by Angelina Beatrice Baleña

I love my father. I really, really do. 

I love him deeply, even when the people are against him. Against us. Even when they called him the vilest  of words, devils themselves condemning my father to what they claim is his rightful place – hell. And there are  different kinds of eternal damnation, depending on where they want him to be: behind metal bars, exiled to a  lone place, perhaps, or even in literal hell, where Satan himself ruled.  

He’s the devil’s disciple. That’s what those people said – that’s how much they hated my father. “No, you are the devil’s disciple!” was what I wanted to tell them. I know they won’t always see eye-to eye – we all have varying preferences, after all, but how dare they! How dare they castigate my father like that! I  find it unacceptable; no one deserves to be degraded in such a way, especially when it’s only because my father  does not share their perspectives. Don’t you think that’s a little petty?  

If only I was allowed to actually clap back on these people. They irritate me. God knows how much  patience he’s given me this entire campaign period; the urge to curse these pea-brained netizens is strong but  stars help me, my obedience to my parents must remain stronger. No acknowledging those bashers, they said,  we must stay silent despite the criticisms.  

“Why?” I had asked my father one night. I stumbled upon him in the living room; he was preparing to  leave for yet another election campaign in some faraway city. “Why can’t I defend you?” I’d insisted, almost  shoving my phone to his face so he’d see the screenshots of those nasty comments thrown at him. At our family.  

He’d said people were watching. He’d reminded me of those telenovelas we used to subscribe to, when  my brothers and I were still kids: the main character remains kind and soft-spoken even when they are chastised  by those who surround them. And how we admired them for that. Those kinds of people would prevail in the end,  my father had told me. He’d left a small kiss on my forehead and left.  

The steady roll of his luggage filled the silence, and I watched in awe as my father walked outside our  doors. My father is truly a kind-hearted man. A very logical one, too, because come to think of it – he never, ever  acknowledged those barbed criticisms and hate mails. He kept his silence. He proved their assumptions wrong.  

I slept peacefully. But maybe it’s to prepare me for the same routine the following day. Hate tweets, of course. My breakfast is practically receiving death threats on behalf of my father, but we  all got used to it. Nothing bad will happen to me. My father promised to always protect us no matter what, and  has he not always proved that? Papa loves me, my mama, and my brothers. And that’s why I completely 

understand the considerable amount of security scattered around our mansion, the entirety of our property; why  we need to travel via private planes and cars and not use public transport. There are whispers saying we act as if  we are that of royalty – well, is it not true? People treated us like one even when we weren’t. Some should really let others think and do what makes them happy. You know, bitterness will get you nowhere. 

I snorted. The sweet strawberry milk I’d just sipped for breakfast almost spilled on my pajamas. I just  saw another hate post, this time comparing my father with another candidate who apparently rode public  transport. “What a fraud. My papa will never be like them,” I muttered. Unlike them, my father doesn’t see the  need to lie about flying first-class or traveling via private planes. There’s no significance in hiding our assets.  People prefer those who stay genuine to themselves, do they not? 

I emptied my glass of strawberry milk. A week later, on May 10th – the day after the elections – my Yaya  prepared for me the very same one. Ugh – the color reminds me of someone. Only this time, my mother was  sitting on the couch across the table, joyfully talking to my father on the other line; I noticed she wore her lucky  red stilettos as she excitedly clicked her heels against the marble floor. Today, my mother held a different kind of  vibrance. She looked beautiful. She was oozing with happiness.  

Ah, wait. Not entirely with happiness. With victory. 

Mama gestured for me to scoot over. “Come, come!” she squealed before she handed me her phone – it  was the latest model – and wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “That’s Dad. Go ask for the good news.” Good news? All I heard were malfunctioning machines and pre-shaded ballots. Countless anomalies.  They were really shady. “How’re the results going, dad?” I asked the moment the phone pressed against my ear. “What you should be asking,” he said cheerily, “is what dress you’d wear as first daughter.” I heard a  chuckle from the other line, also clinking glasses; maybe papa was celebrating with his subordinates. “It’s a  landslide.” 

“Really?” 

“Yes.”  

“Congratulations!” I blurted out – I hope he doesn’t notice the different glee that laced my voice – as I  felt mama press a soft kiss on my cheek. My eyes met her mirthful ones; mama looked so happy. “See you soon,  Dad,” I said. 

“See you soon. I love you and mama.” 

I smiled a little. “We love you too,” was the last thing I said before I heard a little beep. I was about to  return Mama’s phone, but she’d already gone to check on her beloved flowers. She owned quite a lot of them, 

almost every kind, in expensive vases displayed beautifully atop her mini plant sanctuary. They were all papa’s  gifts – isn’t he so sweet? 

Apparently one of her roses started to decay. For whatever reason, I didn’t know. It was only then that I  noticed those vivid-pink petals scattered on the floor, and mama, who knew nothing about plants – but owned  them anyway – called for Yaya, and told her to throw the rotting pink roses in the bin.  

She let out a frustrated whine. Mama, with her lucky red stilettos, stepped on those pink petals as she  walked away in disdain. Poor roses, but not that I care, because papa can always buy her new flowers. Almost  everything can be easily replaced now, especially if you have the money. And papa has them. Lots of them. 

I scurried back to my room, then, and turned on my phone. I scrolled on Twitter, clicked on credible  news. It was true. Papa didn’t lie when he said it was a landslide. I’d told him congratulations, but the people  wouldn’t say the same – instead they’d question the authorities for the results, like immature kids who couldn’t  accept one truth. It’s all because they don’t want papa seated in the presidency.  

Because, they claimed, papa’s achievements aren’t credible enough. Because he has a questionable track  record. Because he doesn’t show up in debates. Probably because my grandfather was a tyrant king that everyone  so hated, despite him bringing about change in this godforsaken country. But it’s not like they didn’t want that; they hated thinking so much they elected a tyrant, they wanted someone else to think for them. They should just  be fucking grateful! 

But the people are afraid. And maybe I felt it, too, when I saw those vivid pink petals get destroyed by  my mama’s crimson heels. Like emblems of hope slowly getting dragged into despair. But people should not fret  at all! If only they listened to my father’s plans; what he intends to accomplish is for the sake of everyone. Why is  that so hard to believe? 

I threw my phone on the bed. I followed suit and buried myself under the sheets.  

I only hear the soft beeping of the air conditioning. It’s cold.  

It’s different from the hot, stray tear that rolled past my cheek. A contrast to my warm hands, now balled  into fists as I gripped the covers. This isn’t good. This isn’t working anymore. 

“Ah, fuck.” 

I should stop lying to myself.