“Did I do anything wrong today, or has the world
always been like this and I’ve been too wrapped up
in myself to notice?”
Arthur Dent / Douglas Adams

For Susan Roces, advice from ‘Sabrina’

By Victor Alfred A. Villano

NOT BEING a big fan of many Filipino movies, I can’t really say whether Susan Roces’ June 29 performance—both her speech and her replies to reporters’ questions— was one of her best. Yet one cannot help but be of two minds about what Ms. Roces had to say.

On the one hand, her words, passionate and angry, were certainly powerful. That line about Mrs. Arroyo stealing the presidency “not once, but twice” was a real zinger: you could almost feel a blade cutting through the president’s skin, slowly, blood oozing out with every utterance. And that reply to a question about what Mrs. Arroyo called the “sacrifice” that was her husband’s impending exile? (Ms. Roces disavowed any knowledge of the president’s marital history.) A masterful display of excoriation by ridicule.

On the other hand, Ms. Roces’ words could also be seen in a different light: powerful though they may have been, one could see them as expressions of a widow’s pent-up frustrations, finally given plausible reason for release (plausible, because to be fair, Mrs. Arroyo’s guilt has yet to be established). What we saw may well have been the fury of a woman at least thrice scorned—by the courts, by fate (her husband’s death), and now, by the Gloria-gate tapes. Her performance, seen from this angle, was more rabble-rousing rant than speech; more cutting riposte than reflective response.

But whatever one makes of her performance, what was truly striking about Ms. Roces was her evasiveness on the question of what her followers—whom she considers, perhaps a bit presumptuously, to be the entire Filipino nation—should do. Rouse the rabble she may have done, but to what end? To bring the government down? Apparently– unless you are willing to believe that the point of the whole Club Filipino spectacle (spectacular?) was to allow Ms. Roces some venue for, um, “emotional release.”

If regime change was the goal, how did Ms. Roces propose that it be achieved? Mum was the word on that score, at least at first. Say what you must about legal adviser Harriet Demetriou’s hairdo, but the woman knows her law. Ms. Roces mentioned—or maybe hinted–that she left the means for toppling the government to that apparently homogenous–and apparently very, very much affronted–gob called “The People.”

But who are “The People”? Rez Cortez? Elly Pamatong? Me? Oh yes, maybe she meant that other HGLE (homogenous gob-like entity):”The Masses.”

At one point in her speech, Ms. Roces cried: “Tuloy ang laban!” The struggle must go on. (Much like “the show?” one wonders). Ms. Roces’s intentions were exposed, to my mind, by her reply to a reporter who asked if she was calling for people to take to the streets. She noted that the reporter seemed quite eager for this to happen, then said something that might well have been a line in one of her late husband’s, or maybe Eddie Garcia’s, movies. Voice quivering, she declared: “Umpisahan mo, tatapusin ko!” In other words: let the gob well up in the streets, and then… then I shall lead it!

Showbiz, as we all know, has long ago reached the political big-time in this country. But this is getting seriously ridiculous. Ms. Roces would be well-advised to do what Harrison Ford once told his frantic on-screen mother in his otherwise forgettable remake of “Sabrina”: Take a pill.

On a lighter note, if “The People” are a “gob”, what would one call the individual citizen, a goblin? Given Filipinos’ recent political history, one wonders whether we are, all of us, a nation of self-destructive goblins–mischievous and ugly demons.


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