My first & last article about the Philippine elections

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ May 2nd, 2010. Updated on November 30th, 2010. Published in: Travel blog » Discover World Culture » Philippines.

Taking politics into account when traveling, living overseas or searching for a country to call home is important. However,  I have a rule. I will not write in-depth personal articles about a country’s politics. As a traveler I don’t think it’s my business to get involved with internal politics.

It’s up to a nations citizens, in a free society, to dictate a countries path.

Street girl eating leftovers at a market table

Street Girl eating someones leftovers at a market: somehow, her needs are not making the front page of any newspaper

As a traveler in The Philippines in search of a place to live, I can’t help but put this rule up for consideration.

Many long term readers of my journal will know that the political situation in Nepal is one of the reasons I left, near heartbroken, but with the gift of hope.

New amendment to the rule:

I will write about politics, but from my own perspective, on how it effects my view on making a specific country my home. However it will not include publizing nor promoting any political party whatsoever. I remain as with the first rule, neutral. As I believe, I should be.

Elections in The Philippines:

It’s not making international headlines anywhere, but, it’s election time in The Philippines. The current presidents term is up, and according to the constitution she cannot run for office again.

In a country that’s had scandal embroiled leaders for decades its good to see the gears of democracy working for once. However, all is not what it seems on the front page. Open the paper on Pinoy politics and you will see something much murkier.

I dubbed Vladamir Putin’s from President to ruling prime minister the new trend in political leadership “Doing a Putin“. Word on the street is that there are similar ideas here. Leader of the lower house is also allegedly on the cards.

Celebrity politics & Dynasty politics, my personal dislikes:

The current run of politicians running for presidency in The Philippines includes:

  • husbands of actors & tv personalities
  • former presidents convicted of plunder yet pardoned by current presidents
  • religious types
  • a person currently in prison
  • a chief justice
  • the son of a former president who’s related to famous actors
  • and someone who crows like a chicken ( I joke not)

Quite a mixed bag, eh?

There are two main trends here. Actors or those related to them, and former presidents and their relatives.

Example of dynasty politics in the Philipines:

In southern Mindanao there is a family of politicians – the father was a congressman, the mother a governor, a nephew is vice-governor and a brother is congressman who is stepping down due to his term being up. A brother is looking to take over.

What’s happening on the ground:

Cars, shops and streets are clustered with billboards, signs, and posters. Weekend evenings are filled with party like political gatherings shouting out slogans and handing out paraphernalia to the beat of music.

Political images on a container in The Philippines

A political milkshake - yes, political advertising is everywhere in The Philippines

New roads have been built faster in the last few months than in the past few years, it seems. Newspapers headline with rumors, and quotes of “he said / she said”.

At rallies trucks of villagers are being driven in, fed free food and allegedly seem to be given “donations” to support / promote a candidate as being popular. Again, let me point out, this is the word on the street.

There is an air of fiesta everywhere.

What are the People saying:

The Pinoy’s I talk to are not shy with talking politics. Yet they do so in two extremes. One half dance around as if their candidate is the next super hero coming to save the nation. The other half shrug them all off as being corrupt and as bad as the next.

The latter also say politics here is embarrassing, and the reason for problems in their country.

Ask about a candidates mandate and few can list them. The reason why they are voting for a candidate? I am told, ” *candidate name* is the lesser evil“.

Akin to …

Whenever there is a major event in The Philippines, its popularised by a fiesta. Earth hour is a prime example. The country, in particular certain regions in Mindanao, is being devistated by power outages. Yet Earth Hour was celebrated in some places with stage lights, loudspeakers blaring out music, and giant mega malls hosting them with all their lights on.

Yes, there are plenty of posters saying what it’s all about, but “somehow”, is the real message getting lost during all the pomp and fiesta?

Election time:

When Manny Paquio ( boxer)  recently announced he would  run for Congress the media jumped at it, I wonder if the reality of fact is getting overshadowed?

Just recently two people accused of being involved with the mass murder of over 50 people including the killing of more journalists than anywhere else on earth were set free.

The electrical crises continues with no sustainable solutions in sight.

The world food shortage problem seems to have been forgotten about in light of what’s currently trending the media.

Thousands have been made homeless in a recent slum fire in Manila, little is being said about what any future or current government will do to help those with nothing.

My view on Global Politics in my search:

The age of political celebrity, and dynasty politics is a global phenomenon that’s growing. In the U.S.A. it’s been around for a long time. The President is in fact, the biggest celebrity in the country.

In the U.K. the Prime Minister is perhaps overshadowed by royalty. But, there are also two brothers that hold key appointments in government. Can you see the future here?

In France the covers of gossip magazines offer non-stop coverage of the presidents celebrity wife. And, people buy it.

In Nepal the Former King allegedly wiped out his whole family, the maoists came to power, then walked out. There’s still no constitution, and in fact, at the moment, the country is an illegal state. My guess is, the deadline will pass. And, there is a Banda (strike) today.

Where is it all headed?

I don’t know. But I do know: I don’t like its current direction.

In my global search to  find a place to live I am finding myself looking at politics with a more weighty eye.

The west is becoming more totalitarian in a terrifyingly Orwellian way. While other countries follow suit, clambering for celebrity politicians, dynasty power holders, and all the while throwing caution to the wind.

My only answer is to turn away, but then again could that be shooting oneself in the foot …

Coming Soon:

The Arc of Darkness

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15 Great responses to My first & last article about the Philippine elections

  1. Trixie says:

    You are correct when you say “Itâ��s not making international headlines anywhere” but as a reader of your blog, I will say that is exactly what keeps me interested in your travel stories – be it about the people, food, or in this case, the local political environment. Personally, I welcome this type of discussion from someone with first-hand experience and your kind of integrity – it only adds to the depth and diversity of the other experiences you share. Besides, it certainly beats having to read minute-to-minute updates about Tiger Woods and what he’s doing, has done, or will do with his genitals (sorry, just couldn’t think of any other way to get my point across). ;-)

    • -Trixie- Thank your for those words, it’s good to know you are reading along. Yes, I agree, it’s very easy to find up to date gossip on this or that person. But it’s not so easy finding out what really is happening in the world today. Worse is when the politicians become the celebrities!

      -Andy- I never knew about the it being illegal to put posters on the trees here, though it does make perfect sense. While there are posters everywhere I’ve not been observing if they are being put up on the trees. I’ll keep an eye out! But I imagine, it’s still going on, just a hunch.

      -Bruno- Thank you, that’s a big compliment. You bring up a very important point I only lightly touched on. Yes, a lot of people from the villages have not had an education to understand the point of the elections. When you have very little, being offered a free trip into a big city, with food and a music show you may never have seen the likes of before. Well, that’s going to garner votes.

      Completely wrong. The reverse of what it should. Then again, many people around the world are wooed by pomp, pageantry and gifts.

  2. Andy says:

    I was in the Philippines for a short time during the last election campaign in 2007. One amusing thing for me was when getting driven along some roads south of Manila, one of the Pinoy’s I was with quipped to me “You know, it’s against the election rules to nail election posters to trees. All candidates found doing it should be disqualified.”
    I started taking more note of it as I looked out the window, nearly ever tree was covered in posters. I couldn’t help but laugh at the scenario in that it was so out of hand it couldn’t be enforced – there’d be no one to vote for. But at least they had the rule in place, and hopefully they can begin enforcing it over the years.

  3. Bruno says:

    well, at first I was worried a bit about your amendement… but I must admit you did a perfect job, better then any Philippine journalist I ve read so far.
    Discussions about politics, and specially politicians, always make me feel sick and depressed, so for my own health, I see them now as people who make sure they take care for themself, for their own employment, and are marionettes of the multinationals..
    Not only in the Philippines actors,dictators and/or criminals are elected (see Italy, USA). I symphatise more with the Pinoys, where many of them dont have the means, the time (coz other more livesaving priorities) to inform themself properly about how the situation is, and who is responsable for that.
    I believe its a global disease, called selfishness, wich is spreading more and more…and sadly politicians are experts in it.

  4. floreta says:

    i’m very bad about politics and mostly feel ignorant of the issues and global economy. but i do try to keep up with some current events and do notice the orwellian state of things in the US and it’s saddening me. as a US citizen living abroad, it certainly doesn’t make me feel very proud of my country. i think this is only the beginning of a unfortunate trend, which could be the result of fear, esp. since the minority becoming the majority is fastly approaching. in any event, thanks for opening up our eyes on the election situation in the philippines. i’m mostly lost when it comes to the local politics here. all i know is the campaign jingles are SO annoying. they’re blaring that stupid wonder girls song and changing it to a jingle!

    • -floreta- I think it’s really hard, to stay up to date with the political situation anywhere, while living abroad. Diplomat’s will disagree, but then they live in a different world. Which, ironically, the people pay for.

      They use really annoying songs over here as well. People sing along to them everywhere it seems. I guess it works, the song that is. Sadly, I think people might vote on that alone!

  5. Earl says:

    It’s interesting that you mentioned the roads being built faster than ever before the elections. Here in Mexico, with some local elections about to take place, the candidates have been paying for perfectly good roads to be torn up and replaced with new roads in the poorer areas. And then they close the road, and host a concert/fiesta as well in order to celebrate.

    In exchange for the new road, the people on those streets allow the outside of their homes and/or shops to be painted over and turned into one giant billboard in support of a particular candidate.

    And then a new candidate arrives and does the exact same thing but builds sidewalks instead, and the paint is removed and his slogan and face is painted onto the homes. Nothing is ever mentioned about how the actual lives of those living in those poorer areas are going to improve, but it works anyway.

    With each passing day, and each country visited, I become more and more disgusted by politics. However, this post is a perfect example of why I do choose to travel, for the first-hand knowledge that helps me avoid having to rely on media or other biases outlets.

    • -Earl- It’s good to see another example of the “road” works that politicians seem to use in various countries. Not to mention the fiesta. Repeat, rinse, repeat.

      It’s a short fix for the people living in those homes I imagine. New paint, a party. Something that doesn’t happen that often in their lives. I can’t blame them. It’s the people practicing this that should know better, and they do, so they continue. Is it right though? No. I do not think so. But it works for them, so they continue.

      And yes, I too get more disgusted by politics with each and every passing day. I’ve yet to come across a country whereby there is not some scandal involved politically. Hence I worry a little, and think it’s best to turn a blind eye. At least in my own case. But I don’t think it’s possible.

  6. Tim says:

    My political leanings should be easy to figure out if you know what my avatar symbolizes.
    Taking a long look back at Philippine politics makes it a little easier to understand why (perhaps) it’s such a mess, although I’m not making any excuses for the state of things.
    Some may ask why I’ve chosen PI as my home if the government is so questionable.
    My response is that while it certainly is bad, it’s still possible to live with minimal interference if you try.
    That’s a rare thing in much of the world today.

    • -Tim- You certainly bring up a good point. And I am of two minds. One half thinks similarly, it’s better than most places. The other half says, sure, but it’s still not meant to be like this. However, the above article is not just about the Philippines, it’s about politics in general the world over.

      And again, for me, it’s either turn a blind eye and get on with life, or stand up for what I believe in. Moving to a new country inevitably means one cannot get involved politically. One doesn’t even have the right to vote. So in some ways, its an easy option as you can opt out. But then when you start to care about the place, and the people, you’d like the option to vote. Moreover, you’d like to make sure the vote will work in a legitimate system.

      Like you say, that’s a rare thing in the world today.

  7. Tim says:

    Taking the long look, political systems on our planet tend to follow a very similar cycle and I’m certain that cycle will continue. It’s the unfortunate nature of the human condition.
    As for voting, many may disagree with me but “democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner”.


  8. Tim says:

    In using the word “interference” I was overly brief (laughing at myself). I didn’t mean interference by “us”. Most Filipinos have probably had enough interference from the outside. I meant interference in the affairs of the governed by the government.
    I did enjoy your article and your insights as I do your entire website. I will visit more often.

    Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito.

    • -Tim- Enjoyed your comments. Democracy has many faces alright. I hope the Philippines do well with the new head of state.

      I think you might find the next article of interest too.

  9. Kendo says:

    here in the provinces (rural areas) people feel remote from the manila political debate. It is not that they are uneducted, its just thet it effects them (us) very little. Of much more concern it politics at the barangay (village) and Mayoral (town) level. The Barangay captains have a huge authority over local lives (and I include myself as a foreigner here). They a large level of control over access to water, road repairs/access, local services and even elcectricity conx and building permits. All ok if they are fair but a nightmare if you have one acting against you (I know this).
    In our local barangay elections people were ‘encouraged’ to vote (for the current captain) and anyone who didn’t (rumour had it) would lose their water connection.

    People were shocked recently when we refused to buy (p2000 each!) tickets for privaleged tickets for from row seats at the local Fiesta. The mayor was told specifically about our ‘rebuff’, apparently.


    • The local politics are very family oriented too. I’m not sure how all this started, or where the origins are. It might have simply been a good way to administer a country made up of islands and the regions within. I, personally, don’t see how can be effectively administrated. Then again, it works for some people in The Philippines, and not for others. At the end of the day, it’s up to the Philippine people to make up their mind on what type of administration they want. It is a free country after all.