BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO
Governor and congressman-elect Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar is not prone to purple prose, and, as a former journalist, is very much inclined toward brevity and conciseness in both verbal and written communication. Still, he insists that describing entertainment icon Boy Abunda as a “treasure” of the Estehanons (the people of Eastern Samar) is an understatement.
The context here is important, the governor said. When Este-hanons turn on their TV sets and they see Boy Abunda defy the outrageous bent of the entertainment aspect of television to display decency, civility, depth and discernment in a medium that allows too little room for such class act, they are naturally proud, very proud, added the governor.
The governor added: There are of course stars in our provincial galaxy and they are in various fields such as business, politics and the mass media. But not one shines brighter than the star of Boy Abunda.
The criticisms that came in the wake of the statement from president apparent Noynoy Aquino that he may tap Boy Abunda to serve in his Cabinet as tourism secretary have not been taken lightly by the Estehanons. The slight and criticisms rankle and the Estehanons—through their governor—want to articulate the sense of the province. Why? Again, the context is important.
Eastern Samar had long languished in its “Club 20” status, meaning membership in the 20 poorest provinces of the country. It had gotten off that list, said Governor Evardone, and on the benchmarks by which human development has been measured: education, health etc., the provincial accomplishments have been impressive. This “emerging province” status has awakened a sense of pride that was previously kept on hold because of the province’s tough, if not tortured, past.
Now, Estehanons want to correct a slight when they see one and they saw one in the recent criticisms over the plan of the president apparent to name Boy Abunda to the Cabinet.
Is the province’s sense of pride over the statement of the president apparent and the sense of hurt over the criticisms justified? I think so, based on empirical evidence. Below is a comparison of Boy Abunda’s achievements compared with those to Senator Richard Gordon, who said that the tourism department needs somebody “cerebral”—an indirect hit on Boy Abunda.
Boy Abunda is an inspiring story of meritocracy. His rise in an industry dominated by clans and familiar surnames—and staying on top of the game after rising phenomenally—has very few parallels. As Boy Abunda himself said, the opening window to success in such a competitive field is a very slight one and the more dominant stories are those of aspirants to entertainment fame getting nothing but their 15 minutes of fame.
In a field where success is often fleeting, Boy Abunda has been on top of his game for over a decade—and has been improving his craft through the years.
His fields of discipline have also been expanding. When a TV network signs Boy to a contract, there is this guarantee that you get a prime time competitor and a revenue generator.
In his craft, Boy can be likened to Meryl Streep, always evolving and always improving, and at the same time avoiding the traps of outsized egos and boorishness that is often the bent of successful entertainment personalities.
That quest for excellence will not depart Boy Abunda should he decide to forget about his jumbo salary and make the ultimate sacrifice of serving government.
In contrast, where would Richard Gordon be right now were his surname not Gordon and without the benefit of his family tree?
Would he be as successful, if say, his place of birth were Borongan, Eastern Samar or an islet in the ARMM?
These are debatable issues. He could have achieved what he has achieved in life even without the privileged upbringing. Or, he could have been a miserable failure?
But what we are certain of is this: There are very few present-day stories of inspiring meritocracy as the life story of Boy Abunda.
This may be banal but it is worth citing.
Olongapo City, the place of the Gordons, saw the US, through Subic Naval Base, as a benevolent power—propping up a mono-economy, equipping its work force with world-class skills. Even as it was shuttered down, the naval base left a solid and strategically located infrastructure upon which what is now the SBMA was built.
Eastern Samar, the province of Boy, saw the US through the prism of the Balangiga massacre, the “howling wilderness.”