Aug 25
X FACTOR by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Tue, Aug 25, 2009

From the Latin word popularis to mean belonging to the people, popularity is defined in the dictionary as the quality of being well-liked or being common. It may also mean acceptance, acclaim, renown, approval or fame.

Especially in the entertainment field, being popular or famous is a necessity for career longevity. That may be the reason why there are fading movie stars who create controversies in order to maintain their popularity even at the expense of getting notorious. That may also be the reason why spas and beauty clinics are in vogue.

And since popularity is directly related to money, wealth is a common denominator for famous people, for most of them at least. As in politics, sports or entertainment, the stars in their fields are assured of good income and sometimes even immeasurable wealth.

Tiger Woods in golf, Kobe Bryant and Ming Yao in American basketball, the tennis stars Martina Hingis, Maria Sharapova and the William sisters, Venus and Serena, were all money-makers due to their popularity. And there’s our very own Manny Pacquiao in boxing who has become a multi-millionaire all because of boxing.

We also have superstars in politics. Even though she lost in the 1992 presidential elections to President Fidel V. Ramos, the popularity of Miriam Defensor-Santiago at the time couldn’t be questioned. That’s also true with President Gloria Macapacal-Arroyo who was elected vice president against Ed Angara whose running mate was the very popular Joseph Estrada.

But the most popular political personality is another woman. President Corazon C. Aquino or Tita Cory, as she was fondly called, was responsible for the two people power revolutions that toppled Marcos and Estrada regimes. In her burial recently, the Cory magic was again manifested by the hundreds of thousands of people that showed their sympathy by braving the rains during the funeral procession. Indeed, Tita Cory holds the record of being the most popular political figure of our time.

At present in the entertainment industry, Sarah Geronimo can be considered leading in the popularity game. She is first and foremost a singer and not really an actress, but her two consecutive box office hits are hard to duplicate. For the male side, Richard Gutierrez is still the topnotch star when it comes to talent fees.

Not counting Tarot which is being shown soon, the MMFF (Metro Manila Film Festival) this coming December will be an acid test for Marian Rivera’s touted popularity in television. Her solo starrer Nieves, a light horror-comedy as the festival entry of Regal Films, is a pretender in the festival’s top grosser title.


Box office sales is the gauge in movies while concert ticket and song record sales show the popularity of a singer. Pops Fernandez is not called a concert queen just for the sake of the title. Gary V is raking it in with his continual concerts. Regine Velasquez is reigning not only in concerts but also in tv and movies.

For an athlete, the popularity is measured by the size of the audience who watch his game. That’s why Michelle Wie is the toast when it comes to women’s golf in the US. For the local chessers, it used to be Mark Paragua but now it’s Wesley So who gets the biggest audience in tournaments. Mark and Wesley are both chess grandmasters.

In politics, the number of votes is the direct equation of a politician’s popularity unless otherwise there was cheating involved. At the height of the yellow fever, Butz Aquino was voted number 3 senator. His bio data showed that he is an actor, a bit player at that but he happened to be the brother of Ninoy Aquino.

Another gauge of popularity is the number of commercial endorsements one has. Popular athletes like Michael Jordan and Bjorn Borg of the olden times demonstrated their popularity via the juicy endorsement deals. Anna Kournikova, a pretty Russian tennis player, had never won a championship but she was paid an appearance fee (as demanded by tournament sponsors).


For the locals, it’s still Aga Muhlach and Sharon Cuneta who hold the biggest endorsement contracts followed by the younger set of Angel Locsin, Marian Rivera, Piolo Pascual, and others. But recently, it seems that Manny Pacquiao now holds the record of having the most number of tv commercials.

For lesser stars, it’s common to hear this statement, “Sikat na nga talaga ako kasi may billboard na ko sa EDSA.” Of course, commercial models are excluded in this game unless the models, like Derek Ramsay, Jon Avila or Jay-R, are also in the entertainment personalities.

What has one need to have in order to be popular?

In sports, the primary element of popularity is skills or talents. Flash Elorde who has no education to speak of and whose face has no trace of handsomeness, worked his way to the ladder of fame by using his fists. Those descriptions also run true with Mona Sulayman who was the local champion in track and field before the arrival of the beauteous Lydia De Vega.

In politics, it is definitely charisma that decides on the popularity of a politician. Imelda’s beauty was a big factor for the successful political life of Ferdinand Marcos but the same cannot be said of President Fidel V. Ramos considering that Mama Ming was so simple in her fashion sense. Called the local Obama, Makati Mayor Jojo Binay has the looks that a matinee idol wouldn’t wish but he won over Edu Manzano by a landslide.

In the entertainment area, Nora Aunor had defied the myth that a popular actress or actor should first be fair-skinned and beautiful or handsome. An aunt who was an ardent movie fan used to ask who is more good-looking between Joseph Estrada and Fernando Poe, Jr. Her husband would flatly answer that it was really Josemari (Gonzales) who was the handsomest but who was not as popular as the two given compadres.

Jay-R is a baldie with an ordinary face but he became a popular singer and now has several commercial endorsements. Jed Madela is one of the very good singers and handsome too. Proof of his talent is his trophy in the WCOPA (World Championship of Performing Arts) but there’s no proof of his popularity yet.


Some talented personalities who failed to achieve star status are Alfred Vargas, Mon Confiado, Ricky Davao, Yul Servo, John Arcilla, Iza Calzado, Wendell Ramos, Alessandra De Rossi and Diether Ocampo to name a few.

Some of those given the chance to be stars but seemed to have lost it sooner than expected are Chynna Hortaleza, who used to be the love team of Richard Gutierrez, Wowee De Guzman, the former screen partner of Judy Ann Santos, the partnership of Jericho Rosales and Kristine Hermosa, Angelou De Leon and Jennylyn Mercado because of their pregnancy and Katrina Halili due to the sex video scandal.

Popularity is easy to define but difficult to formulate like the mythical fountain of youth. Advertising people say promoting a product or a person is a science but they admit that it’s not an exact one. So we have to settle for the so-called x factor which is something definitely undefinable but we know it is there.

In the footsteps of Madam Auring, here comes Dionisia Pacquiao who is a natural when it comes to being a character of sorts. The show Shall We Dance of Lucy Torres on TV5 achieved the highest rating in audience share when Aling Dionisia was their guest. And now there’s the upcoming sitcom and planned movie of Aling Dionisia.

Truly, some guys just have all the luck to be popular, famous and wealthy.

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