By Cherie del Rio
They were the most popular matinee idols of their time. Richard Gomez was the ultimate depiction of the much-desired breed of the “tall, dark, and handsome”. Aga Muhlach was the mestizo actor known for being extremely good-looking whichever way you look at him—thus earning the title of “Ang lalaking walang anggulo.”
Richard Gomez, or Goma to friends and colleagues in the business, has made a name for himself as an actor, athlete, TV show host, model, and director. He had chart-topping movies and TV shows. Goma has also won Best Actor merits from prestigious award-giving bodies such as Gawad Urian, FAMAS, Metro Manila Film Festival, and Star Awards. Goma has also been branded as a ladies’ man, having had romantic relationships with equally popular showbiz stars like Sharon Cuneta and Dawn Zulueta. The Dawn and Richard tandem is perhaps one of the most iconic love teams in Philippine cinema, with their critically acclaimed movie, Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit, as one of the most memorable romantic dramas in Pinoy movie history. But Dawn and Richard’s off-screen love affair was not meant for eternity. The couple eventually split up and Goma later married Lucy Torres, his leading lady in one of their more popular TV commercials.
Goma has had his share of downtime in showbiz, having transferred from one network to another and ultimately coming back to ABS-CBN where he landed the lead role in the remake of Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit — the primetime hit teleserye Walang Hanggan (where he rekindles onscreen romance with Dawn). This new soap could well be Goma’s biggest break after a period of drought in his career. And it seems that the veteran actor subscribes to the saying that one must strike while the iron is hot. He now has plans to run for Mayor of Ormoc City in Leyte in the 2013 elections.
Aga Muhlach shares the same circumstance. He has expressed his intent to run for congressman of Camarines Sur. Last August 3 Aga was sworn in by Mar Roxas as a new member of the Liberal Party. Incidentally, Goma and Lucy, who is an incumbent congresswoman of Leyte, are also LP members.
A couple of years ago, in the height of the fame of shows like Oki Doki Doc and movies like Kailangan Kita, one could not have foreseen the decline in Aga’s career — considering that the actor was able to maintain his baby face good looks and impeccable acting skills. But perhaps with factors such as age, marriage, and the tough competition with and among newer and younger actors, even the biggest names in Philippine cinema are susceptible to having their once stellar careers morph into lackluster visibility in showbiz.
Compared to Goma, Aga’s career has taken a steady spiral down to unpopularity. He has no new projects or upcoming movies. He left his home network ABS-CBN and transferred to TV 5 in 2011. The multi-awarded actor now hosts a TV 5 show called Pinoy Explorer. He is married to former beauty queen Charlene Gonzalez.
Both Goma and Aga are seeking a new career in politics — a considerably seamless transition since the realms of politics and show business are so closely intertwined in the Philippines. Showbiz celebrities, whether they are seasoned actors or starlets, have gone in and out of politics. And even politicians themselves sometimes cross over to the world of movies and TV.
Aga is up against formidable odds in his first try in politics. He will be facing the candidate of the Fuentebella dynasty of Camarines Sur. Aga does not consider this an obstacle, confidently offering his services to the people of Camarines Sur, believing that the “people will decide.”
Goma, on the other hand, has his eyes on the mayoral seat in his wife’s hometown of Ormoc. Wife Lucy meanwhile is seeking reelection as Ormoc City’s representative. It was actually Goma who sought the congressional seat in 2010 but he was disqualified for lack of residency, forcing Lucy to take his place at the last minute.
The actor is confident of winning the mayoral seat, pointing to his wife’s performance in Congress. “Sabi ko sa kanila, huwag na silang manggulo kasi ang ganda ng ginagawang trabaho ni Lucy,” Goma said. “There’s so much improvement, there’s so much progress sa Ormoc… Continuously, nanggugulo sila. I’ll be forced to run head to head against them. Ayaw nilang tumigil so maglaban tayo head to head. Lalabanan ko sila,” referring to his political foes.
Intrigues will continue to besiege the political path that Goma and Aga have chosen to traverse. Their political opponents will undoubtedly find one controversy after another to hurl against the former matinee idols. Their motive for running will always be questioned. And they will, as previous actors who have shifted their careers to politics have been grilled, be accused of using their showbiz fame and popularity to garner votes and will therefore win not based on actual political merit or skill but on face value and artista factors.
The trend of showbiz personalities shifting to politics is not new in the country. Countless actors have tried their hand in public service and governance. Vilma Santos is currently the governor of Batangas, Tito Sotto has been a senator for several terms, and Joseph Estrada was once the president of the country. It seems that there is a certain age in showbiz, a period close to retirement, when actors deem it most practical to dabble into politics, to present themselves to their fans and ask for their support as they run for public office. This recurrence is widely accepted in the industry that older actors gradually put a foot out of the silver screen and into government office.
The question now is, will Goma and Aga’s once-sparkling careers be bright enough to snag them the electoral win they’re vying for? Winning Best Actor trophies seemed an easy enough feat for these talented actors. Will a mayoral and congressional seat for Goma and Aga, respectively, be just as easy to achieve?