Thursday, September 2, 2004

Asian idols, Asian stars

Star-struck, star-studded, star search, star quality, star factor, star complex, star potential, star in a million, stardom. It’s all about stars. The young are bombarded with star images, dazzled by star dust, enticed with the possibility of becoming instant stars themselves.

TV shows like ``American Idol’’ surely spawned a lot of ``idol’’ contests all over the world. The local electronic media networks are trying to outdo one another in flaunting their latest finds, showing the mesmerized world how good they are in their business of entertaining you and me.

But what’s a star?

If we go by the pop searches and contests on TV here and abroad in the recent past, the stars are those who have captivated their audience and, of course, the ``star’’ judges, with their vocal talent, originality in projecting themselves, persistence, never-say-die attitude, physical stamina and beauty, the quality of their delivery. One could go on and on.

It’s a battle of nerves too and those who endure and survive to the finals, even if they don’t make it to the top three, are stars too. You have to give it to them.

It all looks so open too. The audience is sometimes even privy to the physical make-overs. People listen in to the judging, the cutting remarks, the grudging compliments of the judges. They are witness to how these star wannabes go through the wringer. Why, the TV viewers even participate in the star-making through the use of their thumbs, by texting, that is.

Then, suddenly, a new star, a new idol, is born. The star-making machine continues to churn out more. Some of these finds stay long in the limelight, others fade away too soon. Not a few become victims of their own celebrity status.

I don’t know how long this star craze will be foisted on the young and the old, how long it will sell to advertisers, when the audience will become weary of it and when it will be replaced by something totally different.

But surely the high-rating entertainment olympics which saw the young go through vocal paroxysms and make facial contortions in order to impress the audience with their lung power has raked in oodles for both the networks and the contestants and their coterie.

And one has to credit these young people who continue to enter the race and push themselves to the limit. One could only hope that their experience broadens their world view and their grasp of their surroundings. They should not get fixated in a star mold or in outer space. Otherwise, Houston, we have a problem.

There is a problem when the words star and idol become interchangeable as the entertainment olympics seem to have projected. For by idol, we mean someone worth looking up to and emulating.

Stardom, as we know it, comes about because of a person’s great talent, beauty, intelligence, physical strength and agility as in the case of those in sports. Add charisma and you have a blazing star. Media packaging and projection do wonders too.

Persons gifted with the above become idolized. One can’t discount the possibility that some will graduate from being idolized stars to being true idols/models indeed.

But there are persons whose greatness comes not just from the wealth of gifts they were born with and have honed to near perfection and exhibited under the glare of publicity. The shine because of the greatness of their spirit, the greatness of their giving. They shine through, not because of borrowed light, but because of their deeds for others. These are true idols indeed. And these idols need not be stars.

Searching for idols for the young? The book ``Great Men and Women of Asia, Volume 1’’ was launched last Monday by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation and Anvil Publishing. Between covers are 15 stories about RM awardees in the early years of the RMAF which began its work in 1958. More stories will be written, I promise you. We owe that to the young.

Here are the first 15. The titles tell you something about greatness.

Mother Teresa: Wanting the Unwanted, Loving the Unloved; Akira Kurosawa: the Filmmaker as Humanist; Sir Henry Tristram Holland & Ronald Holland: Healers in a Forgotten Land; Y.C. James Yen: Dreamer, Doer, Citizen of the World; Augustine Nguyen Lac Hoa: Lifesaver, Refugee, Soldier, Priest;

Tee Tee Luce: Savior of Street Waifs; Mochtar Lubis: Freedom Fighter, Truth Teller; Verghese Kurien: Milkman to India’s Millions; Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein: Leadership without Fanfare; Satyajit Ray: Poet of Great Cinema;

Tarzie Vittachi: Warrior of the Printed Word; Helen Kim: Freeing Women’s Minds and Hearts; Akhter Hameed Khan: One with the Poor; Lawrence and Horace Kadoorie: A Lifetime of Philanthropy; The Dalai Lama: The Simple Monk from Tibet.

The writers: Pennie de la Cruz, Ester Dipasupil, Angelina Goloy, Ma. Socorro Naguit and myself. Lorna K. Tirol edited and Yasmin Ong illustrated with pen and ink.

The book is cheap at P280. It will be launched again, sometime soon, at Powerbooks. Anvil (6373621) or RMAF (5213166 to 68) if you can’t wait.


If you have telephone directories piling up in your house, why not donate them to the livelihood program of the Alay Kapwa Christian Community? These will be transformed into beautiful ladies’ bags and gift baskets and earn income for the poor who make them. You will find some of these products at the Alay Kapwa stall in Rockwell.

Please, if you are able, drop your old phone books at the residence of Maring Feria, 3 Taurus, Bel Air, Makati, tel. 8956234. Or, if you have gathered many, they could be picked up. Thank you, thank you.