WE had lunch with former Pres. and current Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada at Annabel’s and he was amused when we told him his first movie we saw as a boy was “Sampung Libong Pisong Pag-ibig” with Charito Solis for LVN Pictures. “Aba, naaalala mo pa!” he said. “That’s my first movie and I was only 16 years old.”
After that, he did “Lo’Waist Gang” with the late FPJ for Larry Santiago and it became a big hit. But it wasn’t until he did “Asiong Salonga” in 1961 that he hit it big as a solo action star. It was shown at Center theater in Quiapo for several months and he became the champion of the masses portraying impoverished heroes in films like “Patapon”, “Tondo Boy”, “Hari ng mga Maton”, “Panginoon ng Pantalan”, and “Markang Rehas” for which he won his first FAMAS best actor award.
He then put up his own film companies, JE Productions and EMAR Pictures. “I produced some 70 movies, many of which won awards like ‘Kill the Pushers’ and the historical film ‘Ito ang Pilipino’,” he says. “I gave the negatives of my films to the Film Archives which they stored at the Manila Film Center. Binaha roon, nasirang lahat, so now, I have no existing copies of the movies I did, unlike FPJ who preserved his movies. I really miss FPJ, we did about 10 films together and we’re more like brothers than just friends.”
Then he forayed into politics and became mayor of San Juan in 1969. He became a senator in 1987, then vice president in 1992, and the President in 1998. In 2013, he became Mayor of Manila, a city near to his heart.
“I was born in Tondo, Manila, so orig na Manila Boy ako,” he says. “My mother from Paco, Manila was the Carnival Queen of 1920 and my father served as the public health engineer for 30 years under 4 mayors. I studied in UP Manila. When I became mayor, ang utang ng Manila is P4.4 billion. Lahat 'yan, nabayaran during my term and we had earnings pa of P11 billion in 2016. I’ve spent P500 million in the modernization of our public hospitals in various districts. We got CT scans, MRI, ultra sound, 2D echo machines, with free dialysis treatment at the Manila Dialysis Center. We improved 22 health centers and we also built a columbary building for the poor in North Cemetery, so we’re really serving them from womb to tomb, ika nga. 153 school buildings were rehabilitated, including a new building worth P250 million for the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. The Manila Police Department headquaters was renovated and the incidence of crime went down by 52 percent. We also spent for the rehabilitation of parks, playgrounds and public markets like Quinta, Sampaloc, San Andres and Bambang markets, some of which are now airconditioned like big malls. And my latest project is the reclamation of more than 1,000 hectares of land in four locations on Manila Bay. These are the Manila Waterfront City, the Solar City, New Manila Bay International Community and Horizon Manila for world class, innovative residences. All this will attract investors and tourists that will give 500,000 new jobs to Manileños and earn billions from business tax revenues and real estate tax. This is my last hurrah and before I finish my term, I want to bring back Manila to its old glory, that’s my dream.”
It’s common knowledge that he has many loves in his life. Which one is his favorite? “Ayoko na lang magbanggit at baka magkaselosan pa. All I can say is wala akong pinabayaan, sinuman sa kanila. Pati sa mga anak ko, lahat sila inalagaan ko and I gave them the best education, kahit na nga yung mothers nila, nagkaroon na ng ibang asawa. I did all my responsibilities sa kanila.”
Doesn’t he miss making movies? “Every now and then, I do. But I’m turning 81 on April 19, nataon nga, Biyernes Santo yun this year. Ayoko nang mag-movie. Mamaya, papanoorin nila tapos sasabihin lang, ang tanda-tanda na ni Erap, o. I want my image as an action star to remain in their memory.”