Filipinos shoot for the stars

Celebrities collecting votes

MANILA – Filipinos have dirty fingers. Or those who cast their votes during the May 11 elections, at least.

The dirty fingers are part of the Philippine election exercise, where voters’ right index fingers are smudged with indelible ink by election volunteers to mark them as “already voted.” It’s to deter flying voters, primarily.

How many of the “dirty fingered” actually voted for the leading candidate and apparent runaway winner in the presidential derby (one time movie actor Joseph Estrada) has not yet been determined. (It takes some two weeks before the confirmed, final winners are known.)

But a trend is already markedly visible. Movie stars, media celebrities and sports heroes are win-ning over their less popular, less media exposed rivals. And the country is gearing up for an Estrada presidency.

At the time of writing, Vice President “Erap” Estrada (“Erap” is “Pare” spelled backward, and it means “man” or “male pal”) has garnered more than a million votes in the official tally, and is fast scooting away with the lead.

Across the country the “star trend” has been the overriding theme. Multi-awarded actress Vilma Santos is winning by a landslide in her congressman husband’s Southern Luzon province.

Loren Legarda Leviste, TV news anchor and show host of the giant ABS CBN media network, leads all senatorial candidates to date, and seems to be secure in that top position.

Presidential legal counsel and former talkshow host Rene Cayetano is right behind Legarda in the tally. Former TV thesp Vicente (Tito) Sotto III, basketball megastar Robert Jaworski and former movie actor turned senator Ramon Revilla (Jaworski’s father in law) have all made it to the Magic 12 of the senatorial list.

Perhaps presidential also ran, former first lady Imelda Marcos, was right when she said, “The people (Filipinos) want to look up to a star.”

Now Filipinos — with or without dirty fingers — will have lots of stars to look up to. And wish upon.