2022 Philippine Elections

Here is unity: The different faces of the Marcos 30 million

Rambo Talabong

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Here is unity: The different faces of the Marcos 30 million

Supporters flock the headquarters of presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr after partial and unofficial returns show Marcos leading by a wide margin against his closest rival, on May 9, 2022. Rappler

Rappler photo

Here are the faces and voices of rejoicing Marcos supporters. Their message: the Marcos victory is real, and it is not bought.

30 years ko nang hinhintay ito (I have been waiting for this for 30 years).”

Alex Escandor, 57, stood along EDSA outside the Marcos-Duterte campaign headquarters on Tuesday, May 10. He carried a glass frame the width of his torso. Taped on the center was one unmistakable figure – the presidential portrait of the ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Escandor has been keeping the print for around 36 years. It was an heirloom of sorts from his mother, which she instructed that he guarded.

Sabi sa akin: ‘Anak, itabi mo iyan hanggang sa bumalik ang mga Marcos. Hindi man si Apo, pero isa sa mga anak niya’,” he recalled. (She told me “Son, keep that portrait up until the Marcoses return. It may not be Apo who will do it, but one of his children.)

LOYALIST. Alex Escandor, 57, outside the BBM-Sara Uniteam headquarters along EDSA.

While his mother was gone, her hope came true.

Some 36 years later, Marcos’ son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, was set to reclaim the presidency for his family. The victory is a result of decades of whitewashing their name and a campaign that called for “unity” amid an adversarial political climate. Marcos is set to win with over 30 million votes, according to the partial and unofficial tally of the Commission on Elections.

Escandor rode a bus from Imus to Metro Manila, joining fellow supporters as they rejoiced the Marcos’ return to Malacañang. As he stood facing the historic avenue, behind him, dozens of fellow Marcos loyalists sang “Bagong Lipunan,” the dictator’s anthem, which, to many Martial Law survivors, evoked traumatic memories.

A woman at the back, Lita (not her real name), raised her left hand in a peace sign – the pro-Marcos hand gesture – and bounced to the beat. She came all the way from France to witness Marcos’ election.

HOMECOMING. Lita (not her real name) outside the Marcos-Duterte campaign headquarters along EDSA.

Sikat na sikat siya sa amin (He is very popular among us),” Lita said. She was a domestic worker, among millions projected to add to Marcos’ commanding lead against other candidates.

The reason for Marcos Jr’s popularity, she said, was that he would “continue what the father did.”

She was referring to the myth of the “golden era” under the Marcos years and the infrastructures he had built for the country. It was also during the Marcos years that the Philippines implemented the so-called “Development Diplomacy” in 1975 which saw the rise of Filipinos going to the Middle East and abroad.

The myth of the Marcos family establishing a golden era in the Philippines has long been debunked and contested by experts, with economic growth seen most only in Marcos’ home region of Ilocos, while the economies of other regions had suffered. Marcos’ economic policy also saw the country’s debt ballooning by billions.

These myths were seeded for generations and have budded on social media, a terrain that a handful of vloggers outside the headquarters had long mapped and conquered.

One of them was Marlon Lawis, 23, the one-man team behind ‘TROPANG BISAYA’, a Youtube channel with over 100 thousand followers.

INFLUENCER. Marlon Lawis outside the Marcos-Duterte campaign headquarters along EDSA.

“BBM PANALO NA BBM SUPPORTERS PARTY (BBM already the victor, BBM’s supporter’s party),” reads his previous broadcast, which enjoyed over a thousand live viewers.

“I used to believe that the Marcoses were bad, but because of the expansion of social media, I found out that all the accusations of the Marcoses were untrue. It was thanks to social media,” Lawis told Rappler.

This despiser-to-believer transformation of Marcos supporters was a widely told experience, with social media as their shared vehicle into the Marcos web of lies and myths.

It was through posts on Facebook and Youtube where Hercules Sison, 42, learned to love the Marcoses enough that he staked out of their campaign headquarters from 4 am, coming all the way from Rosario in Cavite.

“They said Marcos was a thief but I went to the internet and learned that what I heard from the news was wrong,” Sison said.

Distrust in the media was also a common mark of a Marcos supporter. In our interviews, aside from an aversion to Rappler, some declared disdain for major news networks GMA and ABS-CBN. In Marcos’ path to Malacañang, he has not attended a single Comelec-organized debate with the media.

Inaapi ’nyo naman kasi siya (You are oppressing him),” one supporter said.

This belief system was also deeply seeded in the minds of the youth, which was among Marcos’ biggest supporters compared to other age groups in the 2022 campaign.

Lexter Baladhay, 21, stood as the representative of a young crowd along EDSA. His friends touted him to speak English well.

THE COUNTRY’S FUTURE. Lexter Baladhay, 21, speaks for his fellow youth supporters.

Lexter was the secretary of the BBM Youth organization in Metro Manila, and a student of the University of Santo Tomas, among the country’s most prestigious learning institutions.

He said his mission was to “enhance the critical thinking” of youth voters and to have them believe in the Marcos family. His belief was only cemented by “cancel culture”, which, in Marcos supporters’ perspective, meant being called out and hated on for supporting the once disgraced family.

“The hatest thing that I have with the liberals is really their attitude and I don’t want to mention a different camp, but you already know who I am referring to. They have been clouded by their hatred to the point that their judgment has already been done,” he said.

The supporters on Tuesday had a resounding message to the country: that Marcos’ millions were not pulled from thin air, were not a result of an election failure and, most of all, they were not “bought.”

They were Filipinos from different generations and backgrounds, all drawn in by a candidate who was able to win their hearts by speaking to them and only them. They were united. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.