“It’s a puzzlement!” said the Thai monarch in the musicale “The King and I.”
The amazing wins of two woman senators, both greenhorns, Grace Poe Llamanzares and Nancy Binay, beg for an explanation for the small, skeptical middle class, but not for the huge, mainstream masa voters who are street smart and whose wit is sharper.
Commonness and ordinariness are never strategic selling points of politicians running for an elective post. Bombasts, chutzpah and a blabbering mouth are. Grace and Nancy had none of them.
So where’s the logic of a Grace Poe’s (No. 1) and a Nancy Binay’s (No. 5) amazing high scores in winning their senatorial seats?
Both newcomers are neophytes in the election game, and have practically no dramatic or media-driven credentials to display in public. Why the terrific appeal?
Grace and Nancy are nowhere near the public exposures of the pretty face, fashionista and articulate Loren Legarda, nor the high-profile posturing of the feisty activist Risa Hontiveros, who pushed the RH Bill with the flick of her alampay to blast unwanted fetuses away.
In the ’60s, women who made it to the senate had illustrious pedigrees, and impeccable social and political pizazz— Pacita Madrigal, Maria Kalaw Katigbak, Helena Benitez and Eva Estrada Kalaw, to name a few.
They were illustrious women in every sense of the word. They didn’t burst into the scene unannounced. They were carefully selected and nominated by their parties, adhering to high standards of private and public images. Grace and Nancy had none of these.
What Grace and Nancy have are their inherited political brand names. But this is not enough. Political brand names are a dime a dozen in the Philippine political marketplace.
Besides, Grace and Nancy are not running for a local position where the culture of padrino, kinship and local ward politics hold sway.
To run for a national elective post, one needs a unique ingredient, a visceral choice, a big emotional response that defies the rational election campaign formula of high noise level and saturation merchandising.
What worked best for Grace and Nancy is, firstly, the brand goodwill behind the Poe and Binay labels.
Brand Poe is loaded with a huge empathy and idolatry for FPJ, the late movie king who was believed to have been cheated in a previous presidential election. The memory of FPJ’s tragedy is still fresh in the minds of voters. A huge number of posthumous votes for FPJ was extended to Grace Poe, his daughter.
Brand Binay is a household word in Makati. It stands for fast and easy social welfare-type freebies for Makati constituents. This idea was successfully parlayed by Nancy’s father, ex-mayor Jejomar Binay, when he barnstormed the archipelago during his campaign for the vice president position.
The word Binay conjures a paternal provider for the masa’s health, social and leisure needs. If this can be “done in Makati, then it can be done everywhere” carried terrific voters’ value. Nancy is a Binay brand variant, just like Elenita and Junjun. They ride on the brand goodwill established by Jejomar.
What about Grace and Nancy, as is where is? Wittingly or unwittingly, their actuations and image projections demonstrate the power of a “less is more” strategy. Whether Grace and Nancy did it by design is not the point. The point is, Grace and Nancy did not feed the public the staple fodder of hackneyed over-promises.
Body language and countenance appeal speak louder than words.
Ang dating ni Grace and Nancy ay walang put-on, walang kaartehan, simpleng mga misis sila, simpleng manamit at mapagkumbaba. Hindi sila agresibo at maporma kung umasta. Medyo mahiyain pa nga si Nancy, kasi bagito. Pwede silang mahalin. Pwede silang tulungan. Pwede silang asahan.
Then there’s the matter of good chemistry created by the likeable mental pictures and winsome attitudes that become the mass voters’ net takeaway, an intuitive act. Admen call this bypassing the brain and going straight to the heart.
In the imagination of her voters, Grace Poe becomes a palpable individual, magandang mestizahin friend, anak ni FPJ. Pinalaki siya nang maayos ni Susan Roces. She’s cool, mild, may pinag-aralan. She has no mean bone and not a single angry word uttered on FPJ being cheated in his bid for the Presidency. Hindi pikon. Mabait.
Nancy has the kayumangging kaligatan Filipino woman appeal. The reference to her skin color is actually anti-culture, concocted by Facebook bitches who coat their faces regularly with skin whiteners.
Nancy becomes the ordinary housewife, unglamorous and busy, keeping order in her house, raising children well and a good wife to her husband. She’s a kindred spirit for millions of Filipino housewives.
If not for Grace and Nancy, this 2013 election would have been a big bore full of broken stereotypes, tired tradpol gimmicks and hyperbole.
Thank God! Grace and Nancy swam against the current. And for that, the mainstream Filipino voters gave them very high scores.