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That was 1967, December 30, 1967
That was 1967
By Quijano de Manila
DEHIN GOLI was 1967 and it wasn’t pogi either.
This year of disgrace stank with the lousiest polls in memory, a colossal snafu of an election composed in equal parts of villainy and ineptitude. Then Comelec had the gall to blame the mess on “lazy voters.” If the people are to blame it’s because they have too long suffered the insults of their “servants.”
The amok campaign that preceded the messy polls did good in revealing why ours is a violent society. The moral crusaders have been barking up the wrong tree, straining at the gnat of mass media while swallowing the rampaging elephant of politics. What James Bond movie can beat a Philippine poll campaign in ruthlessness? And 007 is but fiction while bloody politics is the world in which we live, move and have our being, besides spawning models for pragmatic behavior. The lesson dinned by these models, year after election year, is that one has to be ruthless, but ruthless, to get anywhere at all; and our young can now argue that, if they run wild enough, they, too, may be able to run for public office and maybe even win an election, like certain notorious ’67 exemplars. Their elders certainly weren’t slow this year in proving all over again that politicians form the largest criminal class in the Philippines.
If told that certain people in this country are allowed, every two years, to litter streets with waste paper, deface walls with propaganda, disturb the peace of the night with loudspeakers, terrorize the land with armed goods, corrupt the citizenry with bribes, and disrupt public order with their quarrels, feuds, gunfights and blood baths, we would surely say that so criminal a group belongs behind bars. What we actually say, on election day, is that this group belongs in public office; and any misgivings we may have are silenced by the admonition to be grateful that, at least, we are free to have this people to litter, deface, disturb, terrorize, corrupt and disrupt the land. Just think of all the slave states that don’t enjoy our good fortune!
Even so, Campaign ’67 was the limit. From the Gordon killing to the Alberto killing to the Ilocos Sur carnage, the campaign moved to a glut point beyond which the public might have thrown up in sheer nausea. Apparently the danger point was not reached; but the nausea could explain the resounding NO to the plebiscite proposals to increase the number of congressmen and to allow them to sit in the constitutional convention. The people have spoken, they don’t want more politicians, may their tribe not increase.
And who can blame the long-suffering public? One would have thought that, with the elections over, the politicians would be merciful enough to give us some respite from their wranglings and wearily did we applaud the ritual post-poll call to forget the animosities of the campaign and restore peace to the land. But, not surprisingly, the smoke of the savage campaign continues to darken the post-election battlefield, for violence breeds violence. The triumphant suburban mayor who warned his town’s teachers that they would feel the weight of his wrath because they didn’t support him would have been just as vindictive if he had lost; Philippine political tradition justifies vindictiveness in both winner and loser. If you win, you have been authorized a course of violence; if you lose, your only recourse is violence. And we, the hapless electorate, the supposed masters of the land, are free to vote only for winners.
Compared to political violence, civic violence, this year was pathetic, especially that “rebellion” of Tata Valentin’s fanatic peasants. In the other top crime cases – Lucila Lalu’s and Maggie de la Riva’s – the chief suspect was the Philippine press, which offered an alibi: it was conducting a crusade at the time. Detective work by the U.P. Institute of Mass Communication indicated that the press was indeed conducting a crusade, a circulation crusade. The Philippine Press Council, the watchdog of a watchdog press, may never recover from that expose of the U.P. For the local press, 1967 is the year when Lucila Lalu (for noble crusading reasons, of course) outranked the Arab-Israeli War on the front pages.
But if the press was hysterical so were other crusaders. Unpermissive though it is, Philippine society seems to see itself as a wide-open a go-go where anything goes. Actually, it’s one of the most inhibited in the world – timid, fearful, square, censor-ridden, reactionary and, therefore, hysterical, ever ready to make a mountain out of a molehill. But it imagines itself as being right there with the Now Generation, as being a with-it culture as hippie as the mod world of London and New York.
The gap between what our society thinks it is and what it really is produced comedy in 1967. A prize example is the to-do over the mini skirt. Churchmen fulminated against it, legislators threatened to outlaw it, moralists blamed the crime wave on it, and the literati debated its pros and cons. But visitors from abroad could only wonder why Filipinos were arguing so heatedly over something that just wasn’t there. One expatriate from New York complained that he had been in Manila a month already and still had to see a true mini. What passes for mini among us – a skirt barely baring the kneecaps – would be a crinoline abroad; and outside Manila even this timid mini is hardly what you might call standard. Yet we spent spirit denouncing or defending what was never more than a showpiece on local fashion ramps. Our line of reasoning seems to have gone this way: mini is mod; we are mod; therefore, the mini must be the mode among us. And those who know the true mini watched in bewilderment as we bade the little skirt that wasn’t there to go away.
Such exorcisms were in the spirit of a culture which, in the same year its haute couture dazzled Europe in the creations of Pitoy Moreno saw a band of folk mystics turn Taft Avenue into Armageddon, armed with amulets and their faith in a father anito, a mother anito, a son anito, a tribe anito and any number of hero and ancestor anitos. Avenue and amulet paired no more oddly this year than did sophisticated beach resort and witch doctors, as in the celebrated shocker of faith healer Tony Agpaoa ministering to American pilgrims in search of miracles on Bauang’s cote d’azur. We blushed to think that, because of doctor Tony, the world might think us still a primitive tribe, when here we were already able to pronounce psychedelic and maybe even understand it. But tribal we were in ’67, more curious about a woman cut up into serving pieces than in a war abroad that had the rest of world on edge; more concerned about the tribal feuds, killings and vendettas that we miscall elections than in the event of the year that may prove to be of more concern to us: the fall of the pound. Shut up in our little settlement, we hardly heard the rumblings next-door in China and scolded those who showed interest – though ’67 did hear the first serous proposals to start communicating with the Red half of the world.
The proposals stemmed from a threat early in the year of another rice shortage and the possibility that we might have to buy rice from China. (That country, incidentally, was so often rumored this year as about to collapse it began to lock as marvelous as Pisa’s leaning tower.) Happily for our souls, our bellies were spared the contagion of Red rice, saved from the outrage by what has aptly became known as miracle rice though there are those who aver that miracle rice makes for good reaping but poor eating. On a level with amulet and faith healing was the attempt to exercise the bad spirits of indolence and ineptitude from the rice fields by transforming the immemorial planting incantation, Magtanim hindi biro, into a “happy song.” The Revised Version is awful; the original was at least honest in seeing planting as back-breaking drudgery; but we cling, like Tata Valentin and doctor Tony, to the tenets of magic: you make a thing so by saying it is so. Alas, saying that planting rice is fun doesn’t remove the back – breaking drudgery from it; only machines and technical skill can do that. Another act of magic this year was the Rural Development Congress sponsored by the Catholic hierarchy. ‘The Church Goes To The Barrio,’ announced that congress. But having said so, the Church seems to believe it already is in the barrio – though the peasants have yet to feel the august presence in their midst.
However, the Church continues to be very active indeed in crusading against short sleeves, the mini, naughty movies and Sex. That, with the nation in crisis, is the Church’s idea of Catholic Action. For a typical champion of that kind of action, Manila Vice-Mayor Astorga, 1967 was a year of both triumph and frustration – triumph, because his crusade against the motels was upheld by the Supreme Court; and frustration, because, at this writing, he seems to have been rejected by the city he accused of too much fornication. Also rejected by this unregenerate city was the Iglesia Ni Cristo, which couldn’t fly Mr. Ocampo to City Hall even with Malacañang as the other engine.
For Yeba of Maharnilad, ’67 was Come On, Seven; and he provided along with Ninoy Aquino, the kindly light in the gloom encircling the Liberals. Hizzoner started the year with a bang by closing down American retail establishments, in line with Judge Jarencio’s interpretation of the retail law. Forced by the Palace to let the Americans go on retailing, Yeba took his fight to the Supreme Court. For this, he was denied garbage trucks from reparations and funds that belonged to the city. His year-long fight with the Palace culminated with the poll battle that was such a disaster for Malacañang and the Iglesia. Villegas the victor is already looking forward to a larger fight with the Palace in ’69.
Yeba and Ninoy easily top the news personalities of the year, which will have to include a dead man, poor Fenny Hechanova, who excited in a blaze of headlines because of the bizarre way he died, of gas poisoning, in a French villa. Nor can there be any question about which is the Family of the Year. The Laurels win hands down, or up, what with Speaker Pepito getting shot in cheek and chest in a night club; son Banjo running for mayor of Tanuan and winning; uncle Doy running for the Senate and almost getting crippled in a campaign accident; and Uncle Dodjie getting killed in Macao in a Grand Prix race. But ’67 should also be remembered as the year Speaker Pepito had a spat with Ambassador Blair over the “balasubas dollar.” The Loser of the Year is properly Pancho Magalona, who didn’t make it to the Rizal capitol but did give professional politicos a much-needed lesson on how to be a gentleman in politics. As for Woman of the Year, it’s a toss-up between Maggie de la Riva, who made the headlines, and Helen Benitez, who made the Senate.
Though President Marcos won the elections, using all the resources of the administration, ’67 was, news-wise, an off-year for him, his one authentic headline moment being that operation of his for gallstones. It was a quiet year for Imelda Marcos, too, compared to last year’s Summit. But for Kokoy Romualdez, ’67 meant the graduation of kid brother from the short pants of special envoy to the working clothes of an elective official: governor of Leyte.
The year’s visitors ranged from a boorish Robert Vaughn and a captivating Kathryn Grayson to a reigning pop idol, Del Shannon, who epitomized the year by just lolling back towards the end of his show at the Coliseum to sing Sunny, while the house rose for a standing ovation. But the most charming showbiz visitor of the year was Trini Lopez, and too bad he had to perform at the Rizal at prohibitive prices. Trini is a taut, tense, intense singer who doesn’t horse around onstage but does get a terrific hold on his audience – and you haven’t heard Cu-Cu-Ru-Cu-Cu Paloma until you hear Trini whispering it wistfully, as he did at the Rizal, after dedicating it to “my friend Dodjie Laurel,” whose death had just been announced.
The year continues the high climb of pop music, which is becoming indistinguishable from “serious” music – or, rather, is cutstripping long-hair music in complexity and inventiveness. The Beatles have already been recognized by eminent composers as a great musical fact and the intricate music flowering under their influence explains why. The aforementioned Sunny is a bench mark in pop music, a restructuring of the pop tune. Instead of the traditional refrain, middle section, and reprise of the refrain, Sunny simply extends the refrain, but with subtle shifts in beat in each stanza and the use of off-rhymes in the lyrics. It’s as if a sonnet were written with two octaves, or more, but without losing its form. Sunny is one hell of a great song.
The wonderful thing about 1967 is that it’s chockful of great songs. These new pop tunes are longer than the standards of the past, more sustained, more complex, more literate, more witty. A song like This Day is adult in thought and feeling, far removed from the love-dove June-moon format of yesterday’s hits. The sophistication is obvious in the words and music of such ’67 hits as Bus Stop, A Kind of Hush, Runaway, Homeward Bound, and Don’t Sleep in the Subway, Darling, the last one being memorable for its admonition to “Take off your clothes, my love, and close the door.” Even a conventional “sweet” song of ’67 like Lorelei considerably improves on the Mona Lisa genre and a progressive melody like All I See Is You just about breaks your heart with its fresh loveliness. As the year ends the air throbs to the strains of A Man and a Woman; but the memory song of 1967 is definitely Going Out of My Head, an extension of the Cole Porter style, and more valuable than a dozen pretentious symphonies. The concert halls are in the wrong part of the world; they should transfer to the discotheques, if they really want to promote great music.
What we wore in ’67 was principally paisley and psychedelic. The paisley had a brief vogue in mid-year but the psychedelic may carry over into ’68. Stripes in shirt-jacs gave way to bold prints and plaids. The color-stripped skipper so popular in the early 1950’s is making a comeback. Ugliest male style of the year was plaid for trousers, or the male palazzo pants. Colored patterns are tolerable in shorts, repulsive in longs. The Beatle bangs are being replaced by the DC-5 haircut (something like Rizal’s) that the Dale Clark Five made popular, and the Startrek, after the style of a TV serial hero. Whether to hide or show off their long hair, boys are wearing their collars higher and higher.
For the girls, the Twiggy haircut has made inroads on the long flowing tresses worn kook-style, nakalugay, that were so popular during the first half of the year. Dresses graduated from granny to mini to tent. Local thighs are still not for public eyes but the knees are definitely cut to tease. With the twiggy and the tent, the girls wear textured stockings in pastel hues, slingback shoes (with the ankle showing), mini hand – or shoulder bags, large-strapped psychedelic watches, and costume jewelry of hoop, dangling or wooden earrings, psychedelic bracelets, “nut” rings and enameled bangles. In general, the fashion is “kicky” – bare as much as you dare – and tends to low waists, low belts, low pockets, bubble pants and wrangler jeans.
Boys and girls this year shared fishnet socks, the paisley, and the three “in” fashion colors: green, pink and yellow. But where boys’ clothes are getting tighter all the time (the male shirt is now as closely fitted as girl’s blouses used to be) feminine clothes are loosening wider and wider.
Pogi dehin goli was, of course, the expression of the year and it has bred a host of variations. Pogi nga, goli nga, pero dehin naman siopil. Which means he doesn’t use Colgate. And other objections are phrased as dehin naman bonsa and dehin naman brocha. If you’re so backward you know only the original expression, you get plastered with a hoot: “Rural na yan, pare!” Kanto boys this year saluted the sexy with a reckless sigh: “Di bale majaime-jose, makamaggie lang!” And the stylish greeting is no longer Hi! But Harken! The pogi with a limp wrist is properly a pogita; and the mature pogi is either a mamords or a spidial (ideal man). It’s rural to have a shindig; the very sophisticated now put on a soiree, where nobody dances and you just eat, drink, talk and neck to dim lights. And if you’ve got a screw missing you’re a 99 – meaning you’re only 99% there.
The twiggies and pogies started out dancing the soul in ’67 (to Bus Stop), switched to the shingaling (with Helen Gamboa doing the bebe, bebe stuff best of all) and then to the boogaloo. They slow-dragged to Sitting in the Park and did the Funky Broadway to Tabatha Twitchit. Dancing has become so spontaneous the rule is maski papano – or mash-k-pops!
Having mentioned Helen Gamboa, one should go on and nominate her as the Movie Star of the Year, because she a brought a new quality to movie heroines: crisp and piquant instead of the usual soggy or tomboy types. Her Operation Discotheque was one of the year’s best jobs, a musical-agent film that outdid Sabotage in craftsmanship. The only other film that one found memorable was Cover Girls, where everybody in the cast did the best acting of their careers. The early provinciano scenes were rather painful, as are all local take-offs on hicks, but when the film moved into fashion house and a movie studio it turned into entertaining satire, broad but hilarious, and with a deadly aim. Susan Roces and Amalia Fuentes proved they could sparkle even if given intelligent material; Tony Cayado, taking all haute couture for his province was a scream; and very special mention must be made of Tita Muñoz, who, here as in Operation Discotheque, displayed a flair for cinema that shouldn’t go to waste. She shone to far more advantage in these two commercial films than in the loftier-minded Flight of the Sparrow.
Of the films abroad, A Man For All Seasons was somewhat overrated, Chaplin’s Countess From Hong Kong was terribly underrated, but Alfie and Darling lived up to their rave reviews. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton contributed three films to the year’s top crop: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Hour of the Comedians. The box-office bonanza of the year were the Italian westerns, the best of which, like A Coffin For Django, are gothic masterpieces. The latest James Bond is the slowest in pace of the series; far more shocking was Audrey Hepburn’s Wait Until Dark, which will probably still be reshowing when we have forgotten what the other ’67 films were.
And what else of ’67 is there to remember? The original a-go-gos at the Nile, complete with girls in cages; and the Sulo Friday a-go-gos, which have proved more durable. Susan Salcedo at Victoria Peak getting the place jumping with her throaty rock and sweetly winding up the night with The Party’s Over. Mike Parsons shooting the first Philippine underground film at his Pasay house; and the night at Indios Bravos that the film was “premiered.” Elorde pitifully dancing around in the ring to the boos of the crowd, the last time he fought at the Coliseum. And the fine chill that set in early in December to make this the coldest holiday season in years.
Nothing so good in ’67 as it’s ending.