More than stunned, I felt betrayed—not unlike a wife whose husband had just confessed to another love—when, at our first lunch after a long time, two old and dearest friends revealed they had voted for Duterte. I had hoped they were joking; they were dead serious.
I’d never have guessed. I’ve loved these two—they’re among the most accomplished, the finest of my friends. Medical doctors themselves, they had failed to assess the seriousness of the drug problem correctly, they said, and were only grateful to Duterte, not only for showing them the drug crisis, but also for his political will to deal with it.
About his roughness and foul language and reverse prejudice against “Imperial Manila,” their excuse was his
“pagka-probinsyano.” I myself thought their characterization of him bordered on the pathological, but what do I know? I had doubts about the gravity of the drug problem as he presented it, but it sure was effective.
These two probinsyana are as refined as they come, but they said, with traces of an old hurt, that they, too, had encountered the so-called elitist Manila’s prejudices when they first arrived from the province. That was what probably drove them to work harder and finally reach the top of their careers.
In Duterte’s case, he might have risen from town mayor to the highest position in the land too fast. Like the few probinsyano I’ve known who came from prominent, highly regarded families, he had grown accustomed to privilege and having his way. Many probinsyano flaunt their provincial roots at every chance, never bothering to conform to big-city social norms.
My ex-probinsyana doctor friends possibly have overlooked the president’s immature comportment, but they are bothered by the unabated extra-judicial killings and his dogged pursuit of Sen. Leila de Lima.
They think that his close ties and confessed indebtedness to the Marcoses are quite worrisome, and that the sneaky burial of the old dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani was reminiscent of the secrecy that surrounded the Marcos years, and don’t we all know those horrors!
Many of my pro-Duterte friends are also pro-American, with family and ties in the US. They are not inclined toward the Chinese or the Russians. Others I know who are having second thoughts for one reason or another seem themselves ready to pull away.
In the Nov. 30 rally, that seemed clear. Many of those who are themselves still fiercely clinging to Duterte may have lost their children to the anti-Marcos, anti-Duterte movement.
Duterte’s controversial and colorful persona attracted 16 million voters, not a few of whom put friendships and family ties on the line. These challenged relationships are being tested every day. At any rate, such bonds run deep; they outdate and usually outlast political differences.
My mom and dad didn’t always see eye to eye in politics, either. Toward the end of the Marcos regime, when most of the Blue Ladies had made themselves scarce, mom felt genuinely sorry for Imelda and began to frequent the palace only then, which really got on Dad’s nerves.
She had never been close to her before then, although they knew each other back when Imelda was only Pacing Romualdez’s niece, newly arrived from Leyte.
On the last day of the Marcoses in Malacañang, he called me from The Manila Times office, which had been revived by him and Vergel, and uncle Ramon Roces.
“Guess where your mother is right now?” he asked me, not so much in anger as in such tone as “There she goes again, doing things without thinking of the consequences to me.”
Of course, he was conveniently forgetting the consequences to her of his own past actions. It could have been Mom’s way of getting even with him. In the end, their sentimental love survived it.
I’m not breaking up with pro-Duterte friends myself. There will be life after this. In fact, even before friendships built on less solid ground can give, new ones based on shared moral principles are forming to close ranks with my husband and me.
My pro-Trump friends didn’t break my heart as much as the pro-Duterte ones. Why they cast their lot with Trump, I’ll never understand. But I’m not crushed. Hillary beat Trump by over two million votes. Sure, she lost the presidency, but she won the battle for American hearts. The best years for Grandma Hillary and Grandpa Bill are yet to come.
Just now, in a gesture of friendship, I texted one of my doctoras, in case she wanted to go to the Leon Gallery preview cocktails, at the same time as the Nov. 30 rally at Edsa; knowing she was of opposite political leanings, I was sure she’d be able to go. I had, of course, presumed she wasn’t joining the rally.
Imagine my surprise when she texted back, “Regretfully,” I’m missing both. Am only arriving on the third. Shall tell all to go to the rally or at least join the noise barrage!”