SAGAY, PHILIPPINES -- Growing up on neighboring family sugar haciendas in northern Negros Island, Victor Puey and Alfredo Maranon were as close as brothers. They played and went to school together. Their fathers were business partners and best friends, and their families shared political power in this sugar-producing town.

That changed in 1969 when the Maranon family supported Ferdinand Marcos in his bid for reelection, and the Pueys threw in their lot with opposition candidate Sergio Osmenia.

From that political campaign 19 years ago, won by Marcos in perhaps the bloodiest, most bitterly contested election in Philippine history, grew a family feud between the Maranons and the Pueys that has taken center stage in northern Negros once again.

Onetime childhood chums Victor Puey, who is President Corazon Aquino's "official" candidate, and Alfredo Maranon, who has been endorsed quietly by the president's kingmaker brother, Jose Cojuangco, are locked in a tight, tough race to become mayor of Sagay.

The outcome will be decided Monday when Filipinos conclude a violent campaign by electing 18,000 local officials, including 1,564 city and town mayors and 73 provincial governors.

{Two candidates from Marcos' New Society Movement Party were killed Friday in Kapatagan, 500 miles south of Manila on the island of Mindanao when their jeep hit a land mine, a military spokesman said. A wife of one of the candidates and their driver also were killed, United Press International reported. The deaths brought the campaign death toll to at least 81.}

The race in this dusty town speaks volumes about local Philippine politics, its sordid win-at-all-costs ethic and the complex inter-family, even intrafamily, feuds that shape the nation's shifting political alliances from the grass roots.

Perhaps most of all, the Sagay political drama illustrates how little local politics have changed in the two years since Marcos fled the Philippines, and how content many of Aquino's key lieutenants are to perpetuate the country's traditional system of elections revolving around personalities rather than issues.

Unlike the constitutional plebiscite or legislative elections of 1986, the local elections will hardly be a test of Aquino's popularity: virtually every candidate in these elections claims to be an Aquino supporter. Even the most strident critics of the president are running as "independents" or even as "Cory candidates."

The costs of running against Aquino were driven home to the Maranon family last May, when Alfredo's brother, Joseph, ran against Manuel Puey, Victor's brother, in the race for the northern Negros congressional seat.

Manuel Puey ran as "Cory's candidate," while Joseph Maranon ran in opposition. Despite outspending Puey heavily in the campaign -- one of the traditional keys to victory in Philippine politics -- Maranon lost badly.

But the returns in Sagay were close, with Puey winning by only 2,145 votes over Maranon, out of 42,000 votes cast.

In the current campaign, two developments have convinced the Maranon family and their supporters that they will triumph over the Pueys. First, Alfredo Maranon, for years a staunch Marcos supporter, got Aquino's powerful brother, the chairman of the pro-administration PDP-Laban Party, to endorse him.

For added insurance, according to local journalists and knowledgeable government officials, Maranon persuaded Victor Puey's financially strapped half-brother, Lani Puey, to join the race.

A windfall came Maranon's way when Victor Puey's sister-in-law, Ging-Ging, joined the race. She did so reportedly at the instruction of her husband, Jose Puey Jr., who was angry at the other 10 Puey siblings for vetoing his plan to run for governor of Negros Occidental Province, according to Victor Puey.

The presence of three Pueys in the race has Maranon's supporters chortling. "The fight here in Sagay is between Maranon and three Pueys," a Maranon campaign worker, Apolinario Malundo, gleefully explained to a reporter who visited Alfredo Maranon's family compound this week. "With the Pueys divided into three, we will win."

In fact, the development could prove disastrous for Victor Puey. Voters traditionally write only their candidate's last name on the ballot, but in this election, ballots that have only the name "Puey" will be disqualified.

Maranon has been giving Ging-Ging and Lani Puey free radio time, which they have used to denounce Victor Puey, according to a local journalist who is covering the campaign. Ging-Ging and Lani Puey have advised people that if they do not vote for either of them, they should vote for Maranon.

To counter the name factor, Victor Puey has printed up handbills with "Victor" in huge, bold letters, and "Puey" in tiny print. His banners and placards are similar, and his campaign workers have been spending much their time instructing voters to write "Victor," which is acceptable, rather than "Puey" on their ballots.

In last May's legislative elections, the Puey family's primary strategy was to remind voters of Joseph Maranon's long service to Marcos. But that issue has been diminished in the current race by Alfredo Maranon's PDP-Laban endorsement.

The Maranons have used the Aquino card heavily, even adopting her trademark yellow for their campaign, much to Victor Puey's disgust.

"They can wear yellow shirts, yellow pants, even yellow briefs. But the horn of Marcos is still on their heads," he declared.

The endorsement of a former staunch Marcos supporter by Aquino or her allies has hardly been limited to Sagay. Throughout the Philippines, former Marcos political leaders have been drafted to run as official administration candidates, or as candidates in one of the Aquino coalition's parties.

In the process, many candidates who supported Aquino in her presidential campaign against Marcos have been dumped. The decision to endorse many ex-Marcos officials, many of whom were fired by Aquino in the early months of her administration, has subjected the president to stinging criticism.

Daniel Lacson, Aquino's popular candidate for governor in Negros Occidental, defended the inclusion of some former Marcos administration officials as necessary pragmatism.

That explanation serves as little consolation for Victor Puey, whose family opposed Marcos for 19 years.

"The people who cheated us in all elections, who terrorized us, they are the ones supported by the PDP-Laban," he said bitterly. "I think {Cojuangco} made a mistake by endorsing these warlords. What were we fighting for for 20 years?"