Perhaps part of the trouble is that, for the first time, it was impossible to talk about a politician without also talking about personal philosophies, about values. Discussions regarding politics went beyond heated yet civil debates over dinner and veered dangerously close to creating resentment.
I am so philosophically opposed to what Duterte embodies that my mother’s support of him shook me to my core. We no longer discuss politics in person, but I would still get into a flurry of exchanges on Facebook with my mother, and to a lesser degree my sister. It became so toxic to me that I eventually unfollowed my own mother on social media.
It was difficult for me to grasp how she could reconcile Duterte’s support for the Marcoses while having been part of the EDSA revolution. She had friends who disappeared and friends who were detained during Martial Law. But here she was able to compartmentalize his support for the Marcoses and her opposition to them. Furthermore, my mother and sister also distanced Bongbong Marcos from his father, saying things like: they weren’t the same person, and the sins of the father shouldn’t be passed on to the son.
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It was maddening how my mother could turn a blind eye to the spate of killings in the drug war, going so far as to believe that it’s justified. In fact, she didn’t deny that the state was killing drug users; she seemed okay with that. In fact, during one bizarre argument, she likened Duterte’s purge to the massacre at Tiananmen Square, saying that viewed from the rearview mirror, China was right. She believed that the ends justified the means.
It was world-shattering for me to hear my mother, the woman whom I’d held in such high esteem, the woman who inspired me to be passionate and not stand idly by, talk about state-perpetrated killing as not only acceptable, but even necessary. It made no sense. It was heartbreaking. After being frustrated by her stance during one argument on Facebook, I wrote how I no longer recognized my own mother. Her response floored me: She said that she hadn’t changed, and that perhaps I never really knew her to begin with.
I know my mother, though. I know she is kind-hearted and intelligent. I know she loves her family, my children, her grandchildren. She’s a terrific cook, a kind employer, and a supportive partner to my dad. I know many things about her, the woman who taught me many things. I am the way I am because of my mother. Imagine how I felt to hear her tell me that I probably didn’t know her as well as I thought I did. That maybe I’d gotten the wrong idea about her. It feels like having the rug pulled out from under your feet.
After being frustrated by her stance during one argument on Facebook, I wrote how I no longer recognized my own mother.
Fortunately, my interactions with my family are minimal these days. I have my own family now, as do most of my other siblings. We see each other only on holidays and special occasions. On those days we no longer talk about politics. It’s no longer an enjoyable subject. Whereas we all used to share the same opinions on most politicians, cracking jokes about this mayor or that senator, griping about corruption or bad public policy, the current divide is something that has put politics outside our pool of acceptable table topics.
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It’s unfortunate because we’ve always felt that politics is an important discussion in any family, or at least it should be. In my family, we are civil when we’re face to face. My mom still cooks our favorite foods, she's still a fun and cool grandma. But something’s changed.
Perhaps we’ll weather this until this term is over. Perhaps after 2022, we’ll be able to unite against a common enemy once again. We all had our own candidates back in 2010, though we all agreed PNoy wasn’t getting our votes. Despite campaigning for different candidates, our discussions were still lively, spirited, and civil. It never got to the point where we questioned each other’s principles or ethics. The 2016 elections changed all that. Even when the man is gone, what it has revealed about our characters will leave some lingering questions for my family. Questions that may never be answered, and questions that I never wanted to ask.