With less than a week to go before the elections and with social media becoming more toxic as the day approaches, I know that this article is a bit late. However I’d like to share something that’s been in my heart since the election hullabaloo started.
I’m not telling you which candidates I’m voting for, but I’d like to share with you who I kept in mind as I went through the process of selecting my candidates: the poor and the marginalized members of Philippine society who I’ve personally encountered over the years. These are the people who are most affected by whoever we put in power every election, and they’re the ones for whom I’m voting:
- For the past decade, my line of work has been giving me the opportunity to go on immersions in the homes of the poor and underprivileged and catch a glimpse of the realities that they face each day. It both touches and devastates me how they choose to be happy despite their living conditions. They struggle to put food on the table and get medicines when they’re sick, and some of their kids had to give up schooling to earn money for the family. Still, they say: “Kahit mahirap at maraming problema ok lang basta magkakasama kami.”
- At the same time, I’ve met OFWs in Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the US who have opted for lonely Christmas nights in exchange for decent lives of their loved ones back home. “Tiis tiis lang. Ang importante makapagpadala ako ng pera kay Mama at makaipon para makasunod na rin siya dito.”
- Two years ago I went to Cebu for a vacation with friends. It was all fun, adventure, food tripping and Instagramming — until we met a tricycle driver whose home was destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda and was still at the time waiting for financial aid that was promised to him. I suddenly felt guilty enjoying myself in the lovely islands of his hometown while he painstakingly awaits a permanent place to reside in. Similarly, a company outreach activity in one of the public schools in Bohol has made me aware of how a single classroom damaged by an earthquake, if not attended to right away, can cause the deterioration of a child’s overall academic performance.
- Just six months ago in the beautiful town of Sagada, I encountered mothers of special children who, in spite of their efforts to set up a SPED school, still can’t send their kids to school because of lack of transportation money. Double whammy — they are poor and physically-challenged.
- For an institution that employs the best doctors in the country, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) has the WORST charity ward ever. Whenever I visit my friend who’s confined there, it baffles me to see patients trying to recuperate in that hot, cramped, and grossly uncomfortable place. Unfortunately, those who cannot afford the luxury of private rooms have no choice but to convalesce in those wards.
- Actually, I needn’t look too far: Back in college I had a classmate (a financial aid scholar) who missed a couple of group meetings “kasi walang pamasahe papuntang school”. Kids like him are brave, having to go through all that while trying to survive and fit in the world of their schoolmates who are either well-off or filthy rich. Our own household helper’s family of 10 is squeezed into a tiny house that’s practically just the size of my own bedroom.
Of course, we all try to help and empower these people however we can. I wish I could do more — hopefully someday I will, when I have enough resources to really make a difference. So for now, the least that I can do for them, with my own imperfect yet sincere judgment, is to elect leaders who truly understand them, who genuinely care about their future, and who can actually champion them and not just use them to feed their own political ambitions.
Yes, I am aware of the figures, statistics, and economic reports, but the realities I’ve seen, albeit limited, are just too difficult to ignore.
I am voting for them — the poor, the marginalized, the common Filipino — because to me, nothing is more indecent and more immoral than our countrymen having such quality of living while the rich and only the rich get to experience the fruits of this economic progress.
Let’s continue to pray for our country even after May 9.
Image source: inquirer.net