Mara, Clara and the sorry state of the nation


MANILA — On days like this when I can’t make heads or tails of which story to write first and my fingers are starting to hurt from pounding the keyboard, I think that I would really, really enjoy being a showbiz writer.

I find myself having strong opinions when it comes to local showbiz issues (who got whom pregnant and why he denied it; who’s to blame for the failure of this marriage or that; can this actor really act or is he just cute, etc). I suppose it says something about me that I actually enjoy showbiz reports — I don’t really get involved in the lives of my own friends (I try not to intrude, I rarely confide, but I do listen and give advice or help when asked), but when it comes to the lives of showbiz personalities — these so-called stars of the local cinema – I’m hooked.

Their lives are so not boring. For the most part they’re shallow and petty, but they’re far from being boring. They buy sunglasses and it makes the headlines of certain tabloids. They blow their noses from crying during some corny movie and it’s repackaged as a scandal by the weekend gossip shows. It’s insane, it’s inane, it’s disgusting, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

The top three showbiz issues that I’m currently intrigued about:

1) Are Sharon Cuneta’s billboard ads for the beauty overhaul and slimming center for real or are they, like that infamous and should-be-in-jail-creep Hayden Kho implied, the product of a few tweeks using Photoshop?

2) Is Azkals soccer player Phil Younghusband just using actress and activist Ms. Angel Locsin to boost his own popularity, or is it true love?

3) When will Mara in the soap opera ’Mara Clara’ ever make “ganti” against Clara? I mean it’s too much ha, Clara’s meanness and bitchiness! I really think Mara should already fight back because it sends the wrong signal to young viewers that it’s right to let others step all over you and –what?, they’re not real people? Oh yeah, sorry, I got carried away.

Anyway, there was a time when I’d read at least three showbiz blogs during lunchbreak and gad, the volume of reactions and the passion that went into them! Unbelievable. The readers put more thought and emotion into the affairs of the artistas than they care about say, President Noynoy Aquino’s lousy handling of foreign and diplomatic affairs and the terrible situation faced by overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East because of the exploding protests against corruption in the said region.

They put so much effort into dissecting the most ordinary Tweets or comments of starlets and matinee idols, the same kind of effort that should go into analyzing, say, the minutes of the 111th Legislative-Executive Advisory Council meeting wherein the government lays down its determination to privatize the National Food Authority (and endanger food security among other negative outcomes) and nationalize preschool education (despite the complete lack of funds and preparedness).

Gad! Imagine if all these showbiz followers (and writers!) directed their time, skills and energy towards deconstructing what kind of government we have, what twisted policies are being implemented, and how Noynoy is such a disappointment, maybe something positive would happen overnight.

Then the blogs would be in showbiz lingo and the treatment of new stories would be like how showbiz stories are sometimes written:

“Noynoy Aquino, palpak daw say ng mga kritiko, dapat okrayin!” “Fake ang promises ng gobyerno, kaliwa’t kanan ang increases sa prices – taumbayan sobrang imbierna na!” “OFWS di makauwi, baaaaad ang DFA!” “

If I were a showbiz writer (or worked in the entertainment press), I’d try to help organize fora for the artistas and try to get them interested in politics. I know this is what the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) is trying to do, and I’ve been told it’s like trying to bring the mountain to Mohammed. In the meantime, there are real similarities between Philippine politics and showbiz that should intrigue local actors and actresses and make them more interested in mainstream politics: plastikan, bastusan, umuulan ng kasinungalingan, away sa pera, imoralidad at kawalan ng kahihiyahan o kakapalan ng mukha.

Of course mainstream politics is much, much worse and dirtier. After all, it’s not just the lives of the politicians involved in the scams, scandals and controversies that are affected, but the lives of millions of others. At least sa showbiz, the individuals involved only get themselves into trouble (and not very serious trouble at that, just annoying, embarrassing or mortifying fixes) and everything blows over as soon as something juicier, messier and embarrassing comes along.

It’s just too bad that most artistas in the Philippines do not seem to carry pointed political opinions. Maybe they do have opinions, but they primarily have to do with what to do to improve the showbiz and entertainment industry.

I’ve noticed that some , like Diether Ocampo, Carmina Villaroel and Aga Muhlach and Judy Santos, support charities. Many actors and actresses were also involved in relief missions when Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng ravaged the country. I think these are very commendable efforts, but wouldn’t it be so great if they would also care about heavier social and political issues — say, human rights. They could oppose urban poor demolitions, support women’s rights; denounce corruption in the military and condemn extrajudicial killings. It would be amazing if they would carry not the burgis kind of involvement na hanggang antas photo-op lang, but genuine, active advocacy and involvement.

Ano kaya kung sumama say, sina Anne Curtis or Marian Rivera sa isang fact-finding mission sa mga probinsya kung saan walang puknat ang paglabag ng mga sundalo sa karapatang pantao sa mga sibilyan? They could hold pressconferences on their experiences and plead for an end to human rights abuses and the scrapping of Oplan Makabayan.

What if Aljur Abrenica, Piolo Pascual and John Lloyd Cruz began speaking up against oil price hikes, low wages, the impending LRT-MRT fake hikes? They could ditch their SUVs and BMWs and ride the trains to and from their tapings and then complain to the media about how unconscionable it would be if the government went on to jack fares.

What if Gretchen Barretto auctioned all her jewels and clothes and donated all the proceeds to Karapatan or the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC)? Even a third of the amount would go a long way towards these groups’ campaigns to help human rights victims and their families, including children.

What if the likes of Dingdong Dantes and Ogie Alcasid did more than provide the Aquino government with instant celebrity endorsers and instead put their noses to the wheel to help bring the hundreds of OFWs stranded all over the Riyadh, Libya, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere? What if they began speaking about how inefficient and insufficient the Aquino government’s actions are when it comes to helping OFWs and their families in their time of need?

Maybe one of these days there will be more showbiz stars who will take active roles in society and not be satisfied with occasional charity work. In the meantime, I’ll still be reading the showbiz and entertainment sections. The stories, blind items and features on the lives and misadventures of the denizens of tinseltown never fail to distract me from reality and the horrors the rest of the Filipino people face on a daily basis despite the promises of change of the new government.

Sheesh, kung pwede lang masampal ang ilang opisyales ng gobyernong ito gaya ng paulit-ulit na pananampal kay Mara. Ugaling Clara ang pamahalaang ito, and that’s not showbiz. (

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