Whoever organized the affair must have imagined himself a latter-day Cecil B. De Mille. A projected cast of thousands of Makati's dispossessed and Binay-disenchanteds was to have occupied the rows and rows of white monobloc chairs that stretched from the corner of Vito Cruz Extension all the way to Kalayaan Avenue. Scaffoldings with giant screens and loudspeakers were set up at every other corner. The side streets, which bore the brunt of the traffic gridlock all day, were simply closed off with steel barricades.
Friday is the day we close the Sunday Lifestyle issue--always the thickest issue of the week. I didn't have time to see how the rally was going until around 8 p.m. when we took a break for dinner. I looked down from a third-floor window, and the street below was already near-overflowing. Assorted starlets and no-name singers were warming up the crowd with bad Celine Dion impersonations.
I had thought my part of Makati--the shabby part, so near Ayala Avenue yet beset with squatters, bad roads, filthy dumps and chronic floods--was solid Binay country. This extravaganza was for Lito Lapid's candidacy as mayor and Oscar Ibay for congressman of the city's first district. Maybe the free sandwiches and fast food boxes distributed just across the Inquirer driveway did the trick?
Among those running in their ticket for councilor were two show-biz names: Monsour Del Rosario and Nonoy Zuniga. The youngest candidate, Ton Genuino, should not be in City Hall if only for his crime against good taste: his campaign jingle, a knock-off of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" ("Ton. Genuino. Idol ko. Sa Konsehoooo!") was the dumb campaign ditty that woke me up every frigging morning without fail.
So it was just as well I wasn't downstairs yet when Team Unity's senatorial candidates were introduced one by one. Because when Ralph Recto ascended the stage, his campaign jingle was... "Eye of the Tiger."
Can someone head-butt the gnomes behind this, please?
The host, a bombastic speaker with a gift for laughable hyperbole (he introduced the only woman in the councilors' ticket, Jessy Trinidad, as "ang Angel Locsin ng aming partido"), spent a good 20 minutes lambasting Ibay's opponent for the congressional post, re-electionist Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Locsin, he thundered, was "maputi, pero maitim naman ang budhi!"
Not only that, he claimed, Locsin also beat his spouse. "Ano ang tawag natin sa nambubugbog ng asawa? Supot!"
When it was his turn to speak, councilor-aspirant Genuino couldn't summon the same elevated language. He proved to be a halting, rather nervous speaker with nothing remotely interesting to say.
"Kapag nanalo ho ako sa eleksyong ito--mananalo ho ba ako?!--at magha-house-to-house po ako para pasalamatan kayo, huwag niyo na ho akong tawaging Konsehal, Ton na lang po. Dahil po di naman ako tumakbo para maging boss o amo niyo, kundi para mapagsilbihan ko kayo. 'Yan lamang po ang gusto kong iparating sa inyong lahat. Pero bago ako bumaba... Gusto ninyo ba akong marinig kumanta?"
And so he did.
Angel Locsin, er, Trinidad, wasn't about to be upstaged by the pipsqueak vocals of her co-matinee idol. Called to say her piece some time later, she reeled off the same talking points, then: "Pero bago po ang lahat, gusto ninyo ba akong marinig kumanta?"
"'Wag na, 'yan na naman!" shouted an old woman behind me. Then the first bars of "Kailangan Kita" blared from the speakers. "Ay, buti naman iniba niya!"
Mike Defensor took a leaf from Ninoy Aquino circa 1978 for his appearance in this rally. He let his very young daughter campaign for him. A charming touch, except that, in her memorized spiel promising that her father would help build houses for the poor, the kid was made to ask the horde in front of her: "Sino po ba ang mga walang bahay dito?"
Of course, real stars were on hand to lend some glitter to the affair. Strictly low-grade, it turned out.
Ruffa Mae Quinto appeared in a dangerously low-cut black top and jeans, cracking jokes, warbling two songs and using her jiggling mammaries as a visual punchline. When it came time to endorse the ticket, she sidled up to one the older candidates, Dick Javier, and told the crowd, "Wag'po ninyo kalilimutang iboto si Nick... [Pause] Ay, Dick pala!"
Pokwang came next, followed by this starlet who tried to top the crudeness of the host's "supot" comment by engaging in a racy game with two spectators, one a young dancer and the other a thuggish-looking guy. The game, she explained, was "Habulan ng Kiss." While she sang, she pointed to a part of her body and asked the two men to attempt to peck at it while she slithered away. The older guy got so carried away that he managed to land smacks on the girl's neck and cheek. To which the girl shrieked, "Ang mamang 'to, ang libog!"
Rachel Anne Go, giggly and addressing the crowd as "Mga kapamilya, mga kapuso," served as the icebreaker to the rally's penultimate major moment, Ibay's speech. The candidate, a charter member of the Nanggagalaiti School of Public Speaking, promptly launched into a fiery harangue against his mayoral rival.
"Tapos na ang maliligayang araw ni Binay," he gloated. "Sa Lunes, may bago na kayong congressman, si Congressman Oscar Ibay!"
Few clapped, until he came to the part the audience was apparently waiting to hear.
"Pag ako na ang nakaupo sa puwesto, yang pabahay ninyo, aayusin natin yan! Ang mga gamot, titiyakin kong makakarating sa inyo! At libreng edukasyon para sa lahat!"
Ripples of applause.
I had to restrain myself from shouting, "Oy oy oy! Kausapin mo ang ingrown mo!"
But seeing that I was surrounded on all sides by possibly hostile elements, and fearing that I was about to lose my wits at the overwhelming tackiness, banality and bizarreness of the proceedings before me, I fled back to the office and cowered in my desk until after Lito Lapid had said his speech and the last of the concluding fireworks had been spent. It was 1:45 a.m. when they began packing up.
I laughed so hard I ended up crying.
Waiting for Godot
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[Photo 1: Rudy Esperas, copyright © Philippine Daily Inquirer]