Over on Twitter, Teddy Boy Locsin claims credit for suggesting that actor Robin Padilla be brought to Sabah to help resolve the conflict. Locsin’s take on Robin of course is somewhat limited: he is charismatic, he is handsome, he can make people stop doing what they’re doing, Locsin says.
But in fact Robin’s iconography, his history as icon, reveals how while he might be all these adjectives, what is far larger than his charisma and looks is what he’s done, how he’s involved himself in issues political and religious, how these tie together to reveal a whole image that is in fact quite credible. He is after all one of the more sought after product endorsers of, wait for it, health products.
It’s easy to think that we’ve forgotten Robin’s younger more rebellious self. Of course in the landscape of popular culture in this country, it is highly probable that the Bad Boy title is what makes Robin even more credible. After all, how many of our icons can turn their lives around?
How many live a life as action star stereotype going all daredevil on us, doing his own stunts, making cars fly, getting his skin burned, doing the sexy swagger, with the contingent line of women declaring their affection? How many of our actors could turn things around after seeing the bottom of the barrel that is jail, on charges of illegal possession of firearms?
And I don’t mean some city jail. Robin did time in the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa, serving four years of his 21-year sentence, 1994 to 1998, when he was pretty much out of the limelight. Yet public interest would be sustained, with fans waiting for footage of him in jail, the rest of us just fascinated by the mere fact that he went to jail at all. Certainly in a country with a deeply flawed justice system, an actor of Robin’s stature could escape jail time?
But there too was this narrative of how Robin needed to be taught a lesson, and how jail was the only place he could learn those lessons. He didn’t just learn those lessons though. Robin entered a wounded spirit, he walked out of jail a believer of Islam, Koran practically in his hand, with the Muslim name Abdulaziz.
I don’t know that the public was ready for this kind of conversion from the man we used to know as Bad Boy, but part of Robin’s being an icon is the fact that he couldn’t care less. Changing religions didn’t stop him from making more films after all, beyond the action film genre that had since died. Reinvented as leading man in films with Regine Velasquez, it was difficult not to swoon over Robin, now with a body built on doing martial arts as hobby, and now more awesome because even more sincere in his humility.
Without the action star archetype to fall back on, Robin reinvented himself into being the Pinoy every man, who wears his heart on his sleeve, whose chivalry is particularly romantic, who does not compromise on passions. That the latter is not just about love this time around is in this icon’s maturity, his evolution into credibility.