“I would think that we’re closer than most mother-daughter [relationships] whenever I…compare it with the relationships I see online.”
This is how May* (I, CAM) views her relationship with her mother. Despite being the only child in a strict household, May’s mom serves as her comfort blanket whenever she feels down. They tell each other stories, run out for coffee, and even share advocacies they’re passionate about, such as safeguarding animal rights or favoring the pro-choice movement. “[If] there are issues she supports, she will support it fully,” the Communication Arts student reveals.
Yet, when it comes to other issues—especially about local politics—May shares a different story, one that she can’t seem to wrap her head around: “everyone in our family, not just my mom, is [a] BBM (President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) [supporter].”
Her story is a familiar narrative the Philippines has heard time and time again. They are tales that tell of a liberal youngin enlightening their family who subscribed to Marcos Jr.’s disinformation-filled campaign, only to be met with the villainizing rhetoric that targets the progressive ideals lobbied by former Vice President Leni Robredo’s presidential campaign.
For some families, these arguments fizzle out in time; but for most, Marcos Jr.’s ascension to the highest seat in governance reminds them that they have finally won after all these years.
May delightfully looks up to the mother that taught her the most valuable morals. One particular lesson pinned on her heart: “You have to stand up for yourself…when someone does you wrong, you have to let them know,” echoing her mother’s strong will. But inspirational as this might be, she had always been well aware of her mother’s conflicting political ideals.
In a family of Marcos Jr. supporters that frequent political discussions, talks of human rights would be met with her mother hissing, “Kalokohan [lang] ‘yan.” May’s family reasons that all the support had to do with their own humble beginnings in Mindanao—the birthplace of BBM’s running mate, Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio—as if such a geographical fact justified avid championing for BBM. The extent at which May’s mother actively favored Marcos Jr. concerned her even more; the matriarch proudly walked about in events for BBM during campaign season, carried merchandise, and handed these items out to fellow supporters. “She stuck a BBM magnet on my car and I was so scared of driving it around,” May admits.
(What a joke.)
In a similar light, Atticus*, a food safety officer, is also conscious of how her parents supported BBM while she did not. She shares that her parents were teachers and held strong faith for the Catholic church, yet could still stomach dictatorial acts under the Marcos Sr. regime such as extrajudicial killings and martial law. “For them, that’s the only way they can eradicate the problems of this society,” Atticus shares. In a home that strongly values integrity, these political stances are a disturbing puzzle of their own.
But the prologue of Jay’s* story is quite different. Cracking jokes and making puns were a staple in his family’s daily lives, contrasting with the strict atmosphere of May’s and Atticus’. While this sounded more lax, Jay was instructed with an unsettling and seemingly passive political ideology. “They taught me how to be respectful and tolerant of other views, no matter how strongly I disagreed with it.”
Still, a common concept remains among the three: the contradiction between the imposed morals and their families’ political choices. “They can think for themselves critically, yet they still prefer to just submit and [to] defer to authorities,” Jay unveils. This, partnered with the ever-present adage of adults’ “Ang bata-bata mo pa,” discourages many young adults such as May from speaking up. “I just keep my mouth shut,” she shares, feeling as if she lacks the experience to share her opinion and speak against adults who have been through past presidents.
(You are too young to understand.)
Moral dilemma among conversations
But the chokehold on all three tightened when the showdown between Marcos Jr. and Robredo erupted at the height of Halalan 2022, affecting many in the name of political fanaticism. Atticus describes a heated discussion about the two presidential candidates during dinner with her family, “They (Atticus’ family) were one of [the] many people [who give] shallow reasons of why Leni should not be be voted [for]—[like] how Leni calls out BBM magnanakaw, saying that we were just influenced by the haters of [the] Marcoses.” As a result, they now rarely talk about politics to avoid arguments from happening again. “That was the last time we ever talked about politics [among the family],” she notes.
Though Jay’s parents are relatively open to the idea of him having his own political ideals, they still fail to understand what he stands for. “We didn’t really talk about it in the typical ‘Why are you supporting Marcos Jr.?’ or ‘Let me educate you’ fashion because I knew that they’re so entrenched in that belief there’s really no changing their mind.” Hence, Jay turns to taking part in political endeavors—forming a community-based youth theater organization, and marching the streets in protest, to which his parents showed concern. Jay shares, “I would give my thoughts on it, they’d give their own, and though we had differing views, the conversations were respectful and it became a new way for me to have a special bond with them.”
Moreover, talks of politics have confused May’s own principles, “During the campaign, sabi nila if Marcos supporter ka, bobo ka,” she recounts. “‘Di naman bobo mom ko. If mommy supports him, then maybe he’s not bad,” she continues. Ultimately, she casted her vote for the opposition, considering how unaligned her personal beliefs are with the current president’s.
(During the campaign, they said that if you’re a Marcos supporter, you’re stupid. My mom’s not stupid.)
Thus, when the win of Marcos Jr. came, it brought neither comfort nor distress to the Communication Arts student, citing the lack of attachment to the opposing candidate. She elaborates, “I lack some of the experiences of those in my age group, those who were part of the rallies and organizations.” On the other hand, Jay felt that he was too late in educating his parents, “I feel that the failure was on my side for not being able to address this issue earlier, seeing as they always listened to what I had to say.”
To May, Atticus, and Jay, Marcos Jr.’s win symbolizes how they continue to remain subalterns among the country’s current political hegemony. “I joined a video call [with] my aunties and imagine, instead of saying ‘Kamusta?’, the welcoming message was, ‘Kamusta, mga talunan, tanggap niyo na ba?’” Atticus reveals. This type of supporters see the presidential win as a medal, a symbol of how much they value harrowing ideologies of the Marcos administration.
(Instead of saying “How are you?” the welcoming message was, “How are you, losers? Have you accepted defeat already?”)
Even with this intense ridicule, many still mourn the loss of the former vice president while resigned to the fact that political discourse might never be peaceful between family members. At times, May feels guilty as she finds it hard to open political discussions with her mother, “I’ve seen my classmates really argue with their parents, but I can’t do that with my mom,” she laments.
However, that doesn’t mean they can’t fight in silence. As Jay points out, “I hope that we won’t regret the choices we made in the last elections,” continuing to evaluate the previous and current administration when he needs to.
All three recognize that many families are divided because of their perceptions of Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio’s administration. As a nation lacking a clear path for its future, the last thing society’s basic units should do is split up due to political extremism. Instead, families should listen to each other, recognizing the cruciality of being critical and demanding for good governance. As the flames of Halalan 2022’s aftermath continue to go up in smoke, the united Philippines Marcos Jr. dreams of will fall apart in an instant, and the loving Filipino family will burn alongside it.