THE FIRST PEOPLE POWER uprising gave Filipinos a phenomenon that, ironically, is a symptom of its failures. The ouster of the strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 gave rise to local political comedy that burst out from the gates with the likes of the IBC 13’s Sic O’clock News and ABS-CBN’s Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata. For the first time in many years, comedians may make fun of politicians and their shenanigans. It was such a fresh whiff of air and the Filipinos breathed it in by the lungful.
Jon Santos was a product of those tumultuous, albeit sometimes funny, times. He cut his teeth under veteran comedians Tessie Tomas and Willie Nepumuceno and has never stopped looking back since. As the country commemorates the 30th anniversary of Edsa 1 this year, Santos stages his funny-sad tribute to People Power and all the political craziness and crazies it spawned with an hour and a half comedy show entitled Hugot Your Vote: WTF (Wala Talagang Forever…sa Malacañang) at Resorts World Manila.
Last March 5, Santos performed before a capacity crowd at the Marriot Grand Ballroom. Drawing from international pop star Madonna’s recent concert in Manila, he emerged onstage with a “Vogue” number that sings and dances about the Filipino’s current travails—elections, traffic, a strong-arming China, moralizing bishops, and others. The opening segment was obviously an attempt to be current, although Madonna was as 80s throwback as anyone. A receptive audience was generous with its chortles.
Santos was just warming up though. What really got the audience in stitches were two of his standards—his exemplifications of Miriam Defensor Santiago and Joseph Estrada. Although the characters now talk about the senator’s second presidential bid and her famous pick-up lines, as well as the mayor’s new “Eraptions” none of the jokes really sounded new. But Santos was so funny the audience could not help but applaud in between laughs.
Election-themed and staged during yet another campaign period Santos’s show included an exemplification of Grace Poe, a candidate to be the next president of the Philippines. As amply suggested by the jokes, Poe is a unique product of our post-Edsa times. While finding political fame after the Marcos era the jokes could not help but refer to her family’s loyalty to the dictator, even rumors about her biological links with the late dictator. It was also as much Poe’s fault that Santos had to deliver many of her character’s lines ala-FPJ.
If the show had a low point, it was Santos’ exemplification of Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III. This was when the audience almost stopped laughing and the mood change was palpable. Despite the, err, headpiece, the yellow shirt, the high-waist pair of pants and the awkward gait, the character, as the person being characterized, just isn’t funny. The comedian here is tested to his thespian limits. Perhaps Santos would have better success impersonating Aquino’s anointed candidate Mar Roxas in future runs instead.
Santos’ exemplification of Mommy D is a direct contrast of his Aquino. The person is funny in her unique way in the first place. Her lines on the show however are new, referring to Congressman Emmanuel Pacquiao’s fairly recent tirade against same-sex marriage. Moreover, it is highly probable that Senate shall soon have its boxer in addition to basketballers and bowlers anyway.
As political jokes became funny again immediately post-Edsa, Santos’s WTF jokes are still funny thirty years later. One wishes though that the politicians and personalities that make our country a butt of jokes start becoming part of the past. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)