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Philippine Election : Send in the Clowns

Philippine election is a circus where the clowns are the biggest attractions. The clowns, of course, are none other than those actors of the Philippine cinema who are trying their luck in politics. The Filipino voters are putting a lot of bunk on movie stars running for political seats. The attention-catching antics of these stars entertain their drab lives. Their favourite luminaries would dance and sing for them during campaigns. Some would over extend themselves just to get votes. These antics are, of course, no different from what regular politicians would do. The only difference is, actors are much more pleasant to look at. Reason enough for the voting public to welcome them come election time.

The most recent addition to the circus is the very colourful Annabelle Rama, a star whose ticket to fame is her marriage to a former matinee idol and raising a young star turned beauty queen turned movie actress. Annabelle recently lodged her candidacy in her hometown Cebu where, according to her, she is very well-regarded. She may win, who knows, just like the other actors who have successfully established themselves in politics – Herbert Bautista, Bong Revilla, Tito Sotto. All these actors made their way into politics on the strength of their movie star status alone.

Annabelle Rama tops them all because she is not only popular but controversial too. In fact, she is so controversial that she constantly supplies tabloids with fodder for their headlines. She is in hot water more often than her daughter makes movies. The public is tickled whenever she bickers with prominent people in the industry. What she says against her enemies is cringe-worthy or embarrassingly shocking. There are no holds barred when Annabelle opens her mouth.

Remember the comment Gloria Diaz made about beauty contests? “The world easily forgets who came second or third in a beauty contest”, according to Ms Diaz, “because the public only remembers the winner.” This remark was uttered right after Annabelle’s daughter, Ruffa, placed third in the Miss World contest and piqued Annabelle. She hurled tirades laced with vitriol at Ms Diaz. She called Ms Diaz an ugly white monkey who cannot contain her envy of Ruffa. Gloria Diaz, of course, just let the issue blow over. She isn’t a Miss Universe for nothing.

The infotainment industry struck gold in Annabelle. Tabloids celebrate mundane and trivial controversies and Annabelle dishes these to them in colourful language. It doesn’t take much to rile this woman; she’d go ballistic in an instant if anyone as much as criticised her or her family, directly or at second hand. She’d come at them with her claws out using the media to sully her critic’s reputation. Recently she described her ward, Miriam Quiambao, whose career she handles (yes, she manages up and coming stars), as greedy because the latter sent her a text asking about her plans for Quiambao’s career. Much ado was made about this incident, but thank heavens the issue did not escalate further because Quiambao humbled herself before the unassailable one.

But not everyone bows to Anabelle. Her dispute with Amalia Fuentes, filmdom’s superstar of the 60s, escalated into a court case. Apparently Amalia was fuming about being called ‘a bitter old has-been, reeking of lard’, presumably by Annabelle and her daughter. These words spat at an ageing movie queen come like wasp stings heavy with poison. They strike right to the core.

Annabelle can be described as excruciatingly frank, if one is inclined to niceties. Otherwise ‘… . . . .’ Which brings me back to her political aspirations.

It strikes me as interesting to imagine how she would behave if she won. How would she handle criticism and debates against her political rivals? Would she resort to name-calling, mudslinging and character assassination to address national issues and conflicts?

The chambers will be a circus mayhem with Annabelle around!