The press people looked dumbfounded as they were entering Bahay na Puti in Cubao last night, January 12. Either they were marveling at the grandness of the place or asking why Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II was hosting a lavish dinner for them.
Their thought balloon: "Tatakbo ba siya?"
But nobody, at least to our knowledge, voiced out the question.
Sen. Mar Roxas, popularly called Mr. Palengke, has Philippine politics in his blood. He is the son of the late Sen. Gerry Roxas and grandson of former President Manuel Roxas.
Mr. Palengke just gave a brief welcome message, and then hopped right away from one table to another, mingling with entertainment editors and writers.
PEP (Philippine Entertainment) seized the opportunity to chat with him about showbiz-related matters.
MMFF IS NOT ENOUGH. The first question was about his assessment on the local entertainment scene. From the point of view of a politician, who earned his degree from Wharton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, our television shows and movies have the potential to reach a wider market.
He began, "Para sa akin, pinakamalaking hamon sa entertainment industry is papaano ma-e-expand ang market beyond not just the Philippines. Kasi, kung aasahan lang yung Philippine market, parang limitadong-limitado at yung hirap na dinaranas nung industriya ngayon, because of the limited market—plus may piracy pa—talagang mahirap na mas masapawan yun. So, ang importante dito, paano makaka-attract ng capital para iyong mga pelikula, yung mga produkto, mabebenta sa ibang market?"
The senator believes that the country has what it takes to go head to head with Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Taiwan. As we all know, Asianovela has invaded the local television landscape with TV series in the early 2000s. Prior to that, we had soaps from Spanish-speaking countries.
Mar Roxas continued, "Kung tayo nanonood ng Mexican or ng Korean, bakit hindi natin sila mabentahan din....yung mga Thai, yung mga Indonesian, Koreans and Mexicans, [bakit ‘di bentahan] din ng products from the Philippines? That would require capital, but I think, that's the way to move forward in the industry."
Local showbiz needs more than holding an annual Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). He says "expanding the market" will pave the way for more opportunities.
"Nakikita natin, one week, during the festival, dominado muna yung market. Kung ilang hundred millions ang kinikita nitong mga pelikula na ito...But what about the rest of the year? Mahirap mabuhay yung mga nagtatrabaho sa industriya, kung two to five weeks in a year lang nagkakaroon ng food...I think that the way to move forward is to have a continuous source of income, and that it comes from a bigger, broader market."
RATING VERSUS CENSORSHIP. PEP also asked him about the industry's perennial issue with the government: Censorship.
Sen. Roxas was quick to say, "I'm more [for] rating than censorship. Hindi ko gusto ang censorship. Ilagay nila ang R diyan or X, or double R, pero...Basta sa tao, desisyon ng tao kung anong papanoorin. Ako, hindi ako naniniwala sa censorship, mas pabor ako sa rate, i-rate lang nila, para nasa sa tao ang desisyon. Mas tiwala ako na ang tao ang magdesisyon sa bawat sarili kesa sa merong isang nagsi-set kung anong dapat, kung anong hindi dapat."
All throughout the chat, he spoke calmly and in a relaxed manner, but when we brought up his love life, we sensed a tiny bit of evasiveness.
LOVE LIFE. Initially, we thought of approaching his girlfriend, newscaster and Rated K host Korina Sanchez, for her to describe their relationship. But the lady politely refused, saying, "Naku, bawal, hindi puwede. Alam mo naman...Si Mar na lang ang tanungin niyo."
When we turned to the senator, he briefly said, "We're okay. We're very okay."
PEP then asked about the couple's future plans.
"I will let you know," he replied. Pausing briefly, and then with a sheepish smile he added, "Basta, nasa magandang lugar ang aming kapupuntahan."
In a separate interview with a group of entertainment editors and reporters, he described 'a day in the life of Mar and Korina'.
"Manonood ng sine, gano'n, o kaya kakain lang. Nung isang gabi, alas diyes na ng gabi yun or something...Naghanap kami ng matamis, so, dumaan kami diyan sa Razon's, naghanap ng halo-halo na saba, e, tapos wala na pala, naubusan. So, pumunta kami sa Jollibee, bumili ng peach mango pie. Masaya na kami no'n, di ba? Kasi yung quality time, yung precious quality time, hindi siya very important, e, you just make time...
HIS SON. The 51-year-old public servant also talked about his 15-year-old son, whom he described as "ordinaryong tao, estudyante...nasa nanay niya."
The senator said, "Itong Christmas, magkasama kami." Despite his busy schedule, he makes it a point to regularly spend time with him.
Showbiz press got intrigued: "Bakit hindi kayo nagkatuluyan nung nanay?"
He answered casually: "Matagal na yun, e...15 months and 15 years ago na yun, e, di ba? Ganun na lang yun, hindi lang nagkatugma siguro."
When asked if he's the marrying type, he quipped, "I'm the committed guy."
The senator made no formal announcement about his presidential bid come 2010, but when we left Bahay na Puti at around 9:30 p.m., we just figured, "Simula na ng mahabang biyahe ni Mr. Palengke."