Sound and fury signifying nothing

I am glad that the Makati businessmen are in agreement with what I wrote last Monday about the need to tone down all this insane and totally misplaced preoccupation with elections that are at least two-and-a-half years away.

Some businessmen were interviewed on television Monday night and the consensus was the same: All this talk about politics at the start of the year makes for bad business.

Indeed, what does it say of us when we greet the New Year with nothing but frenzied speculations about who is jumping political fences, who is making alliances with whom, and who is giving way or not giving way to whoever. And it doesn’t help at all when the loudest voice above the commotion is that of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, the same guy who is hemming and hawing and babbling incoherently as usual about whether he will stand for election or not. Of course he won’t. He knows he can’t run. And he knows that we know that he knows.

All this jostling and jockeying so very early on in the game does not bode well for the 2010 elections. It looks like we’re in for a bitter five-way or six-way contest again. I know a number of other people who are already feeling nauseous and irritated with the antics of the presidential timbers and presidential toothpicks this early.

In the meantime, there are a million and one things that really need to be done in this country. The senators are best advised to focus their energies on urgent and critical legislative work. For example, it would be really tragic if the bill on cheaper medicines gets stalled once again in the bicameral committee simply because our legislators are busy with all this plotting for 2010. I know a number of other urgent bills that deserve the attention of our legislators.

Except for Senator Mar Roxas who seemed to have hit the ground running in 2008 by already attending to some legislative work, the other legislators are apparently still on vacation mode.
We know what is keeping Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. busy these days, of course. Both senators attended to their showbusiness careers during the holiday break and emerged quite victorious.

Senator Estrada copped the Best Actor trophy in the 2007 Metro Manila Film Festival for his portrayal of a migrant worker who comes home to a family that has gotten used to his not being around. Ouch. It’s actually a promising premise, one that hits a chord among many of us. It’s a very familiar, perhaps even commonplace story. Who hasn’t heard of Filipinos who slave themselves abroad so they can send money to spouse, children, and other members of his or her extended family, most of which aren’t appreciative of the hard work that goes into each dollar sent home?

I haven’t seen Estrada’s movie (“Katas Ng Saudi”) so I cannot pass judgment on whether or not the senator deserves the acting plum. But I have seen the senator in his previous film outings where the furniture and the other inanimate objects in the scenes produced better screen presence.

So if Estrada’s Best Actor trophy in the 2007 Filmfest is truly deserved, then the only thing I can say is that being a senator in the Philippines must really do wonders for one’s acting talent. The Philippine Senate must really be better at producing actors than any other acting school.
Unfortunately, Estrada chose to parlay his victory into a platform to berate and lecture the local government leaders on perceived shortcomings behind the film festival’s awards night.

Apparently, Estrada wanted to savor his victory longer and probably wanted to luxuriate in the company of friends, but the awards night was designed to be shorter as a fundraising musical concert was scheduled immediately after it. The awards night had to run on a very tight schedule and winners were asked to cut down their “thank you” speeches.

It seems Estrada and his friends prefer those excruciatingly boring and terribly drawn-out awards nights where winners spend hours thanking everyone in the planet for breathing the same air that they do.

Senator Revilla’s film “Resiklo” won as Best Picture. I haven’t seen this reincarnation of “Mad Max” and I don’t have any intentions of doing so regardless of how many awards it wins.
Sorry, but I don’t agree with the senator’s short-sighted observation that producing big-budgeted extravaganzas will revive the Philippine movie industry. I don’t think we can compete with the rest of the world in that department; we are years behind in terms of that kind of technology. On the other hand, our indie films, the ones that bravely tackle the many dimensions of living, surviving, dreaming and being, are the ones that are bringing recognition to Philippine filmmakers. If we are to compete out there with the rest of the film industries of the world, we must compete in the areas that we truly excel in. And that doesn’t mean more “Resiklos.”

Ironically, Revilla lost the significance of Cesar Apolinario’s win as Best Director. Apolinario, a first-time film director, is a broadcast journalist who honed his skills through documentaries and reportage for television.


At least two lives were lost while another 40 were injured in last Monday’s tragic incident at Masantol, Pampanga. It was another religious procession gone wrong, reminiscent of many other similar tragedies in the past that also claimed many lives.

Truly, the things we do in the name of faith.

I don’t want to dwell on the religious, cultural, social, anthropological, and even psychological significance of conducting religious processions on bodies of water. I suppose there is a compelling reason for doing so, since many cities and towns in this country conduct fluvial parades as part of the celebration of their respective fiestas. I understand that in many cases, these fluvial parades is a form of reenactment of the way the image of their saint came to Philippine shores, which obviously, has to be by sea.

But there are many things about this religious practice that begs discussion. First off are the practical considerations that must be taken into account such as costs, safety, and number of people that can participate. It obviously costs more to build a pagoda than a caroza. And building pagodas that are safe and which can accommodate the multitude of devotees is another tall order. What happens is that organizers take chances and invoke divine providence for things that are commonsensical.

Walking on land is much safer than splashing around in rivers and lakes, most of which are polluted anyway. Shouldn’t the Catholic Church interfere already and teach people that it is not where the religious ceremony is conducted that matters; it is what is in people’s hearts that counts.


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