What I've Learned

What I've Learned: Joseph Ejercito Estrada

"The best thing about being president is the fulfillment of your programs and to see the people you helped, especially the masses. As I’ve told you, whoever I am now, I owe it to the masses."
IMAGE Malacañang Presidential Museum and Library

My parents didn’t like me to enter the movies. In fact, I dropped out of college to enter the movies. [Among] my 10 brothers and one sister, I was the only college dropout.

During my time, the only one who can enter the movies were the “half-breed” or tisoy. That was the trend in showbiz.

I was reluctant to run for mayor, because at the time, I was already earning about P150,000 per picture, and the salary of the mayor is only P5,000 a month.

I used to be a sacristan before, uniform and all. I grew up one house away from the church.

My mother asked me to change my name from Ejercito to Estrada because they were ashamed of me.

She didn’t want an Ejercito becoming a movie actor. I did not follow the dream that all of us will have a college degree.

Our parish priest here in San Juan went to my on-location shooting and asked me to run.


Six times—five times I rejected it.

My mother said she will not vote for me but by the last week of my campaign, she was already campaigning for me.

Before, San Juan was a notorious town but I was able to make it very progressive.

I married a psychiatrist because I know she’ll understand my faults.

This one time, my dad called for me when I was already in the movies, and he invited me for lunch, just the two of us, one-on-one. And he told me, “You know Joseph, the dream of your mother and myself, is to see the ten of you get a college degree, and that all of you will become professionals. But, you chose a different career. The path you chose has many temptations. If ever you have a child out of wedlock, that child is your responsibility.”

To me, a man, a courageous man, must have conviction.

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I only have time to pray and talk to God. “God, I asked you to make me a successful actor, you gave it to me. When I ran for mayor I asked you to help me, you gave it to me. For senator, against all odds…you gave it to me. Even as vice-president, and president you gave it to me. But God, I never prayed to you that you’d make me a prisoner.”

From being a superstar then mayor, senator, vice-president and president, all of a sudden I found myself alone in a cell.

When I stepped down as president, I could’ve stayed and fought it out because I knew I had never resigned. I could’ve fought it out but I know that some blood will be shed and that the poor people will be the ones who will meet the bullets there.

If you come to think of it, it’s the Church who convinced me to enter politics. And it’s the Church who removed me as president, through Cardinal Sin.

In the history of our judiciary, that was the first time they created a special court. And they handpicked the justices, the “Sandigang Bayan.” They created a special court to convict me. Then after being convicted those justices of “Sandigang Bayan,” they were all promoted right away to Supreme Court. That’s the reward they got.

If there was one person I would like to meet I would say Andres Bonifacio. He was a real man of the masses.


I got the courage to run when President Reagan announced his candidacy for presidency. He was belittled. He’s just a mere actor. But he won.

If the American people can elect a Class B movie actor as their president, I don’t see any reason why the Filipinos cannot elect a Class A movie actor.

Out of the 10 movies I did with FPJ only one was not a hit. Los Palikeros. It was the only film wherein we did not play the marginalized.

When I portrayed the role of an NPA, I got to know the NPA in Tarlac. And what I learned from them you can’t learn in Harvard.

It is on record that water and electricity prices didn’t go up when I was a president. Not a single cent. I didn’t allow them. They all got mad at me.

When I was incarcerated, I couldn’t sleep and every time I wake up I’d have a heavy heart.


The best thing about being president is the fulfillment of your programs and to see the people you helped, especially the masses. As I’ve told you, whoever I am now, I owe it to the masses.

I always bear in mind that as long as you decide for the greater good, for the greatest number, you will not go wrong. So who’s the greatest number? The mass.

When you’re young you believe that Santa Claus is real. Then when you become older you become Santa Claus.

The father of my first girlfriend warned her that I would end up nowhere. Then I became President.

The biggest lesson I learned being president? I’m too trusting.

I trusted all the people that shouldn’t be trusted.

I don’t give other presidents advice.

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Esquire Philippines. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.



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About The Author
Gang Badoy
Gang Badoy is an alternative educator inside the Maximum Security Prison in Muntinlupa under their NGO called Rock Ed Philippines. She has been teaching a combination class of Science, History, and Creative Writing since July 2007. All teaching permits are on hold for now since the new administration started in July 2016. For more documentation on their prison outreach activities search for “Rock the Rehas” on Google.
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