Pressing her daughter's toga like a typical proud mother of a child graduating from college, Vice President Leni Robredo's supporters, who are still grief-stricken over her election loss, dubbed her the "Iron Lady of Asia", as they tried to pick themselves up by keeping up with the Robredos online.
After her loss to presumptive president Bongbong Marcos, Robredo and her three children flew to the U.S. to attend youngest Jillian's graduation from New York University, a "well deserved rest" from 90 days of campaigning and six years of fake news attacks.
The reprieve from the chokehold of public attention did not go as expected, as their languishing supporters gobbled up every update posted on their personal accounts—from typically mundane moments during flight stopovers, to airport security checks, and the subway commute to the graduation venue.
Why can't people just leave them alone?
It's a way of coping
Having attracted over a million volunteers to her "People's Campaign" that analysts noted as a signal of a vibrant democracy, Robredo's supporters will need to go through a grieving process.
This persistent support for the family even after the elections is their supporters' way of coping, clinical psychologist Joseph Marquez told reportr.
"Seeing the family doing okay, they feel okay as well," he said, explaining how thanks to social media, "kakampinks" are able to live vicariously through the Robredos, whose online diaries serve as a reminder that life should go on.
But while grief over the elections this way is valid, caution must be had when the coping mechanism plays out in public, as someone's coping process could disrupt that of another, like for instance, the Robredo family themselves.
The elections drove many Filipinos to become politically active, said James Flores, who teaches social psychology at San Sebastian College. Following, admiring and criticizing the Robredos have now became "normal" for Filipinos, he said.
"When we have invested much of our time, energy, and emotions to something or someone, it influences, and changes our 'normal'. So kung dati 'di tayo politically vocal, but because of the elections kung saan nag-invest tayo ng sobra, being politically active became our normal." Flores said.
"The fact that she is also very polarizing on opposite sides adds to our investment. We want to have a say on something she does, and everything she does, hahanapan natin ng link sa atin," he added.
As the Robredo family continued to receive praise from supporters, the vitriol over the last six years also persisted. Critics are quick to reduce her recent activities as "pakitang-tao" (pretending). Cebu Pacific issued her a public apology, after one of their pilots falsely claimed that she sought priority landing at NAIA at the expense of commercial air traffic.
Government officials have always been public figures. What has happened to Robredo, which also applies to her equally popular chief rival, is what can be considered as "celebrification", said sociologist Samuel Cabbuag.
"Parang naging influencers or artista kasi 'yung mga Robredo," said Cabbuag, whose research interests include digital cultures, told reportr.
"Kung titignan mo talaga, napalitan o nadagdagan 'yung image nila na hindi na lang sila political figure. Naging popular figure na sila finofollow ng mga tao na online," he added, noting how because of heightened media exposure, popular figures are exposed to all sorts of opinions, favorable to them and otherwise.
As they are celebrities themselves, political figures are also prone to "parasocial relationships", a psychological phenomenon that refers to how "fans" or media consumers develop a tendency to treat famous people as if they're real-life friends, even though they don't have actual social interactions with them.
"We don't always choose who gets to be popular, who gets thrust into the spotlight (see: people in memes), so its always nice to check ourselves kasi at the moment, perhaps people are comforted by the idea of what could have been and that helps some of us cope," Flores, the social psychologist, said.
"Ingat lang kasi we may be creating a standard that is unattainable for anyone else, and most of it may just be based on our idea of them, not who they really are," he said.
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The whole Keeping Up with the Robredos phenomenon is "just a demonstration of our shift to highly mediatized politics", said Cleve Arguelles, who teaches political science at De La Salle University.
"Present digital affordances is changing our relationships with political figures. The distant, very private, & unreachable kind of politician is no longer the typical model. The selfie model is now the more dominant: blurred public or private boundaries, sharing snapshots of intimate moments, constantly updating, etc to keep relationships with people or supporters as authentic as possible," he said.
"For sure 'yung intentions naman nila are good kasi they just want to be happy for them, they’re celebrating with them kahit wala sila sa New York. But some might be taking it too far na. There are even supporters saying na pagpahingahin muna, which was what the vice president intended the trip to be," Cabbuag, the sociologist said.
In the end, Flores reminds people that however they prefer to cope, they should know that they're not alone. "Kailangan angkop pa rin ang coping natin sa environment and people around us. If how you cope disrupts other people, that's probably something you need to take a look at," he said.
Facing a somber crowd of volunteers on the Friday the 13th after her election loss, Robredo told supporters that it was okay to grieve, while reminding them about the work ahead.
“Allow yourself to cry. But when you’re ready to wipe away your tears, prepare yourself, strengthen your heart because we have work to do.”