Sunday, February 14, 2010

Miriam Defensor-Santiago in a Fishbowl

It must have been a daunting task portraying someone as lividly colorful as the lady senator whose verbal acuity compares to no one. And I have always admired her steely resolve and endless pursuit to justify her every endeavor. Not only is she painfully honest and incorruptible, she is also abrasively sensitive to a fault. But that's what makes this lady a cut above the rest!

Four actresses were tasked to portray her in the "Miriam Defensor-Santiago Story" (shown at ABS CBN) - from childhood to adulthood - Miles Ocampo (the child Miriam), Maja Salvador (the young teen Miriam), Julia Clarete (the collegiate Miriam) and Tessie Tomas (the adult Miriam). I was initially trepidant with this casting as these 4 actresses look so dissimilar. They couldn't even legibly pass as sisters. But as the narrative strain begins to unfold, I was caught with the story of a struggling girl born to an overbearing mother who couldn't take mediocrity sitting down!

We begin to understand Miriam's constant search for excellence, and why she is the way we know her. The drama series humanized the very public and caricaturish Miriam. And it breaks my heart seeing her grieve in public when her favorite child (who calls her "beautiful") commits suicide (supposedly because he couldn't get into UP Law School - as the telefilm suggests). As her constant struggle ebbs, she rationalizes her divine purpose. And if that gives her a degree of peace, I pray she succeeds in getting it!

What the show taught me for sure is that, despite Miriam's occasional delusions of grandeur and intolerance, she is one heck of a hard working and intelligent lady - and that she will probably be immune to this pervasive atmosphere of greed that pollutes our government and our society! And if we have several elections running tomorrow, I shall cast my vote on Miriam Defensor-Santiago - over and over again!

On point of performance, Tessie Tomas was almost spot on, although I was initially reluctant to watch her reduce the feisty senator into a stand-up act! But she was very effective. In fact everyone was! The best performance however was turned in by Julia Clarete who wore the senator's young persona like second skin! She was effusively sincere, her emotions palpable; too bad she is now reduced to the daily shenanigans of a frolicky "Eat Bulaga" when she could run rings around the likes of say, Marian Rivera, or Kris Bernal, or much of the gallery of stars that inhabit GMA-7. Maja Salvador was a curious choice to play teen Miriam. But her very short stint glowingly showcased how passionately Miriam wanted the love and acceptance of an overbearing mother (played by Jean Garcia - and later, Marita Zobel). When she looked at her mother, you could see a daughter's longing to snag her loving acknowledgment - that she indeed is a daughter worthy of her motherly love! Count on Maja to deliver the goods!

Tessie Tomas

Julia Clarete

Maja Salvador

Miles Ocampo

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