Stayed up late Friday night so I could catch the PCIJ documentary on the imaging of the Philippine presidents. Papogi traces how the people who occupied the presidency knew how the image is as important as the deed. As with any mirage, the image (like news broadcasts and information) can be manipulated and used to your advantage. Starting with Quezon onwards, the documentary focused on how marketing an image spelled success for a variety of Philippine presidents. Quezon was the Tisoy guy who was good with oratory. Ramon Magsaysay was not really poor, but he knew how to convert his tall, obrero look into votes, transforming himself into The Guy. He knew how to use catchy tunes; "Mambo Magsaysay" turned the mambo into the otso-otso of his time. Diosdado was and would always be the "poor boy from Lubao;" and he would give way to The Strongman from Ilocos. Ferdinand Marcos didn't just employ an existing archetype--he molded his own ideal and pushed it. He faked medals of war valor, he had bravado, he had a beautiful wife. He must have also possessed strong powers of persuasion. He promised his people that "in 20 years, they would have a President." Together with Imelda Romualdez, he fashioned a conjugal dictatorship that also crippled the country in the 20 years they were on top. What a huge return on investment that was, at least for them. After him, it was role reversals. After strong guys who did crunches in public, we had a suffering mother and martyr. I have vague recollections of EDSA, and the only Tita Cory I remembered was the yellow-garbed, bespectacled one who waved on television. It's still the same Tita Cory in the post-Edsa 2 era, the one who hugged Kris on national tv following her admissions to wife battery, gun toting and venereal disease, and still Tita Cory was there to comfort and shield her youngest daughter away from the awful kleigh lights. What I didn't bank on was seeing her young and hopeful, with that same radiance that Kris Aquino has.
It has been said over and over again that the Pinoys are fixated on personalities, on how people looked, and would make decisions based on that. That's what will get you elected--surface gloss.