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Social commitment to Filipino entertainment writing

Stars aren’t only born, they are also made.

They aren’t only in heaven, they are also on earth.

In as much as stars are matters as humans, they are made up of masses which thrive in a society as well. They, too, are social beings. They don’t exist in a vacuum more than the galaxy including show biz where they interact with one another with other bodies.

The idea or the belief that stars as separate creations away from the other constellations in the universe is already a thing of the romantic past. Stars are with us. They are in us. Stars are also us. That’s why we see them everywhere. We don’t see them only on television, stage and film. We also see them in every corner of the quotidian living along with their fellow ordinary mortals. We see them on the streets as well.

Stars are also citizens of the land governed by laws and ethos who also have the moral right and responsibility for oneself and for others, one of the roles of artists.

In the recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte at the House of Representatives, we saw various stars of degrees and magnitude. In one corner, we saw Arnell Ignacio, Mocha Uson—the Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO)—singer, actress and dancer and still considered a showbiz person and other singers, dancers, comedians and actors rooting for the Duterte admin.  

On the other side, we saw Monique Wilson, Mae Paner, also known as Juana Change, TV5’s Lourd de Veyra, Joel Saracho and other celebrities to show their dismay and frustration over the developments of the nation. According to Joel, a showbiz analyst, actor and writer: “Kung hindi Lunes ngayon, ang daming artistang pupunta rito. Pero ngayon ang karamihan ng shooting at taping (If it were not Monday today there should have been more stars here. But many of us are shooting and taping).” Well said of an optimist to see in his ranks the likes of Agot Isidro, Regine Velasquez, Bianca Gonzales etc.

They were all there near the Batasan Pambansa representing sentiments of the mundane. They were all part of politics. Everyone was political or should we say, apolitical because most of them were no partisans. You may ask then, why were they labeled political when they were just there complaining about high prices, soaring taxes, bad roads, state-sponsored killings etc. Joining rallies doesn’t mean being political partisan more than being personal and concerned only about the future of oneself and one’s family because the agencies and the persons who must take care of the welfare of the present and the future of their children’s children are seemingly or obviously falling short.

Even the allies of Arnell were not political partisans, categorically, but just personal as well as subjective rallyists who, in one way or the other, were waiting for introspection. Meanwhile, most of the protesters in the company of Monique, Joel, Lourd and Mae might be conscious of what they were there for but knowledge, conscious or not, is supposed to be superfluous although the demand at hand was just instant.  

Ask Saracho about he’s joining rallies and he’d pepper you with answers that’s simply practical and regular like it’s the most legitimate form of airing grievances about reducing his grocery budget, less eating out in expensive restaurants, tightening his belt on expenses etc which are the effects of economic policies gearing to the interest of the corporate greed or bureaucrat capitalists or simply profiteers from all walks of life as part of the web of uneven and unfair business practices, a survival of the fittest mode of production.

What’s wrong with being political? It’s one aspect of life where we work and find progress and development in life according to the ideals of a government. If it is practiced hook, line and sinker in its definition, it is wonderful for the audience to alter life for the better. Look it up in the dictionary and you will find that political isn’t only the way a government is being ran or it is just about elections. Politics is always for the good.   

Political is also the daily grind of life from the household to the workplace to the peer group etc when power is always at stake. This power, though, must be emanated and served to all in all honesty.

Even during the early civilization, politics was a harbinger of progress for all. In Greece, the power lies on the ruler, like a king, but the goodness and welfare of the constituents was a primary concern. Greek theater was the entertainment at the time and realities, harsh or suave in politics, real or imagined were recreated onstage. They were in many ways, to learn lessons from. In the ancient Philippines, equality among peoples was a pursuit of the barangay leaders, like a datu or a babaylan.

Again, in the entertainment scene, since the time of Manuel Luis Quezon, the interplay of government and show biz has been always loud and ubiquitous. The Quezons were close to the De Leons of LVN Pictures while Sampaguita Pictures was ally to the Marcoses during its peak. Viva Films was associated with Marcos as well as the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reign and now, an apparent affiliation with the Duterte regime is perceived. State dispensations in between were also a mix of show biz and governance like Cory Aquino’s time with ABS-CBN because the network’s forebears were castigated during the dictatorship and the rise of the popularity of Kris Aquino lies not only on her own merits but the filial forces around her as well which manifested in the Noynoy Aquino rule.

Could it be said that internationally acclaimed filmmaker Brillante Ma. Mendoza was a political partisan when he directed Duterte in his first and second SONAs or Bb. Joyce Bernal who replaced him at the helm? Not at all. They were just doing a job as complex as modern society.

Social media banters among celebrities especially during the presidency of Duterte aren’t signs not exactly of divisiveness but awareness about the views of artists on governance especially if they are aimed for the greater number of Filipinos. Again, intelligent discussions and not emotional outbursts must be the line toed by show biz denizens. Dig deeper, guys.  

So what’s the fuss about show biz people being political? It is being real. It is being free. It is being interactive.

I think what is more important is the industry’s right role in shaping a freer, more humane and more improved life of the citizenry—the moviegoers—through  a cinema devoted to the liberation of the most number of Filipinos. Film education must also be a core course in the curriculum of both public and private schools.   

When I started writing for show biz, I saw to it that my stories are hinged on the real situation in a society where the subject—an actor, actress, director, stuntman, production designer, cameraman, screenwriter—thrives (family, sensibilities social and other backgrounds etc). We place each subject in context. More than this, the examination of the circumstances of the act can give a comprehensive and enlightened context of the subject or topic at hand.

Just by writing about the truth in an entertainment issue or news about an artist no matter the dire consequences, especially unfavorable and unsavory, is already a social commitment. Expose is not a walk in the park in the beat. It entails a lot of sacrifices. Given certain styles and contextual contents, though, can make a difference. First and foremost, the market is the main interest of the story. It should reflect the existing order and if the order is not feasible or conducive to the people, should be changed for the better. It shouldn’t, in the course of the presentation, muddle issues and conflicts but instead enlighten and inspire, in the end.

The Philippine entertainment industry isn’t Hollywood so taking the business as a Third World country venture in its rightful context and perspective, is a welcome treat.

Entertainment writing, I believe, shouldn’t sensationalize by virtue of mere sensationalism but elucidation of topics, controversies or scandals can be treated on a different plane without losing their entertaining values.

But then again, there are many ways to skin the cat.

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