That old Mambo feeling
by Manuel L. Quezon III
August 5, 1997
(special for Bond Magazine)
POOR Joe De Venecia. He could have been fairly successful playing Dopey the Dwarf at Disneyland (hasnt he the cute big ole ears for it?). But instead, he sacrificed what could have been a glorious career as one the Seven Little Dwarfs on the altar of patriotism, taking on the thankless job of Speaker, with all the unspeakable sacrifice that it entails -the poor man has had to time everything, down to his bowel movements, to what the Feng Shui experts decree.
As if it werent bad enough to have given up playing one Disney character in Anaheim (with prospects of a coveted Greencard besides), only to play Pluto to Fidel Ramoss Mickey Mouse, now FVR has accomplished a transformation more amazing that that which transmogrified him from loyal Laban candidate to head of the Lakas-NUCD, that pygmy of a party that blossomed forth from Raul Manglapuss Atenean skull and which monopolizes the pork industry in gargantuan splendor. Ah yes -that incredibly change, from globetrotting Mickey Mouse, salesman of Philippines 2000, to Scrooge MacDuck who wont let Joe De V. Have his day in the sun.
In case this merry putting-on and doffing of Disney personas has you stumped, let me fill you in on the scoop: evil Uncle Eddie, so it seems, doesnt want to let Joe de Venecia have a rip-roarin, foot-stompin party convention in which Joe can make the interminable speeches he so loves, and go down in defeat in a cloud of confetti and toy balloons. After all, Speakers, didnt you know, just wanna have fun.
Hey, no one thinks Joe de Venecias ever going to be president, right? So why, why oh why, be cruel? Let the Speaker have a little fun the old-fashioned way. Hes an old-time politico, after all, with a heart that thumps to that venerable political Mambo beat. And while the who nation seems to have gone bonkers over everything from the Cha-Cha to the Tango to Line Dancing, for Joe de V., and all his pomade-using, “Well, aaaah..”-saying contemporaries, the only tune thats right is -you got it, that old-fashioned Mambo. Politics may be a Rigodon to some, even a quaint Paso-doble to others, but as far as the Speaker of the House is concerned, he wants a little Latin percussion to dance those election-eve blues away.
Just in case you were thinking that the Speakers Mambo-mania was just a symptom of Congressional corniness, hows this for a oldie but goodie: the man whose name positively syncopates to a Latin rhythm (well, if you ask old man Manglapus, anyway): Mag-say-say.
Jun Magsaysay is probably what the Liberation-era generation would call a swell guy, and as the popularity of today linen office barongs attest, he has managed to exert sartorial influence approaching that of his father, (whose taste in textiles, alas, ran to conservative piÃƒÂ±a, completely unaffordable to todays office-going masses) whom the geriatric crowd remembers for killing off the sharkskin suits of “peacetime”. And while Jun has had to bear the agony of failed hair transplants, he has certainly had a taste of sweet victory; you cant begrudge him for thinking, then, that hey, with a name, and with a theme song, and those nifty barongs that give that Im-so-busy-Im-crumpled look, he has all it takes to be President, just like dear old dad (Whats this? What about brains, you say, something Juns lineage has never been renowned for? Well, uh… can you spell E-r-a-p?).
And so it was that one day, the Senate press corps found itself hustling to one of those tiny function rooms, there to witness a blast from the past: a declaration that yes, Magsaysays ready to be everybodys Guy, just like Serge over here.
Wait a minute. Serge? Absolutely. Gamely grinning as Jun held his hand aloft, Serge may have reflected that in terms of musicality, his name was more suited to a Tango or a Rumba beat. But what the hell, if so many others of this, the most fecund of all political dynasties could throw their hats into any ring they could spot short of a carnival ring-toss booth, why he could run for Veep, if only to confuse enough Cebuano voters into voting for him instead of Lito the creep.
But let us leave the new dance partners alone for a while. We can be confident that this, the Liberal Party duo will remain an entertaining side-show. While Jun and Serge are doing their little production number, lets visit the best Cabaret in town: the Senate Session Hall.
Vying for Dancing Queen status are Gloria Macapagal and Miriam Defensor Santiago, who offer a more contemporary theme as far as political gyrations are concerned. It has to be admitted, though, that Gloria “SuperStar” Arroyo has a weakness for the Cha-Cha beat, harking back as it does to the wonderful Ye-Ye days of the Poor Boy from Lubao; but she can do a mean Boogie, too, which is just as well, since the nations Numero Uno sister, fellow Senator Gloria Ramos Sha-sha-Hani seems fully intent on monopolizing the cha-Cha beat, even if she is no political Tito Puente (she may look like one, sure: but still a hell of a better looker than that sinister Ranjit).
Ah, but what are those dagger looks we see before us? The irrepressible Maid Miriam who must labor under the unfortunate impression that she is a burlesque female impersonator, who wiggles to trigger laughs, never mind the insistence of her husband that yes, those legs Miriam so loves showing off to the press do stimulate his appetite -and were not talking about the same sort of hunger triggered off by hams, though the resemblance is uncanny.
Miriam Santiago, great brain that she is, naturally sneers at ordinary ballroom dancing, much preferring what she at least believes is interpretive dance; the problem being that newfangled dancing gets to be boring after a while. She may risk going the way of the Mashed Potato and other, forgotten dance hall faves.
Never let it be said that when the band started playing, the gallant men were far behind in stampeding to the dance floor. The Senate boasts of red-blooded males eager to play D.I. to Filipinas: no less than the favorite son of Chililand, Raul Roco, who insists he can do a mean boogie himself, though his aids warn that he ,might make the earth shake if he doesnt watch his waistline which is expanding in proportion to his ambition.
Not to be called a shrinking wallflowers are our other public servants, from Renato De Villa who is said to have graduated (alas, always a batch behind) from the same dance classes as FVR himself. The President, didnt you know, is an accomplished dancer; and he can out-Fox (Trot, that this), out-Boogie, out-Lambada anyone half his age, while the best critics admit that poor Rene can only seem to manage a stiff Marcha Militar. Cmon, give him an A for effort, gents.
Bringing up the rear in our cavalcade of Centennial dance numbers are those who comprise (for now) the chorus line for Philippines 2000 but who may soon enough be Fred Astaire of their own show. No less than Dick Gordon, world-class expert at tap-dancing, who used to like singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” with gusto (feet going tappity-tappity-tap even as his tongue went lickety-lickety-smack to Uncle Sams backside), but who quickly learned to do a properly native Tinikling to welcome foreign investors, and just might dance his way into the hearts of his countrymen.
Plus theres Lito Osmeña, whom it is rumored doesnt really like to dance. But thats false. Lito just loves the Limbo Rock -he simply doesnt like others asking, “how low can you go?” Now the Vice-President -theres a man who can dance. But these days, hed much rather sit in a corner watching others bump and grind. To the tune of “Bed of Roses” and other tunes on the GRO hit parade.
Which brings us back to our dark, dark horse, Speaker Joe De Venecia, who is still trying to get permission to hold a Dance-a-thon at the Araneta Coliseum so he can dance it out with the likes of Rene De Villa and Lito O. Poor man, whistling in the dark, saying to his staff, One, two, three! “Everywhere the people went, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtwas no honest government. No more graft and ten percent, when (fill in the blank) is President! That is why, that is why, you will hear the people cry, Our Democracy will die. Kung wala si Joe De V..”
After all hes done, this is what he gets. Cant even console himself with that traditional political crowd-rouser, Tirso Cruz Sr.s “We Say Mabuhay”. FVR’s abolished it. The mans a real killjoy. He’s hogging the whole dance floor.