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'Mamatay kayong lahat!'.

The President's State of the Nation Address this year was supposed to be a no-drama affair, and for the most part - including, unfortunately, the President's speech - it proved, indeed, to be staid and humdrum.

But a bit of theatrics did happen at the red carpet before the main event, when actor Phillip Salvador, a rabid supporter of the President, was asked his thoughts about the occasion.

Salvador claimed Mr. Duterte was doing everything he could for the country and the people, and yet he was still being criticized. To the critics of his beloved President then, he had a message. Heaving back and then summoning all the dramatics of a faded diva contemptuously swatting away at ungrateful fans, Salvador bellowed: 'MamaTAY kayong lahat! (Die, all of you!)'

The performance, if anything, only proved how far Salvador has come from his halcyon days as the favorite actor of the late great Lino Brocka, and how, in his early decrepitude, he has become that terrifying specter among his peers: the hammiest of hams.

How Salvador was discovered for the movies and the performing arts is classic show-biz lore.

Brocka, later to become a National Artist for film, was directing 'Flores para Los Muertos,' Orlando Nadres' Filipino translation of Tennessee Williams' 'A Streetcar Named Desire,' for the activist theater group Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) in 1977, and he couldn't find his Stanley Kowalski, the brutish but charismatic character made immortal on the stage and in film by Marlon Brando.

That is, until he saw Salvador, then a lean and strapping newcomer, and cast him in the part opposite Laurice Guillen as Blanche DuBois.

Salvador would appear in another Peta production of a Williams play in Filipino ('Pusa sa Yerong Bubong,' Tony Perez's translation of 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof') in 1978, this time with another Brocka protege, Hilda Koronel, before he became a full-fledged movie star.

Salvador's rugged, earthy quality made him an acclaimed shoo-in for intense Everyman roles in the films of Brocka and other filmmakers: a security guard in 'Jaguar,' a movie bit player in 'Bona,' the resentful other son in 'Cain at Abel,' a laborer in 'Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim,' an ex-political detainee in 'Orapronobis,' the rebel priest Conrado Balweg in 'Balweg.'

His defining works, in other words, were about giving voice to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, those struggling against powerlessness.

It would be a stretch, of course, to expect an actor to be his celluloid characters, but even if Salvador were only half as attentive to the values and convictions of his mentor Brocka, he would be the last to end up hurling vitriol at those who speak up and protest against what they see as wrongdoing in government and society.

At one point, Brocka was famously jailed, along with fellow firebrand artist Behn Cervantes, at the Manila City Jail for rallying against the Marcos dictatorship. He was a fixture in the parliament of the streets, and even after the Edsa revolution, he remained an uncompromising voice.

Appointed by then President Corazon Aquino to the 1986 Constitutional Commission tasked to draft a new Constitution, he resigned in protest after - Salvador should read this - 'heated discussions on an article to protect the Philippine economy from foreign domination,' according to a September 1986 UPI (United Press International) report.

To his fellow artists, Brocka had this to say: 'They may gag you and blindfold you, silence and imprison you, but they will never be able to destroy what made you an artist in the first place - your brave and continuing dedication to the human race.'

Salvador has obviously forgotten all that. What's disturbing about his malediction against critics and dissenters is that scores, in fact, have been dying over the last three years. Thousands of Filipinos have been slain under the Duterte administration such that a shocked world has taken notice, and yet Salvador seemingly thinks that number is still paltry, and wishes for more.

However, if criticizing the government is an act that deserves death, why was his buddy and fellow actor Robin Padilla tittering beside him as he said those words?

To recall, Padilla roundly and regularly criticized the previous administration; perhaps he, too, should be included in Salvador's death wish?

Look at what fanaticism and uncritical thinking have made of Salvador - a bloated, leering lackey of the repressive order, a reactionary who wishes harm on his fellow citizens, and, gauging from that red-carpet performance, now an irredeemably bad actor. Brocka must be shrieking in his grave.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jul 25, 2019
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