I am home alone and I have time to think about the past few weeks of my life.
May 9 was election day in the Philippines. It was the most publicized campaign and electoral process we have ever had in the country primarily because of social media.
Before, people had a voice, too. But now, the difference is that everyone had their own platforms called Facebook/Twitter to share their valuable opinions on.
I am Atenean. A part of the middle-class, as most would classify me. The most logical choice for the presidency for someone like me is the candidate who is also Atenean and has brought forth economic reforms to the country. As a member of the middle-class who is not suffering from dire poverty, the more obvious route for me to take was to choose continuity over change.
But why did I go for the candidate who was offering radical change? I know I do not have to explain my choice to anyone precisely because it is MY choice but I am still writing my thought process here for future reference and for posterity. I want to remind myself of the time I went against the normal flow and stood up for someone who was obviously flawed, crass, and somehow polarizing.
I went for the candidate offering change and has a track record to show for because of the effect he had on the Filipino masses. I saw how even OFWs spend hard earned money to produce campaign materials for him. I interviewed taxi drivers, security guards, even salon personnel all inspired to do good because of what he stands for.
I also personally felt that spark of hope reignited in my heart for the Filipino people. That hope that I lost a long time ago that made me complacent and very forgiving of our public officials (as my friend so eloquently put it). I rekindled that hope that made me think I am done giving excuses for the way we are and dismissing it as “ganyan talaga ang Pinoy”.
I rooted for the one who can incite change and more importantly, can organically inspire the Filipino masses to change their ways. I supported the one who made me trust that our nation can be better once again because they have done it in Davao. I supported the one who made me think it is not yet too late to rise up from this quicksand of hopelessness, chaos, and complacency that we all just got stuck in.
I respect all of the other candidates especially the administration bearer. I commend his efforts and I believe in his economic reforms. But economic reforms will not be for long-term if we do not solve the root cause of the problem of the Philippines: lack of discipline/peace and order. More than lack of education, it is the lack of self-restraint that cripples the nation. Everyday, we see this flaw along the streets, in our local government units, in the farthest barangays and even inside huge and popular malls. Most government officials are corrupt. The police force is ineffective. The people are not disciplined enough to even respect the simplest of traffic rules.
We needed to solve this core problem first before genuine and long-term economic reforms can fully and inclusively materialize. It is not a chicken or egg story. It is one after the other. Some say that we need to provide more jobs first so that people will be more educated and that peace and order will follow after that. But how come even educated people in the Philippines easily and carelessly break traffic rules? It is precisely because lack of education is not the root cause. You can be highly-educated but still lack self-discipline. And an illiterate can admirably still manifest self-restraint. Integrity is what you do when noone else is looking. And this is something that I think Filipinos need to relearn and regain.
Look at all the rich nations. Before they even had a long-term economic boost, they first instilled discipline and regard for the law in their constituents. Before Subic got reformed, it took a Gordon to rally the people to volunteer and change. Before Singapore became a global economic leader, they needed a Lee Kwan Yew to discipline the citizens. Here in Switzerland, people have high respect for the police force and the government. They do not create crazy memes poking fun of their leaders.
Anyway, I voiced out my support because my own platform has a lot of followers. When my first cultural post became viral, my audience suddenly became bigger. And that’s why I felt I needed to participate and voice out my support. I NEVER forced anyone to listen to me or to follow suit. I merely shared what I thought was in my heart.
But there were people who couldn’t seem to respect my opinion. There were those who still continued to challenge my position even after I have clearly told them that it was a carefully though-out one and they need not even waste their time in dissuading/persuading me. I have never commented anything bad on any other person’s post supporting a different candidate. I wholeheartedly respected everyone else’s choice. But I had uncles, an auntie, and even a friend who cannot seem to control themselves. Some even used my mom to guilt-trip me into changing my position even when my mom herself is respecting my choice and yes, even my brother’s too.
But everything is all water under the bridge now. I have forgiven those who attacked me. And I have even directly apologised to the people who got offended because of my choice. The president I supported already won. The vice-president I also supported seems to have already won (as of this writing, they are still questioning the numbers for VP).
But here are my take-aways from everything that has transpired in the past few weeks:
1) Respect other people’s choices. There will always be someone more intelligent than you are. Never think that your logic is the end all and be all of everything. People base their votes on different parameters. You will never understand what influences your neighbor’s choices completely because you haven’t lived their lives and haven’t seen everything they have been through. If you cannot get them to agree with you, go beyond yourself and your ego and try to respect their choices by keeping quiet and getting off their pages. Just campaign peacefully on your own platform.
2. Never demean anyone. Do not call other people “idiots” or “retards” just because they are not voting the way you do. Inspire by uplifting others. Nobody got more followers by making others feel bad about themselves.
3. Have a forgiving heart. I had an uncle who attacked me and called me judgmental on Facebook. He even went straight to my dad to complain about me. I messaged him personally and told him that even if I felt like he was being rude to me on MY OWN PAGE, I will be the one to first say sorry because he took offense on my choice of president. He accepted my apology but he didn’t even bother to issue the same to me. But that’s fine. I have already forgiven him because I cannot allow my heart to be burdened forever by his actions towards me.
4. You cannot control other people’s feelings but you can decide what you allow yourself to feel. I will always choose peace and positivity over pride and prejudice. I have learned at a very young age that I cannot please everyone. Even if I do my best and have the best of intentions, there will always be that someone who will not be impressed. I’ve learned that I am bound to disappoint someone along the way. My mom is a clear example of this. She has served her town for more than 18 years and there are still people not pleased with her. She cannot control what they feel but she can definitely manage her own feelings towards ungrateful people. And so I recognize those who got disappointed with my choice of candidate. But I will not allow my heart to despise all of them because I cannot be a bad person just because I have disappointed a few.
5. I have also learned early in life that politics is ungrateful and it is really just a game of numbers. But politics is not the point of all of this. It is about public service. And if you really want to serve the public, you need not be in office to do so. One can serve his public by being a mindful citizen. One can serve the public by helping and contributing in his own way. This goes beyond just typing our rants on social media. This means going out there and paying it forward. And even if you help and people still get displeased and disappointed, at the end of the day, there is a God, a higher being, that knows and sees your heart. And that is the true victory. When God is happy with what you did with your platform, there is nothing to worry about. In Him lies real and genuine triumph.