We elected leaders, not parents

It is fiesta month in Laoag City, and each day is filled with activities initiated by various sectors. Naturally, politicians are everywhere grazing festivities and making themselves more visible than usual to the public eye.

It was in a beauty pageant held a few days ago (I am not, dear karikna, fond of beauty contests but I am fond of my relatives; my cousin’s daughter tried her luck in that competition) that I noticed how our city leaders have decided to package themselves.

Politicians calling themselves father or mother of a town, city, province, or the nation is not exactly unusual in the Philippines, but my city’s case is interesting. Chevylle Fariñas, the first-term mayor, succeeded her husband Michael, who was mayor for nine years and now the vice mayor. In that pageant, the welcome remarks was delivered by their daughter Mikee, the new chair of the Association of Barangay Councils and ex-officio city councilor. In her entire speech, from her customary roll call of the guests to the end, she repeatedly and proudly referred to the mayor and vice mayor, as “Mother of the City” and “Father of the City.” I felt both uncomfortable and saddened listening to that speech. And confused, too… should we now call this young councilor, Ate of the City? What about the other city officials? Do we call them Tito and Tita of the City? Who are our ninongs and ninangs?

Everyone knows that the young Fariñas is in office not really on her own merits, but because of her parents’ impressive achievements. The challenge for Mikee then is to prove that she deserves the position—that she is a good leader who just happens to be the mayor and vice mayor’s daughter. Surely, she deserves a chance to prove herself, but that would only be possible if she restrains from treating public events as family affairs.

"Father and Mother of the City" Vice Mayor Michael Fariñas and Mayor Chevylle Fariñas were also introduced that way by City Information Officer Michael Formantes during the Laoag City Fiesta Grand Parade, Feb. 9.

“Father and Mother of the City” Vice Mayor Michael Fariñas and Mayor Chevylle Fariñas were also introduced that way by City Information Officer Michael Formantes during the Laoag City Fiesta Grand Parade, Feb. 9. (Screen grab from Sunshine Cable coverage)

During the grand parade on Feb. 9, the Fariñas couple were also introduced that way by City Information Officer Michael Formantes. There were over 50 floats in that parade, but the first vehicle (after the patrol cars, of course), had Mikee waving to the crowd and to the platform guests led by the mayor and the vice mayor. And as the young politician passed by the stage, I saw from her parents’ faces what we usually see in parents’ faces during children’s ballet or piano recitals: they were proud. Proud father and mother of the city. Proud father and mother of Mikee.

But why do politicians fondly refer to themselves as parents anyway?

A democratic political culture indicates leadership by a public servant and not the father or mother of a local or national government unit,” posits my friend Ruel Pepa, a passionate philosopher and culture surgeon now based in Madrid, Spain. He explains that a patriarchal or matriarchal government unit is obviously feudal, where officials dispense authority like landlords do over tenants or slaves.

Moreover, this is a feudal mindset that takes advantage of the high value Filipinos place on the family, and of the importance of respecting and obeying our elders. This is “maybe because they know that we dare not question the actions of our parents… we say that even if they do wrong, they are still our parents,” a University of the Philippine professor opined on a status I posted on social media. Add to this our country’s colonial past and neo-colonial present—with our people having been lorded by foreigners then and our own power elite today—and this manipulative branding would really work on the vulnerable many. In a real democracy, we elect public servants whose authority emanates from the people. Thankfully, we can choose our leaders periodically—we can change them after their limited term or, worse, kick their butts from their seats on certain grounds—unlike our real parents whose blood will always run in our veins.

We elect officials, not parents. We are not their children. They are not fathers and mothers of any land. This branding, this packaging—which I call Mother Packer branding—manifests an immature democracy politicians are all too willing to exploit.

I argue that a matriarchal/patriarchal style of running a government unit no longer has a place in our time and age. More than ever, we must today professionalize government leadership. Getting rid of political dynasties may be difficult, but those who have made politics a family career must at least minimize accentuating their blood relations and maintain a professional tone in their line of duty.

What are our alternatives then? I listed a few:

  1. Leaders of the city/town/ province/nation
  2. Servants of the city/town/ province/nation
  3. Officials of the city/town/ province/nation

If they want to be truthful and candid, traditional politicians may also choose among the following:

  1. Plunderers of the city/town/ province/nation
  2. Traitors of the city/town/ province/nation
  3. Clowns of the city/town/ province/nation

Note that these are only initial lists. There surely could be more.

As for me, I am just a writer. Not the writer of the city/town/ province/nation, but simply a writer from Laoag–a mother who nurtured me, and to whom I will always be grateful, and of whom I will always be proud.

As for our leaders, let us accord them our support and respect. Let us take part in their worthy programs even as we keep a watchful eye on them, our servants.

Happy fiesta, Laoag!

*****

Postscript:  By the bye, a blog visitor by the name Mikee Fariñas left the following comment on a post I made five years ago. I am impressed by the visitor’s receptiveness to constructive criticism and willingness to engage in dialogue. I hope she keeps that way, and more so now.

 

mikee

8 Comments

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8 responses to “We elected leaders, not parents

  1. tita lita

    this case is worse than the case i encountered with kids around here in the U.S.A they seem to be brainwashed or influenced with saying “MOTHER RUSSIA THIS MOTHER RUSSIA THAT” that i told them one time if you love russia Go live there .so if they do they will be leaving FATHER U.S.A.?

  2. jamie

    Love it!! I agree with you sir. And one more thing, I think she doesnt know how to use your and youre. Greetings from Seattle. More power!

  3. Macqueline C. Palalay

    There is really no need to accentuate the obvious: political dynasty–especially nowadays where certain phenomena in Philippine politics and governance are hot and yes, highly-sensitive, controversial topics. It’s even more so a taboo and a no-no, if it comes from the very offspring herself of the top two officials at the city’s event of the year such as a city fiesta.
    Better to separate the professional from the personal so as not to rub salt and insult to injury or worse, wake up sleeping dogs. Besides, the citizens and constituents of Laoag City already know; otherwise, they would not have had voted accordingly so. And yet, I agree with you, Mr. Yumul: things do not have to be spelled-out. After all, we would not really want to “rock the boat.” Keep the “family” business and reference…at home–where it really belongs.

  4. Jeff Maradi

    I dont get you, last time i check you’re busy kissing the mayor / vice mayor ass and now your bashing them. consistency please.

  5. ronnie

    Family orientation among ilocanos is highly imbued in our culture as a people……ilocanos are peace loving people and velieve that working as family is the best way to attain work efficiency and effectiveness!

  6. Laoag or for any other town or city in the Philippines for that matter is better off without these so called “traditional politicians” or anyone from political dynasties. Our economy has been in the doldrums since the 60′s and it’s not rocket science to figure out why. Wake up Ilocanos (and Filipinos)!

  7. edz

    “Mother and Father of the City”. These are only self-proclaimed titles. If you believe those terms then use it and if not, don’t recognize it. Even when they keep on talking and talking about them being the so-called parents of the city, they will never be the “Mother and Father of the City” unless the people of the city , in this case the Ilocanos, say so.

  8. Bengks

    LOL at the comment by Mikee. Those who care about being recognized to be a public official don’t have the right to be called as such. They are elected to serve for the people they represent and not to act as a celebrated individual. I believe that the true essence of public service especially for my beloved city has long been buried by the blatant display of some public officials’ magnificence whether in their work or just by being elected. It’s such a shame knowing that there are capable candidates – to truly give service to the people, are walled by overly glittering résumés (oh and vote buying)
    Might as well grant them a new honorific such as “His Highness” or “Her excellency” as an upgrade to the “Honorable”

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