Hundreds of voters in the Philippine national elections will be waiting for the results in Alaska. And some hope the outcome makes way for a return to the past.
Leo Evangelista got two mailed ballots recently. This week he voted in Alaska’s special primary for the state’s sole seat in Congress. Last week, he voted for the president of the Philippines.
Evangelista is a dual citizen. He’s lived in Anchorage since the early 1990s and has worked as a mail carrier for more than 25 years.
“My family always said, ‘You want to be a nurse or you want to be a mailman?’” he said with a laugh.
He loves his life in Alaska, but he has siblings back in the Philippines and owns a home there still. He’s stayed really involved in politics, and he takes voting seriously.
There was some confusion about whether the overseas ballots had enough pre-paid postage. His wife works at the post office too — at the counter. She made sure to weigh their ballot envelopes and add sufficient postage. And then she sent them priority mail to the consulate in San Francisco, because Evangelista is not taking any chances.
He’s not too worried, though. His candidate — Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. — is expected to win.
Even if you’re not following Philippines politics closely, that name is probably familiar to you. Bongbong is the son of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Ferdinand ruled the Philippines from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, part of that time under martial law.
Evangelista is like so many Filipinos who left the country toward the end of the Marcos presidency when the family was deposed and fled in exile to Hawaii. It was a very tumultuous time in the Philippines.
Evangelista worked for the government under the Marcos presidency but says he left for opportunity. He says life is better in the U.S. because there are jobs.
But life is better in the Philippines, too, he says. It’s cheap. And warm. And besides, it’s home. He hopes that under the leadership of another Marcos, the country will continue to become more like how he remembers it. He plans to move there as soon as he retires.
Rochelle Solanoy also has plans to return to the Philippines when she retires from her state job in Juneau in six and a half years.
“Because when you go home to the Philippines, you feel like a queen,” she said. “You know, your money stretches.”
Solanoy is also a dual citizen. And she’s more than just a supporter of Bongbong Marcos. She’s a fan. On the Friday before the election, she was driving around Juneau after work, picking up her girlfriends for a celebratory dinner at the Gold Digger, a Filipino restaurant in a strip mall.
“We’re celebrating because it’s Annie’s birthday,” she said. “And we’re celebrating because Bongbong’s gonna win.”
She’s excited about Marcos’ promises to keep cleaning up the cities, to keep building infrastructure and to build a new economy. Her dream is of a big reunion in the Philippines — a homecoming for all the overseas workers. The older people will retire on the beautiful beaches. The younger people will finally have jobs there and be reunited with families some of them have never met.
Solanoy wasn’t always a Marcos supporter. She left the Philippines in 1981 when she was still a kid. But she went back to visit in 1986. She was a teenager and she says she got caught up in the People Power Revolution.
“I mean, they portrayed Marcos to be a dictator. Of course, I believed all of that,” she said.
But Solanoy says she has since relearned the political history of her country. She says she’s still learning, through YouTube videos, about what the older Marcos accomplished during his leadership. In these videos, the years of martial law in the Philippines are now remembered as the golden years, and Marcos is remembered as a philanthropist. She thinks she was lied to for 30 years.
“That’s why I was like, ‘oh my God, I was so stupid!’” she said thinking back on her teenage flirtation with the revolution. “A lot of people are thinking that way. So we want Marcos back.”
Like Leo Evangelista, she’s confident that Marcos will win – unless there is election fraud. In 2016, Bongbong Marcos lost his vice presidential bid against Leni Robredo. His supporters believe the vote was rigged, but Marcos’ official protests of the result failed.
Robredo is now also vying for the presidency. Solanoy and her friends say they’re scared of cheating – that somehow Robredo will win again. But they also say they trust the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, to ensure a clean election. After all, his daughter is running for vice president.
“Of course he’s going to protect his daughter,” Solanoy said.
Election day is Monday, May 9. It’s a holiday in the Philippines. When the polls close, it’ll be 3 a.m. in Alaska. Leo Evangelista is planning on staying up late to watch the results if they come in right away. He’s planning to take Monday off.
Rochelle Solanoy is already celebrating a Bongbong Marcos win. She says when it happens, she’s going to go to the Philippines and visit him at Malacañang Palace. She wants to talk to him in person about her plans for herself and all her friends to retire from their state jobs and go back home.
This story is part of KTOO’s participation in the America Amplified initiative to use community engagement to inform and strengthen our journalism. America Amplified is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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