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I like Leni Robredo. It’s hard not to. In the past 4 years, she has managed to serve the public with aplomb – sabay hair flip – despite being in an administration hell-bent to discredit her.
As I write this, for instance, social media is bursting with schadenfreude over last night’s #DuterteMeltdown, in which our petulant president railed against the veep for doing nothing after the past weeks’ calamities – an accusation she just shrugged off, busy as she was distributing relief goods in Bicol.
It’s logical for people furious with the administration’s corruption and ineptitude to admire someone actively proving she is not part of that garbage fire. Of course, they’ll cheer her on. Of course, they’ll make memes in her honor.
And while I also hope she continues to do good work and inspire others to do their part, I can’t help but be wary of that thin line between respect and hero worship that we Filipinos, historically, are so very susceptible to crossing.
We love our hero narratives. We like our leaders to have Disney character arcs. Cory, Queen of the People Power Movement, dies on an election year, a year when echoes of a rat villain’s “Hello Garci” and “I am sorry” still hang thick in the air, so who better to lift onto the nation’s shoulders but the reluctant People Power Prince, come to save us all by sheer virtue of his yellow blood?
But Noynoy did not turn out to be as charming a prince as we’d hoped. But instead of learning our lesson in 2016, we just skipped from one fictional trope to the next, this time to a rootin’ tootin’ trigger-happy cowboy who took the law into his own hands – and how.
And Leni was also a character to us. Also a widow to a “president we never had,” just like our Yellow Queen, and also the Force of Good against Bongbong Marcos’ Force of (Very, Very) Evil.
I was beyond relieved that she won against Marcos, but I’ll be honest: the fact that she won because of a deftly narrated backstory made me nervous.
Fortunately, VP Leni has been proving consistently that her virtue is not just a figment of our imaginations. The woman has kept herself busy with actual work that benefits actual citizens, and did so graciously, even while Bongbong hounded her with his ridiculous electoral protest.
However, this wasn’t because of the backstory she rode on in 2016. It was in spite of it. Because there is only so much a myth about you can do. We’ve learned that lesson the hard way over and over and over again, from one election season to the next, and keep throwing away what we’ve learned because it’s just so much easier to sit back and look up to a savior.
My proposal, then, is that when we see Leni doing good on the media and want to highlight this on our own feeds, we don’t make it just about her. Because the truth of the matter is, she did not do all these good things single-handedly, and she never has.
She can’t do it without her competent and hardworking team. And her team can’t do it without the cooperation of other principled government officials, all the way down to the kapitans and kapitanas of the barangays. And these officials can’t do it without a citizenry that values the well-being of the community over selfish interests.
So yes, it is definitely okay to be proud of this woman and to encourage her to lead us. But it is not okay to just leave it at that, to put all of our hopes and expectations of a better life on her, to not recognize that a good nation is made up of many good people – not just the one. – Rappler.com
Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon heads Rappler’s Opinion section, and is (happily) wrangled into voice over and hosting work. She has been with Rappler since 2013, and also served as its social media producer for 6 years. She is also a fictionist.