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Philippine politics is sometimes reminiscent of our own families. Wild and crazy, with each of the members with their own unique personality traits and quirks. Our family may throw shade at one another, but at the end of the day, every member must cooperate in keeping the household together.

If the presidential candidates were your family members, who would they be?

Senator Miriam Santiago – The Mom

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She nags you all the time that she sometimes gets on your nerves. She drags you out of bed on days when you’ve hit the snooze button too many times. She yells at you in front of everyone—your other relatives, your friends, and even your crush–when you’re acting less like a civilized person. She keeps a keen eye on your studies and makes sure you won’t ever get a failing mark.

Your Mom is a disciplinarian. There was never a time when her mouth remained shut. She always has something to say about everything, from the way you chew your food to the way you and your boyfriend spend too much time outside.

She is your personal hero. You were bullied as a kid, and your Mom would always, always march to your school to file a report with the guidance counselor or to reprimand the bully herself. She was always on beast mode, and sometimes it embarrassed you, but you know that she’s only just like that because she wants what’s best for you. Besides, she makes things lighter with her witty jokes.

Your Mom has always been an effective mother. She was smart and strict, but she never allowed anyone to hurt you, just as she never allowed you to wrong anyone. Being fair and just was important to her, and she raised you and your siblings the same way.

As fate would have it, though, your Mom was diagnosed with a serious illness. She is still the strong, smart woman you know. While you can’t deny that the years are taking its toll, you can always still count on her to be a strong, supporting pillar.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte – The Dad

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He’s a funny, loving Dad who can get very strict. He keeps a tough façade, but sometimes, when he thinks everyone is asleep, you can see him crying in the living room while watching the evening news.

Your Mom would always say he’s too generous. Whenever his siblings would ask for money, he’d willingly empty his pockets for them—he’d even shell out for the “black sheep” the entire family shunned. Never mind if there was little left of your family’s budget. He raised you and your siblings without a hint of lavishness.

He also believed that when you spare the rod, you spoil the child. You grew up dreading the sight of hangers and broom handles. You remember spending sleepless nights, when his tough brand of discipline really sunk into you as you reconsidered your life options.

He was not one to tolerate atrocities of any form, not within his household. As a teenager, he didn’t let up when he felt that correcting you was for the better. It seemed to work, though. You never never repeated the same mistakes, and your siblings grew up well-behaved.

However, Dad seemed to have a problem managing his anger. He’d lash out on anyone that gets on his nerve. Like when he would talk tough after you ran to him with a problem. But you knew that it was just because he really cared about you and just wanted to make sure you’re ok.

He was sometimes unreasonable when solving disputes, and in some instances, his pride would take over. He was a tough man who would never bend over backwards for anyone.

You would not have seen this as a problem, but even on occasions when he was expected to act in a more refined way, he’d still do or say things that would make him appear crass. You know he loves his children, but sometimes he embarrasses you by telling your guests about those times when you’ve made a complete fool out of yourself. When that happens, all you can do is hide your face in your hands out of sheer embarrassment.

Secretary Mar Roxas – The Kuya in the Middle

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We all know about the invisible middle child. You know, the one who never seemed to get into any trouble. The one who seemed so steady and chill. That’s your Kuya.

Your Kuya attended prestigious schools and even went abroad to study in an Ivy League university. After graduating from college, he went on to become a banker abroad. Your Mom and Dad thought he was doing just fine, and so they never created a fuss over him the way they did over you and your eldest sibling.

Kuya was content with that. He didn’t want to be seen, noticed, or recognized. But when an unfortunate tragedy fell on the family and your eldest brother died, Kuya took over the family business.

He wasn’t the one originally groomed to handle the family enterprise, but someone has to take over. Though he was already assuming a different career path that time, he owned the responsibility and worked until he succeeded.

Everyone in the family knows Kuya is smart and capable. He sees the potential in everything, and knows how to harness that potential to turn it into something greater. Even your Lolo, who is still the primary decision maker in the household, turns to Kuya for advice.

The only problem with Kuya, is that other people don’t see the confidence that his family sees in him. He is prepared to put up a fight when necessary to defend his ideas and position but doesn’t seem to get that confidence across to others. He has a tendency to be tossed around, tricked and abandoned because of this.

Kuya doesn’t seem to know grace under pressure. There are times when a huge decision about the business has to be made right then and there, but then he would falter with his decisions. He would fail to function well. The business is in the rocks—it’s not doing as well as it used to, and the entire household is worried Kuya might shatter from all the pressure.

Senator Grace Poe – The Sister-in-Law

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She’s the soft-spoken sister-in-law who intends to bring peace and order into the family. Being an only child, she’s never had any experience in pulling fist-fighting brothers and bickering sisters apart, more so in bringing a family closer together. But Ate is steadfast. She has a plan, she says. People say she has zero experience, but you can see that she’s determined to do something good for the family.

Her intentions are good, but the family sees her as feeling close. When she was a teenager, her family migrated to the US, only going back to the Philippines for a vacation every now and then. It was on one of those vacations that she met your brother. Your Kuya barely knew her for a year when he proposed to her, and they got married after a couple of months.

Yet here she comes, barging into the family, meddling with the family issues, as if she knew how to address all of the problems from the root. Technically, she’s part of the family. She’s a nice, decent woman. She seems smart. Yet for some reason, all of you can’t warm up to her. Some still seem to see her as an outsider.

Vice President Jejomar Binay – The Tito

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There’s always that one tito you dread sitting next to during family reunions. Tito used to be one of the more favored kids. He was an achiever, and was known to be the kid who hauled the family out of poverty. Because of his hard work and diskarte, he was able to help your Lola and Lolo build a rather lucrative business and buy their own hacienda.

However, the family has recently discovered that he isn’t all that perfect. The family was unaware at first, but then other people started accusing him of a lot of misdealings. Not that anyone’s been able to prove it yet, but a lot of people have gotten uncomfortable talking about it. Rumor has it, Tito drags his kids into the mess by sending them to your Lola every time he runs out of money, to ask for sustento.

He tries to regain the approval of everyone by overcompensating with the niceness and concern. He’d pull the younger kids to his lap, though they obviously feel somewhat uncomfortable. He’d give away money, but people would still ask where it came from. He’d make promises of sending you to the best school and buying you a nice car, while you think to yourself, “I have been your niece for 20 years now. You could have done those already if you wanted to.”

To be fair to Tito, he tries, as in he really tries hard, to be in good terms with everyone in the family again. But, the damage has been done, and you’d rather lock yourself up in the bathroom than end up in that empty seat beside him.

Whether we admit it or not, we all have our own favorite in the family, and there will always be that one relative we’d rather not be associated with. The same goes with presidential candidates. There is that one candidate we iintensely dislike, and the one candidate we venerate like the messiah. It’s just the way people are wired.

Our nation is just like one big family, and in a few weeks, we will be electing the one “family member” that will lead our “household” into salvation. Of course, it’s important to choose the right leader. But whoever we choose, we must remember that change is in each of us. Our leader can only help bring out the country’s potential, but ultimately, we have to play our part in bringing about the improvements we want to see in our nation. Borrowing the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

This election season, be weary of people who will come to you to offer money in exchange of your vote. That one vote holds the power to not only let your voice be heard, but to chart the course of an entire nation for the next 6 years.

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Mai Porras

Writes part time, spreads sunshine full time. Loves dogs, elephants, coffee, and the old book smell.