Determined to remember the 2022 elections for the rest of her life, Elline, not her real name, got a tattoo of Vice President Leni Robredo’s rose logo, something to show her kids one day when she tells them stories of how she campaigned for the presidential candidate that she believed in.
Despite Robredo's loss, Elline said the fight for a rose-colored future is lives on, etched on her skin. “I was there,” she told reportr of her participation in campaign rallies that attracted hundreds of thousands.
Two weeks after the elections, netizens still see Robredo in social media posts where the predominant color is pink, and President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. when it's red or punctuated with the peace sign emoji.
“Politics is a battle of symbols, a battle of communication. It’s a battle of different politicians and how they use communication in order to persuade people to believe them to support them,” said Charles Ladia, Assistant Professor for Speech Communication at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
“Politicians need to brand themselves in order to be likable, in order to be remarkable, and in order to be a strong aspect of their own campaign,” Ladia said. These symbols are deliberate and have a message to get across, but it’s the other half that inspires dedication in supporters.
Symbols tell a story or narrative, Ladia said. Robredo, the lone female candidate in the presidential race, used the rose and the color pink to represent a rosy future waiting to bloom.
For Marcos Jr., his symbols like the peace sign and color red were meant to represent unity and the grand return to the Golden Age of the Philippines.
What’s next for these symbols?
Ladia said the symbols and colors will keep their political meanings for as long as people hold on to them. In Elline's case, it's a permanent mark on her skin.
“There are certain symbols that will have their own life, even beyond the 2022 election. Even if some people would say, let us reclaim the peace sign, there are certain symbols that the peace sign will actually hold for certain individuals, and even the color pink. I think even beyond the 2022 election, pink will mean something for people,” Ladia said.
“2025 is just a stone’s throw away from 2022 at may mga symbols na madadala natin from 2022 to 2025,” he said, referring to the mid-term elections happening in three years.
Symbols like "Tiger of the North" for Marcos Jr. and the "Eagle from the South" for Vice President-elect Sara Duterte, the peace sign, the L sign, and the color pink might stay with people a while, Ladia said.
Even the fist bump may come to represent Duterte in the next 6 years.“Mag-iiba siya, yes, pero madadala natin ito.”
Symbols are deliberate
Yellow, long associated with the Aquino family and the Liberal Party since the 1980s, symbolized revolution. The L gesture stood for Laban, a sentiment people would hold onto to oust the dictator, which has now come to represent Leni.
“Bawat choice ng bawat pulitko ay may ibig sabihin. These politicians and their political strategist put them together to create the brand of a politician,” Ladia said.
Symbols keep candidates and ideologies alive long after terms have passed. The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. used the peace sign in his campaigns, while his son Bongbong used a bold shade of red and the pinwheel to represent the windmills of hometown Ilocos.
“Lahat yan naka-angkla sa message box na we need to bring back Marcos to bring back the Golden Age of the Philippines,” he said.
Voters shape symbols
Supporters also have a say in what symbols are used. Pink came to represent Robredo’s femininity to counter machismo, and the idea of kakampink, which established the idea of belonging to a group.
“Kung napansin natin, hindi lang siya baby pink, hindi siya light pink, siya ay shocking pink, fuchsia pink, which is also very rhetorical and very connected to the narrative na iba si VP Leni Robredo,” Ladia said.
Vice President-elect Duterte evolved her father, President Rodrigo Duterte's signature fist bumb, into a hand-on-chest pose while adopting her own color -- green.
“Even memes can be symbolic, even yung mga placard na doctors for Leni, no boyfriend since birth for Leni, we can all these symbols are ubiquitous,” Ladia said.
Symbols represent something bigger
“The importance of our connection as audiences and as voters is that we have our own perception of which narratives are important and which narratives are not. Which platforms are important and which platforms are not. And these branding and narratives, ito yung binibili natin,” Ladia said.
Filipinos love a good story, and it’s just a matter of choosing which one they like more, and posting support online during a campaign restricted by pandemic health guidelines.
“In a world where we don’t know each other, [colored profile pictures and posts] shows that we have allies. It shows that we have connections with other people. Kapag feeling mo yung opinyon may ay hindi tanggap ng ibang tao, tatahimik ka na lang eh. Pero when you see these banners being shared, when music is shared, when kitang-kita mong pink or red or green yung timeline mo, mas lumalakas yung loob mo to share your political stance,” Ladia said.
ALSO READ: Pink Anthem 'Rosas' Gets New Lyrics on Hope
“When these symbols are used online, you invite both friends and opposition. You invite people from the same circle and also from outside your own circle,” he said. Like tattoos, symbols online are archived.
June, not his real name, throws a peace sign up for almost every picture he’s taken in his life. He has since stopped, not wanting people to think he was a Marcos supporter.
“Everything is political now. People are hyper-aware. They choose not to wear a certain color,” Ladia said. It happens in real life, but it’s evident on social media too.