I consider it the bare minimum to exercise the right to vote every time there is an election. I don’t mind going home to the subdivision where I grew up to wait in line and cast my ballot.
I enjoy election season. I don’t mind waiting in a hot gymnasium because I get a chance to be in the same place as the people who live in my precinct. I spot the linen-clad seniors from my parents’ age group. I recognize some people I went to school with. I also see people from outside the village walking towards the polls—people who look like the ones who run or work in the various small-medium enterprises in our area of Parañaque.
There’s something beautiful about all of us coming from different backgrounds with the hope of exercising our individual right to democratic participation.
It’s a nice moment I try to hold on to before I remember the state our country is in.
The state of the Philippine politics was always a vague idea in my mind as a child. The culture I saw among the grown-ups around me at best saw politics as pitting a favorite basketball team against another. At worst, politics was a matter of determining which candidate will further an individual’s or family’s aspirations, never mind if it’s at the expense of people who aren’t like them.
Both perspectives come from resignation to a broken system which lead the citizen to see political engagement as a circus or a means to cling to power as a way to move above present circumstances.
That was it. Every form of filibustering would always land in this same plane of cynicism.
As I grew up I wanted to know if there was something more than this. I wasn’t going to get a proper education from my household, a place notorious for being stunted when it comes to religious or political discussions (i.e., woe to you if you have different values). When I think about the kind of education I got in elementary school and high school, all I can remember are vague explanations of the branches of government and some “love for country” messaging by way of Sabayang Pagbigkas contests. It was also an environment that seemed to only care for politics if it intersected with its culture wars, derived from their very specific and narrow interpretation of religion.
When I think of a culture of resignation, I think of the messaging my upbringing gave me. Dream of change, but play by the master’s/oppressor’s rules. Give and support the unfortunate, but do not question the circumstances that placed them there. Political and corporate patronage is good, but do not question where or how they got their money.
I don’t fault anyone for resigning. If you do not rest on stable ground, keeping yourself fixated on making a living is all the headspace you can afford.
But if I can make a bit of room in that space, I’d like to welcome a culture of hope alongside resignation.
I don’t want the children of our generation to grow up the way I did. So I wonder what it would look like if children are equipped to lead and organize. A lot of initiatives in this world are looking towards this direction. We see kids spearheading climate change programs and teenagers coming together to fight issues like gender-based violence, historical revisionism, and authoritarian regimes. The culture of hope is out there and has been for as long as the one of resignations has existed.
I write this seemingly to make a promise to my child, but I also do it to breathe life into the child in me that didn’t know any better.
I need my daughter (and me) to understand that we get on the path of change when we make the effort to engage where we are. To know our neighbors, to economically support our community (as opposed to always driving over to the more affluent cities next door and patronize their “nicer” stuff), to participate in smaller forms of governance (like parent-teacher associations, homeowner associations, etc.), and to arrive to a sense of duty towards our people.
We have to fight the need to see instant results and instant wins. We need to understand how change happens, to understand being part of something bigger that may not even come into fruition in our lifetimes. We need to understand that to hope is to surrender to a stubborn relentlessness.
“For one of us to make it through, 100 of us have to try.” –Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Knock Down the House
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Ida Siasoco
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