From ‘Tiger of the North’ to Hello Kitty
The reason why there’s a sizeable number of die-hard supporters of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., no matter how many inconvenient truths are thrown his way, is because a myth has been created around the Marcos name. His father has been turned into some kind of a mythical creature immune from any kind of truth to the contrary. To a large extent, it’s no different from the phenomenon that makes people believe in the existence of the mythical creatures of our folklore. People believe in the existence of the enkanto, higante, diwata, kapre, nuno, and aswang, regardless of the amount of scientific evidence that disproves their existence.
In the same way, people believe in the Marcos myth that the father’s reign was the “golden age” of our country, regardless of historical evidence to the contrary. This is the reason why, notwithstanding final court decisions that prove massive corruption and tens of thousands of human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship, a big group of Marcos supporters refuse to believe these facts. They hold on instead to the notion that Marcos Sr. was some kind of an enkanto who turned the Philippines into a magical kingdom. His son, Marcos Jr., will bring back that fairy-tale kingdom, and make all the poverty, corruption, and violence disappear.
The campaign to portray the Marcoses as a virtual family of enkantos was implemented through a massive myth-making operation undertaken in social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube. Deceptive and fake information was spread online to create the Marcos myth. In particular, the myth created about Marcos Sr. as the strong leader our country needs was parlayed to extend to his son, Marcos Jr., with the latter peddled in the presidential campaign as the “Tiger of the North.” The myth-making achieved massive success as shown by the huge lead of Marcos Jr. in recent presidential surveys.
Then came the Jessica Soho interview of the presidential candidates last Saturday, and the mythical image of Marcos Jr. suddenly came crashing down. Because Marcos Jr. chickened out of the interview, he has become the butt of jokes on social media, describing him as a “coward” and similar belittling names.
The Jessica Soho interview has become a monumental watershed in the presidential election. Prior to the interview, it was Leni Robredo who was constantly subjected to ridicule by groups supportive of Marcos Jr. Before the interview, anyone who came out publicly for Robredo in Northern Luzon, where I’m based, was mocked by Marcos supporters. After the Soho interview, the tide suddenly shifted and a tsunami of ridicule has inundated Marcos Jr. From an enchanted higante, Marcos Jr. has essentially been mocked as a nuno after the interview.
It’s clear now that the multiple presidential interviews and debates that will happen in the course of the campaign will be the kryptonite that will strip the candidates of whatever mythical pretensions they have been garbed with. And it will be Marcos Jr. who will suffer the most. He will be forced to admit that news about the Tallano gold or Yamashita treasure that his family will supposedly share with the public after he wins are nothing but fake news. He will be asked to confirm that he didn’t graduate from college. He will be grilled on the hundreds of billions of the Marcos ill-gotten wealth that have been confiscated by the government, and the thousands of human rights victims who suffered during his father’s dictatorship. He will be confronted with the cases still pending against his family in courts here and abroad. In other words, he will be forced to strip the Marcos name of all the invented myths.
The morning after the Jessica Soho interview, I started reading posts of Marcos Jr. supporters expressing a change of allegiance, admitting disillusionment with Marcos Jr., and professing appreciation for Robredo’s clear answers. It was the turn of Robredo supporters to pillory Marcos Jr. One online post stood out for its first-rate mocking humor—“Yung ‘tiger of the north’ ninyo naging Hello Kitty.”
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