion of the pot, but German Moreno never did.

His biggest frustration, it now seems, was trying to bring back his seminal show ‘That’s Entertainment’ – the TV platform that bred many enduring names in the industry. Apparently, the network didn’t see it fit to revive an archaic format. One of his old friends said that Moreno harbored a little ‘sama ng loob’ towards the network when his shows were pulled off the air one by one although they were making money.

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Be that as it may, he preferred to stay put and declined offers from outside even if he was not bound by a contract, saying it’s not all about money. And perhaps as a token of his loyalty, the network bosses gave him a show with an unholy time slot. Still, he was happy that he was afforded a venue from which he could fulfill his mission, as it were. The show lasted for almost 20 years and earned the status as the most watched among the network’s Pinoy TV subscribers, defying the industry truism that TV shows are only as good as the ratings they get. He also had a one-hour daily afternoon radio program and enjoyed “creative consultant” status in its Sunday variety show.

Now his Saturday late night spectacle hangs in limbo and the kids who are still “struggling” are in a much bigger drift. Moreno’s trusted nephew John Nite said his uncle would often wonder out loud to him: “What will happen to them when I’m gone?” Those in the know are saying that he is irreplaceable. Indeed, who in their right mind would shell out their own money these days without expecting anything in return if they are not philanthropists? The ultra-materialistic world of show business hardly rears the kind that pays it forward, and that is why German Moreno was a rarity. Rarer still that not a hint of scandal of any kind was ever attributed to his name during all the 50-odd years that he was in the business. He did figure in some well-publicized spats with a few of his wards but only because the renegades reneged on his teachings of loyalty and word of honor. Right, Billy?

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Another project that also now hangs in uncertainty with his demise is the local version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He had said that he was not doing it for vanity but mainly to pay tribute especially to the stars who have gone ahead – again, for younger audiences to recognize. Once more, he was inundated with criticisms – mostly about the names that he decided to ‘enshrine’ in those star-marked pieces of real estate. He just waved them off, saying “bakit, sila ba ang gumagastos?” When he initially voiced out the plan, the developers of Eastwood City volunteered to provide the land space for free. Then, he said, some people offered to look for other sponsors but nothing materialized and he was yet again ready to dig into his pockets just to make it happen. But a “fairy godmother” ‘rescued’ him and the “Philippine Walk of Fame” took off ten years ago.

Indeed, his life story reads like a book straight out of a fairy tale that ends with a conundrum. From his early days selling cigarettes along Avenida Rizal after the war, to his now oft-retold origins as janitor and curtain raiser at the fabled Clover Theater until he went on to play bit roles at Sampaguita Pictures and became the third wheel in the “Guy & Pip” saga – German Moreno’s rise to legendary status owes in large measure to his giving nature and nurturing spirit. What is more gratifying than being known by people from all walks of life?

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The world in which ‘Kuya Germs’ existed was one characterized by loyalty, selflessness, professionalism, humility, gratitude, respect for those who came before, love for one’s craft – values which have been almost consigned to obsolescence not only in show business but in real life as well. To him, it was not all show and all business – what was inside the heart mattered more. He was steadfast in his principles, faithful to his friends, generous of his time and resources to his family, welcoming to strangers.

GMA Network president Felipe Gozon said it best when he eulogized that “if everyone had Kuya Germs’ palabra de honor, Philippine show business would be different today,” taking a swipe at not a few who are blinded by the lure of more money in lieu of greater worth as human beings. German Moreno was decidedly old school in values and to some extent in ideas but that was what made him unique. He remained relevant, even managed to ingrain himself in pop culture, although the era that he embodied had long vanished – and that in itself is a hard act to follow.

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Disqualification

It’s the ‘in’ word these days, as far as Philippine politics and show business are concerned. DQ this, DQ that – the headlines read, day in and day out – and it definitely does not refer to one’s favorite confection.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language says disqualification is the act of preventing someone from participating by finding them unqualified. Put another way, it means unfitness or the quality of being unsuitable. Some of its synonyms are exclusion, ban, rejection, elimination, ineligibility, disentitlement.

Used in a simple sentence – Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares faces disqualification from the 2016 presidential elections. Or, “Honor Thy Father” faced disqualification from the Best Picture category at the recent Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).

Profound points of view, those. Only because – stating the obvious, once again – politics and show business are the staple food for thought by Filipinos. And food for thought, in this instance, translates to entertainment. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. Politics and show business are Filipinos’ primary source of entertainment.

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So there. The big to-do about the disqualification of a self-described non-basura film from the Best Picture award in a festival that announces itself as a showcase of Filipino cinematic excellence raised a deluge of social media rants that leave a certain awkward taste in the mouth.

Perhaps, “Honor Thy Father” is indeed an excellent movie. Perhaps, the MMFF ExCom erred in excluding the film from that single category to “penalize” the producers over a certain technicality, that it even warranted a forthcoming Congressional investigation. (Didn’t I say that politics and showbiz make not-so-strange bedfellows in these parts?) I wouldn’t have a way of knowing for sure as I’ve stopped watching ‘festival movies’ since ‘Insiang’ became a grandmother and gunmen, er, G.I. Joe’s, who mistook boys for wild pigs were asked to vacate the military bases.

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Nora Aunor as Corazon

In retrospect, the participants at the first MMFF in 1975 were a sterling mix of respected directors and multi-awarded actors. ‘Diligin mo ng Hamog ang Uhaw na Lupa’ by Augusto Buenaventura won as Best Picture with Joseph Estrada, Charito Solis, Nida Blanca and Vic Silayan winning acting honors. Would anyone question the stature of those names at the time? The following year was a bumper crop of excellent movies megged by the likes of Lino Brocka, Eddie Romero and Lupita Concio. Their works – Insiang, Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon, and Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo, respectively – are now considered Filipino film classics.

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For what it is worth – and they are worth their weight in significant gold – the first ten years of MMFF spawned a long list of outstanding flicks directed by equally outstanding directors in the mold of Celso Ad. Castillo, Mike De Leon, Ishmael Bernal, Laurice Guillen, Mario O’Hara, Marilou Diaz Abaya, and the likes of Maryo J. De Los Reyes, Gil Portes, Danny Zialcita, Emmanuel H. Borlaza, Cirio Santiago, F. H. Constantino, etc., spawning such films as Burlesk Queen, Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising, Rubia Servios, Atsay, Ina ka ng Anak mo, Bona, Brutal, Taga sa Panahon, Langis at Tubig, Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo, Ang Panday, Kisapmata, Haplos, Himala, Moral, Karnal, Bulaklak sa City Jail and the first incarnation of Shake, Rattle & Roll which did very well at the tills.

Back in the day, movie fans were invested in their idols, making sure that Nora and/or Vilma topped the box office and won the acting award. Fan wars actually started in that era and they did it face to face, real time, eyeball to eyeball as the Internet was then a mere scrap in its inventor’s imagination. Couldn’t get more grassroots than that, and their numbers are not to be scoffed at either. Mass hysteria was not invented by ‘AlDub’, in case anybody forgot.

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Since then, somewhere along the way, excellence took a back seat to “commercial appeal” as ruled by the MMFF itself. Enteng Kabisote vs Praybeyt Benjamin is today’s version of Rubia Servios vs Atsay. A curious mix of fantasy, comedy and horror are the stuff that festival movies are now made of. The argument being that it is the season of cheer and moviegoers should not be made to go out of the theaters with a heavy load on their chest and a conundrum in their head. Which is just as well. Those with ‘thinking’ movies on their hands should exhibit them in more theme-appropriate festivals here and abroad where their high horses might be better appreciated.

But trashing other movies in the same competition and urging audiences to “demand for better films” is a tad hypocritical. Why can’t people just promote their own products through their own merits? Have they ever wondered why people stay away from their particular motion picture? Because they call the audience stupid for watching basura movies, while not referring to their own. Why should I part with my hard-earned money in favor of your film if you have already prejudged me?

Be that as it may, “Honor Thy Father” might have been worth the trip to the cinema if I hadn’t been turned off by the self-entitlement brought to bear upon the audience by the movie’s makers. The mixed reviews that I read doused whatever interest I initially had about it. It all boils down to freedom of choice, after all, and raising a ruckus over a self-serving issue such as winning an award only defeats the purpose. Show us your body of work and if it can stand toe-to-toe with the greats of Philippine cinema, then I’ll shut up.

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As for the other famous DQ case, Senator Llamanzares should just stop saying that she is doing what she is doing for the sake of the Filipino people. We all have heard that line many times before from so many trapos, puede ba. It is obvious that unmitigated ambition is her sole motivation. She and the oligarchs financing her candidacy have no respect for laws (the Constitution, specifically), institutions (telling three senior justices of the Supreme Court to inhibit from deciding her case and basically saying that the Commission on Election’s decision to disqualify her was worth nothing) and the Filipino voter’s ability to discern.

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Besides, if she is really intent on finding her true roots, all she has to do is ask her adoptive mother to speak up and end all speculations. But the latter’s silence on the Marcos-Rosemarie controversy is deafening. And the supposed “relatives” in Iloilo, Guimaras or wherever are getting to sound more and more mercenary. Just like a soap opera that has no ending.

Dear Miss Universe 2015

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Your victory couldn’t have come at a more opportune time when millions of Filipinos are reeling from various devastations in their individual lives. A destructive typhoon had just visited the country yet again, rendering thousands of our countrymen homeless, yet again – and forlorn during what is supposed to be the happiest season of all. You gave us something to cheer about, alright, and the ‘universe’ – this part of it, at least – is all agog over one beautiful Filipina wearing that much-coveted crown, despite the darkness enveloping so many places visited by ‘Nona’.

A crown that is 42 years long in coming, many beauty pageant followers jump in jubilation. Big deal? Perhaps. Aside from show business and politics, Filipinos are conversant and knowledgeable about their beauty queens. Plenty of beautiful women in these islands, most of whom remain ‘undiscovered’ either because they do not flaunt their pulchritude on Facebook or Instagram, or they remain so because their life’s ambition border more on the practical such as getting an education.

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Significantly, the first two Filipina Misses Universe were not ordinary working class women or provincial lasses plucked from oblivion by talent agents like many beauty contestants, or movie stars for that matter, are produced these days. They were decidedly members of ‘alta sociedad’, or ‘burgis’ to borrow the era’s lingo. One said her family spoke Tagalog only to the house help and the other was a granddaughter of the country’s fifth President.

Significantly, too, the first Filipina Miss Universe came to be in 1969 when man first walked on the moon. (The question asked of the finalists was what they would do if a man from the moon landed in their hometown, and she answered matter-of-factly: “I think when he comes over, he wants to change, I guess.”) The second one was crowned four years later in the ruins of an ancient civilization recognized as the milieu of gods and goddesses. (They wore Grecian-inspired outfits in lieu of bikinis because the hosts considered it ‘unbecoming’ of their national traditions.) Your own victory was rendered significant by the host calling the wrong winner which instantly reverberated across cyberspace. The ‘awkward’ moment, though, allowed your ‘inner beauty’ to shine brighter than the diamonds on your crown.

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Your back story, however, is far more interesting than your winning the title itself. Not giving up on your dream no matter how many attempts it took, all the while enduring ridicule from others for ‘trying (too) hard’, is the stuff that would certainly inspire many young girls also fantasizing about tripping the light fantastic. Now they will also SOL (shout out loud) ‘never say die’ – even if all they aspire for is putting food on the table, a shirt on their back and a roof over their head. Not to mention that ‘late bloomers’ will be given a new lease on their hopes of becoming whatever they have always wanted to be. At 26, you are near the ‘age limit’ and some women of lesser substance would have just given up.

The people who have been calling you out regarding your response to the question on the issue of American military bases making a comeback to our shores, don’t mind them. That was your opinion as a beauty pageant contestant, not as a political analyst, wannabe activist or mindless TV talking head. How many of us can think on our feet while being watched by a billion people across the globe on live television? You gave a thoroughly sensible answer without even stuttering, which no amount of rehearsals can teach if the space between one’s ears ring hollow. Those so-called nationalists will make their soundbites at every possible opportunity to earn their keep. I’ll bet my neighbor’s horse’s ass that they tote iPhones and iPads, and drive Hummers and Lexus’s, especially those who represent their nebulous constituents in Congress. They are progressive in sensibilities like the kid next door who wears a pair of Dr. Dre’s all the time.

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So, yep – for the first time since perhaps 1969 and/or 1973, a Filipina won it because of the confidence she exuded while answering the last two ‘defining’ questions. “Confidently beautiful,” indeed. (We came close in 1999 and 2012, but fell short because our representatives either did not have the ‘it’ factor in the eyes of the judges or their response to that one question which determines the winner and also ran was bland.) In a sea of fine-looking faces, it always comes down to the ultimate standard of beauty AND brain. You carried the aura of a winner that night, most definitely.

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As for the other contestant who was mistakenly called the title-holder by the “A-list” emcee, she was not really that “gracious” as some people who ‘sympathized’ with her would have it. She knew an “honest mistake” had been made when the Harvey man went back to the stage sheepishly, and she – like the rest of the contestants – saw the teleprompter saying “Philippines, take your first walk as Miss Universe 2015”. But she continued to strut around and turned her back on the camera to wave to the other contestants who all stood in their places when normally they would already have swarmed around the girl wearing the crown. Her attitude during and after the pageant night did not merit “amazing” as an adjective to describe her. You won fair and square, (not to mention that you were just being you while she came on as a Sofia Vergara-clone, and she used an interpreter when all the while she speaks English naman pala) with all four judges saying they all voted for you. That shut her up, I would surmise.

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Thus, just continue to be well-spoken and represent the Philippines, nay, the “Universe” the best way you could while enjoying the perks and privileges that go with the title. (No matter if someone in Government is already making mental tax deductions on your year-long salary and some such.) It might take us another 42 years to find someone like you, so savor each moment and bring us, your beauty contest-crazy compatriots, along for the ride. But don’t forget to lend your voice for the downtrodden as well. We all need a piece of Miss Universe goodwill in our lives to deflect the evil of politics and the sham of show business now prevailing in this country.

Touche?

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