Rep. JV Ejercito gets to use Estrada nameBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines-San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito got a pleasant surprise from his father months before he actually hit the campaign trail for the May 13 senatorial election.
He was told from then on to use “Estrada,” the screen name that former President Joseph Estrada used that helped catapult him to movie stardom and later on to a successful career in politics.
The name change has apparently made an immediate impact on JV’s candidacy. Until the latest Social Weather Stations survey wherein Estrada’s United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) ticket suffered a major beating, the son still ranked high on the list of prospective winners of all major surveys.
For the 75-year-old Estrada, lending his screen name to his son was not simply a campaign strategy. He was bequeathing to a second-generation politician what he views as a personal legacy built through at least 130 movies spanning more than half a century.
Scrap with mother
How he came up with the name was forced by circumstance, more particularly the result of a rather violent confrontation with his mother more than 50 years ago.
The year was 1956. Then 18-year-old Jose “Joseph” Ejercito arrived at a family lunch gathering in their San Juan residence. He had just accidentally landed a role in a movie being directed by the mother of his girlfriend. The actor who was to play the part did not show up.
Joseph was eager to tell the good news, but knew too well he had to keep it from his mother, Mary. He was to finish civil engineering, a course handpicked for him by his father, Emilio, a Chicago-educated engineer as well. Besides, the family had not fully recovered from that episode at Ateneo High School where he was expelled for fighting.
But seeing his face all made up that afternoon, Mary knew right away. Joseph—the black sheep of the family, the high school kickout and soon-to-be college dropout—was now doing movies.
“‘Wag mong magamit-gamit ang apelyidong ‘Ejercito.’ Kinahihiya ka ng mga kapatid mo!” he recalled his enraged mother telling him during an interview with Inquirer at his Polk Street residence.
Young and impulsive, Joseph answered back: “Kung ang Papa ko magsasabi na palitan ko apelyido ko, susunod ako. Kung ikaw, Ma, hindi. Mas may karapatan akong gumamit ng ‘Ejercito’ kaysa sa’yo. Ako may dugong Ejercito, ikaw wala.”
Before Joseph could utter another word, a pan of freshly cooked rice went hurtling toward his direction, his mother seething from the other end. It missed the target, but sent the young man packing, never to be found for the next three months.
Joseph stayed with a friend at the old Fort William McKinley. He came home only after his father, Don Emilio, fetched him and told him to apologize to his mother. He did as he was told, but using ‘Ejercito’ remained non-negotiable if Joseph was to continue with his budding show-biz career.
He ended up leafing through a phone directory looking for a new surname that started with an “E.” Nothing else caught his attention but “Estrada.” He thought it sounded strong and very masculine, befitting the screen image he wanted to develop. Having a neighbor who carried the name, former Sen. Eva Estrada-Kalaw, helped as well.
Estrada it was
So “Estrada” it was, appeasing his mother but not his father.
“She liked the name but my papa did not. His surname, he really loved it. But he had no choice,” he recalled.
Henceforth he was called “Joseph Estrada,” the name he used when he starred in movies like “Asiong Salonga,” “Kapit sa Patalim,” “Alamat ng Pitong Kilabot,” and “Sa Kuko ng Agila.”