In this photo taken in 1972 after the Plaza Miranda bombing, the author (seated) is shown with (from left) Mario Montenegro, Chiquito, Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada, Mario’s wife Letty Alonzo, Hector Reyes, Eddie’s wife Sylvia, Leila Benitez, Freddie Webb and Rudy Manlapaz.
Showbiz is politics – politics is showbiz
Eddie Ilarde (The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2019 - 12:00am

If politics is the ‘method and tactic involved in managing a (government) star’ — that’s show business; defined as ‘intrigue or maneuvering within a group,’ that’s show business, too. Politicians’ antics and artifices during the campaign, and trying hard to sound and look good during TV-covered congressional investigations, how bumbling it may be — that’s entertainment. That is why politicians and entertainers are fellows, odd redundancies, if you please.

MANILA, Philippines — The movie, theater, radio and TV industries are purveyors of glamor and entertainment — commonly called today as “showbiz.” Actors, dancers, singers, TV anchors and newscasters, radio announcers, disc jockeys, reporters — they are showbiz personalities. To impress listeners and viewers in order to improve ratings which seem like gimmicks to win votes — that’s politics. Conversely, if politics is the “method and tactic involved in managing a (government) star” — that’s show business; defined as “intrigue or maneuvering within a group,” that’s show business, too. Politicians’ antics and artifices during the campaign, and trying hard to sound and look good during television-covered congressional investigations, how bumbling it may be — that’s entertainment. That is why politicians and entertainers are fellows, odd redundancies, if you please.

In this politics-crazy country, elective positions are feathered lures in a sea teeming with aspirants — rich and poor, schooled and unschooled, known and unknown, demonic and religious — fiercely competing against each other for the chance of being hooked into a world with wider prospects of expanded fame, power, money and more money. Man’s desire is insatiable — obsessed even at the risk of going through untold hardships and even humiliation. Politics has become synonymous with gold, greed and glamour, in that order. No wonder Anglo-Irish writer, political pamphleteer and church cleric Jonathan Swift said: “Politics, as the word is commonly understood, are nothing but corruptions.”

The initial step is to get elected; and in a political contest, popularity is a built-in advantage, “name recall” as commonly called. In the late ‘50s, movie actor Rogelio de la Rosa decided to run for president but was prevailed upon by his opponent, his bilas and cabalen Rep. Diosdado Macapagal, to withdraw in his favor. He could have won, political pundits said later, if not for the astute political acumen of Macapagal who won against his lone opponent, incumbent president Carlos P. Garcia. In the lower political echelons, this writer was a fledgling in radio when he ran as councilor of Pasay City in 1963 and luckily won, the first time a little-known broadcaster ever won an election; and two years later as congressman of the First District of Rizal.

That was a “thunderclap and a wonder,” Manila Times columnist Joe Guevara wrote; eminent writer and literary giant Quijano de Manila (Nick Joaquin) in a magazine article said: “…showbiz and politics have fused…de la Rosa blazed the trail and Ilarde cemented it.” Many showbiz celebrities followed us on the cemented highways and byways of politics and won. We proclaimed action star Joseph Estrada as candidate for mayor of San Juan, the same year Ronald Reagan ran for governor of California; comedian Chiquito won as councilor of Makati. When fans urged Dolphy to run for a position, he riposted with: “No, thank you! I’m afraid I might win!” In congress, we were forearmed against expected ridicule on “mere entertainers in politics”: “Mr. Speaker, will the comedian from Bicol and Rizal yield?” We answered: “Gladly. But first, thank you for calling me a comedian. I was a comedian before I became a congressman, but the gentleman became a congressman to be a comedian.” The gallery hit the roof!

Happily a horde of showbiz celebrities has emerged in the milieu from then on. Movie’s Nardong Putik, Ramon Revilla Sr., consistently won as senator; Kabayan Noli Boy de Castro of radio fame was elected senator and eventually vice president. Then, there were TV newscaster/anchor Loren Legarda, basketball superstar Freddie Webb, Ted Failon, Bobby Guanzon, Tito Sotto as vice mayor of Quezon City, Marco Sison, Emil and Arthur Tiongco, Sol Aragones, Imelda Papin, Angelica Jones, Jestoni Alarcon, E.R. Ejercito, Dan Fernandez, Alma Moreno, Joey Marquez, Richard Gomez, Vilma Santos a consistent winner in Batangas, Rico Puno, Monsour del Rosario, Bong Revilla, Lani Mercado, lately another “giant killer” Isko Domagoso Moreno as mayor of Manila, Roderick Paulate, Alfred Vargas, Edu Manzano, Jinggoy Estrada, Guia Gomez as mayor of San Juan, Gerry Espina, comebacking Lito Lapid as senator, Chiqui Roa-Puno and many others (my apologies if we failed to mention others who belong in this league).

As if to copy “a Philippine phenomenon,” America has its own politics-showbiz personalities: Little-known sportscaster who invaded Hollywood named Ronald Reagan; world champion body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California; Clint Eastwood, one-term mayor of Carmel in California; Sonny Bono; Shirley Temple, a former child superstar as ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia; Fred Thomson; Jesse Ventura, governor of Minnesota; and Ruben Blades.

The show goes on. Currently, the president of Pakistan is an athlete, of Ukraine, a comedian. In 2022, we may still have boxer-senator Emmanuel Pacquiao and Eat Bulaga host-senator Vicente Sotto III. Take your pick!

(The author and independent radio-TV host and producer is a former councilor, congressman, assemblyman and senator. He was a young radio announcer when he was first elected as councilor of Pasay City. He is a three-time Lifetime Achievement awardee for radio and television and the longest-living personality in radio-TV today. His term as senator was cut short when the senate was abolished with the declaration of martial law. Today, he is heard every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. over DZBB in his program Kahapon Lamang.)

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