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For Once, Truth Gets the Star Power It Deserves

Alden Richards' role in 'Alaala', GMA-7's Martial Law Special, is his most important one yet.
IMAGE GMA Network
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In a perfect world, we shouldn't even be talking about Alden Richards right now. We shouldn’t have to celebrate when a famous actor takes a role in a historical drama that actually gets its history right. That should be a default.

But here we are: In this world, and in this era of fake news and historical revisionism, where the truth about the Martial Law era has been twisted and buried so deeply that a tyrant is now a hero, and the family that stole billions from our country is now poised to rule it again. We're here, among millions of ourselves who sincerely deny the facts of history.

And so here we are, raising a glass to Alden Richards—whose fans probably still hate us for that one time we referred to him as a former C-list actor—for having the balls to take on the leading role in GMA’s Martial Law Special, Alaala, which aired last night on Channel 7.

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In it, Richards plays Bonifacio Ilagan, a former student activist, detainee, and survivor of human rights abuses during the Martial Law era. The hour-long made-for-TV feature was written by Ilagan himself, who details how he was captured and tortured, and how his sister Lina (played by Bianca Umali) became one of more than 800 desaparecidos who were never found again. Alaala’s dramatization of Ilagan’s story is bookended by interviews with him and with fellow survivor Pete Lacaba, including input from historians and credible authorities about the Martial Law era.

Of course, this is hardly the first Martial Law period piece to get it right. What’s noteworthy about this one, though, is that it stars Alden Richards—today an A-list actor by most standards, whose influence isn’t easily tossed around. In this country, celebrities of his scale and reach are usually apolitical by default, and are especially wary of participating in anything remotely political for fear of alienating broader audiences. It couldn’t have been so easy for Richards and his people to take the role, but ultimately, he did.

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So never mind the bad wig or the bright purple boxer shorts. Because of Alden Richards, a lot of people will be tuned in to watch a true story about the tyranny of the Martial Law era. Aldub Nation will be tuned in. The ALDENatics in Dubai will be tuned in. The good people of Aldub Guardians (which, no joke, lists itself on Facebook as a Defense Company) will be tuned in. The masang Pilipino will be tuned in. And whether or not you like Alden Richards, that’s good for the truth.

But that's not to say that this is a clear political statement, either. Richards himself has said in an interview with Rappler that his decision to take the role is “not related to any political issue,” and that “It's actually just for the purpose of showcasing what happened during Martial Law.”  Which is fair, because anyone who would take this as a declaration of political allegiance would be as mistaken as the American right-wing nationalists who felt betrayed by Bradley Cooper’s attendance at the Democratic National Convention last year. It’s a role, and he’s an actor by profession—Alaala simply tells it like it really was, and Richards just had a part in that. But sadly, such influential people having a part in the truth is a scarce and precious thing these days, so when it does happen, congratulations are in order.

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Miguel Escobar
Assistant Features Editor for Esquire Philippines
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