5 Kinds of Actors-Turned-Politicians in the Philippines

ILLUSTRATOR Jasrelle Serrano

In the Philippines, the line between showbiz and politics is practically non-existent. There are so many entertainers who have decided to run for office. A significant number of them win—mostly because people feel that they “know” them. In fact, one actor already became our president—albeit for just two years. Most Pinoys love personalities who are larger-than-life.

That said, here are five kinds of actors-turned-politicians who are now in power—and some of them seem as if they can’t tell the difference between reel life and the real world.


Classication: The Controversial Survivor
Name: Joseph "Erap" Estrada
Current position: Mayor of Manila
Strategy: Turn up the alpha male posturing.

Claim to fame: He started out as an action star in films like Lo'Waist Gang (1958) and Asiong Salonga (1961). He then served multiple terms as mayor of San Juan City (1969 to 1986) before he moved on to national positions. He was in the Senate and served as vice president before he was elected as the 13th President of the Philippines. However, after just two years as the most powerful man in the land, he was ousted in 2001 due to corruption allegations. Estrada spent almost seven years in detention while the trial for his offenses was ongoing. However, he was later pardoned by his successor, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.


Political move: Just when everyone thought that he was already done with politics, Estrada ran for mayor of Manila in 2013. Obviously, he won.

Someone like him: Senator Tito Sotto has weathered many controversies, too. Despite his love for plagiarism, tasteless jokes, and bigoted perspectives, his fans still think he's great. He may not have Estrada's charisma, but he's got the long-running noontime show, Eat Bulaga, which he can use as a platform to endear himself to fans. Aside from Sotto, Estrada’s nephew, former Laguna governor ER Ejercito also seems to be in the same career path.    


Classication: The Triple Threat
Name: Manny Pacquiao
Current position: Senator
Strategy: Pretend to be a harmless fool as you rise from the ranks.

Claim to fame: He's been nicknamed as the "Pambansang Kamao," a tag which is roughly translated as "National Fist." He's known all over the world as the first and only eight-division world boxing champion, having won eleven major world titles. He's also "the first boxer to win the lineal title in five different weight classes." Not content with this achievement, he has dabbled singing and has starred in his very own superhero movie, Wapakman (2009). Moreover, he serves as playing coach of the Mahindra Floodbuster basketball team. 

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Political move: He started out as the congressman of Sarangani province. He said he did this because he wanted to help more people. He quotes Bible verses to justify his controversial views and appeares giddy when joking about the death penalty. Despite his cluelessness, people love him for supposedly bringing honor to the country through his boxing titles. (Yes, but he also got a flood of money for his bouts.) There are people who have criticized him for spreading himself too thin. There’s also his tax woes. However, his believers praise him for not being corrupt and multitasking.   

Someone like him: While there have been many athletes who also starred in movies and became politicians (such as former basketball player and now character actor Freddie Webb who became a senator), none of them attained Pacquiao's level of fame.

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Classication: The Hardworking Charmer
Name: Vilma Santos
Current position:  Batangas 6th District Representative
Strategy: Work hard and make movies once in a while.


Claim to fame: She is one of the most respected actresses in the Philippines, earning the title, “Star for All Seasons.”  She started out as a child star in 1963, starring in the movie Trudis Liit. She went on to play iconic roles Dyesebel (1973) and Darna (1980). Her more than 50 years in show business is nothing to scoff at.

Political move: She started out as mayor of Lipa City in Batangas. Next, she became Batangas governor. In 2016, she earned the distinction of being the first female representative of Batangas province. Throughout her political career, she managed to make good movies like In My Life (2009) and The Healing (2012). The good thing about her is that she does not spread herself too thin.

Someone like her: There are many actresses-turned-politicians such as Alma Moreno (former Parañaque City councilor and failed senatorial candidate) and Ara Mina. However, Santos is on top of the heap. She reminds us a bit of former senator Nikki Coseteng, who starred in 1989’s Sa Kuko ng Agila.


Classication: The Cautious Player
Name: Herbert Bautista
Current position: Mayor of Quezon City
Strategy: Hold your position and don’t make a leap of faith if you can’t see where you’re going.

Claim to fame: In 1978, he became a household name by playing Rene Boy in the soap opera Flordeluna. He was also part of the 1984 hit movie, Bagets. He is known for his comic timing.

Political move: His 25-year career in politics started when he became councilor in 1992. He served as vice mayor before he became mayor.  He has continued to make movies throughout his political career—just enough to keep everyone informed about who he is. Although, his brief connection to Kris Aquino really got a lot of coverage.

Someone like him: Comedians like Roderick Paulate (Quezon City councilor), Vandolph Quizon (Parañaque City councilor), and Ryan Yllana ( Parañaque City councilor) seem to be in the same career trajectory.


Classication: The Low-Key Personality
Name: Yul Servo
Current position: Manila 3rd District Representative
Strategy: Keep your head down, then smile a lot as you outwit, outplay, and outlast.


Claim to fame: Servo (real name: John Marvin C. Nieto) is an indie movie darling. His breakthrough movie was Lav Diaz's Batang West Side (2001). He went on to star with Nora Aunor in Naglalayag (2004) and several other films. Even as an actor, he perfected the art of being low-key. He was tagged in several rumors but he never really had a public outburst of any kind. Plus, people were pleasantly surprised that he actually has a Criminology degree. His advantage is that no negative news has marred his image. For instance, hardly anyone remembers that he was one of the councilors who—along with then-Manila vice mayor Isko Moreno—were arrested because they were accused of engaging in illegal gambling in 2013. The were just playing bingo (as part of the community's fund-raising efforts) and the charges were dismissed.

Political move: He served three terms as councilor of Manila's 3rd District (Binondo, Santa Cruz, and Quiapo) before he ran for congressman.

Someone like him: The one who comes closest to him is Daniel Fernando (vice governor of Bulacan). However, Fernando—whose breakthrough movie was Peque Gallaga’s critically acclaimed Scorpio Nights (1985)—has not yet been elected to a higher position. Actor Jomari Yllana (who is currently a Parañaque City councilor) could also follow his lead.

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