Why Can’t We Love Mar?

Now that Mar Roxas seems to be in a word war with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte, people are starting to remember that Mar is also running for president. So maybe Mar saying that a peaceful Davao City is a myth is a good publicity stunt. He finally got some attention and, if the slapping and the gun dueling talks are to be believed, he might be getting some action, too.

I wonder what would happen to Mar if Rody did not join the presidential race? Because that paid advertisement with Boy Abunda certainly failed to excite us. Even the yellow-themed Christmas music video of celebrities singing and dancing in an attempt to soft sell the “tuwid na daan” tandem of Mar and Leni hardly inspired us to “fast forward” to 2016. Remember the “father of BPO” ad campaign where call center agents claimed “anak ako ni Mar” and how it quickly changed into “asar ako kay Mar” that became a trending topic on social media?

Oh, Mar, why can’t Pinoys love you just the way you are?

Although I have met several people who are fans of Liberal Party (LP) vice-presidential bet Leni Robredo, I have yet to meet one single person who is a fan of her presidential running mate. Well, I have met some officials who say they are supporting Mar or LP, but they say it almost apologetically and always with a resigned expression that gives you an impression that they have no choice. No excitement in their voices. No passionate explanation why Mar is a good leader or even just a simple indication that they actually genuinely like the guy.

I am also wondering why I have not heard any good story about Mar from someone who experienced working with him. I have two friends who worked closely with Mar at some point and were ranking members of his staff and they only had horror stories. Many local government officials seem to only recall the worst about the DILG secretary. Even the police officers I have talked with do not seem to respect him. Either I tend to gravitate around Mar-haters or Mar is not really a lovable guy.

I pity the person who is tasked to “sell” Mar Roxas to the Filipino voters. Sure, they tried “Mr. Palengke” and he got a senate seat but I am not sure how much of that was because of mass appeal or because of a well-oiled machinery. And once people got to know and experienced Mar beyond the political ads, somehow the “Mr. Palengke” image did not work anymore.

So why is it hard for Pinoys to love Mar?

Because he does not tell a good story. His life is not interesting enough to engage those of us who love our movies and teleseryes. He did not go through some real struggles and hardships and emerged heroic. He was born privileged and his sense of entitlement is so strong that whatever he does in the name of public service becomes a huge sacrifice for him that the masses must be grateful for. And don’t we just hate those rich kids whining that they don’t get appreciated enough?

His story is a boring story. It does not have elements of a life lived in epic proportions. No David and Goliath adventures. No saving the world craziness even as a young person. Not even a grand search for true love (did anybody get a “kilig” moment out of his love story with Korina Sanchez?). He does not have the character of a hero, only of a supporting cast member; just a back-up dancer in a musical, perhaps.

Come to think of it. PNoy and Mar have the same background. Ah, but PNoy had mythical parents and a celebrity-endorser sister! And the new generation do not even know Mar’s grandfather. They only know Korina and her famous tiff with Anderson Cooper.

And so Jojo Binay may be corrupt but he has a poor boy story and he seems to have a lot of die-hard supporters in Makati who are willing to tell countless stories of how he took care of them. Grace Poe may be disqualified to run for president, but her story as a foundling adopted by the king and queen of Philippine movies captures our imagination. Miriam Santiago’s story is definitely worth watching in “Maalaala Mo Kaya” and her quips got turned into a best-selling book. And we all know Rody Duterte’s story has all the elements of a great teleserye that sparks the interest not just of Pinoys, but of other nationalities as well.

If Mar wins the presidential race in 2016, it will not be because Filipinos love him. And that will be tragic. Because love is what enables the Pinoy to keep going.


First appeared on Mindanao Times, December 17, 2015