Growing up in the Philippines and trained as a paralegal, Antonio Gerona never could have imagined that his sister would one day become vice president of the country.
Philippine vice president Leni Robredo is a human rights lawyer who is now running to become president.
“I just texted her and she said the election results are very fast and Marcos is winning. I asked her how is she doing and she didn’t answer,” Gerona said from his northeast Calgary home on Monday morning.
He moved to Calgary 9 years ago from the Philippines.
Gerona said his sister has run a grassroots, volunteer-based campaign against Ferdinand Marcos Jr. He’s the son of dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who was deposed in a popular revolution, and Imelda Marcos, a senator in the archipelago country whose previous largesse became embodied in her shoe collection.
The Marcos dictatorship that ended in 1986 included years of martial law and human rights violations.
An unofficial tally showed Marcos Jr., popularly known as “Bongbong”, had surpassed the 27.5 million votes needed for a majority, setting the stage for a once unthinkable return to rule of the Marcos family, 36 years after its humiliating retreat into exile during a “people power” uprising.
“I feel sad for the Filipino people. I hope he will not do what his father did to the Philippines,” Gerona said.
But the country and Filipinos in Calgary are split.
“What I have noticed is the generational gap,” said Michael Juarez with the Philippine Festival Council of Alberta.
“You have the older generation who believe the Philippines is a great nation and has the power to become a great nation again, and believes that during the times of the Marcos, we were respected, that we were acknowledged as a country. So I think they are really hoping that comes back again,” Juarez said.
Some Filipinos don’t believe Ferdinand Jr. is to blame for what happened while his dad was in power.
Gerona said Robredo is seen as an outsider because she doesn’t come from one of the political dynasties in the Philippines.
“Knowing my sister, she is a very strong woman but she is also a fighter so I’m trying to see if she still has some tricks under her sleeves,” Gerona said with a laugh.
Robredo urged supporters to keep up the fight for the truth.
“We have many more things to fight for. Do not let go,” she told a news conference.
“Keep standing. Insist on the truth. It took time to build the structures of lies. We have time and opportunity to fight and dismantle these.”
Prior to the election, Robredo told Gerona if she was unsuccessful in her bid to become president, she planned to come and visit Calgary before she deciding on her next move.
This weekend Gerona helped organize a rally in Calgary in support of his sister.
Gerona, who works at Bow Valley College, said his sister followed in their father’s footsteps by going into law.
Gerona said Robredo never had intentions of going into politics until her husband, who was politically active, died in plane crash in 2013.
–with files from Reuters