The upcoming May 2016 Philippine Presidential Election has been causing quite the ruckus: back-and-forth mudslinging among the presidential candidates, minute-by-minute election-related stories from the mass media, and most entertaining of all, word wars among the presidentiables’ supporters in social media. Add to that a plethora of reports, interviews and articles about each candidate’s credentials and controversies, platforms and promises, strengths and weaknesses—all subject to analysis by the professional political analyst and the lay voter alike. And now (riding the wave, obviously) here’s another analysis nobody asked for—the Philippine presidentiables as archetypes.
Archetypes, as a concept in psychology, was first put forward by psychologist Carl Jung in 1919. Basically, an archetype is a sort of a basic pattern embedded in our psyches. It is an innate tendency to form particular representations, such as those images and themes that universally and repeatedly appear in myths, fairytales, folklore, dreams, religion, art and literature throughout the ages and across different cultures— the nurturing mother, the young hero, the wise old man, the wicked witch, the fairy godmother. We recognize and understand, at an instinctual level, the nature of these images even when we have no prior experience of them as individuals. These archetypes are said to affect our thoughts and feelings and lead us to respond to certain themes in our own current life situation. According to Jung, each of us is born with these archetypes lodged in our unconscious, but this unconscious (what he called the ‘collective unconscious’) is not our own but instead that of the entire human race, of generations both past and present.
Okay, now before I render you unconscious by my increasingly boring account of the rest of this theory, lemme just go on and offer a rough classification of this year’s presidentiables according to which archetypal form they fit best, or at least come closest to. This classification uses the taxonomy put forward by Dr. Carol S. Pearson, who identified 12 heroic archetypes: The Innocent, The Orphan, The Warrior, The Caregiver, The Destroyer, The Creator, The Sage, The Fool/Jester, The Ruler, The Magician, The Seeker, and The Lover.
[The candidates are arranged in alphabetical order, according to surname. I apologize in advance if I misclassified your candidate, or if I accorded the candidates you oppose with positive qualities they don’t deserve. Sorry na po. Hindi naman po ito ipu-publish sa Psych textbooks. Peace 🙂 ]
1. Jejomar “Jojo” Binay: The Warrior
About the Warrior Archetype:
Gift/Virtue: Determination and skill
Pitfalls: Arrogance stemming from his fear of weakness
Shadow Side: “The villain”—obsessed to win at all costs, he may exploit his warrior skills to compete and win, even to the point of compromising morality and the collective good for the sake of personal gain
Jojo Binay’s pride and claim to fame is Makati and his reported successes in that city under his governance. This is one constant theme of his speeches and campaign material—that he has won much success in governance in the past, and thus also has proven capacity to win the same successes this time on a national scale. The other theme of his campaign is how his experience of poverty in the past helps him truly feel and understand the situation and plights of the Filipino poor, placing him in the perfect position to help them up and give them the opportunities to ‘win’ in life as well, much like he did. Both of these themes echo the profile of the Warrior archetype, using his skills, determination and drive to achieve his ultimate goal of winning.
Faced with multiple corruption allegations, though, Binay is just as easily seen by many as the Warrior archetype’s shadow side, the villain. This darker side of the Warrior uses his skills for personal gain even at the expense of others. This is much like the way successful businessmen are said to have the same traits and tendencies as that of a psychopath— charisma, smarts, shrewdness, and exceptional people skills. The qualities that make them succeed in the business world are the same qualities that make them dangerous in their capacity to manipulate others and get what they want. Binay has been quoted with saying that he is not corrupt, just “resourceful.” His detractors insist he’s the crafty villain, but his supporters see him as the Warrior that can save the day and win it all for the country. No matter what anybody says though, being the Warrior that he is, Binay is sure to fight to the end.
Quotable Quotes by Binay:
- “When I became mayor of Makati, I came upon a city deeply in debt, almost bankrupt… By the grace of God, we triumphed. Makati now has become a model of service to the people.”
- “Even at my lowest, I am still in the lead.”
- “None. There’s no Plan B. I cannot imagine!” – in answer to being asked about his Plan B in case he doesn’t win the presidency
2. Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte: The Ruler
About the Ruler Archetype:
Gift/Virtue: Control and responsibility
Pitfalls: Rigidity and controlling behaviors
Shadow Side: “The ogre tyrant”—prompted by a strong sense to control, he may insist on his way at the expense of eliminating creative elements in the land; personifies the leader “who indulges in self-righteous rages and yells, ‘Off with his head!’” (J.J. Jonas)
With his guarantee to eliminate crime, drugs, and corruption in 6 months tops, Duterte undeniably brings to mind the archetypal image of the Ruler. Well-known for his ironfisted approach to disciplining rule-breakers, he has amassed a huge following and is currently the frontrunner in presidential polls. The Ruler archetype’s primary quest is to create order and structure in society, and is thus likely to appeal to people who see instability and lack of social order as the main problem and who believe a more commanding figure is necessary to fix it. These people want to see the Philippines straightened up, and they want it done fast.
But while Duterte has many devoted supporters, he also has many ardent critics. He has been tagged by some as a ‘womanizer’ and slammed for his controversial comments on the rape of an Australian missionary, not to mention criticized for his other remarks in relation to the Pope and the Australian and US ambassadors. It’s clear that while he fits the Ruler archetype, he also tends to evoke the Destroyer archetype, whose pitfalls include behaviors with destructive effects both on himself and on others. The Destroyer archetype is said to be ruthless and embody “repressed rage about structures that no longer serve life even when these structures still are supported by society or by our conscious choices” (J.J. Jonas). There is much dissent as to the appropriateness or even morality of the way Duterte speaks, acts, and goes about his task of establishing order, but this is what many of his supporters hold on to—that what Duterte lacks in tact and diplomacy, he makes up for in action and solutions toward eliminating exactly those ‘structures that no longer serve life’, a sort of “weeding the garden in ways that allow for new growth” (J.J. Jonas).
Quotable Quotes by Duterte:
- “Criminals have no place in the city, except in jails, detention centers, and God forbid, in funeral parlors.”
- “Cut the trees and I will cut your heads.”
- “A leader must be a terror to the few who are evil in order to protect the lives and well-being of the many who are good.”
3. Grace Poe: The Caregiver
About the Caregiver Archetype:
Goal: Help others
Gift/Virtue: Nurturance and community
Pitfalls: Enabling others, guilt-tripping
Shadow Side: “The suffering martyr”—may use caretaking to control, manipulate, or make others feel guilty
With her campaign tagline “Gobyernong May Puso” and her constant reference to her experiences and perspective as a mother during her speeches, Grace Poe definitely evokes The Caregiver archetype. As an archetype, the Caregiver embodies the nurturing, selfless, and compassionate part of the self, driven to sustain life and help those in need. Grace Poe, with her calm demeanor and consoling manner of speaking, offers herself as a leader who, like a mother who could never bear to neglect her children, will do everything in her power to make sure she does not fail the Filipino people.
The shadow side of the Caregiver archetype, though, is the guilt-tripping martyr who banks on others’ sympathy and indebtedness in order to manipulate them. Poe’s history—from being a foundling, to the abrupt death of her adoptive father Fernando Poe Jr., to controversies about her citizenship—does have features she may play to gain the sympathy of the people. The Caregiver’s shadow side may also manifest as an enabler, so focused on nurturance and on never harming anything that it fails to reproach even destructive behaviors and thus enables negative forces to flourish. Given her relative lack of experience in politics and empathetic approach to governance, Poe’s critics have thus questioned whether she has enough boldness and will to make tough political decisions when necessary.
Quotable Quotes by Poe:
- “He often told me: Gracia, poverty is not a destiny because each one’s fate is in his/her hands. But to get out of poverty, one’s own hard work is often not enough. Everyone needs a helping hand. Shouldn’t this be the measure of a responsive government and society – how it uplifts everyone and leaves no one behind?”
- “We should respect human rights. We will not be blind to the conditions of our vulnerable sectors, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, urban poor, women, youth and children, the LGBT sector and senior citizens. To all senior citizens, you will not be ignored. My own mother has asserted that the older one gets, the more he/she should feel government’s care.”
- “I am Grace Poe. A Filipino. A daughter, wife and mother. And with God’s grace, I offer myself for the country’s highest calling as your President.”
4. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II: The Creator
About the Creator Archetype:
Gift/Virtue: Vision, skill, vocation
Pitfalls: Self-indulgence, creating messes, prima-donna behaviors
Shadow Side: “The obsessive creator/workaholic”—may imagine so many possibilities that none is seen through to completion; compulsively fill emptiness with unnecessary projects
To be honest, I found it hard to place Mar Roxas. No archetypal image pops up as decidedly for Roxas, so the next best thing to consider was that maybe he is still in the process of becoming the ‘fully activated’ version of an archetype.
What Roxas comes closest to seems to be the Creator archetype, but one who has not reached its goal of ‘identity’ yet and is known more for its pitfalls and shadow side than its gifts and virtues. Maybe we’ve just been prone to focus on the downside of his character (because it’s juicier media material), or maybe he has indeed not shown enough of the vision and skill a Creator is capable of at his best. As journalist Maria Ressa put it, “Perhaps the greatest challenge Roxas faces…is to find his authentic voice, strip away many of the habits he’s learned in the public eye to gain clarity of thought, and become the leader that he wants to be.” He has been criticized for being indecisive and detail-oriented to a fault, qualities reminiscent of the shadow Creator’s tendency to see so many possibilities it ends up not acting on any and instead obsesses over tasks many people deem less essential given the situation. On the upside, though, the Creator’s tendency to imagine a multitude of possibilities and to “always think of just one more thing to do” (a.k.a. workaholism) can lead to productivity if properly channeled.
Quotable Quotes by Roxas:
- “Sometimes, my passion is misinterpreted to be suplado, but I mean no ill will. I’m just passionate and impatient for solutions.”
- “Mananalo tayo dahil habang nangangako pa lang sila, nagtatrabaho na tayo.”
- “Hindi ko binibigyan ng masyadong pansin ang survey na ‘yan dahil nakatutok tayo sa ating trabaho.” – on his improving numbers in the polls
5. Miriam Defensor Santiago: The Sage
About the Sage Archetype:
Gift/Virtue: Knowledge, wisdom, skepticism
Pitfalls: Being overly critical, pomposity, lacking feeling
Addiction: Being right
Shadow Side: “The unfeeling judge”—may be too dogmatic that she becomes cold, heartless, and prone to see self as ‘above it all’
Arguably the most academically accomplished of the candidates, Miriam Defensor Santiago is known as a brilliant, opinionated woman who does not back down from defending her stand and ideals. Although lagging behind in the presidential polls, she is popular among the youth. She appeals to students especially, not only because of her witty hugot and pick-up lines, but also because students tend to see as ideal leaders those they look up to as intelligent, knowledgeable individuals who uphold high standards. As witnessed by the nation during senate hearings, Santiago has remarkable capacity for objective analysis and spotting loopholes in arguments, qualities that reflect the gifts of the Sage archetype. Given the reins to lead the country, Santiago has a balance of knowledge and skepticism that has the potential to “course-correct” this nation’s path towards progress.
However, the pitfalls and shadow side of the Sage archetype may be among the factors contributing to Santiago’s poor performance in the polls. The Filipino masses tend to be more drawn towards warm, charismatic characters who use the language of the masses’ plights to evoke a sense of connection at the gut level. Being more inclined towards the intellectual side, Santiago’s image may have struck many as too far removed from feeling to empathize with the woes of the poor.
Quotable Quotes by Santiago:
- “Ang dami-daming pinagsasasabi pero hindi naman nagbabasa. The main problem with some of our politicians is that they are illiterate.”
- “I may not be a genius, but my opponents are certifiable idiots.”
- “The person who should be the next president should be characterized by academic excellence. The next president should be the best in his or her school class, not the stupid. I cringe at what I hear from politicians, I see on TV that I feel like challenging them to a fistfight. Don’t vote for the candidate because he is moneyed.”
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At an individual level, each person is said to be born with all of these archetypes, but one or several of these may be more active or dominant in the person at a given time, depending on which stage of the ‘heroic quest’ one is on. No single archetype is better than the rest, rather, each life situation may call on a particular archetype to be active for the person to make the best of that situation.
Maybe we can think of this country as a person too. The Philippines, as a nation, is a living organism, with its own history and future, successes and failures, dreams and fears. This coming elections, the collective decision we make as a people becomes its decision as a living entity. Who we choose as our leader is the primary archetype we activate for the next six years.
And much like a specific quest requires a particular kind of hero to fulfill it, so too does a specific time period require a particular kind of leader to make the best of it. For example, after the Marcos administration, who emerged as the country’s leader was Cory Aquino. During that phase of our nation’s life, it was ailing from the abuses it experienced from the enforcement of Martial Law. Thus needing healing, it naturally sought caring and compassion, qualities echoed by the Caregiver Archetype, which Cory Aquino fit. There is no single best kind of leader for all purposes—although we would all want one, naturally—but there is such a thing as the best kind of leader for a given situation.
“But the ‘given situation’ is that we have all sorts of problems, from economic troubles to social disorder to lack of drive, compassion and wisdom,” we say. To be sure, the Philippines indeed has a lot of problems; it will always have problems. We are being unrealistic if we expect a single administration to solve it all. Each administration will have its own focus, advocacies and projects it will pursue in keeping with its vision and judgment as to which problems are most pressing and most significant. So maybe the real question is—at this particular phase of our nation’s life, what are we called to focus on? What is the kind of leader most required by the current state of affairs, and are we ready to deal with its shadow side should it ever dominate?
We are bound to have differing answers to these questions, and such divergence in opinion is expected—even when we are faced with the same set of facts, our personal perspectives, biases, and values come into play, leading us to perceive things differently from the next person. This is why word wars (or “impassioned discussions”, if you prefer a gentler term) between you and your differently-opinioned friends will never actually end unless you agree to disagree (or one of you gets severely maimed by the other). Two people can both look at the same things, but by the very nature of their being separate individuals each with their own set of lived experiences and way of seeing things, these two people are bound to perceive even the same things differently.
“You cannot force people to fight the battles that you find are important.”—Lily Singh
Clashes of individual opinion as to the best presidential bet, then, are but natural and predictable. What is truly to watch for is our collective opinion as a people. If we, as a nation, can make our choice based on an earnest and discerning consideration of the country’s worst social ills and best hopes for progress, then maybe, just maybe, the decision we make come May 9th is one we will not regret.
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• About the Author •
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- Fausto, R.F. (2015). Candidate number 1: Jejomar Binay. From http://www.philstar.com/health-and-family/2015/10/14/1510440/candidate-number-1-jejomar-binay-philippine-presidentiables
- Jonas, J.J. (n.d.). The twelve archetypes. From http://www.uiltexas.org/files/capitalconference/Twelve_Character_Archetypes.pdf
- Jungian archetypes. (2016, March 27). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jungian_archetypes&oldid=712135705
- Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator (PMAI). (2015, July 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pearson-Marr_Archetype_Indicator_(PMAI)&oldid=672491082
- Rathus, S.A. (2012). Psychology (2nd). Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia Pte Ltd.
- Binay: Image by Blakegripling ph – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11544424
- Duterte: Image by Keith Kristoffer Bacongco from Davao, Philippines – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Uploaded by bluemask, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7731635
- Poe: Image by Ringer – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43657187
- Roxas: Image by IPing.RAR – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46854024
- Santiago: Image by Miriam Defensor Santiago – https://www.flickr.com/photos/134946234@N06/19875872736/in/dateposted-public/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41756632