Boses ng Masa is deceptively simple and painfully familiar, which is what’s both good and bad about it: the discussion is worth having, but you can see that ending from a mile away.
It’s not that you’ve seen this before, as it is that you have lived it.
Two people handling the underbelly of a Senatorial candidate’s campaign are in conflict about a video that would spell the doom of the political enemy. The younger man Chris (Jerome Dawis) is against its release into the wild online world of the campaign season, given that it is a violent sex video that victimizes a woman. The older man Hector (Renan Bustamante) has his eye on winning this election and cares little for the repercussions releasing the video will have on its victim.
The discussion that ensues is complex, as it is simple. From a particular perspective this is all a means to the end of ensuring a win for their candidate, which is the reason this office even exists. Yet it is also about whether or not the candidate even knows about the work this office does, about whether or not he is as clean as they say he is, about the kind of campaign they are running — and shouldn’t run. It is also about the politics in this country: who gets elected and how, and towards what end.
What the video contains further layers this with questions about right and wrong, about media and the internet, about what the public wants to hear and what they need to know. It becomes a discussion about campaigns and advertising, about capturing voters’ interests and giving them only enough to win an election. It’s also about believing one’s own propaganda and imagining that whatever repercussions negative campaigning might have on others, it will have been worth it: the bigger picture is more important, and that bigger picture is about how much better your candidate actually is than the next person.
This discussion is what makes Boses ng Masa worth watching, as it is both a look behind-the-scenes of our elections and an assessment of our own predispositions as a citizenry. It is also worth seeing for Bustamante, who works into his character both a hopefulness about change and a harsh and grim rationality that’s also and ultimately chillingly macho. Dawis is the perfect counterpoint to Bustamante here, with a youthfulness and naiveté that is able to keep from falling back simply on ignorance.
But maybe, and ultimately, it is our current context that makes this play worth seeing, forcing as it does on us a discussion about our politics and governance, the role we play — or refuse to play — as its public, given the men and women who control and reek havoc through information.
Set in pre-social media Philippines, that this play speaks to nation’s current affairs highlights the historical insidiousness of our politics, and the huge possibility that it has gotten to this point because we have let it — silent and blind as we can be to our own complicity when we believe what our politicians and media sell us, hook line sinker, right and wrong be damned. ***
Boses ng Masa is written by Joshua Lim So and directed by Guelan Luarca, and is part of Set B of VLF13.