Grace under pressure
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez () - January 13, 2011 - 12:00am

Offspring of famous parents either dilute the richness of their legacy or solidify it. Not that being a scion of extraordinary parents is a breeze — it could be a never-ending struggle in a pressure cooker, with expectations so high the scion struggles to break free before he bursts. So to beg off from the burden of the legend and legacy of one’s parents is excusable if one must have a life.

Grace Poe Llamanzares had a movie king (the late Fernando Poe Jr.) and a movie queen (Susan Roces) as parents; she hobnobbed with superstars during recess. The world of make-believe was real to her — and she was familiar with the ills and challenges of the movie industry even before she mastered Math 101. But she isn’t shirking from her legacy.

And if she is able to further solidify the legacy of FPJ and Susan in the course of her job, “That’s not bad at all,” says Grace, chairman of the high profile Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), and a mother of three, ages 18 to 6.

The MTRCB rates movies and TV shows from a scale of GP (General Patronage) to X (not for public viewing). For television, it’s from GP to PG (Parental Guidance). She has the power to suspend shows that break the law.

She isn’t just FPJ’s crown princess taking on the job of MTRCB by fiat. Grace has earned her stripes and impressed the Bulong Pulungan media forum last Tuesday not just by who she is but also by what she knows.

There is some pressure on her, she admits, because she is tasked with finding the balance between the interests of the movie and TV industry as business ventures and the rights of the viewers as nation-builders. She reminds us that though she imbibed the best interests of the movie industry from the cradle, she has three impressionable children in whom she sees the interests of the youth as well. She is in fact pushing for a five-second delay in live shows so that the audience may be spared from offensive dialogue and acts (as deemed by the MTRCB).

Grace, a product of the Assumption Convent (where she was captain of the debating team) and Boston College (where she majored in Political Science), wants an improvement in the “social thrust” of movie and television, not just advancement in technical aspects.

Grace also wants to keep an open mind — both to moviemakers and moviegoers. When people complained about certain aspects of the Dolphy starrer Father Jejemon, she took immediate action and found to her amusement and consternation that those who reviewed its trailer actually did not remember the offensive parts singled out by Father Fernando Suarez.

“Since the buck stops with me, I take responsibility for the lapse,” she said. 

She wants to modernize the MTRCB by improving its website and making possible the issuance of on-line permits. She wants to push for an efficient archiving system so that when students go to the MTRCB for research about certain topics, it will take just one button in the computer to find the film in question. Grace is proud that through her parents’ efforts, FPJ Productions has archived about 250 films for future generations — some 50 of these films are not of her parents.

 Because FPJ’s movies always championed social justice, Grace grew up with an alphabet where “A” stood for “advocacy.”

“It is a vital tool for nation-building,” she told the forum.

***

From the time she was a little girl, Grace was fascinated by politics and social issues. She confesses that unlike her superstar parents she wasn’t cut out to be a movie star.

“Even if I aspired to be in showbiz, I felt physically (inadequate) being compared to both of them. I would be such a liability for my mom and my dad. I was just a child extra. Nakikisingit!” she once told me in an interview.

 Instead, Grace was drawn to socially-relevant activities in high school, joining declamation contests and immersion activities in depressed areas.

Grace felt even more inspired, “when I saw my dad doing (social work) in his own unofficial capacity.  He was already helping a lot of people.”

“For me,” continues Grace, “his entering politics in 2003 was just a more organized way of helping more people. He was sincere enough and honest enough that perhaps even a lack of formal education would not have spelled a difference because he was sincere to begin with. When former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani came to Manila and gave this talk and he said the first important criteria for a leader is sincerity and the desire to help. Because you may have all the titles and you may be so intelligent but if your goals are for yourself, what’s the point?”

Grace was supportive of FPJ’s candidacy for President, but learned about it on the day her father announced it at the Manila Hotel. She recalls entering his room and chanced upon him putting on his socks. He very casually told her that he had crossed his Rubicon (two days before, this writer broke the story that FPJ was running for President because he told me in an interview, “There’s no turning back for me anymore.”).

From that summer of 2003, Grace learned that “Good intentions are not enough.”

“I idolized my dad. He really felt that by running against the incumbent, he could make a difference in the lives of the poor.” But their resources were really no match to those of the administration.

Grace said her father took his defeat and the alleged cheating that brought it about very badly. She was in the US, her home for the first 12 years of her marriage to Neil Llamanzares, when news of his massive stroke reached her. By the time she got to his bedside, FPJ was gone.

Her mother, on the other hand, instilled in her the value of discipline and the importance of taking care of one’s image. Susan also loves to take care of “old-timers” who are loyal to the family, and so the Poe home in Greenhills is filled with the “manangs” who have loyally served Susan all these years — and the smell of Tiger Balm, she laughs.

Values passed down from great parents make for a sterling legacy. Grace Poe Llamanzares knows that as MTRCB chief she isn’t just a steward of what her parents bequeathed her — she is a steward of what this generation, through movies and television, will bequeath the next.

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com)

ASSUMPTION CONVENT BOSTON COLLEGE BULONG PULUNGAN FATHER FERNANDO SUAREZ GRACE GRACE POE LLAMANZARES MOVIE PARENTS
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