Film star cast as winner in Filipino poll

Joseph Estrada has used his heroic screen persona to win the votes of the poor, reports . Stephen Vine

MANILA - It's hot, it's noisy, the main attraction is running about five hours late, the singers have belted out their all, the comedians have frolicked and the break dancers have, well, broken. Welcome to a typical Philippines election rally.

No one can accuse Filipinos of not enjoying their democratic system of government. They vote in large numbers, accept piles of cash for doing so and attend rallies with the sort of enthusiasm normally reserved for pop concerts. This, in part, is because Philippines political rallies are pop concerts and because Filipinos just love to be around celebrities. There are even some who are keen on politics.

After more than three years of campaigning the Philippines presidential election is gushing into the home run before voters go to the polls on Monday. All the hot money, and some of it is very hot indeed, is on Vice- President Joseph Estrada romping home to victory.

Mr Estrada, more usually known as Erap, is a former movie star who meandered across the silver screen playing the little guy fighting for justice against the big, bad guys. His campaign, under the slogan "Erap for the poor", mirrors his screen persona but with slightly more drama. On a typically clammy night this week Erap made his way to a rally in the down- at-heel town of Valenzuela, just north of the capital Manila. The audience were Erap's sort of people. Mainly poor, not vastly sophisticated and eager for entertainment.

Not only are Filipinos electing a new president they are also going to the polls to fill 17,505 other local and national positions. Over 100,000 candidates are involved in this process. Local rallies give the hoi polloi a chance to mingle with the big league candidates. They provide the warm up acts. What is striking is that none of them uses notes, nor appear at a loss for words as they stomp around the stage extolling their achievements and the considerable merits of their team mates. The absence of a script may be explained by the lack of requirement to remember little policy details, because these are never mentioned. Instead the candidates pledge to "serve the people", or "stand up for the poor", or "fight corruption" and, of course, "love the Philippines".

Candidates running for the Congress or the Senate like to make a splashy entrance at these rallies and are announced with the accompaniment of their campaign theme songs. Reuben Torres has harnessed Village People's "YMCA" to his campaign, Senator "Bong" Biazon, a man of military bearing, has appropriated "Colonel Bogey" while Erap makes an entrance to "Ob- la-di-ob-la-da".

The speeches almost always begin with a long recitation of the names of the local candidates running on the ticket and a special mention for the mayor, especially if he or she happens to be in office. They know that the mayors control the vote-gathering machine and hand out both the rewards and punishments to the long list of lower-grade officials who depend on city hall for preferment.

At the Valenzuela rally the candidate everyone was waiting for was Erap. The hefty former matinee idol was clearly whacked. It was comfortably after midnight before he slowly mounted the stage.

The enthusiasm of the crowd mounted. "Erap, Erap", they chanted as he slumped into a plastic seat. Another singer was wheeled out to belt out a couple of numbers. Finally the great man rose, clutched the lectern and was transformed as he soaked up the energy of the crowd. The old stager hadn't lost it. He hunched over the lectern and gave his winsome smile made self deprecating remarks and then got into his stride. Long on promises and short on details, he made it clear that an Estrada administration will be tough on corruption, tough on crime, good to the poor and, well, better all round.

The routine goes down like a warm, comforting syrup. The bits the crowd really like are when he makes jokes about his poor English, which is not really as poor as he makes out, but mirrors their own frustration coping with the language bequeathed by the American colonialists, which remains an official language of the nation.

Erap proves that he is one of the people, sharing their difficulties in dealing with the English speaking rich and powerful but shrugging it off with a joke. The election is not supposed to be a joke but it becomes a bit more manageable when viewed as such.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
Sport
Hamilton runs down the back straight in the rain
F1
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing