'Juana Change': A Political Star for Generation YouTube

In the Philippines, a Former Ad Director Becomes the Star

By Published on .

Roger Pe Roger Pe

Some years ago, if you wanted to hire a whip-cracker to get spots made in the Philippines, you might have turned to Mae Paner, a former project manager and commercial director. Now Ms. Paner is familiar to watchers of Philippine political media scene as "Juana Change," the star of a very popular series of satirical YouTube videos and a Philippine translation of Barack Obama's "Change" campaign. She is the female version of "Juan," the national a symbol of a Filipino common man, tongue-in-cheekly coined to advocate change in how Filipinos do things, whether culturally, religiously or politically.

Except for her hefty body, she's been sculpted by advertising and theater worlds, transformed through the years as a staunch advocate of anything that means change in general in the Philippines. Juana Change floated on the surface of Philippine media last year, almost exactly a year before the Philippine presidential election in 2010. Since then, she's becoming very visible.

In one satirical TV commercial, she's a woman with two sides -- a rosary-clasping government employee clandestinely accepting bribe money as a "Fixer."

She's also in "Sta. Nina," "Face-Off," "Christmas Offering" and "Bayani," taking potshots against proponents of Philippine Charter Change ("Cha-Cha") among others. She is set to do more videos in the coming months.

Asked if she's being used by political opposition parties, Juana categorically says: "That's the perception of some but, really, Juana only stands for change and nothing but. She's not for or against any political party, personality or figure."

Juana Change, with a ubiquitous "love-for-country" heart-shaped ring she wears wherever she goes, has started sinking into the national consciousness. After YouTube made her wildly popular, Juana Change now gets hundreds of hits a day, not to mention mail of kinds that supports, encourages, even criticizes her.

When people ask whether Juana Change is for real, Ms. Paner says there's no turning back and she feels it in her guts. As far as Juana Change's eyes can see, there are many things that can be done to help people, especially those in the government, to improve in the way they provide service to the common man. People say it could be her crowning achievement if she can pull it off.

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Roger Pe is managing partner-chief creative officer of Ganda Mo Creators, Philippines.

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