CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Ma. Lourdes Caiña on Tuesday bounced on her toes and pumped her hand in the air as she listened to a campaign speech here by Vice President Leni Robredo, the presidential contender she hopes will help restore Filipinos' respect for each other.
Minutes later, Caiña posed for selfies requested by a group of youngsters due to her resemblance to opposition leader Robredo.
Caiña, 51, said an old woman was the first to tell her she had Robredo’s eyes, after the latter’s husband, then interior secretary Jesse, died in a plane crash in 2012. After Robredo won the vice presidency in 2016, Caiña said her friends began calling her “VP.”
But it was not until this February when more people began to notice her resemblance to the Vice President after a friend asked Caiña to impersonate the leader as a judge at their town festival. The festival was celebrated a day after Robredo's supporters held a caravan marking the official start of her presidential campaign, Caiña said.
“I did it for fun and ang daming taong na-prank. Everybody asked na magpa-picture, ‘yong tipong ganoon,” said Caiña, an office worker. “Wala lang, play along din ako. Tapos may mag-interview, sinasagot ko lang, sa makaya ng aking kaisipan. I was having a kick out of it, I was enjoying it.”
(Everybody asked to have a picture. I just played along. Someone interviewed me and I just answered as best as I could.)
But the mother-of-two said while it was “quite flattering” to be a Robredo lookalike, she also began receiving hate comments online.
“What is so sad is that ‘yong mga bashers nila, it’s way, way below the belt… Gawin n’yo ‘yan sa isang tao na wala namang kasalanan sa inyo, it only reflects what we are deep inside,” said Caiña.
“I have my fair share din. My husband and my kids were also affected kasi may mga comments… ‘Baka bobo rin ‘yan,’ ‘baka lutang din ‘yan.’”
(Bashers were way, way below the belt. If you do that to someone who has not done anything against you, it only reflects what we are deep inside. I have my fair share, too. My husband and my kids were also affected because there were comments saying, ‘Perhaps she’s stupid, too’ or ‘Maybe she’s also absentminded.’)
These were the same insults that have targeted Robredo, which she blamed on spliced videos and online disinformation.
“Tinatanong po ako ng ibang mga kaibigan, ‘Papaano mo 'yan natitiis na ginaganyan ka?’” Robredo told voters in Aklan province last week. “Simple lang po ang aking sagot. Sa limitadong mandato na ibinigay sa akin, pinaghusayan ko po ang aking trabaho.”
(Some friends ask me, ‘How can you endure that? My answer is simple. With the limited mandate given to me, I did my job well.)
“Ang daming pangangailangan, 'yun pa bang pagsabi sa akin na bobo at tanga ang bibigyan ko ng oras?” she added.
(There are so many needs, will I give time to respond to insults claiming I am stupid?)
Caiña said she supports Robredo’s candidacy because she is “way, way qualified compared to others.”
“I’m wishing her to be successful in her bid for the presidency. Ina-admire ko siya as a person. Wish ko lang sana na ‘yong mga tao is maibalik, back to basic, the core value of respect to each other,” Caiña said.
(I just wish that people could go back to the basics.)
She urged fellow voters, “I-remind mo iyong kapwa mo botante na iyong eleksyon is not all for the glory of the candidates, but it’s the moment for us, mga botante, to be more mapanuri at kung sino ang iboboto—at hindi lang tayo padala-dala sa mga history at kung ano-anong nababasa natin sa social media.”
(Remind your fellow voter that the election is not all for the glory of the candidates, but it’s the moment for us to be critical about who to vote—instead of readily believing whatever history and what we read on social media.)
Caiña said she considers being Robredo’s lookalike “a big responsibility.”
“Kahit andito lang ako sa gilid, parang it’s a challenge for me to be a good example man lang,” she said.
(Even if I am just on the sideline, it’s a challenge me to set a good example.)
“Let’s start the change from within… I’m rooting for respect to come back, so I do it, start with myself and my little circles. And sana, iyong ripples will just spread. Kasi iyon talaga ang kulang, walang respeto ang mga tao ngayon.”
(I hope the ripples will just spread because that is what is lacking, the respect of people for others.)