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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Manila Kingpin: Asiong Salonga Story A Review

Watching the Manila Kingpin: Asiong Salonga story is the one thing that I enjoyed while on holiday. The film is really different. As a student of communications, however, let me give my reactions to the film.

The life of an ordinary King starts with his birth, and his claim to the royal bloodline. Then it goes on his training for the Kingship. And it proceeds to his struggle against pretenders to the throne, annihilating any opposition to claim ultimate monarch-ship. Then,his coronation.

Asiong Salonga was considered as the "King of Tondo". All of the stages of being a King was portrayed in the film.

His claim to the royal bloodline was his leadership skills in managing a young yet closely knit gangster group that takes care of the community rather than suck them dry. He tried to annihilate some of his enemies, but failed to really conquer the entire Tondo because several survived him and even went on the extent of betraying him and killing him eventually.

Died when he was just 27 years old.
The first half failed to tell us when did the people vested him his kingship. Was it during his jail fight with Ventura when he was proclaimed king? Or was it in the early aspects of the film when he shot and nearly killed Waway? Yes, his own people proclaimed him as King, but,honestly, he was still a pretender to the throne because most of Tondo were still being ruled by Totoy Golem’s group who was larger and more lethal than his.

If the first half lacks context, the second half redeemed our frustrations. It is quite evident that two strands of thought was applied to the film, and the producer tried his darn best to give us a tightly spunned story.

In my estimation, he failed. He should have allowed just one strand of thought to prevail in the movie. Likewise, let me say to all Filipino filmmakers—the essence of a good film is in the storytelling. All others are just supports used by the filmmaker in trying to make his story understood by his viewers.

The film starts with a man, fortish looking, being beaten to a pulp by another man, in a darkened room somewhere in the world. While the scene is being shown, it is juxtapose by several scenes showing some people sharpening their balisungs (knives of the Filipino) and pana (arrowheads, used in local slingshots). Nothing wrong with the opening scene, except that, if I'm not familiar with the story of Asiong Salonga, I probably would have difficulties situating myself in there.

He looked like Asiong had he outlived his untimely death at 27
The first scene is a creative rendition of how this man, was introduced into the world which he chose--the world of the gangster. That scene which shows him being beaten and threatened not to take part in this world because he's still "nursing from his mother's milk" and those scenes showing others sharpening their knives were allegoricals.

It is an allegory because it shows that this man is trying to enter a world where there are numerous other gangsters like him in the territory. Those scenes show that this man, Asiong, has already penetrated some of those areas being ruled by others

But, is this historically accurate?

How young did Asiong really rule Tondo or a greater part of it? A Manila Chronicle article says that Asiong died on October 5, 1951, a few days before his birthday on October 11th. He was just 27 years old. Meaning, he was born 1924. Obviously, he probably did not rule Tondo as a legitimate gangster during his teens because he probably spent it during wartime. So, the only time he could have probably ruled tondo was during the period 1946 up to the time he died. Or probably even less, because he was arrested and jailed. Asiong must have ruled as the ultimate king for two years or even a year before he died.

Again, Asiong Salonga died at a very tender age of 27 years old.

So, there. If you don't know anything about Asiong, you would accept that he looks "fortish" and probably that era was well in the 1950's, which is historically incorrect.

Why the confusion? Because the first half of the film failed to give the story some context. Audiences have probably asked themselves during the screening, where in time did all these things happen? Where is Tondo? Why was Tondo poor at that time? Nothing of that sort was provided.

The first half dismally confused the audiences in terms of the true character and identity of Asiong and the environment that he was in.

There is some confusion also if Asiong was indeed, a gangster par excellence or just a young thug who portrayed himself as a neighborhood Robin Hood.

There was no explanation as to how Asiong get his money. Did he get it from stealing? Did he get protection money from numerous businesses which sprang from Tondo post-war?

The two scenes which suggest that he did neither was when he intercepted a smuggling operations of one his enemies, Ventura. Ventura, as the story goes, was one of the members of the Totoy Golem group.

Ventura was eventually killed by Asiong in a jail fight. His other enemies, while he was in jail, tried to kill themselves for the honor of being the ultimate siga in Asiong's territories.

"Our local version of the fight in Faceoff is better--
cinematographically that is
Highlights of this film were those artistic shots of street and gangsta fights involving Asiong. I was moved in the scene where Asiong was fighting Hapon played by Joko Diaz in a gunbattle. That scene alone deserves an award, although it is quite similar with that scene in the movie of Nicholas Cage in Face/Off.

Equally great was the scene when Asiong was killed. It was another allegory on how a king was betrayed by his own friend during a feast. There was some aspect of biblical allegory as prior to this dinner killing, Asiong already said that Ernesto "Toothpick" Reyes would be used by his enemies in killing him, and Toothpick indeed killed him. (Likened to the Last Supper of Christ).

There was a scene, quite disturbing, about the death of Erning" Toothpick" Reyes. In a news article, Toothpick surrendered to the police. He surrendered the 38 caliber pistol revolver he used in killing Asiong Salonga. Yet, never mentioned what happened to him afterwards. The movie said, he was killed in a ritual killing by his own friends in a cemetery. How true? 

(Totoy Golem in the fictional movie played by Anthony Alonzo in "Totoy ng Bangkusay" claimed that Golem was Asiong's gunman. That is farther from the truth. Totoy Golem was the real gangsta boss in those times, even eclipsing Asiong in notoriety. Fact is, Golem ruled Tondo before Asiong and when Asiong was killed, Totoy Golem continued wrecking havoc in Tondo before, as the legend says, he was killed by Asiong's brother in a street fight)

" Okey film. But, I think they should show
the director's cut. Maybe it's better. Dunno.
The last scene was probably inspired with the carnage shown in the film, “ The Gangs of New York” of Martin Scorsese. By the way, most of the artistic shots done by the director were not originals. Some were either inspired by Scorsese and others by Michael Bay.

Manila Kingpin won ten awards during the Metro Manila Film Festival. It bagged Best Production Design, Best Editing, Best Sound Recording, Best Original Theme Song, Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Gatpuno Villegas Cultural Award, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and Best Festival Picture.

I don't know about the editing of the first half, but, overall, I agree with the jurors in giving the awards to this film. I encouraged other film outfits to do some historical research first and try to outdo this film in terms of tight storytelling. But, I’ll watch this and even buy the DVD of this film instead of the others.

62 comments:

  1. Medyo weird din ang phrasing mo. Just like the story.

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    1. well in the case of this blog, the author wants to edit the movie in his own idea.. pero well, syempre wla talagang nakakaalam ng totoong nangyari nuon.. hindi lahat ng information tungkol kay Asiong Salonga ay mayroon ang direktor.. The movie was built by truth and concept..

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  2. true story ! haa weird nga pati ng blog nito ! haaa!

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  3. just reflected what was in the film. that is a movie review for you.

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  4. You're like my friends who rated the harry potter movies to how faithful they were to the books, not how good the movie was.
    I don't see in your review if this movie is any good. you're just comparing the movie to the things you already know.

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  5. Quite frankly, I must say that you don't deserve to be called a good movie reviewer. The previous comments were right. You just compared the movie to other movies you've watched.

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  6. "Manila Kingpin: Asiong Salonga Story A Comparison"

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  7. Oh, this was a review?

    As a fellow communication major, I am disappointed.

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  8. i agree with your suggestion that philippine cinema should make more of this kind of historical movie. filipino psyche needs it. by that i'm not suggesting though a return to the 80's to early 90's fixation with good cop/bad cop and criminal true stories. however, if its done with a good sense of history perhaps even better than this one, why not?!

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  9. Have you watch Mel Gibson's Braveheart it supposed to portray the story of William Wallace, and guess what, not all of the event happened there were chronically correct, but it is a great movie and bagged many major awards. It's not how accurate the story is, for the movie to be good, it is how it was portrayed and made. Do you know the story behind the making of this movie, as far as know (correct me if I'm wrong) the first director Tikoy Aguiluz don't want to be credited in this movie because of the editing issue and eventually leave the production of this movie. Maybe those were the scene were you looking for, that is why the 2nd half is not quite similar to the first half because a new director should continue this. By far this Movie Manila Kingpin bring back my interest in Philippine movie. Review the movie itself don't compare it to other.

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  10. I bet you are not good at reviewing movies. Judge the movie on its entirety not on its being faithful to its historical concept. There might be lapses on the truthfulness on Asiong Salonga's story but the movie itself is good. Ang labo ng review mo. Nilait mo tapos sasabihin mo it's good?

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  11. As I read your blog or essay, I was a little worried about your english, phrasing and grammar. Saying you're being a communications major and all. Anyways your reviews are solely based on historical events, not on the movie's content, cinematography and artistry. By the way when you say juxtaposition it means close side by side. in the movie it wasn't juxtaposed.

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  12. Im surprised meron pa palang gagawa ng action film in a time like this. Alam ko kasi wala ng nanunuod o gumagawa ng ganun kasi puro hollywood movies na uso ngaun, for me ayaw ko na makarinig ng sigawan ng sigawan about how they will kill each other while facing their backs at the wall waiting for their enemy to shoot their gun first while escaping , getting shot several times for the bida but still alive, but for the other extras , 1 shot patay na agad. haha.. cliche diba... ibang genre na lang sana, action pero may sci fi man lang o horror involve. Thanks.

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  13. I appreciate your review on the movie. Asiong Salonga's story is not that well-known. I guess that was the reason why it needs to be told accurately. The actor who portrayed him, as admirable and promising as he may be, failed to address an important aspect of the story - that at a very young age, Asiong Salonga was able to challenge the existing lawless system in the slum areas during his time.

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  14. http://tunaynalalake.blogspot.com/2011/12/heto-na.html

    negative ang review na 'to pero hindi nakakainis

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    Replies
    1. Hindi kaya negative review yan. Pasitib nga, eh

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    2. Hindi kaya negative review yan. Pasitib nga, eh

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  15. hi all,

    I never claimed to be a movie reviewer. I am more of a political and historical blogger. Having said so, it is just right to review the film the way I see it.

    I never said that the film is lousy. There are more lousy films out there and frankly, they were shown during a "festival". This one is different because it claims to be a totally different film. The question only is--why was it different?

    Was it different because it was shot black and white?

    Was it different because several artistic shots were made and incorporated into the film?

    Or, was it different because it tries to tell a story.

    For me, the most important thing about a film is the story. It is the story that makes the film, not those shots.

    Now, if the story is the most important aspect of a film, then, filmmakers are expected to be great storytellers, right?

    I did not say that the story here was a patched job. No.

    All I said is simply, I noticed two strands of thought or two ways of telling the story of Asiong. Had it been that the first version was released, this film would have made a greater impact.

    Having said that, I await with bated breath, the release of the director's cut.

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  16. naiintindihan naman kita. medyo nakulangan din ako sa kwento. sino bang ayaw mapanood ang director's cut? kasama sa cast si paloma pero sa libing ko lang siya nakita. you've made your point.

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  17. i just want to say na wala nmng accuracy between movie and novel.. Gaya ng novel ng harry potter may mga binago dn sa movie na nasa novel. Nasa imagination yn ng Director and author. Un ngang movie n galing sa novel binabago pa eh un p kayang biography ng tao. How can u make accurate movie from the hear say? Get it frm the historian , eh un kung meron nagsulat ng biography ni salongo. Kung meron.. Or hukayin mo si asiong sya lang makakapagsabi ng very accurate detail of his life.
    I think nobody will perfected the history, kaya kung nakulangan kau sa movie it is based on your perception.

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  18. @ anonymous,

    This film, as I said, lacked context. I'm not saying that the film should be as accurate as a biographical documentary, oh no.

    Creative license is given. I'm not disputing the right of the director and the scriptwriter and even the producer to exercise their artistic or creative license to weave the story of Asiong.

    All I'm saying,the movie could have been better had they put it in context the very first half of the film.

    Anyway, as I said, this is an okey film, better than all the other entries.

    Next time, we must better ourselves and try to come up with more quality films that puts greater emphasis on good storytelling.

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  19. sige nga gumawa ka nga ng istorya at magdirek ka,

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  20. di ba si boy zapanta yung nakaaway nya sa muntinlupa? sino si ventura?

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    Replies
    1. Si Ventura? tatay ni CHECHE at BURECHE

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  21. @anonymous, yep, stand corrected. its boy zapanta.

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  22. hello, its his opinion. lets just respect it, and why not come up with your own review? we do not always get to see this kind of film these days so lets call it a day.

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  23. well, its like hollywood. most of the facts are being altered based on the exact truth.. They should have made a TV or Movie documentary of Asiong.. I guess documentaries are factual enough compared to big budgeted films.

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  24. Thumbs up to you sir

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  25. dami nyung alam???

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  26. ganda ng movie tapos ang usapan

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  27. Kung naguguluhan ka sa Movie na to.. mas naguguluhan ako sa blog mo.. maxado kang ma critique sa movie.. manuod ka nlng..

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  28. MAGANDA naman ung film syempre nilagyan lang
    ng twist kaya hindi tlaga maiiwasan ung mga
    pagbago sa mga specific event lang naman like ung kay erning toothpick di ba wala di nman may alm kung anu nangyari sa kanya pagka surrender nya so maari din na gnun nga ginawa sa kanya like sa movie di ba??pero ayos ung blog mu dagdag idea yan

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  29. maganda ang manila kingpin dahil ito ay isang istorya na totoo na hindi sya pumapayag na inaapi ang tondo at kung may makuha silang pera sini share nila sa tondo at sa kanilang anak pero namatay rin si asiong salonga ngunit namatay siya na may prinsipyo kapwa kaya tinawag sya na hari ng tondo proud to be a tondo boy

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  30. Kulang ang kwento sana sa susunod yung araw na pabinata na sya at kung san nagsimula ang pagiging hoodlum nya

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  31. GOOD BLOG ^_^D 2 weird bobo naman nag sabi ng weird d nag aaral .....

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  32. taena..daming alam ng blog na to? ikaw kaya isunod ko ke asiong?

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  33. ^- hey sir. ikaw po ata di nag aaral para sabihan ng bobo at di nag aaral mga tao dito :) think about it.

    well good movie. thats it :)

    -1 for this review

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  34. The film was awesome!

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  35. ang tanga naman ng nagblog imbes ikumpara mo lage ang gawang pilipino ungas tignan mo muna pinagsasabi mo....tapos babawi ka ng papuri ginagawa mong mang mang sarili mo bugok local version ng robin hood amputa man kabisado mo pa ata ang mga banyagang storya....pwehhhhh................... ..i.,

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  36. ,.'tama nman..ok ang bLog na t0h.. Khit cno naman pwd mgbgay ng opini0n,.wLa nman right or wr0ng na opini0n, Let's just respect the bLogger.. i've aLso watched the movie,at tama c sir, it seems na 2 magkaibang kaicpan ang pinakita,but it aLL goes down with 1 story.. At these days nman tLga, pag gumawa ng remake ng oLd fiLm, mapa true to Life or ficti0n, gnagawan nman tLga ng twist, maski nga mga teLeserye dba.. Gnun tLga,d nman pwdng gayang gaya ng naunang fiLm,if gnun Lng ang gagawin, eh di sna ung oLD version nLNG ang pinaLabas uLit.. Maganda ang movie na toh, di nman mana2Lo ng mdming awards kung di mgnda at deserving..

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  37. haiz.. critico lng e2 si patricio kaya di umunlad ang pinas sa mga kagaya nitong pag sabi ng kung anuanu sa sarili mo n lng yan tsong.. oh better yet support the piracy hahahah

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  38. guys, at the very least hindi siya bias? obviuosly na-point out niya pareho ang mga parteng nagustuhan at hindi niya nagustuhan sa film..

    bottom line, it was a great movie.. this is his opinion, let's leave it there..

    kung ako ang tatanungin? hands down !! incomparable ang film na yun sa mga films ngaun, but hey, tulad nga ng sinabe ko, opinyon na yan..

    nagustuhan man niya o hinde, wala na kayong pake dun.. kung gusto niyo, gumawa na lang kayo ng review, sa movie review niya...

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  39. the movieof manila kingpin was great for
    me it give a lesson
    and inpiration to me

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  40. kung hinde sana binatukan ni asiong salonga si erning toothpich hinde sana sys sumama sa grupo ni totoy golem wala sana planong patayin sya

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  41. ok tong film na to..pero mas ok pag mas bata ang gumanap na Asiong Salonga. Jeorge Estrada was just too old for the role. Mas ok sana kung si Baron Geisler na lang ang gumanap na Asiong instead of him.

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  42. yan ang hirap satin pag my namumunga binabato na at kinikilatis kadalasan hibla lang sa damit ikasisira na.. minsan lang gumawa ng epikong pelikula ang daming napuna bakit yung ibang banyaga pelikula nakuha nyo bang ganyanin kaya di tayo yumayaman sariling lugar natin iba nag hahari tignan mo maiigi ang meaning ng story pinapahiwatig dyan pagtutulungan na hindi apihin ang sarili nyang lugar.. protektahan nyo ang kababayan nyo hindi yung apihin nyo yan ang hari handang ipag tangol ang nasasakupan..

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  43. >>>idol q c asyong!!!! di xa masamang tao kund pinuproktehan lng nya ang lugar nya laban sa mga manlalamang>>>>and besides asyong was a hero at tondo kya ibg sbhin di tlga xa likas n masama dhil mhal xa ng mga tao sa lugar nya::::::)))

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  44. wlang magka2intndhan qng lhat marunong,.

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  45. wlang magka2intndhan qng lhat mrunong,. kya di umaasenso ehh,.

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  46. BITIN LANG KAYO KAYA KAYO NAG REREKLAMO BE YOUR SELF DUDE! BITIN NA BITIN NAMAN TALGA EH? LOL MAGANDA NA BITIN

    BAWAL NA SIGA NGAUN PATAY AGAD!

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  47. mag suntukan nalang kayo

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  48. gawa kaya kayo nang movie kayo mga bida gagaling nyo eh

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  49. I loved the movie.Ang dami ng remakes ng Asiong Salonnga.Pero lahat ang gugulo ng ending.I can only find one article about Asiong Salongga.I want to know what happened to Totoy Golem and Ernesto Reyes after they killed Asiong.(The real story)

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  50. I loved the movie.Ang dami ng remakes ng Asiong Salonnga.Pero lahat ang gugulo ng ending.I can only find one article about Asiong Salongga.I want to know what happened to Totoy Golem and Ernesto Reyes after they killed Asiong.(The real story)

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  51. ok lng nman pero sa una ung putok ng bala eh prang paputok ung sound pero habang tumatagal naman nging ok na

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  52. Noon daw hirap magparami ang mga taga tundo, dahil maya't maya may riot. Takot ang mga tao lumabas ng bahay.. Ang tundo noon iilan lang ang siga. pero ngayon, pag nagsiga sigaan ka todas ka agad. Mas delikado ang tondo noon kumpara ngaun. Tsaka dati parang takot ang pulis sa mga gangster. pero ngayon puro pulis na ang siga at nangingikil.. Binabatuk batukan lang nila mga gangster ngaun.

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  53. sinaksak at pinagbabril si erning o ape isa pang palayaw ni erning ni amado"toothpick"villena na umiidolo dn kay asiong "hito", si amado villena ay kaibigan din ni erning at member ng grease gun gang,si totoy golem namatay habang nakipagbarilan sa dating pulis caloocan sa restaurant sa maynila, ang totoo ay nangingilag si asiong kay boy zapanta,at hindi lng dalawang tao ang naghahari sa tondo, si asiong sa angustia, si totoy golem sa san nicolas, canary brothers sa gagalangin, grease gun gang sa bangkusay, mianong magat sa antonio rivera, si boy zapanta sa juan luna, ang totoong hari ng tondo ng panahon na yan ay si manuel dela fuente at arsenio lacson dahil sila ang magkasunod na mayor ng maynila

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