Saturday, April 10, 2010

*189. ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Political Gimmickry Rocks the Vote

VOTE ME, PLEASE! Crisogono Y. Castro, a candidate for councilor in Mabalacat, extolls his achievements for his kabalens to read, in a poem published in "Ing Cabbling" in 1934. The Municipal Mayors of Pampanga with Gov. Ceferino Joven are shown on the top picture.

Campaign fever is gripping the country as I write this, with the national and local elections scheduled to happen in May. For a month or so now, political candidates vying for office are on an aggressive campaign trail, making the rounds of the town, doing house-to-house visits, kissing babies and shaking hands just to win precious votes. Indeed, rendering oneself visible is not enough these days; one has to have a campaign gimmick, a stunt or a catchy slogan to remain top-of-mind among fickle and forgetful voters.

In my town, eager beaver candidates are breaking through the clutter using popular hit songs with lyrics modified to suit their needs. One candidate (a perennial loser in the mayoral polls) is predictably using the Korean pop – “I want nobody, nobody but you”, replacing the last word with his name. Another candidate is infusing new life to the novelty song “Ang Ganda-Ganda ng Bulaklak”, while still another opted for the 60s hit, “Jambalaya”, using a Totoy Bato sound alike as his singer.

Slogans too, abound, but I don’t find them memorable enough, and some simply overpromise: “MMS kita” (which stands for the candidate’s initials) , “Kaibigan ng Kalikasan”, “Abe-Abe tamung Isadsad ing Crusada”.

Time was when political candidates advertised their credentials not through posters and handbills, but through poems—such as this one from a councilor-wannabe from Mabalacat. In lyrical words published in a 1934 newspaper, candidate Crisogono “Nonung” Y. Castro listed down his accomplishments—from his commerce degree to his able management of the town booth in the 1933 Pampanga Carnival, the staging of Rizal Day and the Lenten Cenaculo. I do not know if these were enough to get him a seat, but on should laud him for his excellent literary effort.

Not too long ago, 3 Kapampangans were elected to the Senate by unleashing their brand of political gimmickry, which apparently worked. Ninoy’s younger brother, occasional thespian Butz Aquino had a jingle which only had his name for lyrics, but which had a catchy tune. Remember, “Butz, Butz, Butz, Butz Aquino..?”. Who can forget too, Consuelo “Jamby” Abad Santos Madrigal and her repetitive “Ja-Ja-Ja-Jamby! Ja-Ja-Ja-Jamby!”. It also helped that Jamby was endorsed by the amiable actress Judy Ann Santos—a fellow Kapampangan. Lito Lapid alluded to his screen hero imagery in his ads—Leon Guerrero—and his strategy worked well with voters (fans?) who obviously could not separate fact from fiction.

In the 1950s, part-Kapampangan Ramon Magsaysay (his grandmother was from Betis) of the Nacionalista Party, defeated incumbent Elpidio Quirino to win the presidency of the Philippines. His anti-graft platform found expression in one of the most popular campaign songs in history –“Mambo Magsaysay”, which was resurrected and re-aired by Radio Veritas to fantastic audience reception. “Mambo, mambo Magsaysay! Mambo-mambo, Magsaysay!.Our democracy will die, kung walang magbabantay!”—the song went, and its message resonated with truth and currency at the height of the 1986 People Power Revolution.

It was the turn of the Liberals to dominate the 1961 polls with the election of Diosdado Macapagal as the president of the republic, defeating the incumbent Nacionalista, Carlos P. Garcia and his Kapampangan running mate, Gil J. Puyat.The Liberal Party had came to power with the independence of the country in 1946, but were deposed by the Nacionalistas in 1953, with Magsaysay’s election.

This time, the poor boy from Lubao, won the hearts of his countrymen with a singleminded promise: “New Leadership for a New Life”, which many found sincere and believeable versus the limp “The Filipino First Team” of Garcia nd Puyat. Dadong even gave away symbolic tin plates that had the battlecry-- “Food In Every Filipino Home!”, and sure enough, when 7 million Filipino voters participated in the national polls held Nov. 14. 1961, Macapagal emerged victorious over the incumbent whom he had served as vice president in 1958, leading by a wide, insurmountable margin.

For many on the local political road, the way to a government position (or even MalacaƱang) is through the breadth and length of the country, through the hearts and conscience of the people. But a few experienced and streetmart politicos still maintain that that rallying the popular mandate is easy enough—if voters can’t be bought for money, then they can be had for a song!


robbyandharry said...

nakakarindi na ngang pakinggan ang mga "nobody, nobody but [insert candidates name here]!

alex r. castro said...

Sinabi mo! It seems every other candidate is using that song! Ano ba ang Top 5 song choices for the year? I have also heard a Lady Gaga redux. and a Hagibis' "Legs, Legs, Legs". And that Ocho-Ocho is awful! (but memorable, no?)

Metung said...

Kasanting na ning blog mo. I migrated to San Diego, California at at 3, so what I remember about Pampanga is very little. I always look up Pampanga for the purpose of "Getting to know my roots", you blog is what I needed. I have never seen such collection of Pampanga history. My incung and apu have been attached to your blog for hours now. Madacal Salamat. Hopefully you can continue your blog. Looking forward to your future blogs.


alex r. castro said...

Dakal a salamat, Metung!
I am not really a historian, I just write what I see and remember from an old picture. I appreciate yur comments and am amazed that you know the language still, considering anak ka pa inyang meko ka. Luid ya ing Kapampangan!

Titanons said...

I have been revisiting your blog as I am tracing my Joven family roots. Regarding Pampanga politics, do you have any knowledge or info regarding the double murder of Edilberto Joven and his son Ricardo Joven of Bacolor on Nov 23, 1946? Edilberto is my maternal grandfather. The incident happened during the election period between Sergio Osmena and Manuel Roxas. My grandfather was campaigning for Osmena. The murder was apparently ordered by then Pampanga governoTitanonsr Pablo Angeles David. The case was never solved.